“You join us, you’ve got to be willing to die for us. Because we will for you.”
After her call from the mysterious Black Hood last week, this week’s Riverdale pushes Betty (Lili Reinhart) to her limits, forcing her to choose between her loved ones and her mission to uncover the serial killer’s identity.
Over the course of the episode, we see the Black Hood test Betty’s loyalty by tasking her with cutting off her nearest and dearest – in his eyes, Betty is pure, and her relationships are putting her in harm’s way, but devotion to him will save her. Veronica’s (Camila Mendes) parents are dodgy to say the least, Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) is hiding a secret that makes her a hypocrite in the town’s eyes, and Jughead’s (Cole Sprouse) connection to the Serpents are making them all sinners in the eyes of the killer, and if she doesn’t sever these ties, he’ll kill again. So, whether Betty likes it or not, she must isolate herself in order to save the people she loves the most – but she strikes a deal with the mystery man – if she does as he asks, she gets to ask him questions in order to try and piece together his identity.
“When A Stranger Calls” isn’t strictly true it seems, as we find, stumbling alongside Betty trying to discover the man behind the mask, that were she to see the face of the killer, she would recognise them. Or at least, that’s what he claims in one of his numerous calls to the blonde amateur detective in this episode – which are made a little less intense by Betty’s ‘Lollipop’ ringtone.
Elsewhere, the Lodges are hosting an insufferable wealthy family, including Veronica’s old friend Nick (Graham Phillips) – who is just…the worst. His arrival brings with it a look at the old Veronica, the partying rich girl who spends her time drinking and dancing. This comes as something of an eye-opener to Archie (KJ Apa), who is the subject of many derogatory comments about those who live outside the city, and finds out that Veronica used to do cocaine when partying in nightclubs with Nick. But, don’t let that worry you, as this week sees more of everyone’s favourite ridiculous drug ‘Jingle Jangle’ is back, and everyone but Betty is doing it. It’s hardly Trainspotting, but it’s a little much for a teen drama.
Nick’s appearance spells danger for one Riverdale resident, as Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) takes a liking to the new rich boy, with dire consequences. In an episode that is much darker than any of Riverdale so far, Nick becomes increasingly predatory – first trying to blackmail Veronica into having sex with him by threatening to jeopardise her father’s business, then taking advantage of Cheryl by drugging her drink and dragging her off to his hotel room. However, this leads to an incredibly powerful moment of Pussy(cat) Power, and Veronica and the other Pussycats find Nick before he can force himself on Cheryl and basically beat him up. It’s wonderful.
“When A Stranger Calls” marks a stark change in Jughead’s character, as he finally pledges his allegiance to the Serpents, taking on a number of tasks to ensure he becomes a fully-fledged member. And while this is a risky move, Jughead makes it clear that he is joining them in order to prevent a war between the north and south of Riverdale – which is reasonable, considering the first time we see the Serpents this week, Sweet Pea (Jordan Connor) is talking about putting a pipe bomb in the offices of the newspaper as a warning to the Coopers. The Serpents’ initiations range from the ridiculous task of looking after ‘the beast’ – a.k.a. Hot Dog III – to them straight-up beating Jughead and making him stick his hand in a tank with a rattlesnake.
This week sees the return of Dark Betty, who when put in an unthinkable position by the Black Hood, is forced to choose his next victim in order to protect the people she loves, which only reinforces the killer’s belief that they are the same. However, while we are really no closer to finding out who is behind the mask, there are a few different moments that point towards the popular fan theory that it might well be Betty’s father, Hal (Lochlyn Munro), who seems awfully friendly with Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos), and very unsympathetic to his wife’s plight at the hand of the Black Hood.
“When A Stranger Calls” is by far the darkest episode of Riverdale so far, dealing with themes that are far darker than those we are used to, pushing the young characters to dangerous new limits. And, as we take a well-earned break from Archie’s crazy vigilante mission, we follow Betty and Jughead as they make decisions which force them further apart while they try to keep those they care about safe.