This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 2 Episode 9
The Black Hood is dead. Long live the Black Hood.
With Riverdale not returning until the middle of next month, tonight’s midseason finale was seemingly custom made to keep people talking in the interim. Mission accomplished then, as there is a lot to chew on here. The biggest revelation was that Joseph Conway/Mr. Svenson was himself the Black Hood, punishing the town for their sins to restore the cosmic justice that he unbalanced after causing a lynch mob to bury an innocent man alive years earlier.
Or is he?
My gut feeling is that Svenson is a bit of a nine-fingered red herring here and there’s another killer still roaming the streets. First off, the piercing green eyes of the Hood and Svenson don’t really match. Even Archie, never the most observant character on this show notices, musing “I didn’t see it in his eyes” during a post-shooting milkshake session with the gang at Pop’s. Then, most tellingly, there’s the final scene in which Betty pulls the hood from the fireplace while narrator Jughead grimly announces that she “sees a truth that could not be burned away, a truth that whispered, ‘this isn’t over.'”
Also, there’s the new question of who is photographing Archie kissing Veronica and why. This could be the “real” Black Hood, or it could be someone else– a private investigator or law enforcement official perhaps — keeping tabs on the Lodges behavior now that Ronnie has been fully indoctrinated into the family business. Hell, it could be the ever-watchful and increasingly creepy Cheryl. On a show like Riverdale, which has 13 episodes left this season, anything feels possible.
This review is being written before tonight’s has aired, so by the time you read this it is quite possible that someone from the show’s production staff has already taken to social media explaining how Svenson is indeed the real deal Black Hood. Archie’s acknowledgment that Svenson’s role as the school’s janitor made him privy to all sorts of secrets, so it is plausible that he is in fact the Hood, despite any eye color discrepencies. (And Svenson’s eyes were closed when Keller shot him, so there’s that bit of mystery too). My issue with this is that it feels a bit weak from a narrative point-of-view to have a character who was just recently introduced be the killer. The stakes for the characters would be much higher if, say, Betty’s dad were the Black Hood. And once you start to think about his killing spree — which pretty much just consisted of Mrs. Grundy — and how Jughead’s narration intones what you are watching takes place in the past, everything involving the Black Hood falls apart a little bit. A serial killer who only took one life? And what about the weird opening of the episode a few weeks back that refers to the “Black Hood murders.”
So yeah, I’m guessing we aren’t quite done with the Hood yet.
I’m much more unclear about the fate of Penny Peabody. If Jughead did in fact cut off her Serpent tattoo, then that is a brutal attack against the character that is way worse than the blackmail and extortionary antics she was up to. I’m guessing that he let her go with a threat, because even if Jughead had another one of the Serpents pull off the impromptu tattoo removal it casts his character in an entirely new and nefarious light, one that could not be easily rolled back from. Riverdale isn’t The Walking Dead after all. The Snake Charmer is no saint, but Jughead mutilating her makes him light years more villainous. Leaving her in Greendale after midnight — you guys heard that sinister wolf howl, right? — could very well be a fate worse than death though in this show’s universe. We will find out more as the season progresses, but I’m thinking we aren’t quite done with Penny yet. I hope she comes back as a witch. Man, I want some witches on here already.
Elsewhere, the Veronica/Archie and Jughead/Betty status quo restores itself in record time, even despite an illicit kiss that had Betty seeming passionate and Archie, well, confused. Was there any doubt that these crazy kids would get back together? Probably not, but I didn’t realize it would happen this quick, jeez.
Veronica’s aforementioned discovery that her parents bought Pop’s, and their subsequent throwing back the curtain on their business was handled in a bit of a delightful cheat. I actually love not knowing what the Lodges are up to at this point, but it is obvious that Hermione has deluded herself into thinking their plotting isn’t illegal thanks to the magic words “plausible deniability.” Veronica knows that her folks are into shady shit, which is why she straight up tells them that she won’t do anything illegal. She’s a smart girl, but clearly blinding herself to the fact that having her name on all the documents will make her just as guilty as her folks. Exactlt why do they need Fred for their plans? Is he so invaluable that they will cover $86,000 in his medical bills? And why does this subplot continue to be the least interesting thing on Riverdale? I suppose we will find out in 2018.
– The rules for Kevin’s Secret Santa state that everyone is to spend no more than $20. Archie really took this heart, the cheap bastard, and gave Betty a read-along book and record that he found lying around the garage. Romance isn’t so much dead as it is lying dormant in a room prone to extreme weather. Nice job, Arch. He also didn’t think to get Veronica anything for Christmas even though in show time it feels like maybe 26 hours after they broke up? Maybe the hours move slower in Riverdale? Nah, Archie’s just self-consumed. Maybe he will learn a lesson about giving and write a song about, hopes nobody.
– Spiffany’s, Glamourege Egg, American Excess. To call these Mad magazine-level spoof names from tonight’s episode would be an insult to the witty legacy of the usual gang of idiots. I’m thinking maybe Cracked, or, better still, Crazy. Somewhere Obnoxio the Clown is smiling.
– Apparently not bought at Tiffany’s Spiffany’s, this cheap ass looking watch with Sharpie engraving that Veronica gave Archie.
– Mr. Svenson gets depressed at the holidays. Baby, don’t we all.
– Cheryl called Archie “Teen Paul Bunyan” as he worked at his dad’s magical new Christmas tree village that was never mentioned before and probably won’t be again. For someone 86 grand in the hole, Fred sure had the capital to start up another business quick.
– December or not, I’m amazed that Archie somehow managed to keep his shirt on while working with those trees.
– The Black Hood, dressed as Santa with knife in hand in Betty’s nightmare, was both a creepy visual and a nice homage to the 1984 slasher film from which tonight’s episode got its name: Silent Night, Deadly Night.
– For reasons I can’t quite articulate, I love how Betty gets Jughead a (super inconvenient to write on in the year 2017) vintage typewriter. Then, when F.P. asks if he wants to go over and thank her in person, our crowned Romeo just blows it off by saying he will text or call her. Why? Because he’s weird! He’s a weirdo!
– Archie is talking to Jingles, one of a number of elves who visit the Riverdale gang every holiday season. I am so disappointed that his weird little self did not make it into tonight’s episode, but alas, there is always next year.
– Mary Andrews’ Bahamian Christmas cruise must truly suck if she’s taking time out from it to talk to her adorably doltish son and peaked in high school ex. Mrs. Jones and Jellybean are only in Toledo and you don’t see them hopping on the horn.
– Not one Jingle Jangle reference in the entire Christmas episode? Well played Riverdale, well played indeed.
– Apparently flush with cash after possibly disfiguring a fellow gang member, Jughead went over to Target and bought some sublimely tacky Christmas decorations — including a Leg Lamp from fellow Warners property A Christmas Story. Hope F.P. asked for synergy in his stocking!
– Who was that dude Penelope Blossom was making out with on the couch? Was it Vic the tree guy from Fred’s Pop Up Christmas Shop?
– Sooner or later, every character on Riverdale is going to sing. Thus tonight we have Kevin joining Josie outside of Pop’s belting out Christmas tunes for no reason at all other than tis the season. (Is this part of their community service for getting high on Jingle Jangle earlier in the season). Josie kid, you are talented, get an agent.
Also, if the producers are reading this, get in touch as I have several ideas for how a musical episode could work. Happy holidays everyone, we will see you in the new year for more Riverdale wonderment!