If you would like to read my review of last episode of Riverdale, click here.
Synopsis: Fearful that he will be caught, Archie hits the road and ends up at a farm outside Riverdale, where he meets Laurie Lake. Meanwhile, Alice takes extreme measures to ensure Betty’s safety from the Gargoyle King, and Betty finds herself up against a formidable foe from her past. Finally, after learning that La Bonne Nuit is in trouble, Veronica makes a risky business decision that could cost her everything. (TVGuide)
Writer: Janine Salinas Schoenberg
Director: Alex Pillai
Running Time: 45mins
Airs: Wednesdays at 8pm on The CW (United States)
“The Man in Black” starts off with a title card for Archie and Jughead, meaning this episode is getting divided into character stories! These types of divided stories aren’t common in Riverdale, but last season’s off-beat Tales from the Darkside did this and became one of the season’s best episodes so perhaps this narrative style can catch lightning in a bottle twice?
They continue to wander down the road with Archie suggesting Jughead go back to check up on Betty, but they manage to find a barn to crash the night in. As they enter the yard, a gun cocks and they are stopped by two girls, Laurie and Gracie, who offer them food and water. They bunk up in the barn, with Archie flirting with Laurie, but Jughead tells him to stay on mission. That obviously doesn’t last long as Jughead awakes to a shirtless Archie moving hay bales for the girls. Jughead decides to go into town and take some pictures before they hit the road.
He walks down the deserted streets, taking photos of odd, G&G symbols adorning the buildings of the town. He approaches an old woman and asks her about the state of the town, which she blames on the drug-laced Fizzle Rocks that recently returned. Jughead finds a large image of the Gargoyle King on a building before stumbling upon a group of girls playing G&G. They give him so valuable information regarding why the men have disappeared: Hiram brought Fizzle Rocks to town and sent the men away to build his prison, which also doubles as a drug lab.
Meanwhile back at the farm, Laurie gives Archie a quick shave and smooch, but he stops them, explains his complicated past and reveals his real name. She offers him food, but then knocks him out. Jughead returns to the farm to see Hiram arriving and acts fast to free Archie. Of course Archie wants to fight back and kill Hiram here and now, but Jughead says they are under-prepared and need more time. He uses Veronica against Archie to convince him to flee and they manage to escape in the nick of time. Jughead decides the best place for them is with his mom.
Next up, Veronica’s story! She is hastily packing her stuff as she plans to move out of the Pembrooke because Sheriff Minetta has conveniently disappeared after she found evidence against him. She arrives at the Speakeasy to set up a makeshift bed in one of the booths and arrives at Pop’s for her shift before even him. Veronica is concerned by the steady customers they’ve been getting, because steady is one week away from broke, so she sets up a one-night casino to make some big bucks with the help of Elio.
Hiram comes to Pop’s to confront Veronica about leaving the Pembrooke and her criminal-filled casino night. He’s mad she didn’t go to him for advice, but she blames Hiram for forcing Archie to flee and tells him to leave. That night the speakeasy is booming, but Elio is cleaning up and will cause them to go bankrupt. Rather than have Reggie rough him up, Veronica tries to convince him to cash out, but when that doesn’t work she puts all her cards on the table. They go head-to-head in one game of blackjack, putting the deed to Pop’s and the speakeasy on the line, but she narrowly beats him with impossible odds.
After they close, Veronica reveals to Reggie that her father gave her word about Elio’s betrayal and suggests she bring in one of his dealers to tip the stakes in her favor. The next morning, Pop’s is concerned about bringing crime into his family establishment and pleads with Veronica to avoid being like her father. She starts to defend him, but Pop’s reveals that Minetta’s body was found in the marsh, decapitated with the hands sawed off.
Onto the third story, Betty! She sits down for a Rorschach test followed by her medication in the form of Fizzle Rocks. She throws them into the garbage when she is introduced to her roommate Ethel who reveals a lot of information about how the Gargoyle King communicates with the patients. She tries to intimidate Betty, says she’s the one in charge and suggests that Betty take her candy next time. During gardening hours, Betty notices Clifford Blossom and Hiram Lodge arrive to various dealings with the sisters as the Man in Black connects them all.
Betty explores the halls of the hospital to find the Gargoyle King’s chamber and a patient being dragged out by Sister Woodhouse. Betty decides to investigate, but upon reaching the chamber she’s stopped by Ethel who creepily says she’ll watch her return to their room. In the mess hall, Betty snags a paperclip to pick the lock and decides to get put into the infirmary by faking a seizure after a confrontation with Ethel. She awakes and finds her medical file with concrete evidence of the patients being Hiram’s lab rats, but she enters the basement for her escape to find it blocked off. She’s caught by Sister Woodhouse and Ethel who force her to take the Fizzle Rocks and bring her to the king. The episode ends with Betty retaking the Rorschach test, now under the influence of the Gargoyle King.
- Will Jughead’s mom have the key to helping them defeat Hiram Lodge?
- Who will save Betty from Gryphons and Gargoyles?
- Will someone on Hiram’s side flip to turn the tide in this war?
- Will Hermione leave Hiram before she’s brought down with him?
- Is Hiram Lodge the Gargoyle King or his servant?
Overall, this was a phenomenal episode. The division of the character stories with a common theme, the man in black, showed that this anthology-style narrative is when Riverdale excels in its storytelling. The influence of Hiram Lodge over the town and the surrounding areas ups the ante for how deeply connected everything truly is setting up what should be a very dark, shocking and hopefully jaw-dropping cliffhanger of a midseason finale.
What did you think of “The Man in Black”? Let me know in the comments below!