“They told me to stay at home while they took care of the mad man.”

Last week on Riverdale saw tensions rise, and the show’s tone darken as we crept ever closer to the reveal of the town’s eponymous villain, the Black Hood. ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ sees the story move to much darker territory, pushing the characters to the brink…before coming to an abrupt and largely unsatisfying end.

Christmas has arrived in the increasingly dangerous town of Riverdale, and, given that they’re living with the constant threat of murder, the townspeople aren’t exactly feeling in the holiday spirit. Especially the Riverdale teens, who this week manage to make a Secret Santa exchange even more awkward than they already are, as ‘Varchie’ and ‘Bughead’ insist that they are all still friends, even though none of them seem to be able to look at each other in this slightly forced holiday subplot. Come on, guys, it’s Christmas (apparently) – can we just hunt down a murderer, please?

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Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) receives an unfortunate piece of Christmas mail this week, as his hospital bill arrives, coming in at the hefty sum of $86,000, because being shot wasn’t bad enough. In order to make ends meet, the Andrews boys embrace the holiday spirit, selling Christmas trees in front of Pop’s, while the Lodges are living it up, buying the most cliché rich person gifts ever – two words: Fabergé egg. And so, when Archie reveals to his girlfriend/friend Veronica (Camila Mendes) that his father is having financial issues – which immediately prompts her to ask her parents to foot the bill. Of course, they say no, which is understandable, as no matter how well-intentioned, trying to make your parents pay $86,000 (even if there are involved in a lot of dodgy stuff) is ridiculous. Though it’s more ridiculous that they would accept doing this after Veronica agrees to begin working alongside them in the family business.

Elsewhere, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) goes dark, when he realises how Penny Peabody (Brit Morgan) is running his father around. During the Serpents’ Christmas collection for the charities of the Southside – because the Serpents are obviously the least dodgy people in Riverdale – FP (Skeet Ulrich) makes it clear that he doesn’t want his son involved in any Serpent business, however, this does not deter Jug from wanting to help. So, in a move that seems to go just a little too far, Jughead gathers together the tween branch of the Serpents to slither in and remove Penny from the equation. Not kill her, however, just kidnap her, move her to a different city, threaten her and then literally cut the serpent tattoo from her wrist with a switchblade. Hardly the bookish rogue that we’ve come to know Jughead as, the same one who takes part in Secret Santa and is almost giddy with excitement at the gift of a vintage typewriter. There’s development, and then there’s a momentary lapse into Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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Elsewhere, the search for the Black Hood takes up surprisingly little of the episode. It begins as a continuation of the gripping and mysterious turn of events that led to Riverdale High’s janitor, Mr Svenson (Cameron McDonald), was in fact the surviving child of the Riverdale Reaper’s massacre. Svenson explained to Archie and Veronica that when he spoke to the police after the attack, he pointed out the identity of killer, leading to a group of “upstanding” Riverdale citizens murdering him – blood for blood. This week, however, sees Svenson disappear, taken by the Hood who sends Betty a special “present”, accompanied by a sinister phone call that prompts her to hunt for the truth of the “primal sin” which began the chain of events that led to the Hood’s reign of terror. Working together, she and Archie track the facts until they find themselves exactly where the Hood wants them – in a hole in the ground.

In the face of imminent danger, Betty doesn’t lose her cool, seizing the opportune moment to get the upper hand on the murderous villain, whose identity is revealed when a chase turns fatal. Let’s hope that this Black Hood reveal is a false one, as it is an extremely anti-climactic ending to a story that has been thrilling up to this point. Thankfully, it seems that the Hood’s reveal will not be the end of Riverdale’s dark and seedy story, as someone is keeping a very close eye on our redheaded hero, and our bright and bubbly amateur detective may have unearthed a darkness within her that can no longer be hidden away.

VERDICT:

While this week’s episode fluctuated between the sublime and the ridiculous, it is nice to see Riverdale embracing the darkness, pushing their characters to the edge. The Hood’s reveal seems to be a wasted opportunity, but who knows how this many continue into the second half of the season – either way, let’s hope that Riverdale continues on this darker path into the new year.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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