“You’re playing a very dangerous game, Betty Cooper.”

After weeks of somewhat disappointing episodes of Archie Comics’ dark teen drama, Riverdale has returned (just two episodes from the end of season 2) with a showstopper of an episode.

Times are getting rough for Betty (Lili Reinhart) as having given Chic (Hart Denton) over to the mysterious Black Hood is weighing heavy on her mind – although it isn’t weighing quite as heavy as the suspicion that her father, Hal (Lochlyn Munro) is the town’s very own serial killer. Sure that her dad is in some way involved in the town’s recent tribulations, Betty must find a way to know for sure before she can confront him, and to do this, she asks for advice from her cousin (and fellow daughter of a murderous father) Cheryl Blossom (Madeline Petsch). While giving us the most perfect description of Hal the show has ever had –  he’s got “all the stealth of a Marshmallow Man” – Cheryl insists that better must find concrete evidence of her father being the Hood, or else she is only putting herself in danger.

So, like the badass Nancy Drew she is, Betty manages to get her and her mother back into working at The Riverdale Register in order to look at her father’s schedule – which matches up with the Hood’s attacks perfectly – whenever Hal has a meeting, there was an attack, he was even out of town when Miss Grundy was murdered. However, she soon makes the decision to speak to her father in person, in order to gauge his reaction, by telling him and her mother about handing Chic over to the town’s faceless killer. Confessing that he too feels overcome by a “darkness” Betty is more sure than ever that Hal is the killer, and a search of his sad bachelor B&B room only turns up more evidence to prove it. However, when the Black Hood appears at the town mayoral debate, and begins shooting, Betty is faced with the possibility that she may have been wrong all along.

Elsewhere, the return of the Hood still has Archie (KJ Apa) on edge, and his hunt begins in earnest this week, as he takes on the job of campaigning door-to-door for his father to be mayor – though he’s really doing it to try and see the green eyes of the Hood. However, when Hiram (Mark Consuelos) confronts him on promoting the opposition, and Archie mentions for what feels like the millionth time that he’s looked into the Hood’s eyes, Hiram points out that going to every house in town “to stare into men’s eye” probably isn’t the best way to go about finding a murderer, and instead he should reform the Dark Circle, Riverdale’s homoerotic teen security force to protect everyone. Because nothing says ‘safety’ like a dozen highschoolers throwing their weight around.

Everything gets more heated when it is revealed that poor, departed Midge (Emilija Baranac) was dating a Serpent as well as her closeted boyfriend Moose (Cody Kearsley) which for some reason sends Reggie (Charles Melton) into a near-homicidal rage. When a clip from Jughead’s (Cole Sprouse) backstage video of the school musical reveals that the Serpent in question was Fangs (Drew Ray Tanner) it is immediately assumed that he is Midge’s killer, because evidently this town hasn’t learned that jumping on a suspect without a lot of evidence can only lead to trouble – and given the Black Hood is definitely a middle-aged man with green eyes, Fangs doesn’t really fit the bill. Nevertheless, with the town out for Fangs’ blood, Jughead knows that the Serpents must remain united in order to protect him, especially when the Dark Circle mount an assault on the Whyte Wyrm. Things are more concerning than they seem, when Jughead finds that Archie is no longer the leader of the group, and on top of that, it is revealed that Reggie’s Dark Circle are on Hiram’s payroll, keeping the town feuding in order for Hermione (Marisol Nichols) to win the mayoral election.

Speaking of the Lodges, the award for this week’s most boring subplot goes to the “mob princes” that have come to court Veronica (Camila Mendes) after her tremendous show of strength against the St. Clair family. Yes, in this somewhat flat string of this week’s plot, we essentially just see a bunch of rich kids approaching Veronica with some surprisingly tame business ideas. Deciding that what Riverdale needs is a “Sweetwater Casino” Veronica approaches her father, who dismisses her as quickly as you can say, “Less of this, please.” Basically, this plot only seems to exist in order for there to be a reason for Veronica to turn against her father again.

However, the truly outstanding aspect of this week’s episode is the final moments, which come together in a shocking climax. Perfectly edited and arguably containing some of the most genuinely startling moments of this season, it makes for a true return to form for Riverdale – however, it is somewhat disappointing that the show is falling into the same rut as many, where there is a huge drop in quality in the middle of a season, with the only interesting and shocking moments coming from the first and last three episodes where we are either experiencing the build up to a cliffhanger, or the denouement from one.

VERDICT:

A surprising return to the dark, shocking tone that shows Riverdale at its best, “Shadow of a Doubt” is clearly setting the precedent for the final two episodes of the season – it’s just a shame that they couldn’t maintain this throughout the rest of Season 2.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

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