Riverdale Season 3, Episode 20 “Prom Night”

It’s prom night in Riverdale! Could I BE more excited?

Actually, this may sound a little unbefitting the supposedly intellectual, supposedly adult recapper who stands before you, but I was hoping for this episode to be MORE cliched. More fretting about who goes to prom with who. More meaningful dance scenes. There were some good scares and some great dresses, but all in all, I wanted it to be more Pretty in Pink, less Carrie. Alas, this is Riverdale. You don’t get to have this many plot twists if you waste too much time on prom antics.

Previously on Riverdale: Kurtz got killed by the Gargoyle King after doing a piss-poor job of locking Jughead in a box; Veronica and her dad made an agreement exchanging the Whyte Wyrm for Veronica getting Pop’s; Cheryl saw her dead brother Jason at the farm; Edgar wanted to adopt Juniper and Dagwood after marrying their grandmother; Betty told Hal about this and he was mad; Hal asked for a transfer to Hiram’s private prison, but there was an accident on the way and everyone died.

We start on a pretty damn gritty, silent scene of the wreckage of the transport van, on a deserted country road. Is that a… bloody… HAND on the road? Why yes, yes it is. Gross. Betty and Veronica arrive in slow motion. FP, in his sling, is overseeing the scene. Betty thinks her dad must have done this to escape, but FP says that there were five prisoners and one driver and they found six heads. Umm, double gross! Also, clearly Hal is still alive and one of the six charred heads is just a rando. As soon as FP leaves, Betty continues to freak, still believing that her dad is alive. As do I.

Mary Andrews, Archie’s mom, shows up. Archie rattles off a bunch of exposition that serves to inform us that a) Fred has gone somewhere in his truck, b) he didn’t pick his mom up at the airport, and c) in this world where cereals are named, like, Froot Hoops and Flucky Flarms, somehow “Uber” is still a thing, because that’s what Mary took to get here.

Betty, full of paranoia, dashes off to the Farm to tell Alice that Hal might be on the loose. But Alice already thinks he’s dead. “FP already called,” Alice says, looking way too happy about that fact — but hey, everyone loves bragging about getting calls from their ex, right? Even if their ex is just calling in his official capacity to tell them that their other, serial-killer ex was killed in a car accident? Anyway, Betty notices an infinity tattoo on Alice’s arm, which is apparently what Edgar makes his wives get in place of an engagement ring.

Adorable sibling moment alert: Jughead and Jellybean are in the kitchen of the erstwhile Cooper house, and Jughead is pouring milk into Jellybean’s cereal (Froot Hoops!). Jellybean is sad about Gladys, but Jughead says that he’s glad she’s staying. Awwwww. He mentions G&G, and Jellybean obligingly describes all the costumes everyone was wearing: she had a crown, oh and by the way, she met the Gargoyle King. He gave her a quest: she has to get the Gospel to enter the Kingdom. Jughead is fascinated by this, and Jellybean still thinks they’re talking about a game.

Veronica shows up at Archie’s gym, where Archie is sparring with Mad Dog. She has his fight application for the “Regional Classic,” but Archie needs his parents’ signature to apply. I love how in this world you can own a speakeasy at seventeen, but you can’t enter a boxing match without your parents’ signature. Mad Dog evinces some mild jealousy of Veronica’s managerial skills. Then they’re interrupted by one of Archie’s generic friends, who rushes in to tell them there’s a leak in the locker room. Archie is about to fix it himself when Veronica points out that this whole place needs a spruce, and she’s going to invest. I love how one minute she can’t even pay back a loan to her dad and the next she has all this extra money to keep a decrepit boxing gym open, all from running a speakeasy that never has any customers in it.

At the lounge at school, Betty has her friends in a captive audience and is treating them to more of her theories about her dad. Jughead promises to protect her and invites her to move back in with him and his dad now that Gladys is gone, and tells them all about the “Gospel” that Jellybean mentioned to him. Meanwhile, Cheryl is campaigning for her and Toni–Choni–to be prom queens. The kids realize prom is coming up, so Betty sweetly asks Jughead to go with her (“Only for you, Betty Cooper,” he says) while Archie and Veronica awkwardly pretend not to wonder if they should go together, too.

At home, Archie asks his mother to sign the application for the regional competition. She objects that it’s so brutal, and Archie explains that he’s bad at everything else (fair), so he’s hoping to go pro as a boxer. Mary’s response? “I won’t support you getting pummeled.” I sympathize with her, for the record. This sport is way too dangerous to be legal. On the other hand, Archie is right that he’s not exactly cut out for college!

Betty is at target practice, like with a gun and everything. Weird! She gets a call from Dr. Curdle, who confirms that the one hand at the scene belonged to her dad. Betty cries, in a very believable mixture of sadness and relief. No one points out that people have survived without their hands before and Daddy Black Hood could totally still be alive.

FP, still sling-clad, brings Jughead to a bus he found near where Kurtz locked him up. It shares the same bizarre decor as previous Gargoyle lairs, like the weird crosses hanging from the wall, and one or two Gargoyle masks. Jughead takes about four seconds to find a Bible-like book hidden in the leather of the seat… and he hides it from his sheriff dad. That seems bad, but on the other hand, FP is the one who was so incompetent he couldn’t find it in the first place, so maybe he deserves it.

At school, Archie brings Veronica his signed form. She asks if he’s sure he’s ready, and he assures her he is. Then he asks her to prom–as friends. Veronica says she would love that. Well, I expected this pairing to rear its head again–although I admit, I hoped for a little more drama around it. I mean, what is a prom episode for if not for a bunch of unnecessary angst about who goes with whom? They go straight to the prom table where Cheryl and Toni are selling tickets. As soon as Cheryl remarks that “What was off is now on again,” Veronica panics and says that they’re paying separately, even though she would clearly be OK with being “on again.” But Cheryl doesn’t actually care, she just likes to quip. She’s more interested in getting Veronica and Archer’s vote for Choni for prom queens.

My most burning question about this scene, though, is: why is Veronica wearing a black cape to walk around inside the school? Is she aware that she’s inside? And that it’s May?

As soon as Veronica is gone, Evelyn pops out of the woodwork to ruin everyone’s fun, as usual. She tells Cheryl it’s forbidden to run for prom queen because the Farm is all about equality. Cheryl says, “Easy for you to say, Evelyn. Aren’t you like, 30?” Ooh, burn! I laughed out loud, I admit it. Evelyn asks if she prefers to be prom queen or be blissful at the Farm for all eternity. “Honestly, both,” Cheryl says happily. Defeated by this rather elementary parry of wits, Evelyn slinks off.

Jughead and Betty hang out by Betty’s Carrie Mathison-style Idea Board of Hunting Down A Serial Killer. Jughead is fascinated by the gospel. He says, literally, “There’s a lot of mythical stuff in this Gospel, Betty.” Oh, you think? I guess most gospels just contain straight realism? Anyway, Betty isn’t interested: she thinks all serial killers are just people. Jughead seems to think that Betty is being irrational and suggests gently that she can take a few days, like, you’re the one getting all breathless over a made-up gospel, Jug! She, of course, refuses, and then Jughead gets a text from Dr. Curdle Jr. that Kurtz’s autopsy results are ready.

Archie comes home and his mom is ready in the kitchen to tell him that she talked to an army recruiter about their great boxing program, “So you can box, and get an education.” I’m sorry. What?! Yesterday you were scared of him being pummeled so today you signed him up for THE ARMY?! What is wrong with this lady? Does she not know what the word “army” means?

Dr. Curdle Junior has used his medical degree to uncover the fact that Kurtz has tattoos of the runes you need to ascend to Gargoyle Heaven. Betty throws out a little industry jargon of her own: “Whoever gave him these tattoos could be a new lead.”

The army recruiter shows up to meet Archie in exchange for Mary buying him a drink later. Apparently they’re freshman roommates from “Sarah Florence.” Heh. Brooke launches into her pitch for Archie to join the army and box there. “By the time I’m finished, my prime boxing years might be behind me,” says poor Archie. But his mom is PSYCHED about sending Archie off to the most dangerous occupation to play the most dangerous sport. She thinks this will give him “something real to fall back on.” O-kay then. Anyway, the recruiter suddenly switches gears and negs Archie, saying the program is very competitive and she needs to see him in the ring first. His mom eagerly suggests they set up an exhibition match.

Betty and Jughead show up to talk to a tattoo artist who takes one look at them and says they have to be eighteen. Shouldn’t be a problem considering Cole Sprouse is 26! (A factoid I repeat to myself whenever I find myself creeping on him in a recap…) Why yes, the tattoo artist does recognize the symbols, and in fact has given these tattoos to two people. But the first guy also refused to have photos of himself taken. Betty thinks she knows who it is. The tattoo artist says he had “sandy hair, blue eyes…” Betty fills in, “Weirdly magnetic?” Hee, that’s one way to describe Chad Michael Murray, I guess!

Speaking of the Weirdly Magnetic Man himself, he’s pulled Cheryl into his office to tell her not to run for prom queen. It’s light out, so while there are the usual copious number of candles scattered around the place, they’re unlit. Cheryl argues that being prom queen could give her a platform to spread the Farm’s message. But Edgar, not as easily thrown as Evelyn, tells her that standing with the Farm requires sacrifice. If she doesn’t give up on this, she can’t talk to Jason anymore. Cheryl folds like a t-shirt.

Answering my previous questions about how Veronica is affording to help Archie’s gym with the proceeds of her sparsely attended speakeasy, it turns out she’s actually taking out a loan. Sure, because owing people money has worked out great for you so far, Veronica! She explains this to a concerned Pop when he overhears her talking to the appraiser. She also reassures him that she and Archie are just friends… and business associates.

Then she leaves and Pop looks after her with a melancholy look in his eyes, probably wondering how his life’s work became subject to the whims of a seventeen-year-old girl who is using it to fund the business of her dopey, equally underaged ex-boyfriend.

Archie stands at the weigh-in for his mandatory weekly topless scene. He’s over by six pounds. He protests that he’ll cut down and make the weight by Friday–oh yeah, by the way, the fight’s been moved to Friday, which no one bothered to tell Archie until his weigh-in. And that’s the same day as his other fight, for the army recruiter. Uh-oh! Nothing daunted, and without even a mention of his new scheduling conflict, Archie vows to lose the weight by Friday. I mean, cutting six pounds in a few days seems realistic enough, because boxers have to cut weight all the time, but what’s the point of a weigh-in if it doesn’t actually disqualify you? Whatever, I’m not a sports expert. (Although, pretty clearly neither are the people who write this show.)

In case you didn’t catch the fact that Betty thinks Edgar Evernever is the Gargoyle King, she and Jughead have retired to their lair so that Betty can explain it, complete with a visual aid: the “Edgar Evernever” nametag she’s taken temporarily off her Idea Board so that she can show Jughead, in case he’s suddenly become as dimwitted as Archie I guess. She points out the similarity in their timelines and their ideology and finishes up with, “And they’re both really, really creepy!” complete with a hilarious, classic Betty facial expression. Lili Reinhart is seriously comic gold! Jughead isn’t quite convinced, for reasons that aren’t really clear to me. But Betty thinks she has a way to find out.

Over in the gym, Veronica finds Archie jumping rope frantically in sweatpants, trying to sweat off the weight he can’t burn off. He explains to her that he needs to lose weight, oh and by the way, he’s going to fight twice that night, because he can’t tell his mom he’s in the tournament, because she’s Very Against him boxing unless he boxes for her friend the army recruiter. Instead of suggesting any other solution than Archie fighting twice in the same night while severely dehydrated from cutting weight, Veronica’s like, OK, sure! Well, they belong together. Josie would have put up a way bigger fight.

Edgar is holding some kind of weird education session with the Farmies. As his newest bride, I guess, Alice gets to sit right next to him and hold his hand. Edgar tells everyone that “many tribes” would consume the bodies of their dead to get their wisdom. He doesn’t mention that this tends to lead to Very Bad Things. Betty busts in right then to demand that Edgar admit he’s the Gargoyle King. What?! THAT WAS HER PLAN?! That’s the worst plan ever! Edgar calmly invites her to sit down and talk about her anxieties. “I have a better idea,” Betty says. “Why don’t you take off your shirt.” (That rustling sound you hear is the sound of every straight woman watching this show nodding her head in enthusiastic agreement.) Edgar deflects by showing her the wrist tattoo of the infinity symbol, but Betty keeps demanding he take off his shirt. So he takes his shirt off, revealing legitimately unreal abdominal muscles, and spins around slowly–you know, to show everyone there’s no tattoos. Totally for plot reasons, and not at all because the show is pandering to the female gaze. “There,” he breathes softly. “Does that satisfy you, Betty?”

Speaking of topless guys, here is a weight loss montage of Archie and Mad Dog training all week, interspersed with Archie weighing himself constantly like he’s a socialite the week of her debutante ball. In the end, he’s under the limit, and he and Veronica high-five. It’s dumb, but hey, I love a montage.

Over at school, Betty’s upset that her grand plan didn’t catch them a serial killer. But Jughead has a plan, which, I have to say, is much better than Betty’s dumb plan: it just so happens that the Gargoyle Gospel contains a rather long description of a crowning ceremony where the queen subjugates herself to the Gargoyle King. So if they can just get the Gargoyle King to appear, and get Betty crowned prom queen (for reasons that remain unclear, since if this were all part of the plan, wouldn’t like Evelyn be prom queen or something?), they can find him. And if it doesn’t work, Jughead adds, it will be “just another horrible mainstream school event that we’ll have to endure.” Aw, Jughead! Now his plan is better than Betty’s, but I have to point out that like Cheryl said, Evelyn’s been in high school for approximately a million years, so isn’t it possible the gospel was talking about any of those other proms Cheryl might have been too? Also no one mentions the fact that Betty was just a random nerd until Veronica came to town and got her into the cheerleaders, not exactly prom queen material.

Whatever. Let’s just go with this plan. Which for some reason necessitates making the theme G&G related, so they find Cheryl and suggest that they change the theme to medieval times or something. Cheryl, totally depressed by her conversation with Edgar, agrees way too easily because it doesn’t matter if she’s not going to be prom queen. Betty and Jughead give each other adorable “WTF” looks.

Veronica and Archie climb into Veronica’s fabulous black car after the first round, which Archie apparently lost. “I won’t lose two fights in the same day,” Archie says, despite the fact that he can barely move. Veronica chooses now to protest. She’s going to get the recruiter to reschedule. “My persistence is stronger than your uppercut,” she says. Couldn’t they have done the rescheduling thing in advance? Sigh.

She shows up at the gym and apologizes to Mary and “Counselor” Rivers that Archie is under the weather. Food poisoning. Just then Archie busts in and yells that he can fight. His face is totally beat up, which is just another giant hole in this already terrible “fight two fights in one day so that my mom doesn’t know that I’m boxing, other than the boxing match she totally set up for me” plan. Another giant hole is that Archie faints as soon as he steps into the ring. I can’t even with this! Veronica had this covered for Archie–she was expending effort and lying for him in a way she totally didn’t have to–and he ruined it! And then fainted! What a dope.

Betty and Jughead gather the Pretty Poisons and the Serpents and propose a truce in order to catch the Gargoyle King. The Pretty Poisons agree, so Jughead outlines a plan that involves everyone watching at the entrance for the guy who’s “cosplaying as the Gargoyle King,” except that he may not be cosplaying, you know, at that very moment. But Jughead adds, “At a minimum, he’s going to have some sort of kingly signifier like a crown, or antlers, and the like.” No, seriously, Jughead utters these words. I laughed so hard at that line.

Archie wakes up on the couch with his mom watching over him. He says he shouldn’t have double-booked, and she retorts, “You shouldn’t have forged my signature and lied to me!” I think Mary wins this round. Archie pleads that he wanted to give her way a shot, but really, he doesn’t want to join the Navy or go to college. “It’s a losing battle for me,” he says. Truer words were never spoken. Mary thinks that he’s only thinking of tomorrow instead of his whole future, but… I gotta say she doesn’t look like she thinks he’d be good at college either. Even a mother’s love can only delude you so much.

Veronica, dressed in a medieval princess gown, tells Pop she’s heading out to the prom and has closed La Bonne Nuit due to all her underaged regulars being at prom. But Pop has something to tell her first. Something he found out. Uh-oh!

Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels” starts playing, and, I don’t know if everyone associates this with Donnie Darko, but I was on the lookout for this to be a Donnie Darko homage and… I don’t see it. The song did make me wish I was watching that movie instead of this show, though. Anyway, everyone arrives to prom. Kevin gets his customary one second of screen time, posing for a picture with his bf. Meanwhile, the Pretty Poisons are packing the ballot box for Betty to win prom queen even though she’s running unopposed. Cheating to get prom queen? Um, rude! At first I was afraid because Betty and Jughead seemed like they were going to be too busy plotting to get the Gargoyle King to actually do any prom stuff, but then Jughead says, “Do you want to dance while we look for him?”

Ugh, but then instead, we cut over to Veronica and Archie. She tells him what Pop told her: she doesn’t actually own the diner, because her father pulled some kind of Hiram voodoo to give Veronica a fake deed and therefore she doesn’t own the business, or something. Her big plan is to… act like nothing has changed? Unclear how that will help. Archie manages to be sympathetic for a few seconds before starting to flirt with her, but they conclude the scene by agreeing to take down Veronica’s dad together. No illicit smooching takes place. Yawn.

Choni are dancing cutely. Cheryl claims that Edgar gave her something better than a crown: humility. Toni is dubious of this, and sure enough, Cheryl is like, “Yup, I hate this.” She’s starting to rethink the whole being a Farmie thing.

Next we see Betty getting punch. What?! We didn’t even get to see her and Jughead dancing at all?! What is the point of having a prom episode if your best couple doesn’t even get to dance! Ughhh. (Yes, I am twelve.) Some random teenager hands her a note, saying he got it from a druid or something. Betty unfolds it: it tells her she’s summoned to the place where the first Ascension Night was held and she can’t tell anyone or dire things will happen. Betty, unable to resist a mystery, takes off immediately, by herself.

The Prom Court announcement comes up and it’s Betty Cooper, as planned. Of course, Betty doesn’t show up. Jughead seems to be too busy scanning the room for possible Kingly Signifiers to have noticed.

Betty wanders into the newly graffiti-covered bathroom, interspersed with flashbacks to her mother (also played by Lili Reinhart) doing the same thing. But when she sees the two chalices waiting for her by the sink, she murmurs to herself, “Not gonna happen.” Then she leaves the bathroom, and sees the Gargoyle King waiting for her in the hall. Betty–who has some serious guts in this episode–talks directly to him, saying she did what he asked, then points a gun at him. What?!

Suddenly someone in a black hood tackles her, and tries to slash her with what turns out to be a hook instead of his hand. Like I said, just because you find someone’s gory severed hand on the road doesn’t mean he’s dead! She runs into a classroom, only to see what looks like a girl’s body on the floor. “Dad!” she wails. “Why are you doing this?” He breaks in, she fights him off, and then runs down the hall screaming really loudly. The Black Hood, for his part, just walks slowly down the hall scraping his hook against the walls and making a horrible noise. Rude!

After passing by at least one more dead body, Betty finally lies in wait for him and overpowers him by bashing him over the head with a hockey stick. Suddenly she sees something bloody behind her and screams again, which of course leads the Black Hood right to her. When the commotion outside suddenly ceases, Jughead calls to her and she bursts out into the hallway, crying and telling him the Black Hood is back.

Jughead, a blanket-clad Betty, and FP confab in an office somewhere in the school. Betty thinks this was all a setup to get her alone with the Black Hood again. Jughead hugs her sweetly from behind. Awwwww. It’s cute and all, but we still want to see a dancing scene, show!

And with that, prom night ends. And no one broke up, or had their first kiss, or ANYTHING that’s supposed to happen at a TV prom! Ugh. Anyway, Mary and Archie sit at breakfast the next morning exchanging deep thoughts like “It’s terrible what happened.” Mary has decided to stay in Riverdale while Archie’s dad is “away.” (Do we know where he’s supposed to be?) Mary, who seems to be constitutionally incapable of holding a position for longer than four seconds, decides that since the world is so scary, it might be good to learn how to fight. So to recap, she didn’t want Archie to box because he would get “pummeled,” but then she decided that she would sign him up for a job where he would legitimately be GOING TO WAR and ALSO boxing, but then Betty almost got killed so now she’s OK with him being a regular old boxer? None of this makes sense. But whatever. Mary’s on board. And Archie wants her to help him convince Fred. Awww, Fred.

Betty finds her mom and tells her the Black Hood is dead, but Alice is deep in Never-Never-Land (well, Ever-Never-Land) and declares that she’s left all that behind. Betty says that she told her dad about Edgar’s plans to adopt the twins and he got really upset and is probably coming here to kill them all. Edgar pops in to invite her to stay. “Our walls are strong, Betty. And our members stronger. Let the Farm protect you.” It’s true: he and the Black Hood are both really really creepy. But this time, Betty nods and agrees. Ruh-roh.

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