This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 3 Episode 20
“It’s him. He’s back. The Black Hood”
After months of interminable waiting, the narrative threads of this season of Riverdale are finally being woven together. As this episode came to its shocking conclusion, the Black Hood was back on the scene — apparently in league with the Gargoyle King — and Betty was staying with The Farm for her protection. It’s a fun turn of events that marks the season’s endgame. There are just two episodes left, and shit has most definitely gotten real.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here, and it’s hard not to in an installment packed with so many gleeful moments, so let’s go back to the start. Betty arrives at the crime scene already painfully aware of the truth that the Black Hood has returned, and absolutely manipulated her into helping him escape. She feels a mixture of guilt and terror. What will he want now? And how many people will suffer at his hands? While grappling with these questions (and brushing up on her shooting skills), she learns more about the Gargoyle King when Jughead finds a sort of bible espousing the gospel of the character hidden in the bus Kurtz was sleeping in.
Betty doesn’t buy that the King is a ‘supernatural creature,’ but rather an ordinary person who is using the guise of the figure for his or her’s own gain. When she and Jughead learn that Kurtz had tattoos of the G&G iconography, they soon discover that a sandy haired man with blue eyes and a magnetic personality also had similar ink. This sends Betty straight to The Farm, convinced that none other than Edgar Evernever is the Gargoyle King. After the quick and seismic revelation that, oh yeah, Farmies eat people — more on this in the below roundup — Betty has the incredibly jacked Edgar take his shirt off. But he doesn’t have the tats in question. Womp womp.
The Gospel of the Gargoyle King declares that His Stickness can be summoned in a renaissance-type setting, so Jug and Betty convince Cheryl, super bummed that The Farm’s rules won’t let her and Toni be joint prom queens, to transform the dance into such an affair. While waiting for the King to make his appearance, Gryphon Queen Betty is summoned into the bathroom that played such a crucial role in Ascension Night all those years ago. But she refuses to play the “flip for your fate” game and drink from a chalice, and is about to confront the Gargoyle King when she is attacked by the Black Hood. Family reunions are always awkward.
To complete the ruse that he was killed in the accident while being transferred to Mr. Lodge’s new prison, Hal cut off his own hand and replaced it with a hook. He’s already killed three people at Riverdale High and seems intent on killing Betty too when he suddenly calls off his attack. Jughead comes to find her and she is safe, for now. Betty immediately races to The Farm to tell Alice that Hal is on another killing spree and they need to get to safety. But Edgar manages to convince her that there is nowhere she will be more protected at than Farm HQ. In a shock move, Betty agrees.
Where Betty is finding unexpected comfort at The Farm, Cheryl is seeing cracks in its facade. After being emotionally blackmailed by Edgar that she won’t be able to ‘see’ Jason anymore if she continues her pursuit of prom glory, she starts to doubt exactly what she is getting from the organization. This shift in confidence will doubtlessly play a role in the last two episodes of the season…and maybe even The Farm’s downfall? After all, Choni is not to be trifled with.
While all this is going on, Archie is dealing with wanting to see “how far these fists can take me” in his burgeoning boxing career. He doesn’t want to go to college, or into the Navy, just to find himself in the ring. This whole subplot remains an absolute snore, but at least its disconnectedness from the main action in the show remains on brand for the character. He and Veronica once again begin to grow close, united by their shared desire to turn the tables on Hiram who, as it unsurprisingly turns out, still owns Pop’s and Veronica’s speakeasy. (Given Veronica’s erratic behavior when it comes to her father, her willingness and/or ability to follow through on her threats towards him are clearly in question).
It’s been an uneven season, but with the finish line in sight I’m eager to see how the momentum built by this episode brings everything together in the next two weeks.
– The biggest bombshell of this episode is one that could have been easily overlooked if you weren’t paying attention. Right before Betty bursts in demanding to see Edgar’s tattoos, he is telling Alice about how members of The Farm consume the bodies of dead elders to “absorb their wisdom.” That’s right fam, The Farm are cannibals. What other super twisted secrets about the organization will we learn in this season’s final two episodes? Can they possibly top this reveal? Is a Jonestown moment in the cards?
– This episode’s best line comes via Veronica: “Prom is this weekend? We still do things like that here?” Self-aware Riverdale is the best Riverdale.
– Judging by her rapid flip-flopping on her feelings about Archie’s boxing, I’m guessing Mary Andrews isn’t the best attorney.
– Archie doublebooking his life is a regular trope in the comics, although usually there he has two dates in a day instead of boxing matches, but this was a nice callback to the source material regardless.
– “It should be a relief that your mom’s not marrying a second serial killer.” That’s one hell of a bedside manner Jughead’s got there, huh?
– It’s absolutely hilarious that Evelyn, now widely known to not be a teen, is still roaming the halls of Riverdale High. (Cheryl’s “aren’t you like 30?” quip is absolutely savage).
– The inexplicable hodge podge of real and fake branding in the Archieverse continues, with Mary mentioning both Uber and attending college at ‘Sarah Florence.’
– Could we please please please get more Dr. Curdle Jr. on this show? Every single thing this character does is magic.
– The season’s ongoing love affair to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise (which reached its apex when The Fred Heads performed “Dream Warriors”) continues as the Black Hook scrapes his hook along school lockers and walls a la Freddy Krueger.
– Okay, so if there were six people in the bus and F.P. found six heads and Hal is alive, who does the other head belong to? Another one of Hal/The Black Hood’s victims?
– Kevin and Fangs went to the Prom together, and this is super sweet. Kev has an eye for those bad boys.
– Continuing the series’ weirdly anachronistic nature, the music played at the Riverdale High School prom was a mix of 1980s favorites that included Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels” (most likely used here to evoke Donnie Darko) and the early Depeche Mode single “Dreaming of Me.” Personally I would have thrown in Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance” given the dance’s renaissance faire theme, but you can’t please everyone.
– Another missed musical opportunity? Not having KJ Apa perform “Eye of the Tiger,” the song, made famous by Rocky III, that was used in Archie’s training/weight loss montage.
– The Jones family keeps a picture of Hot Dog on the fridge. It’s nice to see that somehow this dog’s existence is acknowledged on the show. Riverdale pet owners are just the worst.
– “What, have you come to steal more babies Elizabeth?” Sick burn, Alice.
– Sure, The Farm is super weird and now apparently cannibalistic, but they must have one hell of a workout regimen.
– With Luke Perry’s final filmed appearance airing last week, Molly Ringwald returns as Mary Andrews in this episode. There’s still no word on how the series is going to handle Perry’s death, but I hope that Ringwald is brought in full time to help ground the Archie character.
– Cheryl losing confidence in The Farm because they won’t allow her to be fabulous is the best character motivation this series has attempted in a very long time.
– This is another episode in which Cole Sprouse’s narration is completely absent. Is the show moving towards dropping this storytelling technique?
– Crazy conspiracy time: The reason that the Black Hood leaves the Betty attack and Jughead arrives is, wait for it, Jughead is the Gargoyle King…
– So, the Gargoyle King, Hiram, The Black Hood, and Edgar are all in cahoots right? Share your speculation on what will happen next in the comments.