“Riverdale burning to the ground. It’s tragic.”

From a season that gave us the ultimate low point of Carrie: The Musical, Riverdale brings the ultimate high point in the form of this week’s episode, “Judgement Night”, which takes all that we love about the show, and turns it up to eleven.

We pick up where last week left off, with Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) coming face-to-face with the Black Hood, as he forces his way into Thistle House with a big axe, which is a little more slasher movie than the Hood has gone for before, but somehow works as the murderer chases Cheryl through her home. Not one to be outdone where drama is concerned, Cheryl manages to do the quickest of changes to become Little Red Robin Hood, maiming the Hood with an arrow to the shoulder, and chasing him into the woods as he heads back towards the houses. Putting a call into Betty (Lili Reinhart), who is still waiting nervously for her father to arrive, Cheryl explains to her cousin what happened, telling her that “based on waistline alone” the Hood could well be Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro) because even after being attacked, Cheryl is the most savage person in town.

With rioting in the streets and a murderer on the loose, Riverdale is the most dangerous it has ever been, and Betty is now certain that her father is behind the recent string of murders. It’s safe to say that by now we all know that Hal is the killer, but when he delves into the reasons how and why he came to be the town’s masked murderer, we come to realise just how dark and twisted the Coopers’ tale really is, and how long Hal has been this way. Explaining the level of his, his father, and grandfather’s “darkness”, it becomes apparent that he believes that this same dark nature has been lying dormant within Betty, and that working alongside him as the Hood has brought this side of her forward. This is a great episode for Lochlyn Munro, we really get to see how good of an actor he is as he steps into this other side of Hal we haven’t seen before, as though a switch has been flipped and suddenly the character we thought we knew becomes someone entirely different. However, when it seems that Hal has a more sinister ending in mind for his family, Betty and Alice (Mädchen Amick) jump into action, doing whatever they must to ensure that this killer is no longer able to terrorise the town.

But it becomes clear in this episode, that Hal is not the only Black Hood on the prowl. When the Cooper patriarch explains to his daughter that he is the killer, he also admits that he wasn’t wearing the Hood at the mayoral debate, suggesting that he either has an accomplice to his crimes or there is a copycat killer out there using the Hood’s identity to do his own bidding. This is confirmed when a Hood appears in the Andrews house, and takes another shot at Fred (Luke Perry) when the OG Hood is next door, spilling his story to the ladies in his life. But who could the other killer be? Given they have a similar build to Hal, it seems that the only other possible suspect is Sheriff Keller (Martin Cummins) so perhaps the two of them have created a murderous middle-aged man club in order to “cleanse” the town of their sins.

Elsewhere, Fangs’ (Drew Ray Tanner) shooting has thrown the town into a state of disarray, with riots threatening everyone, no least chief suspect in the shooting, Reggie (Charles Melton) who the Serpents are seeking out to punish. Learning the hard way never to get involved with the town’s dodgy business, Reggie calls Hiram (Mark Consuelos) for help, only to be dismissed and left to the mercy of those who want him dead. However, we know from last week’s finale, that Reggie couldn’t have been the one to shoot Fangs, as Archie (KJ Apa) tackled the gun from his hands before the shot rang out. But, when Veronica (Camila Mendes) finds the actual culprit, it still isn’t enough to put an end to the chaos that is already reigning supreme. The South Side is coming for revenge on the North, and if that wasn’t enough to deal with, the Ghoulies are back, looking like a Mad Max-themed heavy metal band and just kind of emerging from the fog whenever we least expect it. As Jughead (Cole Sprouse) begins to lose his grip on the Serpents, former member Penny Peabody (Brit Morgan) returns, this time on the Ghoulies side, with an ultimatum – either the Serpents leave town for good, or they fight the Ghoulies at dawn. Jughead knows that this is a death sentence, and despite FP’s (Skeet Ulrich) insistence that the Serpents must defend their territory, the younger Jones decides to take matters into his own hands and makes a deal with the orchestrator of Riverdale’s current misfortunes – Hiram Lodge.

“Judgement Night” sees Veronica realise just how her father does business, when it becomes apparent that he is using Hermione (Marisol Nichols) as collateral damage in his plan to take hold of the town. After Veronica hears that her mother has offered a $1 million reward for the capture of the Black Hood, alive or preferably dead, she is convinced that her father has the money she took from the St. Clairs somewhere in his office, but in her search, she finds something far more shocking. In a secret drawer beneath his desk, she finds a file labelled “October Surprise” – the surprise being that it contains an article and accompanying photographs that reveals all about Hermione’s affair with Fred Andrews, designed to destroy his mayoral campaign. Incensed by her father’s use of her mother, and the trouble he brings into their home, Veronica seems to have finally decided that she wants nothing to do with Hiram, and although we heard that in last week’s episode, it seems that this time it is for good.

With the final episode of Season 2 coming in just one week’s time, and lives hanging in the balance, it is getting harder to believe that everyone is going to survive until Season 3, and if the final moments of “Judgement Night” are anything to go by, we may be losing a fan-favourite.

VERDICT:

Action-packed and dramatic, this week’s episode takes Riverdale to a level we haven’t seen before. Although this episode could have served as an incredible finale, we still have one more episode to go, so let’s hope that they will continue at this level, rather than end on a note of disappointment.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

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