Riverdale was in full swing this week as everyone got sad, bloody, and wet.

This episode dove right into the repercussions of Archie’s Red Circle video that closed last week’s episode. Archie descending into dangerous obsession was the central conflict this week. This season’s mystery has done so much better by his character than last’s. While last season Archie was often on the fringe of the plot, he’s the centerpiece of this one.

The CW, not content with all the superhero shows it already has, has turned Archie into a vigilante with his own arch-nemesis. That’s not at all a negative; it’s worked surprisingly well, which could be a summary of this show in general. Archie is a golden-boy character, so turning him into a hard-edged vigilante for revenge and justice is once again representative of the good once embodied in the town being drained away.

After the Red Circle video spread, Archie gained notoriety across the town. He was suspended from the football team, targeted by Southside Serpents, and searched at school. Some of those came after he decided illegally buying a gun wasn’t enough, but that he had to get a fake I.D. and buy hunting gear too. Taking his quest very personally and seriously, he began tagging buildings with the Red Circle logo.

Image credit: The CW

Dragged with him this episode was Veronica. She wanted to show support to Archie where others failed, so she spread the Red Circle as a popular movement. It’s a gesture which honestly felt over the top, with its t-shirts and everything, but the show was aware of that as well. Possibly the only time Veronica’s mom has ever said something true and helpful to her, she warned against blind loyalty to Archie. The sheer devotion she showed him the whole episode pushed her closer to his radical ways, for no more reasons than that she likes him.

When Archie was confronted by Southside Serpents, he instantly became a hardened gangster. This of course led to getting searched at school. Lucky enough to not have had his gun in his locker- a gun which he’s actually a really good shot with, for some reason- Veronica covered for him until the Serpents literally showed up at his door. The Riverdale football team’s fist-fight with gangsters, in a scene almost out of Captain America: Civil War, was honestly the highlight of the episode. Things got really intense with this new angle of southside versus northside tensions. Archie’s big change this episode was abandoning the things around him for his vendetta, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that eventually translated to a classmate getting more seriously hurt than Dilton’s knifed leg.

Image credit: The CW

Meanwhile, it was revealed that Betty of all people was the Black Hood’s very inspiration. When she confronted the corruption in Riverdale, apparently some tortured soul had enough and agreed a little too much. While she tried to decipher the cryptogram he sent her (one of this week’s few Zodiac references- someone please keep count), we got our first hints of the cracks that may be forming in Betty and Jughead’s relationship. With the flip of a phone, Jughead cast initial doubt that the couple could really survive the gap his move in schools created. If the show really commits to that plotline, I think it’ll be a while before anything hits the fan. We still got plenty of the classic, unbreakable mystery-solving duo of Betty and Jughead this episode as well.

Image credit: The CW

I would like to note that this episode stood out visually as a strong one. While the show in general has above-average cinematography and moody neon blues and reds for lighting, this episode made better use of them than some of the other recent ones have. The ending of the episode this week did not feature any murder, but it did leave a few interesting doors open. For starters, the Black Hood’s note said he would next strike at “the place where it all began”. This turned out to not be the city hall as Betty and Jughead theorized. But Jughead’s ending narration did use that exact same phrase to desribe Sweetwater River. Maybe we see some more teen murder next week. That’d be fun. And of course we got the cliffhanger of the Black Hood directly calling Betty himself. Things are getting spicy, everyone.

Image credit: The CW

Intense and entertaining genre fare, I’d give “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” 9.2 street brawls out of 10.

Weston Sheffield

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