There is no mistaking the homage in this week’s episode title as it relates to the Riverdale episode itself, “Tales from the Darkside”. Tales from the Darkside was a weekly horror antholgy series that ran for four seasons in syndication from 1983 to 1988 which then spawned a feature film in 1990 that presented three separate stories with a linking device of a boy telling the stories to prevent a witch from eating him. Riverdale has used this type of storytelling device since the beginning with Jughead as the show’s narrator (and it’s no mistake that each episode is actually denoted as a “chapter”). Here we get three distinct stories that do actually interlock although they’re not told in chronological order. What does link each story, though, is the Black Hood, not content to rest on his laurels after murdering the Sugar Man. Using Pop’s “Death Diner” as a drop box for his messages to the citizens of town, his latest orders them to not commit any sins for 48 hours. If they succeed, he will end his killing spree. Of course, it’s hard to imagine Mr. Hood would be able to observe every inhabitant of the town for two days, so we have to assume their fate is pretty much sealed.
The episode actually breaks into three separate stories after the setup which features a Texas Chain Saw Massacre text crawl — not narrated by Jughead — and quick scenes of various characters reading the message in the paper (and interestingly, Alice Cooper does not appear in this episode). The episode kicks into the first story after we see Jughead and Betty comfortably reunited when a call from Penny Peabody interrupts. She’s got the bad news that FP has been badly beaten in jail and she needs cash to help get him out. Juggie has $18 to his name so Penny calls in that favor he owes her — she needs a crate delivered to Greendale and she’ll put half of the money into FP’s defense. Backed into a corner, Jughead agrees to run the errand.
Archie & Jughead
The first segment starts properly with Jughead calling in his own favor from Archie who owed him after screwing up everything at the Serpents / Ghoulies drag race. Archie has a truck and the muscles to help move the crate — which, if anyone was looking, was marked “Miskatonic University via H.P. Lovecraft / Polar Expedition Jan. 13, 1923 — and Penny warned Jughead not to be in Greendale after midnight. Now this is an obvious setup for the proposed Sabrina the Teenage Witch spin-off series which got the greenlight on the same day this episode aired … except it’s not going to be on The CW, but on Netflix which gave the producers a two season, twenty episode guarantee. It will be interesting to see if Greendale continues to figure into Riverdale‘s storytelling from this point forward.
Archie agrees to help Jughead and of course they run into car trouble on the way but a passing vehicle stops to offer assistance. And from that vehicle emerges the Candyman himself, Tony Todd playing the unnerving Farmer McGinty. He’s only got room for one of the boys so Jughead takes the seat and they get the crate loaded. While Archie watches the truck recede into the distance, a deer crosses the road on the Greendale side of the border. And that was one spooky deer. Was it a zombie deer? What exactly is Greendale?
During the ride, McGinty spouts off some of his own fire and brimstone warnings about sinners — hmmmm — and recounts the tale of the Riverdale Reaper, a previous serial killer who terrorized the town. But the legend about his fate is unclear. Some say he left Riverdale, some say he stayed, some believe he just may be the Black Hood, although Jughead is versed in serial killers and they don’t normally change their modus operandi like that. But how and why does McGinty know so much about all of this? When he stops at a gas station to grab a bite to eat and then tells the waitress that Jughead is paying, even though he took Juggie’s last $18, things get very heated but Archie shows up just in time thanks to the Triple C coming to fix his truck tire. They get the crate delivered (and I couldn’t help but think that it might have contained Fluffy, the monster that ate Adrienne Barbeau in Creepshow, another anthology film) to a strange woman but we never learn what was in it. And to make matters worse, when Jughead goes to visit FP, there’s nothing wrong with him. Penny scammed him but good and now she’s got her hooks deep in Jughead. But what’s her beef with FP? Is it possible that he’s the negligent father to her child, the one we know as Sweet Pea (Pea = Peabody)?
This segment might as well have been called “Josie & Cheryl” who are now apparently BFFs, but the tone of the segment is definite 80s slasher film along the lines of Night School. Here Josie spends a lot of time at school after hours (does she get free reign because she’s the mayor’s daughter, and don’t they ever lock the doors after school?) and gets creepy notes from a “secret admirer” that are more threatening than endearing. There’s also a creepy red herring janitor who hovers around Josie a bit too much.
But in addition to this stalker Josie now has, she also has Cheryl attempting to repay the debt she feels she owes after the Nick St. Clair incident, so she decides to get Josie in contact with a record producer … which puts her relationship in serious jeopardy with The Pussycats who see this as Josie’s attempt to ditch them and go solo. While Cheryl sees herself as helping Josie, she doesn’t realize how harmful she’s being, even while kidding that the admirer just might be the Black Hood. This segment also brings back Chuck Clayton, who was famously humiliated by Dark Betty, as a suspect but the boy has been working hard to redeem himself, even attending church on a regular basis (and Pop Tate can confirm that). But even after a cordial bite to eat at Pop’s, the arrival of a pig’s heart and a message of “If I can’t have you, no one can” (with a nicely drawn portrait of Josie) and Josie’s mom telling her about the threatening letters she continues to receive, some that specifically target Josie, the poor girl is forced into pointing a finger at Chuck as the person who sent her the “gift.” After a moment in which we think Riverdale went there and actually killed Josie (a nightmare similar to the fake out in which we thought Kevin Keller was stabbed), the twist comes in the final moments as we see another portrait of Josie being drawn, but there’s someone else in the picture as well … a self-portrait of the artist — Cheryl.
Betty & Veronica
The final segment is a little more lighthearted than the others as Betty is now determined to expose Sheriff Keller as the Black Hood and Veronica is determined to make Betty realize the man is simply having an affair. Both girls are determined to prove their point, so Betty pays a visit to Keller to interview him for an article about the Black Hood … and then outright accuses him of being the killer because who else could have had access to the jail and Mr. Phillips? But getting wind of Betty’s accusations after she found Keller’s crime wall and his own black hood tucked away in a drawer, Betty’s dad Hal has to do some damage control for his daughter, and Keller shows them his work logs that give him alibis for every Black Hood murder. (And I’m back to my original theory that Hal Cooper is the Black Hood).
Meanwhile, Veronica is determined to prove her theory so she arranges a sleepover with Kevin so she can spy on his dad … which leads to a really awkward moment in the basement while the sheriff is working out. Pretending to be looking for something to drink, Veronica is quite taken by the sheriff’s body and seems to be wanting to pump him for more than some information. Kevin’s appearance only make the situation even more awkward, but later that night she hears the sheriff going out and notices him coming back hours later. Reporting the news to Betty, they wait for him to leave the next night and discover the truth. Sheriff Keller is … not the Black Hood, but in fact having an affair with Mayor McCoy!
What’s interesting about this whole scenario is how quickly Betty was to assume Sheriff Keller, someone she’s known her entire life so of course he would know details about her that others wouldn’t, is the Black Hood while someone else who knows even more intimate details about her is living right under her nose, yet she can’t seem to put those puzzle pieces together.
In the end though, no one was able to remain free of sin for the proscribed time so we can assume the Black Hood will spill more blood than he already has.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8:00 PM on The CW.
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