“The Red Circle is no longer a fringe group – it’s a movement.”
This week’s Riverdale brings an altogether darker tone to the teen drama, as North and South are pitted against one another, and the Black Hood reaches out again, though this time to an unsuspecting Riverdale teen.
Suffice to say, Archie’s (KJ Apa) homoerotic warning to Riverdale’s serial killer has not gone down as well as he expected. Around the town, the video is attracting unwanted attention, with many questioning Archie’s motives, and whether his actions are putting the students as well as the rest of the town in danger. Riverdale’s principal brings the ringleader in, explaining that there will be no football until the vigilante group is disbanded, and if this doesn’t happen, Archie will be suspended. Not that he listens, going it alone to try and bring the Black Hood to him, by doing everything he can.
Worried for her boyfriend, Veronica (Camila Mendes) jumps to his defence when her parents try to discourage her from dating him, given his dangerous actions. And despite a part of her agreeing that what Archie is doing is dangerous, she joins him, and helps him expand the Red Circle, so it is no longer a violent vigilante group, but a school full of teens (wearing t-shirts that look just different enough from the Japanese flag to work) showing solidarity against a killer. However, this isn’t enough for Archie, whose obsession with the killer is beginning to border on dangerous, worrying friends and family alike.
The tension between the North and the South sides of Riverdale is beginning to bubble over, as the Southside Serpents are finding Alice Cooper’s (Mädchen Amick) portrayal of them in the media outrageous, and her insistence that the Black Hood is one of them is beginning to cause upset. And, when Archie crosses the border between North and South, in pursuit of the mystery killer, his actions towards a group of Serpents lights a fire that threatens to destroy Riverdale. The Northern and Southern teen boys meet in the streets, in the rain, and face-off against each other in a bareknuckle fight that leaves one teen on the wrong end of a knife in one of Riverdale’s most cinematic sequences in series so far.
Elsewhere, Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) are feeling the strain of living in separate worlds, as Jughead’s affiliation with the Serpents at Southside is still a mystery to his doting girlfriend, and as he finds himself getting closer to Toni (Vanessa Morgan) their similarities could well spell danger for fan-favourite couple ‘Bughead’.
However, Betty has her own problems to deal with this week, as Riverdale’s own Zodiac killer (they may have cited him as a reference this week, but it’s not a reference when it’s so similar) sends a letter to the Blue & Gold, for Betty’s eyes only, and a cypher for her to solve. In his letter, the killer mentions that it was Betty’s speech at the Jubilee celebrations was what inspired him to begin this crusade – giving us our first proper clue to the Hood’s identity – except that the whole town was at the celebrations, so it could still be anyone. Explaining that the cypher is something which only Betty can solve, she’s keen to keep the letter to herself lest Archie blame her for his dad’s shooting, and so she hands over the cypher to her mother and the police, and keeps the letter entirely to herself, not even telling Jughead until he pretty much forces it out of her.
However, the troubles are not at an end for Riverdale’s “Nancy Drew-meets-The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” as the climax of the episode sees Betty put in an even more dangerous position.
Riverdale is getting darker week by week, putting the teens in danger and pushing them to decide what kind of people they want to be, and how they are going to deal with the danger rooting itself so deeply in the town. And while the darkness brings with it new fears for Archie and the gang, it begs the question of where the story goes from here, how much darker are they going to go?
Rating: 8 out of 10.