This review contains spoilers.
2.9 Silent Night, Deadly Night.
The Black Hood is dead. Long live the Black Hood.
With Riverdale not returning until the middle of next month, the mid-season 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’ behaviour 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 thirteen episodes left this season, anything feels possible.
This review is being written before the episode 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 colour 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 realise 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.