Welcome again! If you're new here, you must know that along with game and game writing content, I am unfortunately enamored with Riverdale. For the sake of content, I've taken it upon myself to give a text guide through every Riverdale episode starting with season 3, because man, it's a Lot.
The Man in Black
Where we last left off, Archie and Jughead have skipped town to avoid being chased by Hiram Lodge. Archie suggests that Jughead should go back to town, but Jughead reasonably points out that Archie has somebody beating the shit out of him on a daily basis even before Lodge decided to go sicko mode on him, so he really needs the protection.
The two wander onto a farm looking for a place to crash, where its owners are immediately shoot on sight. The farm workers however end up being easily swayed, offering the boys some food and a place to stay the night.
There's clearly something wrong with the farm and nearby small town, like the fact that all the men are gone. Archie doesn't recognize that it's weird, so Jughead's right about him needing someone to stick by him. Jughead goes out in town and finds a bunch of Gargoyle King iconography and graffiti. He also talks to an old lady and finds that besides Jingle Jangle being a premier drug, laced Fizzle Rocks are also a hot commodity.
He finds a group of girls playing G&G and hits them up for information. All the men in town have taken on jobs building a private prison, which is also acting as a drug lab for Fizzle Rocks. A Man in Black is said to be in charge of the prison and the town and Jughead deduces that it's Hiram.
Meanwhile, Archie is a huge idiot and basically tells the farm owners everything going on with him. He predictably gets knocked out, with the girls calling up Hiram to collect. Jughead's basically right and bails Archie out, but Archie thinks that he can kill Hiram in an ambush. Jughead tells him that it's a fucking stupid idea and they get out of there before Hiram arrives.
Back in town with Veronica, she's gathering her stuff to move out of her home to live in her speakeasy. And honestly, given everything that's gone on, moving out is the best decision. As she hangs around though, an important thing occurs to her, and it's the fact that the place isn't actually making money. She meets up with Elio, that guy that helped her sneak into Archie's underground fighting ring, and plans to run a casino night to really get things going.
Hiram shows up at her workplace the next day and he's big mad about her running a casino night with rival criminals. He does the good ol' parental guilt trip and she tells him to fuck off.
Anyway, it's casino night! Despite being a huge asshole about it, Hiram's right about Elio because he's undermining Veronica's money making plan by cheating at all the casino games and cleaning them out. She challenges him to a winner-takes-all blackjack match and wins because, big surprise, she rigged the game.
How does Pop feel about the secret casino? He's actually kinda upset that she's following in her dad's footsteps. And also, she bet his restaurant in her game with Elio, which is a pretty shitty thing to do. Veronica doesn't think her dad's not that bad of a person since he was the one that encouraged her to cheat, in spite of, well, everything up to this point. In response, Pop tells her that Sheriff Minetta was found decapitated with his hands sawed off. Okay, that's weird, but so what?
We're back with Betty at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy and she's trying to fake her way through their psychological tests so they don't pull some bullshit on her. While they clearly have a nefarious purpose, they're actually kinda right in that Betty needs psychological help since she keeps seeing her past traumas in the Rorschach drawings.
During Betty's adventures, we're treated with internal dialogue from Betty as she observes the Sisters, which I think is an interesting tone shift if not for the fact that it comes off as "player character reminding you of your current goals." Betty clearly sees that the joint is in service to the Gargoyle King, with people being offered Fizzle Rocks and Ethel (who's back and her roommate) showing off her cool Gargoyle King destiny board. Ethel also tries to claim that she cucked her for Jughead and goes on a rant about how she thinks her and all her friends are shallow. Under the Gargoyle King, Ethel really has the energy of a sociopathic nerd given an inch of power.
The next morning, Claudius Blossom and Hiram show up at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy all normal like, encouraging Betty to go snooping around. In particular, she wants to look for medical files that could link Hiram to that poisoning all those years ago. She finds an ominous boss battle looking room that's probably the Gargoyle King chamber, but Ethel shows up to be a cop.
Realizing that the only way she could safely get close to those medical files is to be injured, she starts some shit with Ethel. It's not that hard, since Ethel's insistent on the Gargoyle King wanting her to cuck Betty. But also, I don't understand why Betty tried to start shit because she fakes having a seizure to be sent to the infirmary, which doesn't require Ethel's involvement at all.
She finds medical records and finds that the Hiram Lodge is having the Sisters give people Fizzle Rocks to test them out, with the Blossoms using their trucks to smuggle them around. With this proof, she tries to escape the way Cheryl did in the last season, only to discover that the escape route has been bricked over. Which... shouldn't be surprising at all? The nuns saw Cheryl escaping through that route, what the fuck made Betty think they wouldn't do anything about it?
Anyway, Ethel leads her cop brigade to Betty and they forcibly drug her. Sister Woodhouse, the head of the nuns, decides that she's ready to meet the King as punishment and they shove her into the boss battle chamber.
Sister Woodhouse does the Rorschach test again, only this time, Betty's completely honest with what she sees, fully converted to the side of the Gargoyle King.
It's pep rally season at Riverdale High and everything's normal until the cheerleading squad sans Cheryl are suddenly hit with seizures. On the other side of town, much like how Jughead's G&G campaign correlated to the Archie retrieval arc in the last post, it's in parallel to a G&G campaign Ethel's running... which is something that's immediately dropped. Whatever. Anyway, Cheryl brings Toni home and invites her to live with her and man, I'd love to live with my partners, so good for her.
Veronica's been dragged back home and as she's coming to, she hears that whatever happened is more Hiram bullshit. Hiram tries to convince her that she had a stress induced seizure but she doesn't buy it. Him and Hermione want to send her off to New York so that she doesn't get caught in the crossfire of whatever's going on.
She's telling this to Kevin when a bunch of RROTC nerds come in, laughing and all hyped up. Reggie's already figured out that it's Fizzle Rocks and that Hiram's dealing them through a gang called the Gargoyles, showing that he's inexplicably more on the ball than the rest of the characters. Because of that, Veronica enlists him to look more into things.
Whatever, we're back with Archie and Jughead and they've managed to find out Jughead's mom's place. We meet his mom, Gladys, and his little sister, Jelly Bean. His mom also thinks that Jughead and Archie are together, which is unfortunately not the case because the writers are cowards.
Alice shows up at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy to check in with Betty in response to the whole mass seizure thing. Betty in the meantime has been bragging about having formed a special relationship with the Gargoyle King, which makes Ethel upset because now she's the one being cucked. Betty convinces her to go to the boss battle chamber to commune with the Gargoyle King to find out what's up.
And Betty locks her in there. As it turns out, in a complete contradiction of the end of the last episode, Betty is perfectly fine. Alright, I guess they just wanted a dramatic episode ending. Betty believes that everybody on the Gargoyle King shit is actually high on Fizzle Rocks and lo and behold, after letting Ethel stew in isolation for a bit, the drug gets out of her system and she's back to her senses. They speculate that the undrugged appearances of the Gargoyle King is someone dressing up to maintain the facade and encourage further drug use, which is a pretty absurd drug scam.
Back in Riverdale High there's some nonsense going on. Guys in hazmat suits show up to detain everyone that fainted (but Veronica somehow gets away?) and the school is being pressured to shut down by the Lodges. Veronica meets up with Reggie, who tells her that a gang called the Gargoyles are giving free Fizzle Rock samples to people to get them hooked and that they're coming in from Hiram's prison.
The parents are discussing closing the school, being pressured by the Lodges into doing so. Veronica and Cheryl show up to be epic, believing that they're trying to close Riverdale High to make another prison drug lab. Alice is also like "huh, how can the Southside prison be a drug lab?" Fucking get it together, Alice. Cheryl's mom Penelope is getting ready to argue but she suddenly falls to a seizure.
Back in Jughead land, he's giving his family the lowdown on what's happening. Jughead's mom thinks the whole G&G thing is stupid, and I agree. Jughead also calls out his mom because she's essentially leading a gang on Serpents to do petty crimes, and who fucking cares, don't be a narc, Jughead.
Jughead's assessment that Archie gets fucked up whenever he's on his own is proven right once again, because Archie's just kinda chilling by himself when Penny Peabody shows up to kill him, because Hiram's so obsessed with destroying this high schooler that he put a bounty on him. Thankfully, Jellybean shows up and she beams her in the face with a slingshot, knocking her out instantly. Like goddamn Archie. Remember when you were a mafioso and led two vigilante gangs? You're getting shown up by a 12 year old, my guy. Anyway, Gladys decides to torture the shit out of her for cutting up Jughead at the end of season 2.
In all the torture, she discovers that Hiram actually wanted Jughead out of Riverdale along with Archie, because he's plotting to take over the whole town and for some reason those two are really the only ones standing up to him. She also might have murdered Penny, I don't know.
In the middle of the night, Gladys reveals that Hiram's bounty on Archie also extends to anyone helping him out and encourages Jughead to cut ties. Archie agrees, but Jughead refuses and pulls him into a best friend hug. Despite both being straight (as far as I know), they've had more gay male tension than Kevin's ever had with anyone. While Gladys decides to transport Archie out of the country, Jughead plans to go back to Riverdale to oppose Hiram.
The next morning, the help Gladys called in arrives and it's Fred and FP. Fred has a nice reunion with his son while FP kinda gets mixed reception from the rest of the family, but it's overall all good. Fred manages to bring Archie to the border and has one last heart-to-heart with his son and reveals that he also brought the family dog Vegas to accompany Archie on his journey. Fred's sincerely such a nice guy, which makes him feel baffling out of place compared to whatever the hell all the other characters are doing.
Back at home, Hiram confirms to Veronica that she's right about most of his intentions and gives a big JRPG villain speech about wanting to claim Riverdale and wants her at his side again. Veronica, of course, refuses and goes to work over at Pops when she suddenly gets a call from Betty. She entrusts her and Cheryl to get information about Hiram's plan from Penelope while she and Ethel plot to escapes the Sisters. And to do this, Betty somehow manages to take Sister Woodhouse hostage in a room full of people.
Betty and Ethel have Sister Woodhouse tied up in the boss room chamber. As it happens, that chamber is where the sisters throws in anyone that misbehaves and they're terrified by the gargoyle statue sitting in it. To cope with the trauma, previous victims wound up creating a tabletop game and thus brought G&G to life, modeling its evil god after the statue that overlooked them. The Sisters wound up embracing the game to use as a therapy tool to keep people in line which... is kinda bizarre given the blatant Christian leanings? However, she sincerely doesn't know how the game left the institution, which is a plot point that winds up going unaddressed.
Betty and Ethel try to leave the place with the other detainees, but they're so brainwashed by G&G that they don't want to leave. Realizing how deep they are, they decide the best way to get everyone to leave is by making up a quest. To do so, Betty dresses up as the Gryphon Queen to act as a symbol to encourage everyone to escape. To further rile them up, she presents the head of the gargoyle statue and claims that she slain the Gargoyle King. They all somehow manage to escape without any of the other nuns being alerted at all.
Anyway, this episode is big on torture because I guess Veronica and Cheryl are waterboarding Penelope for information with maple syrup. Afterward, they hit up Kevin and his fellow RROTC members to help them out. Help them do what? They pull a coup d'teat (or "coup de'moi" as Veronica puts it, shut the fuck up Veronica) to forcibly oust Hermione. And honestly? That shit rules, we should be doing it in real life.
But unfortunately, it's too late, as Hermione already sent out the order for what Penelope told them would happen: place the town in quarantine, with an armed police force enforcing the orders. Hey. This really is kinda uncomfortable to watch in this current moment.
Archie somehow managed to find a nice cabin in Canada and is just kinda vibing with Vegas, so hey, good for him. Much better than being at Riverdale, where... actually, the quarantine's already been lifted off-screen? Huh? Jughead's claiming that life's not the same, but the only indication of that is Kevin telling Cheryl and Toni to do social distancing. She calls him a fascist for doing so and I'm honestly not sure who's in the wrong in this scenario? I mean, the seizures is probably some magic bullshit and Kevin's in cop mode, but you gotta flatten the curve, Cheryl.
Meanwhile, Betty's housing all the former detainees of the Sisters of Quiet Mercy at her house, since they didn't have anywhere else to go. Despite Ethel getting G&G out of her system within a few hours, everyone staying over is still on that bullshit even though it's been weeks. This is implied to be because someone's dealing Fizzle Rocks to these kids and it's believed that a former Serpent working for Hiram is doing it.
The nuns are all in jail and Betty's working with Sierra to build a case against Hiram. However, the nuns all took a vow of silence and the prosecution was just like, "alright," so that's a dead-end for now.
Veronica's speakeasy has been booming, and a result, Hiram's been trying to extort her for money, with Gargoyles showing up to steal one of Reggie's shipments. Veronica decides to accept Hiram's deal for "protection," but fixes her books so she winds up paying him less than what she actually owes him. Also, Josie just starts singing in the background for no reason, which makes the scene feel incredibly goofy. Hiram's like, "wow, your singer is so good, it'd be a shame if something happened haha" and coincidentally, she gets harassed by a Gargoyle member shortly after.
Archie's been working as a ranger in the Canadian wilderness. He also demonstrates that he's still incredibly inept and easy to own, because he gets cut up by a grizzly bear. It's truly incredible that Jughead's completely right about how he gets destroyed when he has no one protecting him. You know how Stand users attract other Stand users? My man just has a kick me sign attached to his back at all times to attract people to beat his ass.
Jughead gathers the Serpents together and tells them that they're going straight edge now. He's also anti-petty crime in spite of the fact that nobody has any way to make money and are rendered homeless because of Hiram's acquisition of the Southside. It's incredible that Jughead is somehow a cop and a gang leader simultaneously. Cheryl's mad about this because she and Toni have become cat burglars during the quarantine, for some reason.
Alice doesn't want to house the kids from the Sisters of Quiet Mercy forever, so she gets Polly and Evelyn to give a big presentation on why joining the Farm is good. Also, I can't believe there are two cults in this small town. Betty tries to shut them down but they rally the kids to their side by pointing out that Betty was attacked by the Gargoyle King in the house a few episodes ago and that she's unable to keep drugs out of their hands which... kinda isn't Betty's fault. Anyway, turns out that Fangs, the Serpent member that caused the batshit riot at the end of season 2, is the Fizzle Rocks dealer.
Jughead and FP press Fangs on this. He had wound up becoming a Fizzle Rocks dealer during the Riverdale quarantine because he has to help pay for his mom's medical bills. Jughead's about to expel him, citing the Serpent anti-drug law that he literally just made up a day ago, but figured that that's unreasonable.
Cheryl and Toni go out robbing and have the audacity to rob Hiram's house. They steal a fancy egg from Hermione and Cheryl, for no reason, leaves a calling card kiss on the Hiram portrait, letting Hiram immediately figure out whose fault it is. However, since the police force in Riverdale is apparently nonexistent at this point without a sheriff to lead them, Hiram just asks Veronica to get the egg back for him. Also, he sicced the Gargoyles on Josie because he immediately figured out that Veronica's cooking her books because he isn't an amateur.
Veronica goes to complain about this to Jughead, since Cheryl's ghosting her. Jughead realizes that he can get the Serpents legitimate jobs working at her speakeasy so that Veronica doesn't have to pay a protection fee. He's gotta get that stupid egg though.
Betty's trying to figure out how to get the Sisters to fess up, since for some reason the prosecution is honoring their vow of silence. Then a social worker reveals that the Sisters of Quiet Mercy are an illegitimate branch of the Catholic Church that was disbanded, so they can no longer claim the freedom of religion to justify their vow of silence. Which is. Huh? Can churches really take vows of silence in court cases? Wouldn't the nuns' vow of silence still be honored as private religious citizens if that were the case? I really don't understand. Anyway, Sierra manages to convince Sister Woodhouse to testify against Hiram for immunity.
Jughead gathers all the Serpents and calls out Cheryl and Toni for stealing the egg and leaving a calling card for no fucking reason. Cheryl's like, "oh, there's no sheriff to arrest me," so I guess the sheriff's really the only cop in Riverdale? Jughead tries to expel them from the Serpents for violating his recently introduced anti-crime policy but they rightfully point out that they gave Fangs a pass. Jughead acknowledges they're right... and then tells Fangs to get out too. Jeez, you weren't this much of a narc a few episodes ago, Jughead.
He also tells Cheryl to give the egg back but she refuses since she's no longer a Serpent. In response, Jughead points out that the rest of the Serpents sleep outside while she and Toni get to live it up in her safe home, which is... actually a really fair point. Yeah, actually, her being a relatively well-off person compared to the Serpents while stealing stuff for herself is kind of a dick move. He gets the egg back and secures a job for the Serpents to fuck up the Gargoyles.
Also, Veronica has the egg shattered on Hiram's desk the next day as a "fuck you." So uh, she essentially forced Jughead to sacrifice three of his best Serpents when she could have just, you know, not given it, because that probably would have sent the same message. What the hell, Veronica.
Speaking of the Gargoyles, they fucked up one of the guys that Betty rescued. The whole group finally turns on her, since they see it as a sign that she didn't actually defeat the Gargoyle King and that they're not actually safe at her home. Betty appeals to the allied parents to take in some of the kids. Also, Nana Rose, Cheryl's grandmother is there, reminding me that Cheryl really be out here stealing for her own enjoyment while her fellow gang members rots outside. Though they're all for it, it's unfortunately too late because Alice already had the kids whisked off to the Farm.
Archie's going delirious from the blood loss, hallucinating Cassidy (the guy whose murder he was framed for) and the paid off witnesses that the Sheriff murdered. They're all having a normal one, daring that Archie play G&G with them. His first challenge is to take down the Hooded Specter of Death, and he reimagines the end of the first season where his dad is shot by the Black Hood, except this time, he manages to save his dad.
He then sees a hallucination of the Warden. Or an actual ascended ghost. He urges Archie to draw a quest card to determine his path going forward. He draws and it declares that he should kill the Gargoyle King - or, the Man in Black. Archie then stumbles into a more vivid hallucination where he confronts Hiram and winds up stabbing the figment of him to death.
Suddenly, figments of his friends are there. They urge him to play on, appealing to the innocent life he once had before all this insane shit happened. Dream Betty even brings up the completely dropped plot line of Archie becoming a musician, so you know it's serious. There's one last step for him to achieve peace of mind, though.
Archie opens a door and he's suddenly home, in his humble bedroom, armed with a bat. He sees himself laying in bed, and he comes to a realization: ultimately, everything that's happened to him, and a lot of the pain inflicted on the rest of the cast, was his fault. To be fair, less suffering wouldn't have happened if he didn't do all this crazy shit.
A dream version of Fred urges him to forgive himself instead of beating himself in the head all Lil' Slugger style. Archie rejects that and beats that part of himself to death.
Veronica sings a song about trying to find victory in all these shortcomings over an ending montage. Reggie has officially cucked Archie. Jughead forgives Fangs and gets him to go undercover in the Gargoyles. Betty discovers that somebody posted bail for the Sisters and they wound up committing mass suicide before she could ask them any questions. And Archie is completely unresponsive when rescue finally arrives.
But also, given that he's a main character and considering the track record of the past few episodes, this dramatic ending will probably be rendered meaningless in the next episode.
So, I just have to say, I think this is sincerely the point where the writing just tanks. Like, I'm not saying whatever happened before was good, but there's some truly baffling stuff here.
For one thing, it feels like the writers had a quota to leave each episode off on a dramatic cliffhanger. It wouldn't be bad in itself, but those cliffhangers are never followed up on in the immediate next episode. Betty turns out to be completely unchanged after her incident, the Riverdale quarantine passes by offscreen and there's no lasting consequences from it and Archie's probably alive. It's actually really infuriating, it's all just meaningless.
And another problem is some of the characters acting bizarrely. Jughead's suddenly all about following the law, despite past events. Cheryl and Toni become cat burglars for no real reason. Hiram sincerely helps Veronica for one episode for no benefit and then him and Veronica are back to being weird enemies in the next episode. And Archie is, well, Archie. Like, what is going on? Do the writers actually have any consistent through line with what the characters do?
And also, I don't understand how Hiram cemented his hold on the town, especially since he apparently did so during the quarantine that we never saw. Like, it just looks like business as usual?? And what's the deal with the seizures??? Besides a brief mention at the start of the third episode in this batch, it just goes completely unaddressed???
I'm still enjoying my time with Riverdale, but it just seems to be getting more fucking stupid as it goes on. The fact that I'm only halfway through this season fills me with fear, because what the fuck will happen next? The only thing I know is that Betty will have the serial killer genes, which is a normal plot point to think about.