This week’s episode of Riverdale, “Death Proof”, has more than a few connection to the movie of the same name. In that film, which was originally part of the Grindhouse release, a stuntman murders young women in carefully staged car accidents. Cars figure into this week’s story in some important ways.
First is the on-going rivalry between the North Side of Riverdale and the South Side. After it was revealed that all of the main cast of teenagers partook in an evening of debauchery that included some Jingle Jangle, the parents banded together to put an end to this menace. Alice Cooper made sure to rub in everyone’s faces that her Betty was the only one who didn’t and then left the party, but when Mayor McCoy learned that her daughter Josie also imbibed, it was on and she launched a full out war against the South Side, including raiding South Side High and misguidedly going after the Serpents, refusing to listen to Archie that it was the Ghoulies who were supplying the drugs. And then he had to get Jughead out of the school before he found himself sharing a cell with his dad.
Jughead, though, did manage to impress his teacher, Mr. Phillips, with his writing about the gang and drug culture at the school. But there was still a simmering war about to come to a boil between the Serpents and the Ghoulies, and while it seemed that FP’s right hand was going to side with the Ghoulies, he gave Jughead advice on what to do – a drag race to determine who got control of what on the South Side. Jughead knew this was something he could handle, so a deal was made that if the Ghoulies won, they got the Serpents’ bar hangout … and the trailer park where Jughead lives. And even though he’s still hurting over Betty’s cowardly way of breaking up with him, he still accepts her help in tuning up his car … and that’s even after she saw Juggie and Toni enjoying a bite together at Pop’s (but even after a “PG-13 groping session”, Toni knows Jughead is still hurting from Betty and … she’s more into girls).
Race day comes and Archie is riding shotgun with Jughead, terrified at the speed and the approaching narrow bridge. Even after the Ghoulie Malachi tries to run Jughead off the road a couple of times, he regains the lead but Archie is frantically asking him to stop before they get to the bridge. Jughead says they’ll make it but just before they can get there, Archie pulls the break and the Ghoulies speed past … right into a police roadblock. Do-good Archie alerted Sheriff Keller to what was going down, thinking he was helping Jughead by getting the Ghoulies arrested. Methinks Archie has caused more problems for Jughead than he could ever imagine.
While that was an important development in this week’s story, there was an even more important — and eerily timely — plotline this week in the aftermath of Cheryl’s near rape after Nick St. Clair drugged her. At the Lodge’s, Cheryl and Veronica overheard Penelope telling Hiram and Hermione that nothing happened to Cheryl in the end and she must have done something to provoke Nick. The look on Cheryl’s face was heartbreaking but when Veronica tried to press her into telling her story in court, Cheryl refused saying she’s look like a laughing stock going against Nick St. Clair. Ronnie revealed that Nick had gotten aggressive with her too — although not to the point of using a roofie on her — and Cheryl said that she should go to court then. But she’s never told her parents about it either.
Later, Cheryl tried to confront her mother about the incident, telling her she’d never protected Cheryl and then learned that the St. Clair’s had paid Penelope not to press charges. But Penelope said she was wrong about not protecting Cheryl, who had been asking her mother about a boogeyman story she’d been told as a child about the Sugar Man. Betty had asked Cheryl if she knew the identity of the Sugar Man because the Black Hood said if she got the name for him, he would stop the killing once justice had been served against this person who was the Jingle Jangle kingpin of Riverdale. Cheryl thought it was just a story to scare her and her brother, but Penelope revealed that there were multiple Sugar Men over the years and telling her that story was how she protected Cheryl. Learning that her mother wasn’t the monster she thought, Cheryl gave her back the hush money check which Penelope threw in the fire. The St. Clairs weren’t going to buy their silence about Nick … and Penelope told Cheryl who the current Sugar Man is.
After the race, Betty finally confessed to Jughead why she had to “break up” with him (she had also revealed the truth to Veronica) and things were hunky-dory between them. And then Cheryl called and gave the name to Betty. Betty called the Black Hood and gave him the name and then dropped a bomb on him … she’d already told Sheriff Keller and by the time the Hood got to the Sugar Man, he’d already be behind bars, taking the Hood’s power over her away. It didn’t seem like we’d get to know the identity of the Sugar Man before the end of the episode but we did and it was a shock — Mr. Phillips! The teacher who told Jughead to stay away from gangs and drugs. That reveal rocked everyone’s world, but the Black Hood still somehow managed to get into the police station holding cell area to plug the Sugar Man. Which now wrecks my theory that the Hood is Betty’s dad, because how could he gain access to the police station like that? I’m going to have to surmise now — and judging from the preview tease for the next episode — that the Black Hood is Sheriff Keller.
But back to the importance of cars in this episode. Veronica finally gets up the nerve to tell her parents about the assault she also experienced at the hands of Nick, which got quite a different reaction than when they learned of the incident with Cheryl. Hiram went from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye. By the end of the episode, Hermione gets a call — it seems the St. Clair family was in a terrible accident and while Nick will recover, it will take several months for him to be back on his feet. Not only does this convince us of the Lodges’ really shady character, but the sly smile that crossed Veronica’s face when hearing the news kind of makes us wonder how long befor she slide completely over to the dark side. The news also leaves us, the viewers, wanting to cheer for Nick’s comeuppance while at the same time being horrified because we’d never do such a thing in real life. Would we?
Riverdale returns Wednesday, November 29 at 8:00 PM on The CW.
What did you think of this episode? Did Nick get what he deserved? Is Sheriff Keller the Black Hood? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.