Taking inspiration from a classic horror series, this week’s Riverdale got a little spooky. Spoilers follow!
The episode began like no other has, with an opening text crawl read by a gravelly-voiced narrator. It felt like something from a grindhouse film, which, as the title of the episode implies, was an inspiration it wore on its sleeve. The narration explained the episode would be comprised of three interconnected stories, each linked by the Black Hood. It really took on a horror sort of tone, which was very fun.
After this, the Black Hood left a note at Pop’s, challenging the town of Riverdale to go 48 hours without sinnning, something everyone obviously wasn’t going to do. The first story was Archie and Jughead. At this point, Jughead’s stories every week are basically “doesn’t really want to be a Serpent that much but ends up being even more of a Serpent”. The lawyer he called for help with his father’s case finally called in the implied favor, which ended up being a drug delivery to Greendale. Jughead naturally turned to Archie for help, and the two ended up on spooky crime road trip!
Archie and Jughead having some bro time to real talk was really nice to see. They’ve been going through some stuff but keeping their friendship intact just feels more right than not. But then they got a flat tire, and as they were carrying contraband, couldn’t call for help. Luckily, a shady man pulled up in a truck and offered to take one of them and the crate for however much cash they had. This was obviously a good idea, and the only option, so Jughead took the opportunity. While driving creepily, the man told Jughead about a legendary murderer called the Riverdale Ripper who killed a whole family in one night and then was never seen again. The creepy man implied he thinks the killer could be linked to the Black Hood, or hey, maybe that guy was the Ripper. It was left open-ended for maximum spook. But I’ve got to ask why a very stereotypical Southern-accented fire and brimstone preacher was endorsing murders on a small town radio in the Northern United States. Like who is this host and how is there a large enough audience for him? Anyway, the man tried to ditch Jughead with a diner bill and leave with the crate, but Archie showed back up with a fresh tire just in time. When they finally delivered the crate, the woman accepting it dropped the bomb that this was not a one-time deal, but that Jughead was supposed to be the regular delivery boy from then on. This was apparently a burden from his father’s past, pushing Jughead deeper into the gang life that Archie insisted couldn’t end well.
Some very interesting easter eggs were dropped during this segment in regards to Greendale. First Jughead was told to stay out of the town after midnight. Then creepy driver man said he thought it was possible Archie was Jason Blossom, because you “never know on the road to Greendale”. Then Archie saw a bloody deer walk across the road, one that looked like it had already been killed. These are all setting up Greendale as a hub for spooky supernatural activity, tying into the eventual debut of Sabrina, either on Riverdale or her own already-confirmed series. It’s fun to see Riverdale broadening its world a little.
The next chapter focused on Josie, in what was maybe like the second time she’s ever had any real development. It also gave that one Pussycat her most lines ever. You know, the one that didn’t date Archie. She said, like, two whole things. So anyway, it was established that Josie was both working on music independently of the Pussycats, and that she was receiving creepy gifts from a secret admirer. Staying late at school got her mom all worked up and overbearing, because all parents are terrible and evil except for Archie’s. Chuck Clayton, apparently now a cool guy, asked her out, which she harshly refused at first. But after getting scared and asking for ride home, Josie ended up at Pop’s with Chuck, who seemed like he really did become a cool guy. They even danced like in Pulp Fiction, until Josie’s mom showed up and freaked out. Revealing she had been getting death threats, one of which mentioned Josie, the mayor finally convinced Josie maybe there was cause for concern.
When at school the next day, Josie received another creepy gift: a portrait of her with the caption “IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU NO ONE CAN” and a pig’s heart in a box. Pretty sweet if you ask me, but Josie didn’t take it well. The evidence pointed to an angry Chuck being the harasser at first. This segment did some convincing work at implying the janitor, Mr. Svenson, was the culprit. That answer would’ve satisfied if it wasn’t revealed at the last minute that Cheryl herself was the one leaving the gifts. Why? Well I don’t think it’s because Cheryl has gone insane and fallen in love with Josie, simply because neither of those things were really set up before. What would make more sense and has more evidence is Cheryl stealing Josie away from the Pussycats or for some reason hindering her musical success. By creating more stress, Josie’s vocal chords swelled up and kept her from singing. Now why would Cheryl want that? I don’t know, maybe she fell in love with Josie and went crazy. I assume the real reason is yet to be revealed.
The final segment, focusing on Betty and Veronica, was the weakest of the three. After being surprisingly okay with leading the Black Hood to his latest victim, the very thing she wanted to avoid, Betty became convinced the Black Hood was none other than Sheriff Keller himself. I feel like Betty might consider the option, but becoming so sure so quick of such an idea felt out of character. Veronica, however, just thought Sheriff Keller might be having an affair, explaining the strange actions Betty took for murder. Veronica did some investigating by having a sleepover with Kevin, which led to her discovering Keller sneaking out of the house late at night. Betty did her own investigation, the slightly more involved action of breaking and entering, where she discovered a board of images related to the Black Hood crimes and a black hood itself. Keller found her in the act and explained it was all for the investigation and not because he was the killer. This was good solid logic and Betty should have believed it. But not content, she and Veronica followed Keller on one of his late-night mystery trips. They discovered he was not killing people like Betty thought, but having an affair, as Veronica did. But this wasn’t any old affair. No, he was sleeping with Mayor McCoy, Josie’s mother.
As the three stories came together at the end, Pop Tate revealed to the characters, conveniently all at the diner at once, that the Black Hood called him and said they had failed his test. They had sinned, and soon the reckoning would be upon them.
While this episode’s stories claimed to be linked by the Black Hood, this was maybe the least Black Hood-centric episode this season. The only things that actually involved him happened at the very end and very beginning. And while the gimmick was fun, it never really proved itself to be necessary for the story, nor did it have a great impact on it. Not a bad episode, but not as strong as others have been, I’d rate “Tales From The Darkside” 7.9 zombie deer out of 10. Did you like the episode? Let us know at SuperBroMovies.
Riverdale airs Wednesday nights at 8 on The CW.