“My dad was obsessed with the killings. He called the house where they happened, The Devil’s House.”

Next week sees the midseason finale of Riverdale’s second season, and things are certainly starting to pick up pace. As we creep ever-closer to the end of the year, our teens are beginning to gather more clues to the Black Hood’s identity.

It’s safe to say that this week’s episode is pushing the ‘adult’ side of ‘young adult’, as the opening of ‘The House of the Devil’ sees Archie (KJ Apa) and Veronica (Camila Mendes) dealing with the looming prospect of the serial-killing Black Hood, by mauling each other at every opportunity – at school, in Archie’s room, in Archie’s garage, even in the Lodges’ penthouse apartment. However, during one of the few moments his face isn’t attached to Veronica’s, Archie drops the L-bomb, confessing his love to Veronica…who doesn’t say it back.

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So, when Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) offer to hand over the murder investigation, the duo are quick to take them up on it, eager for the distraction. It’s a good ol’ ship-swap, as Bughead, the doe-eyed detectives, take on the roles of their moodier counterparts, as Betty indulges in a little Dark Betty action, and Jughead takes on Archie’s role of concerned son.

Yes, this week’s episode sees the release of bad-lad dad FP Jones, (Skeet Ulrich) and his return to Riverdale. Though on his release, Jughead’s father promises he is done with the Serpents, preparing to get a job and in Alcoholics Anonymous, this last as long as you’d expect, when (after a brief stint working at Pop’s) FP finds out about Jug’s dealings with the ‘Snake Charmer‘, Penny (Brit Morgan). And with FP back as the leader of the Serpents, out goes all of Jughead’s to try and legitimise the gang – which isn’t all that surprising – you can’t really have a law-abiding gang called the Serpents. Nevertheless, FP’s “retirement” party is a very strange affair.

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With tensions rising between Veronica and Archie, as Veronica’s “love” continues to elude our redheaded hero, he decides to sign them up to do a duet on the karaoke (let’s not even start on the fact that the Serpents are apparently on board with karaoke at the party) of “that song from Donnie Darko that she loves so much. In the true party spirit, they belt out perhaps one of the world’s most depressing songs – Gary Jules“Mad World.” And if the depressing duet wasn’t bad enough, it’s followed by Betty attempting the ‘Serpent Dance’ – which essentially is just pole dancing in her underwear to “Mad World” in front of her boyfriend, her best friends, her mother, her boyfriend’s father, and a bar full of bikers in order to feel like she’s a part of “Jughead’s world.” Suffice to say, he’s not so thrilled.

This week also sees tensions rise between FP and Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) – though what kind of tension is entirely debateable – as Alice decides to embrace her former Serpent side. Which is preferable to her suburban mom side, because Serpent-Alice is a badass and clearly, returning to her former self is stirring up some unresolved feelings between the high school friends, as there’s more than a little banter between the two, as well as a straight-up question about sexual frustration. So, there’s that.

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Elsewhere, ‘The House of the Devil’ sees the reveal of more clues to the Hood’s identity – or at least points to who he’s not. Last week saw Jughead being told the tale of the ‘Riverdale Reaper’, a man who killed a family of four on the outskirts of town years before. However, after some research into the murders, Betty finds that “The Devil’s House” is in fact the house that the Hood sent her to in When A Stranger Calls’. It’s this terrifying revelation that prompts Betty to hand over the case to her friends, not wanting to be dragged back into the Hood’s games.

A search of the original case files leads Varchie to discover that the Conway family was not a family of four after all – but a family of five, with only four falling victim to the Reaper, and the fifth child escaping, only to be adopted by another Riverdale family. And, in true Scooby-Doo fashion, his identity is that of Riverdale High’s caretaker, Joseph Svenson (Cameron McDonald). However, all is not what it seems, as Svenson assures the pair that the Reaper is dead, as the town wanted revenge for the senseless crimes he committed. Although, our final look at Svenson this week sees him eyeing a photograph of several young men, and from the look on his face it seems that though he knows that the Reaper is dead, he may know the identity of the Hood.

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Is it the son of the Riverdale Reaper, perhaps, wanting revenge on the town who killed his father?

Hopefully we’ll get some more answers in the midseason finale, which will no doubt be the perfect place for a cliffhanger, leaving us on tenterhooks until the show returns in January.

VERDICT:

The pace of the investigation is picking up, and we’re learning more and more about both the Hood’s identity and about Riverdale itself, a happy town with a very shady past. However, while the mystery is unfolding it’s getting increasingly difficult to see anything in key moments, as the visuals are getting more and more foggy – perhaps taking the old school noir theme a little too far.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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