In the long, storied tradition of The Teen Drama, there’s never been a show quite like Riverdale, which takes the famously wholesome Archie repertoire and drops them into a dark, steamy soap where innocence is a liability and everyone looks unfairly gorgeous. Join Chuck Winters, David Uzumeri (subbing in this week for Andrew Niemann), and Robyn MacLeod as they break down the good, the bad, and the flat-out amazing in this week’s walk on RIVERDALE’S EDGE.
CHAPTER 17: “THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN”
Written by: Amanda Lasher (Gossip Girl, Sweet/Vicious)
Directed by: Jason Stone (Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, TV’s Van Helsing)
Archie Andrews is a Dumb Motherfucker
Robyn: I just love this heading.
David: Incredibly same because my God I mean we’re used to Archie being a dumb motherfucker for like, breaking down a house or something, not starting a vigilante militia because he got easily manipulated by Evil Benjamin Bratt Playing Skinny Michael Corleone. He was maybe the most boring character in Season One but the depths of the stupidity and impulsivity he’s willing to descend to are just inspiring as a dumb motherfucker myself. What a legend.
Chuck: And you know it’s written intentionally because everyone at Riverdale had the same reaction that we did. Fred’s freaking out. Veronica’s freaking out, though she calms down once she realizes what her dad did. Weatherbee, who didn’t see a problem with a “Neighborhood Watch group” last week is now like “NOPE. CALL THIS SHIT OFF NOW, THIS ONLY ENDS IN THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS.”
Robyn: I feel like literally everyone is playing Archie and he is just taking the bait left, right and centre.
David: This show isn’t called Archie, and it’s not just because it focuses equally on the rest of the cast, it’s because Archie is the world’s worst protagonist and utterly impossible to identify with, and they know it.
Robyn: He’ll be super handsome, girls will fight over him, he will be on the football team, but he’s like, really dumb.
Chuck: Archie’s not so much an active protagonist as he is the central empathetic figure. He’s a dumb boy, prone to doing crazy impulsive shit, but he means well and tries to take care of his inner circle, which we see a little later. I totally get why he’s so popular amongst his friends and why Veronica and Betty are into him. He’s very likeable, at least to me…but yeah. He is a dumb, dumb, dumb motherfucker.
Chuck: So our biggest clue yet about The Black Hood: He’s doing this for Betty, inspired by the speech she gave at the Town Jubilee during last season’s finale. He sends her a letter proclaiming his admiration for her, and a coded message revealing where he’ll strike next. Betty ends up keeping the letter to herself, but Alice publishes the coded message for all to see.
Robyn: I didn’t care for this: We have Betty suggesting that Kevin, Toni, Jughead and herself have a “party” at Jughead’s to crack the code. The party happens, during which…I forget what happened here, you guys.
Chuck: Toni basically pops off about how Northsiders blame Southsiders for everything after Betty makes some dogwhistle accusations that suggests The Black Hood might be a Southsider. “There are more drugs and violence in the Southside,” says Betty, just stating facts. This scene couldn’t be more obvious in its parallels to how rich white people in America look down on “the inner city,” and all the resentment that attitude fosters.
Robyn: Right. Then we have Betty falling asleep at Jughead’s, after her mother (painfully) tearfully lets her know how worried she was all the time about Betty and Polly’s safety.
Chuck: I said it before and I’ll say it again: The way the writers quietly characterize Betty as being as judgmental as her Nancy Grace-ass mother is fantastic. Betty’s still “good,” but her damage becomes clear if you squint.
David: It’s not just clear, though, it’s intergenerational and understandable. It’s an inherited trauma from both of her parents, and her sister. This show will play fast and loose with a lot of shit but when it comes to trauma it’ll keep its tongue in its cheek and tread with a somewhat lighter foot, I think.
“See Me Walkin’ Wit a Limp, That’s My Gunwalk”
Chuck: So it’s come to this: With Reggie and the football team bailing on The Red Circle, Archie is free to pursue The Black Hood his way, with Dilton Fucking Doiley as the crazy survivalist devil on his shoulder, giving him a fake ID and the location of an Army surplus store that’ll sell him a bulletproof vest for “hunting.”
Robyn: Doiley is so goddamn dark and always just…there.
Chuck: Here’s how fucking nuts this show is: Archie walks into Southside spray-painting Red Circle graffiti, hoping to draw The Black Hood out, and when Sweet Pea and his goons try to call him out and scare him away with a knife saying “You made a mistake,” Archie pulls his gun, SIDEWAYS, screaming “WHO MADE A MISTAKE? WHO MADE A MISTAKE?”
David: This is the craziest possible use of the Red Circle property I can imagine—if Archie literally became a superhero, they wouldn’t be able to match this level of dementedness. And thank God for it, because bizarre use of Archie’s IP is what makes this show so good. It’s like the Nolan Batman trilogy, for Archie, except Nolan was fostered by Tommy Wiseau’s mysterious parents, and completely self-aware about it? It’s “grounded” but that groundedness somehow makes it crazier than the source material.
Chuck: Archie is a dumb motherfucker, take 2: Word of the incident gets back to Weatherbee, prompting a locker search, and I’m thinking “No way would Archie be stupid enough to bring that gun to school.” Sure enough, there’s nothing in his locker…except for Reggie’s imitation hood that Archie kept for some fucking reason.
Robyn: Why on Earth does he have that thing? Was he going to give it back? What the hell. But, not revealing the hood was Reggie’s earns him some respect from ol’ Reg in his “book of Reg”.
David: One thing I really appreciate about Riverdale is that it takes villainous, vain characters and keeps all of their personality traits while doing something completely new with them. Veronica and Reggie are rich and narcissistic but they aren’t complete pieces of shit; instead, those roles are relegated to characters like Alice Cooper and Cheryl Blossom, allowing the “traditional” villains to show a more nuanced side so they can be fully formed characters.
Chuck: Archie is at least smart enough to keep the gun out of his locker. No, he hid it in the bathroom instead because HE’S A GIGANTIC GINGER DUMBASS. And he made Veronica collect it for him! What the ACTUAL FUCK, Andrews?
Robyn: I did not once see someone wipe that gun for prints. Prints everywhere.
Chuck: He did hide it in a toilet tank; maybe it had tape on the—who am I kidding, Archie’s never seen The Godfather. Arguably the one smart thing he did was throw it into the Sweetwater River at the end of the episode after accepting that he just shouldn’t have it. Nothing important ever washes back up from Sweetwater River.
Robyn: The bOok of reg
Robyn: The town is freaked out about The Black Hood, so there is a town meeting. My bf said “all of these people care too much about the high school”.
David: To be fair, in towns this size the high school is like…the main industry? When you don’t have any industry or higher education everyone’s just filling trades for a community that exists basically to raise their young. Riverdale had one major industry and it turned out to be a cover for the drug trade of <sighs heavily, takes shot of whiskey> “jingle-jangle.”
Chuck: I think there IS a college, which smartly keeps everyone in town when they graduate. Archie’s douche of a would-be mentor from episode 5 was from there. But your point stands anyway. So Alice Cooper is using the Town Hall as an excuse to advocate for closing Southside High for good, which would CLEARLY create more problems than it would solve. Yet she doesn’t have an obvious ulterior motive; Alice isn’t manipulating the town for her own ends. That’s all Hiram and Hermione, observing that Fred Andrews rallying the town against fear is “a problem.”
Robyn: What the hell are they up to, anyway?
Chuck: My guess? Capitalize on chaos, lower property values, buy it all up and own the town. But that’s got nothing to do with Alice; the woman is a true believer. We know she used to run with The Serpents herself…some serious shit must’ve happened to her during that time in her life.
David: Oh man I’ll bet solid money there’s a photo of her in a Serpent jacket we’ll see before this season is over. Mädchen Amick is EATING THIS ROLE UP and ALL OF THE SCENERY AROUND IT and I’m having a blast seeing this new stage of her career, especially ever since she was so underused in the third season of Twin Peaks.
Robyn: There was nothing more over-the-top than her crying and yelling at Betty because she is just so worried about her daughters.
David: I really can’t tell if it’s true concern or just theater though? Which is to the credit of everyone involved, but the entire Polly storyline is so utterly insane that there’s nothing I wouldn’t put past Betty’s parents (especially her dad, who is definitely a serial killer). There was the line from last week where she goes “I’m carrying my dead cousin’s twins” and I just couldn’t stop laughing. How is this show a real thing on television? How do you react realistically, as an actor, to a line that thoroughly bugfuck?
Robyn: Totally agree, I have no idea what is supposed to be genuine and what isn’t.
Chuck: Meanwhile, as the town’s adults are tearing each other apart verbally, The Bulldogs and the Serpents are tearing each other apart physically.
Robyn: Apparently Sweet Pea has a glass jaw?
David: Why is this grown-ass teenage man named Sweet Pea again, for that matter?
Chuck: I have no idea, but that was my favorite part of the episode: Archie Saitama-ing Sweet Pea so hard it triggers this Carly Simon-ass song (that brilliantly starts “In my bones / I can feel it in my bones”) that plays against the intercut rumble and town hall.
Robyn: The hit actually made me exclaim “oh shit!”, and then again with Doiley in the car getting his story straight with Archie.
Teen Detectives Always Get Shit Done
Chuck: Betty figures out that The Black Hood will next strike “at the place where it all began,” leading Betty and Jughead to evacuate Town Hall before anybody can get got.
David: It turns out that the killer encrypted the message with a Nancy Drew codebook, a character Betty loves so much she even resembles the teen detective. This is currently (along with the aforementioned letter) my main evidence that the murderer is her dad, Hal.
Robyn: So far, we know that the Black Hood is someone who:
✓Knows where Betty lives
✓Knew she checked out that Nancy Drew book as a kid
✓Was at the Jubilee
✓Knows Betty’s cell number
And I can’t rule out that he was potentially was targeting someone else in Pop’s Diner the morning he shot Fred.
David: Don’t forget Ms. Grundy! She was hangin’ with Mr. Cooper!
Robyn: Oh crap, right. Has that been referenced again? Are we sure it’s connected?
David: It’s definitely the same dude; there was a close-up at the end of that episode that made it clear. He’s got those same crazy angry old white guy eyes (that look a whole lot like Betty’s dad’s). I know they said the killer has green eyes but…contact lenses.
Chuck: I think there’s something to the fact that Fred, Moose, and Midge were all shot at while Grundy was strangled with her bow. Different MOs usually mean different killers, right?
David: I just want to say: I know I call this show “dumb” a lot, but it’s campy and over-the-top in a sort of highbrow way. I admit that I missed out on Gilmore Girls and Gossip Girl and most of The O.C., but I love how this show is completely dedicated to being really erudite trash. This show is chocolate cake, but one of those masterfully crafted Great British Bake-Off motherfuckers, not a Betty Crocker joint drunkenly assembled from side-of-box directions.
Robyn: You can also tell that the people on the show are just having a really good time, and I dig that. It is awesome to make something you are proud of and enjoy.
Your Stars of the Episode
Chuck: I’d like to give it up for Jason Stone, who directed the hell out of this episode with a bit of late 80s / early 90s Tony Scott flair.
David: I love this utterly nuts take on Dilton Doiley where he’s getting shanked by gang members in a fight in the rain after illegally selling a gun to Archie Andrews. He’s got this weird We Need To Talk About Kevin vibe to him, like he’s the character everyone’s afraid Jughead is.
Robyn: I hope the same person got to dress up as Zodiac, The Phantom Killer and the Axe Man in that opening scene. If yes, him. Otherwise, the lighting in this episode was amazing.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7 CT on The CW. New episodes are available on The CW’s website in the US, Netflix internationally.