If you would like to read my review of last week’s episode, click here.
Synopsis: Betty turns to Archie for help after receiving an ultimatum; Veronica’s old friend comes to town, but his plans for a wild night takes an unexpected turn. (IMDB)
Writers: Aaron Allen
Director: Ellen Pressman
Running Time: 43 mins
“When a Stranger Calls” starts off where last episode ended with Betty on the phone with the Black Hood. He informs her that he is aware of Polly’s situation, her location and if she reveals that they spoke he will murder her. If that isn’t scare tactics, I don’t know what is. Archie tells his dad that he wrote and recorded an apology about the Red Circle and that phase is behind him, and shortly after Betty asks him to walk to school.
On their walk, Betty tells Archie that the Black Hood called her. He’s surprised and enraged, explaining they need to go to the police, but Betty knows the Black Hood will hurt the people close to her if she does that. So Betty makes Archie promise to keep this secret to protect her. Meanwhile the Lodges are trying to find investors to help redevelop the South Side and have invited the St. Clairs, whose son Nick is one of Veronica’s old party friends.
After the fight in last week’s episode, Alice Cooper published an article on the Southside Serpents which enrages Sweet Pea and a few of his fellow Serpents. They plan to use a pipe bomb to blow up the Riverdale Register. (That’s the paper). Jughead is not on board, but Sweet Pea reminds him that he isn’t a Serpent. I can see where this is going. Jughead puts on his dad’s old jacket and heads down to the bar where he asks to be initiated and after some convincing the Serpents give him his first task: take care of “The Beast” aka Hot Dog, the fluffiest, friendliest dog in Riverdale. How is this even an issue? I would gladly take that dog in a heartbeat.
Betty receives another call from the Black Hood who explains he will answer one of her questions if she does something for him to prove her loyalty. She has to publish an article about her mother’s teenage arrest during her time as a Southside Serpent. FAN THEORY CONFIRMED. (Albeit easy to see a mile away) While hesitant at first, Betty is immediately confronted by Alice and Sheriff Keller. The letters that the two Cooper women received aren’t in the same handwriting leading Alice to believe Betty’s stunt at the Town Hall Meeting was more of an attention grab thanks to her Southside boyfriend. And that was enough to convince Betty.
Back to Jughead, who is studying the Serpent laws with Toni for his initiation. All is going well, but she questions if his heart is in it. He explains that his father kept the Serpents in line and stopped war from happening and now he has to take up that mantle. At the initiation he recites the laws, and has to retrieve a knife out of a glass box with a rattlesnake, but the scariest thing to him is when Toni calls him “Juggy.” DON’T YOU TOUCH HIM TONI TOPAZ.
Archie gets the pleasure of meeting Veronica’s old friend Nick who almost immediately offers them cocaine. Because hey high schoolers just do that on the regular. Archie is not amused. After the article on Alice is posted, the Black Hood calls Betty and answers one of her questions: would she recognize the face under the hood? Yes. Let all the theories fly. Her next task is to cut Veronica out of her life and she agrees.
Betty meets Jughead at Pops where they discuss what they want to do rather than what is actually happening. Neither of them open up to the other about their situations, and that is saddening. Every single one of your relationship problems could be remedied by being a little more open you angsty teens. At Nick’s hotel room where everyone is getting high on Jingle Jangle, Betty tears a strip into Veronica telling her that she’s a terrible person who is just using them for her own selfish gain and them storms out. Damn Betty, you don’t need to be so vicious about it. At the end of the party, Nick tries to seduce Veronica who politely declines, but he tries to force himself onto her and she’s able to escape. Topical?
Now guess what, the Black Hood again calls Betty with another demand. (Except he totally forgets about the one demand one question rule) He wants Betty to dump Jughead. Predictable, but still shocking. Betty can’t fathom doing that so she convinces Archie to do it for her. He shows up at Jughead’s trailer and, in front of all the Serpents, breaks the news to Jughead. Although let’s be real, a lot of what he said sounds like how he feels rather than how she does.
Now to the Lodge’s fundraiser and open house for their redevelopment project. Alice arrives dressed in a scandalous outfit, embracing her Serpent side, Hermione tries to convince Fred to stand alongside them in their project and Nick has set his eyes on a new target: Cheryl Blossom. Also of note is a very interesting conversation between Hal Cooper and Hiram who you think wouldn’t have much to talk about.
And now the best part of this episode which was Josie and the Pussycats sing “Out Tonight” from Rent at the fundraiser and it transitions into a montage of where our characters are all at. Betty is absolutely broken, balled up in her bedroom. Jughead is getting the shit kicked out of him for his final initiation. Archie is broken as well, sitting at Pop’s thinking about what he just did to his best friend. Interesting how easily Archie could enter Pop’s now, after having problems the whole season, because his mind is focused on Jughead. And turns out Nick drugged Cheryl and tries to bring her back to his hotel room. That is until Veronica and the Pussycats show up and kick the shit out of him.
These few minutes give us so much emotion packed into one small segment. Betty is torn over her choices, but she’s forced into this situation and sees no way out. Archie feels the same and is coming to terms with what he had to do to his friend. Jughead was initially joining the Serpents to protect the people who just tore his heart out and in a matter of minutes he gets both mentally and physically broken. And Cheryl Blossom? That scene is so relevant to what’s going on and showing the strength of these characters and what happened.
And yet again Betty gets a call from the Black Hood who tells her the answer to who he is can be found at an abandoned house. She arrives and receives another call. On the floor there’s a box and inside it, a black hood. He tells her to put it on and look in the mirror. They are more alike than she wants to think. Is this a reference to Dark Betty or a familial connection? She hears a noise, freaks out and runs out.
The episode ends with Betty calling Archie, but she’s interrupted by him about the Cheryl situation. The gang console an emotionally distraught Cheryl who says she wants Nick to pay for what he has done. Toni congratulates Jughead for becoming a Serpent and immediately kisses him. Meanwhile, Betty receives another call from the Black Hood who says he knows about her conversations with Archie. He plans to kill Polly, her family and anyone else she cares about unless she gives him a name right now. Immediately she responds, “Nick St. Clair.” “I told you we were the same.”
- Who is the Black Hood? I have a theory that it’s Betty’s father, Hal Cooper.
- How will Cheryl’s situation affect her going forward?
- Will Jughead continue to stray from his Northside friends?
- Will Alice’s mentality change going forward and will she embrace her darker side?
- When will Betty and Veronica make up?
- Will Bughead cease to exist?
- What if the Black Hood isn’t the one calling Betty, but actually Hiram trying to cause a divide in the Cooper family in order to regain the Lodge’s power in Riverdale?
Overall, this was a great episode. The Betty story brought us some of the best acting of the series as Lili Reinhart’s spiral into mental instability over her psychological torment was nothing short of spectacular. The surrounding stories helped push the plot forward without detracting from the atmosphere of the main story. It will be interesting to see what happens in the fallout of Betty’s decision, but this episode helped set up the Black Hood as not only a physical fear, but a psychological one as well.
What did you think of “When a Stranger Calls”? Is the mystery becoming clearer? Let me know in the comments below!