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, 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 20: “TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE”
Written by: James DeWille (episode “La Grande Illusion”)
Directed by: Dawn Wilkinson (episode “The Lost Weekend”)
Chuck: You know, I love the traditional format of this show. I love Jughead waxing faux-deep poetic about Riverdale in voiceover at the top and bottom of each episode. But the format break of this episode was AWESOME.
Robyn: Agreed, it was really…refreshing?
Andy: I’m a huge fan of the triptych-style format showing the same event from different perspectives (see Pulp Fiction or Run, Lola, Run) so this is my favorite episode so far.
Chuck: Question: that opening crawl / VO had to be referencing something, right?
Andy: It’s mostly a direct reference to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but the narration reminds me of Unsolved Mysteries or budget horror/crime films of the 60/70s.
Chuck: We’ll dive into the specific stories in a moment, but I want to lay out something that may be obvious: the point of these three stories was to show how each person or team was breaking The Black Hood’s “no sinning” rule, right?
Andy: Right. Each tale was in essence a morality tale much like old EC comics or episodes of Tales from the Crypt. Each segment frames their subject in a less than positive light, although I should point out that they are mostly being manipulated into committing their respective “sins.”
Robyn: Yeah, Archie mentioned this in the episode, that it is like the Black Hood is making the town do bad things. The three stories focus on Archie & Jughead, Josie, and then Betty & Veronica.
Andy: I’m starting to wonder if the Black Hood has a religious motive. The show has only really scratched the surface on that but there’s something interesting to explore there about the faith of Riverdale’s denizens.
Robyn: There were a few quotes that lean that way in the episode; one of the Pussycats is wearing a cross, quotes “pride cometh before the fall,” both Pop and Chuck mention church.
Chuck: And right at the start of the second half of Archie & Jughead’s segment, the local AM radio preacher proclaims “In the black of The Hood is the light of God!” They aren’t even trying to hide the Old Testament motives and connotations here. But the point of Christianity is that no one is without sin; we can all do better. And as this episode (and nearly all prestige TV, to be fair) demonstrates, sin is…complicated.
The Wooden Crate
Chuck: So let’s start with Archie and Jughead. Penny Peabody finally resurfaces and asks Jughead to do one little thing: Deliver a box of “pancake mix” to a Greendale warehouse before midnight. Jughead grabs Archie and they hit the road with Fred’s truck.
Robyn: Yay, Greendale!
Andy: I believe I said Penny Peabody was the damn devil when she was introduced and that’s absolutely her role in this episode. She offers FP’s freedom in exchange for Jughead’s soul.
Chuck: They don’t waste any time establishing Greendale is weird. Not only is it the kind of place where Tony Todd comes out of nowhere to offer a lift when your tire blows out—oh, yeah, they got TONY TODD, the Candyman himself, to show up as a creepy drifter who gives Jughead a ride.
Robyn: It sets the tone right away, like many before them, Archie and Jughead find themselves stuck on the side of the road when their tire blows.
Chuck: And right after Archie gets the tire fixed, a bloody deer that may or may not have been the ghost of a deer that Candyman killed looks right at Archie as it crosses the road because that’s how Greendale fucking rolls.
Robyn: Not to mention that their whole delivery in the first place is super creepy. I don’t think anything good has ever come from anything that has required delivery before midnight.
Chuck: Certainly not deliveries that end up being accepted by a creepy old German woman carted around in a wheelchair by the local Nazi leather bar regular.
Robyn: And of course, she informs Jughead (whose name she knows) that this is not a one-time-deal—he’s now her regular delivery boy.
Andy: I’d sell my soul for some jingle-jangle, too.
Chuck: Turns out FP screwed Penny on a deal a long time ago, and now Jughead’s taking the weight—otherwise, footage of him and Archie transporting the illegal goods gets sent over to the cops. So, uh, welp.
On the bright side, though, Jughead gets let in on some helpful Riverdale Deep Lore courtesy of Deer Murderer Tony Todd—because who better to deliver some super-creepy exposition about someone called “The Riverdale Reaper” than Tony Goddamn Todd, thank GOD somebody remembered he was still alive.
Andy: Sounds like a really spicy pepper but now I want a flashback episode where the Riverdale parents are trying to solve this mystery.
Josie McCoy and Penelope Blossom’s Daughter
Chuck: Our second story is about Josie, who’s exploring the possibility of going solo with Cheryl at her side as a proto-manager.
Robyn: Donning a little golden halo, to boot.
Andy: This is the weakest segment to me but I really like the focus on Josie for once.
Chuck: I found the resolution of it interesting, but we’ll get to that in a second. With Josie already under pressure from her impending betrayal, she starts getting little gifts in her locker from a secret admirer that get increasingly possessive and dark. What starts as a teddy bear escalates into a pig’s heart, accompanying a drawing of Josie that says “If I can’t have you, no one can.”
Robyn: And of course, lurking in the background of the whole segment is the easy-to-dismiss-or-suspect janitor.
Chuck: Every shot of the janitor is like the shot of The Cook from The Hunt For Red October.
Andy: There was a Swimfan vibe to this segment I really liked.
Robyn: It was really playing games with suspects and suspicion.
Andy: Also we get the reappearance of Chuck Clayton. Last we saw him Dark Betty was about to drown him in maple syrup.
Chuck: Chuck was apparently saddled with the “asshat” character in Season 1 because Ross Butler wasn’t available to play it, so now that we’ve got Charles Melton asshatting it up, Chuck’s allowed to come back and seem genuinely interested in changing his ways.
Robyn: I thought it was adorable he wanted to dance with Josie at Pop’s.
Chuck: Cutest scene of the series so far. They even do the Travolta/Thurman Twist from Pulp Fiction, which the structure of the episode lovingly homages!
Andy: This new Chuck seems like a response to the controversy around his character last season since Chuck in the comics is genuinely a really nice dude.
Chuck: Still, his history casts a big shadow, and it’s easy for Cheryl to point a finger at him being the creep harassing Josie once shit starts getting too real. It’s not him, of course—though Josie points the finger at him anyway. The stress finally gets to Josie, and after dreaming of getting her throat slashed by The Hood (a dream perhaps brought on by her guilt), she flat-out loses her voice.
And then the show sucker-punches us by showing that the REAL secret admirer is Cheryl herself, the reveal of which was so brilliantly done I had to stop the show and slow clap it.
Robyn: Pretty sure I yelled at the TV.
The Keller Situation
Robyn: Last but not least, we have Betty and Veronica solvin’ mysteries.
Andy: I want a spinoff that is JUST THIS.
Chuck: Lili Reinhardt and Camilla Mendes have phenomenal BFF chemistry.
Robyn: I want to sit at their lunch table.
Chuck: So basically Betty’s suspicions catch up to our own: Somebody gets got in the town jail? No fucking way; Sheriff Keller has to be involved.
Andy: Betty’s deduction reflects what the audience is feeling which shows how smart Betty really is.
Chuck: And the show in turn; They held off long enough to let imaginations run wild, but the moment when it would’ve been dumb to NOT suspect Keller, he falls under Betty’s suspicion. That’s some strong soap-mystery writing.
Robyn: Betty quickly enlists Veronica, who believes Keller is murdering hearts, not people, so while Betty interviews Keller, Veronica cons Kevin into a sleepover.
Chuck: First of all, Kevin’s an utter nerd, in another fantastic reveal that made me laugh out loud. Second of all, in the process of snooping around, V catches Keller working out, which…DAMN, dude.
Andy: And of course Veronica flirts with him.
Chuck: Not subtly, either. By the way this is your regular reminder that these characters are supposed to be 15-16 and it’s alright to feel at least a little uncomfortable with all this. Anyway, Veronica gets nowhere, so Betty breaks into the Keller house after he leaves for work, finds his Pepe Silvia wall, and gets busted.
Robyn: Keller describes his wall as “research into the case,” etc.
Chuck: He also alibis out, but there’s some wiggle room and Betty’s undeterred, which leads to her and Veronica following him to a motel at night, where they see him walk right into the arms of…Mayor McCoy!
Andy: I pretty much gasped.
Robyn: I am positive I hollered “ooooh shit.”
Chuck: Oh! And he bought a fucking duffelbag with him for what probably wasn’t an overnight stay, so…do we want to speculate? Or should we just thank God that we can’t because we’re about to hit our word count ceiling?
Robyn: Murder kit. Next ep, no more Mayor.
Andy: Either that or their sex life is way kinky.
Robyn: Maybe he wears the mask.
Chuck: Or is it the dog collar?
Chuck: I DIDN’T START THIS WAR BUT I WILL FINISH IT.
Chuck’s Star of the Episode
Chuck: I wanna give a special shout-out to the music of this episode. Between Sherri Chung’s score (which took some surprising and righteous inspiration from Carpenter here and there) and Alexandra Patsavas’ always-strong needledrops (“Spooky” was an inspired thread to run through all three stories), this episode was an aural delight.
Andy: Oh my god yes. I’ve been hot and cold on this season’s music choices but the use of “Spooky” was inspired.
Andy’s Star of the Episode
Andy: Mayor McCoy. Her judgment of her daughter’s relationships framed against her own dalliances is a PERFECT representation of politics right now.
Chuck: This is the first episode where I was actually feeling real empathy for our Mayor, here. They really gave Robin Givens a chance to open up and be vulnerable for once, and it banks so much favor for this show.
Robyn: She has such a strong presence, I really enjoy watching her.
Robyn’s Star of the Episode
Robyn: Everyone involved in Cheryl’s “out of the way, Bert and Ernie” scene.
Chuck: I have nothing to add to this
Andy: Cheryl is still getting the best lines.
Your Riverdale Locks of the Week
Who is The Black Hood?
Chuck: The Black Hood is firmly Betty’s investigation, and if we’re going by the rule of “What would devastate Betty more,” then with Keller seemingly alibied out as a suspect, it’s almost certainly 2:1 on Hal at this point.
Andy: I feel a bit swayed from Sheriff Keller this week considering a major reveal. Which means suspect numero uno is Hal Cooper. So I’ll say 3:1 Hal, 5:1 Sheriff Keller.
Robyn: …The Janitor?
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7 CT on The CW. New episodes are available on The CW’s website in the US, Netflix internationally.