Riverdale Season 3, Episode 19: “Fear the Reaper”

I quite liked this episode! Highlights include badass women fighting, another badass woman pursuing her dream, and a twist in the Edgar Evernever saga that I totally didn’t foresee but which makes the casting of Chad Michael Murray even more inspired. Also there’s a Henry James reference that I’m rather embarrassed to report I don’t really get–and that would be the one reference this show would make that I’m qualified to comment on.

You’ll notice that Archie’s plotline is not included in the highlights. But I’ll expound upon that at length later.

Previously on Riverdale: Betty’s mom Alice got engaged to Edgar Evernever; Betty enlisted Toni to go undercover at the Farm; Archie boxed with some guy named Ronson who was “juicing” with Fizzle Rocks and Mad Dog gave him drugs in case he needed them to win; Jughead’s mom had moved to Riverdale to take over the drug trade and Jughead didn’t tell his dad; and Jughead and FP captured Kurtz, but Kurtz turned out to have Jellybean in custody of this creepy kid Ricky.

Jughead and FP bust into the house yelling for Jellybean, just in case Kurtz was kidding or something I guess. Jughead shows his mother, who pops in a few moments later, the sealed letter from the Gargoyle King. Gladys immediately gets all mad and says they have to find “that son of the bitch.” FP says, “Find him!? He’s outside in the back of my cruiser.” Love it.

A whole crapload of people including Josie (on Archie’s right), Veronica (on Archie’s left), Fred (tear!), Mad Dog, Elio, and various others are waiting in the hospital waiting room when the doctor comes out to inform them that Randy’s dead. Archie busts out saying that he was “juicing,” and Elio pops up to say that he had no idea. He accuses Archie of killing him in the ring and tells him to lawyer up. Holy shit, you guys. Are you having flashbacks? Could it be deja vu? Oh wait, no, it’s that Archie is experiencing his second being-accused-of-murder storyline this season. You know your show is moving too fast when you dip into that well twice in the space of twenty episodes.

Over at the Jones’s, Gladys gives Kurtz a little light beating trying to get him to reveal where Jellybean is, but he just keeps saying they have to play G&G to get Jellybean back. The three confer separately, and FP insists that Kurtz is too crazy to believe, but Jughead thinks this is pretty much in keeping with his experience. So they agree to play. Kurtz is delighted.

Next thing you know, the Jones family has set up a G&G game, which Kurtz is leading. He hands out symbolic cards to the three players. Not only have they lit the fire in their fireplace but there are lit candles all over the living room. I like to imagine that everyone was all set to start the game by the unromantic light of the overhead fluorescents and Jughead was like “HOLD ON GUYS, I know my sister is in mortal danger and all but just give me a minute to light twelve candles and place them artfully around the living room, mkay?”

Archie is in his kitchen flipping out while Fred tries to comfort him that it’s not his fault Randy died from being on drugs and whatnot. But Archie insists it is his fault because he didn’t call off the fight knowing that Randy was on drugs, and heroically insists he’s never stepping in the ring again. Archie leaves, and Fred stares after him vacantly, probably wondering why he’s experiencing deja vu all of a sudden. Oh hey, maybe it’s because literally the “someone died and Archie thinks it’s all his fault and maybe is going to jail for it” thing ALREADY HAPPENED THIS SEASON.

Veronica brings Betty to meet with Hiram in the otherwise empty La Bonne Nuit (seriously, how is Veronica paying for a full staff of teenaged girl security guards? SHE NEVER HAS ANY CUSTOMERS. This speakeasy is basically a giant conference room for her to hold meetings with her dad). Betty wants to help her dad be transferred to Hiram’s private prison because he’s heard that “some of the cells even have views of Sweetwater River.” “The waterfront rooms,” Hiram affirms hilariously, like he’s running a swank hotel. Um, what? I feel like “private prison” means something very different in the bonkers Riverdale universe than it does here. Anyway, Hiram says he’ll see what he can do.

Mad Dog calls Archie to warn him that there was a raid on Elio’s gym and Archie’s gym could be next, which is bad because of the drugs Mad Dog gave Archie. The two boys dash over there to get the drugs out of the gym only to be arrested by a remarkably peaceful drug raid team. Archie heroically announces that Mad Dog had nothing to do with this, because Archie is a saint and is constantly being blamed and taking the blame for everything that happens, blah blah blah.

A bloodied Kurtz, his voice trembling with lurid excitement, starts leading the G&G game. The first round involves drawing black or white marbles and having to tell your secret if you get the black one. This is just a new incarnation of the Riverdale game Secrets & Sins, as FP points out angrily. While Jughead stares direly at Kurtz (seriously, I’m surprised Kurtz doesn’t just melt into a puddle with the look Jughead’s giving him), his mother takes a turn and, oh, what do you know, she draws a black marble! Since Kurtz already knows “her secret,” she is obliged to, finally, confess that she’s the new drug dealer in Riverdale. FP is super mad at everyone and starts screaming his head off. Jughead tries to calm him down, but FP pants hoarsely, “There will be a reckoning.” DUN DUN DUN. Meanwhile Kurtz is just grinning.

Josie calls her dad, who we’ve never heard of as far as I recall, to leave a message saying that she heard he had a gig nearby and invite him to hear her sing at La Bonne Nuit.

Meanwhile, Toni gives Betty the update from her undercover work: Edgar Evernever is planning to adopt Juniper and Dagwood, Polly’s fancifully-named twins. Giant drumroll.

Veronica shows up to bail Archie and Mad Dog out of jail. She brings them to Pop’s to show them an interview that’s conveniently airing that exact moment (an interview with Alice, which must kind of burn for Archie!), where Elio says that Randy was taking drugs provided by Archie. Archie deduces brilliantly, “He’s setting me up to take the fall.” Hee!

Veronica promises he’s not screwed: “I am going to dogwalk that lying cad.” Being of the Dawson’s Creek generation, the only slang usage of “dogwalk” was Joey Potter’s infamous use of it to mean masturbation. But to my relief, according to Urban Dictionary, Veronica is actually saying she’s going to be “beating Elio’s ass and dragging him as if she were walking a dog.”

Archie and Mad Dog are now back at the prison giving stool samples. “This is humiliating,” Archie says. “I guess you’ve never been on parole,” Mad Dog remarks. Point to Mad Dog!

Alice, who’s apparently the only reporter in Riverdale, is now interviewing (or at least, holding up a microphone in front of a press conference given by) Veronica, Archie, and Mad Dog. Apparently Archie and Mad Dog’s drug test already came back negative. But the press conference is interrupted by an angry young lady announcing that Archie murdered her brother. Veronica valiantly insists that Archie didn’t, so Archie, of course, immediately ruins it all by rushing up to the woman and apologizing. God, Archie. Why does anyone even bother to try keeping you out of prison when you’re constantly APOLOGIZING TO PEOPLE FOR CRIMES YOU DIDN’T COMMIT?

At Riverdale, a bunch of kids are waiting on line for meningitis vaccinations when one teacher checks whether Evelyn has one. She smugly announces that the Farm doesn’t believe in putting foreign substances in the body, just in case we needed another reason to think the Farm is the worst. “You can check my file,” she says. Betty says to herself, rather incautiously, “I think I just might.” I love how she didn’t think to do that before Evelyn literally said the words right in front of her.

That night, while thunder cracks — of course — Betty breaks into the records office as easily as if she were strolling into Pop’s, and finds Evelyn’s records. She quickly takes a photo of Evelyn’s transfer application on her phone, along with a bunch of other unexplained certificates.

Over at the Jones’s, the game continues apace. The next quest is to get a treasure. Gladys is all, “What treasure?” Jughead explains that it means they’re going to commit a robbery. “I’m the sheriff!” yells FP. No one cares. Kurtz continues to tell them that their target is the Tavern. Jughead translates this as meaning they’re going to rob Pop’s. WHAT?! FP thinks it’s a great idea to threaten Kurtz’s life right now, but Kurtz reminds him that if he dies, Jellybean dies. The robbery is going to give Kurtz money to leave town.

Veronica is hanging out in one of her ridiculously fancy bathrobes when Archie shows up all wet from the rain. He starts waxing emo about how it’s his fault Randy’s dead and how he wants to “help” the family of the dead guy. Instead of rolling her eyes and asking if he’s aware the universe doesn’t revolve around him, Veronica just starts brainstorming. She suggests a charity boxing match, which Archie nixes due to his newfound moral stance against boxing. Then she suggests a charity concert. At least Archie thanks her for that one.

Betty embarks on tracking down Evelyn’s school history. Apparently she was a junior when she left multiple other schools. Betty brings in Ms. Weiss, the ubiquitous social worker who I’m pretty sure doesn’t have a first name, and tells her that Evelyn’s been in high school for over a decade. Her theory is that Edgar runs the farm and Evelyn is sent into school to recruit teens.

The Joneses have driven over to Pop’s to rob it, all three of them in the front seat. Aww! Family heist! Gladys remarks that it’s “like the old days,” and Jughead cries, “You guys have done this before?!” Jughead is full-on panicking, by the way, which is kind of funny because he does much more bonkers things than this every episode.

Inside Pop’s, Josie has met up with her dad and is telling him that Riverdale’s a small town and she wants to go on tour with him instead of just singing at La Bonne Nuit. He seems hesitant, and Josie pleads for him to just come see her. Just then the Jones’s pop in in their Gargoyle masks, which they definitely weren’t wearing when they pulled up to the parking lot in their own car in broad daylight, and rob the place.

The robbery goes TERRIBLY. It is the most delicious, epic fail. Pops pulls out his gun and shoots FP in the shoulder. Jughead then whips off his mask and yells, “Pops, don’t! It’s not what you think!” Pops lowers his gun, Josie makes a hilarious WTF face, and Gladys and Jughead skedaddle while FP lies on his back bellowing, “SAAVE JELLYBEAAAN!” Seriously, everything about this is absurd, and I like it.

Kurtz is sitting in the Jones’s living room grinning when Jughead and Gladys arrive back with, presumably, the stolen money. “And then there were two,” he quips, so Jughead slugs him in the face. I somehow don’t think that will help Jellybean, but I really enjoyed the way Kurtz’s eyes rolled back in his head when Jughead punched him. Gladys wonders where to hide him, but Jughead OF COURSE has a place. I’m surprised these kids can still get it up in this sex bunker now that they’ve used it to hide so many kidnapped parents, temporarily unconscious enemies, and actual dead bodies.

Betty visits her dad to tell him she got him his transfer, but then reveals that Edgar Evernever is going to adopt the twins. Hal is very upset about this, and he sends Betty off to her aunt Penelope. She tells Penelope what Edgar is planning for the twins–who, you’ll recall, are Penelope’s grandkids–and plays on her emotions by reminding her how it feels to be adopted into a family that doesn’t love you.

Next thing you know, Penelope and Betty have somehow broken into the farm and Penelope has bundled up one of the babies. Betty is alarmed that she only has one baby, but Penelope says that was all she could manage–she got the boy, Edgar gets to keep the girl. Betty is shocked: you can’t separate twins! Penelope doesn’t care. She’s already renamed the boy “Jason Junior” and declares this “a win.”

Archie is hanging out in his gym when Elio shows up to give him a check for his win. It’s fifty thousand dollars. Whoa! Archie is like, “I don’t want your money.” Elio just taunts him, saying that he could be a star since he’s “a killer now.” He also calls him “Reaper,” in a nod to the title of the episode. Archie is all mad at being called a killer even though he called himself that like five minutes ago.

Over in the sex bunker, Jughead stands over an unconscious Kurtz (and, as usual, like twenty candles) and tells his mom he doesn’t think they can stay in Riverdale after robbing Pop’s at gunpoint, even if the guns weren’t loaded (as he carefully adds). Gladys says they should just leave. Jughead angrily tells her that it’s his home and she destroyed that. Meanwhile, Jellybean is languishing somewhere, still un-rescued, because Jughead just had to haul off and punch Kurtz before getting her back!

More boring money talk: Veronica tells Archie (and Josie, who’s clinging onto Archie’s arm) Elio is denying Ronson’s family their insurance payout, which is obviously not how insurance works, but whatever, this is Riverdale. She suggests that Josie’s performance that night be a benefit for the family. Archie kisses Josie and says that he hopes he can make it to the performance but he has to settle up with Elio first.

Kurtz wakes up in the sex bunker to Jughead throwing a bucket of water all over him. He tells Jughead the next quest is a “trial with the Cyclops.” Jughead is puzzled how to decode this, but Gladys says she knows what it means. We’ll find out in a moment.

But first, we watch Josie standing in her ballgown looking sadly around for her dad. Veronica tells her her dad didn’t pick up her ticket, and asks if Josie is still up for this. Which is sweet — yay friendship! — but kind of weird, like, you’re going to cancel a charity benefit because your singer’s dad didn’t show? Her boyfriend’s not here either! Anyway, Josie smiles tearily and says the show must go on.

Archie finds Elio in a parking lot somewhere and announces that actually he does want the prize money–to give to the Ronson family. This is at least somewhat resembling heroic, unlike most things Archie does. But of course, when Elio laughs him off, he reverts to his normal mode of toxic masculinity and tackles Elio, then retrieves the envelope full of cash–which Elio was conveniently carrying around in his breast pocket–and walks away.

Now we get to find out about the Gargoyle. Kurtz brings Gladys and Jughead to the erstwhile Gargoyle lair and reveals the Cyclops: Penny Peabody, now minus her left eye, which is covered by a patch. Apparently Gladys didn’t kill her after all! “It was an eye for an eye,” Penny explains. Gross! Kurtz hands each woman a pair of dueling swords.

Montage time! A jazzy song plays while Josie gets ready to sing, and Gladys and Penny get ready to, well, swing. More singing. More fighting. At one point, Penny gets Gladys in the side. Jughead almost leaps to her side, but Kurtz stops him: it’s a two-player game. Finally Gladys gets Penny trapped at swordpoint, and Jughead tries to stop her from killing Penny since she’s already won. She lets him drag her off to the hospital, but not before jamming her sword in Penny’s thigh. Ouch. Just then Josie finishes her song, to great applause–including from her dad, who showed up after all.

Ms. Weiss shows up at Betty’s door and reveals what she found from investigating Evelyn: she’s twenty-six. AND SHE’S EDGAR EVERNEVER’S WIFE. Ahh!! I was not expecting that at all!! Kudos, Riverdale, you actually got me.

So, Betty calls Toni and tells her she’s got to get back into the farm.

Meanwhile, Jughead is in a car with a Kurtz recapping the episode — his mom is in the hospital and his dad’s been shot and he wants Kurtz to take him to Jellybean. Kurtz agrees but insists on driving–with Jughead blindfolded. Jughead just sighs. I love how he doesn’t even try to fight back. I feel like whoever was editing this was like “OK, we don’t have time for Jughead to actually stand up for himself, we’re already twenty-seven minutes in and we still have to write off two characters and kill off two others in the last fourteen minutes!”

Josie and her dad sit at a table at La Bonne Nuit and she reproaches him–she’d thought he bailed on her. He says that was his intention. Ugh, what a dick! He was testing her! But his underlying point is kind of good: he says that she has to be able to give it her all at every gig no matter what. “You gotta wanna play music more than anything else.” She says she does, 100%. Nice callback to Josie’s thing earlier this year about how she’d given up so much for her ambition.

Archie stops by Mrs. Ronson’s table. She’s suddenly forgiven him for no apparent reason. She admits that she tried to raise him (they were orphans or something) but he “made his own choices.” So Archie hands over the fat envelope of money. She cries and thanks him. Archie’s a big hero once again. Kill me now.

Toni leads Betty through the darkened hallway towards the bedroom where they’re going to find Dagwood. “You know what they say. It takes a village to mercy kidnap a child,” she quips when Betty thanks her. Hee! Toni stands watch while Betty takes the kid out of the crib, looking anxious… only to lead her into the Furnace Room, where, of course, the entire Farm is gathered. Edgar, clad in a big white pantsuit, holds out his arms creepily in welcome.

Toni declares that she’s been searching for a place to belong her whole life–and then stands in front of Edgar while he rubs her arms. Yuck!!! Then when Betty screams to her mom that he’s already married to Evelyn, Alice says she already knows. And Edgar puts his arm around Evelyn on one side and Alice on the other. Yuck again!!!! But like I said, how PERFECT is the casting of Chad Michael Murray as the polygamous, slightly pedophilic cult leader? “Hot dude with too many girlfriends” is like his main acting niche. I love it.

Everyone starts chanting, “Join us,” as Edgar tries to convince Betty that she should join since everyone else has. Including Kevin, who seriously needs a plot line, like yesterday. Betty panics and runs away, with all the zombified Farmies chasing after her. She gets in her car and they all bang on it, but she just speeds away.

Kurtz has brought Jughead to a junkyard that is apparently not the normal Serpent junkyard and shows him two upright coffin-sized boxes. He says to choose one, so Jughead opens one — and then, when it’s empty, runs in panic to the other one. Not great with rules, this kid. When it’s empty too, he asks Kurtz what the twist is, and Kurtz tells him to get in, and Jellybean will be freed with a phone call.

Jughead demands to talk to Jellybean first. She picks up and casually says she’s playing G&G with her “pal” Ricky. She apologizes for playing the game when he told her not to, and Jughead sobs a little and says it’s OK. Aww, what a good big brother. (I’m sure this is quite obvious from my recaps but if I didn’t have such a gigantic crush on Jughead I would seriously have given up on this show by now.) So they hang up, Jughead gets in the upright coffin, and Kurtz goes, “Kill the princess” into the phone. Jughead yells no, but Kurtz traps him in there by sticking a screwdriver through the lock. Then he leaves.

This doesn’t seem like a very foolproof way of killing someone, so I guess maybe he doesn’t feel like being a cold-blooded murderer right now? But as it turns out, it’s not even a foolproof way of keeping someone in a box. Jughead spends a few seconds freaking out, then pulls out his lighter. For some reason getting a good look at his surroundings convinces him that, yep, he should keep throwing himself against the wall of the box. For some other reason, this actually works.

Jughead busts out into the junkyard, where Kurtz is face-down on the ground–and the Gargoyle King is standing over him. Jughead just runs away. And the Gargoyle King just totally lets him go. Weak sauce for a supervillain.

Jughead finds Jellybean totally OK in his house. She says that Ricky just left. “It’s another turn of the screw,” Jughead says. I’m embarrassed to say that I found Henry James’ Turn of the Screw totally boring and don’t really know what he means. But I do love a man who can make a Henry James reference in extremis.

Next up, the nicest little breakup scene you’ll ever see. Archie finds Josie practicing in the music room. He apologizes for missing the recital, but she doesn’t really care. She strokes the back of his neck and tells him she’s going on tour with her dad. He’s happy for her, and she says, “We’re not endgame. And that’s OK.” Archie looks appropriately sad, but not gutted; he says he was going to ask her to prom. She tells him he’s too cute for words, and they kiss, and then he kisses her forehead. Ugh, so cute! I’ll miss Josie, though. I feel like Archie was tolerable around her. OK, not tolerable, but less intolerable.

Jughead sits in Gladys’s hospital room and tells her, not without an appropriate level of pointed glaring, that his dad is going to get out of jail because Attorney McCoy “cleared everything” with the judge. Let’s just go with it. Legal realism is like the least of the problems this show presents. He asks Gladys how she’s going to answer for all this, and she says she’s going to hit the road with JB tomorrow. Jughead argues that she can’t keep living on the road, and she should stay “with dad and I.” Then he asks Gladys to stay, too! Jughead, haven’t you learned anything? Luckily, Gladys also agrees that it’d be better for her to just disappear for a bit, and then when FP cools off a bit they could maybe try again.

Wait, really?! I know Alice is all loopy and about to marry a cult leader and whatever, but I kind of wanted FP and Alice to get back together. Am I crazy? (I think I just want another flashback episode where Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse get to play their parents.)

Elio and Hiram sit in the steam room so that Elio can complain and Hiram can reassure him that whatever evil plan the two have cooked up is still in motion. They’re clad only in towels and they have their knees spread way further apart than steam room etiquette dictates. Hiram jumps on the “Archie is so complex” train, declaring that there are two Archies: the one who is all nice and stuff, and the one who almost killed Hiram. “That’s the real Archie Andrews. The one with murder in his heart,” Hiram says. Elio protests that Archie says he’s done with boxing, but Hiram has his doubts–he thinks Veronica will change Archie’s mind. Oh boy.

Over at Archie’s gym, Archie is sweeping and Mad Dog (who, as Elio declared in the previous scene, has left Elio’s gym) is practicing. Mad Dog wants Archie to be his sparring partner, and Veronica shows up just in time to plead that Archie should get back in the ring. Well that didn’t last long. Hiram knows all.

Over at the Jones’s, Gladys bids goodbye to a sad Jellybean and an ambivalent FP before hugging Jughead silently. She walks away in slow motion as the remainder of the family watches from the threshold.

Meanwhile, Betty arrives at Veronica’s, where I guess she’s still staying, to find Veronica waiting for her. Veronica reveals that while Hal and some other inmates were being transported to Hiram’s prison, there was an accident and “there were no survivors.”

OK, I would bet literally a thousand dollars that this death is not real (yeah I know, I’m behind, but I am un-spoiled so I honestly don’t know what happens in the next couple episodes). “There were no survivors”? Puh-lease. Do they even want us to believe Hal’s dead?

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