Riverdale ep. 21 recap “Chapter Twenty-one: House of the Devil”

This week’s episode of Riverdale took a break from the intense serial-killer business to remind us that this is still, at heart, very much a teen drama.

Archie and Veronica’s relationship over the course of the seasons has been heating up. Nothing like putting a fire out like saying, “I love you, Ronnie” too early. And that’s exactly what poor Archie does. Emotionally-warped Veronica freezes, and changes the subject.

So staying apart would be ideal, other than Betty and Jughead need their friends’ help more than usual this week. Jughead was able to find a clipping about the Riverdale Reaper story. He shows the article to Betty, who realises that the killing took place in the abandoned house the Black Hood ordered to her go to.

But Betty, unable to face the house again, refuses to go back. And Jughead is out of the sleuthing game too when he gets the news that FP will be released from prison due to over-crowding. That leaves the mystery-solving to Veronica and Archie this week. Or as Veronica says, “You wants us to be you guys?”

When Veronica returns home from school, her parents tell her that they’ve received a letter from the Black Hood. Dozens of other families received identical letters, but since the Lodges are actually horrible people, they have reason to worry. Hermione and Hiram reassure Veronica that they’ll be fine, as their lobby man is trained in Jujitsu or something. But they would feel even better if Archie was around more. And, you know, that sounds fantastic when you’re setting up ending things with your ginger boyfriend.

In preparation for FP’s return, Jughead amps up his “I heart being a Serpent” shtick. When Tall Boy pushes back, it’s put up to a vote whether or not the man should shut up, he loses and Jughead earns more respect from his fellow gang members.

But when FP, Jughead, Betty and Alice go to pick up FP – the Serpent leader claims that he wants to go straight and leave the gang. He tells them that he has even joined AA to quit drinking, and applies for a job at Pop’s.

Meanwhile, Archie and Veronica continue investigating the Riverdale Reaper murders. They go to speak to Sheriff Keller, telling him the files are missing. He explains that since it was a cold case, the investigator could take the files with him. The Sheriff at the time, now dead two years, was obsessed with the case. When the call his daughter, she tells them that her father had called the house The Devil’s House, which I imagine means its always warm.

FP begins his job at Pop’s. Jughead is uncomfortable with it, especially when Cheryl Blossom purposefully knocks over a milkshake and orders FP to clean it up – like he did with her brother’s blood.

Let’s not even talk about Cheryl this week. What’s her deal anyway?

Taking things into her own hands, Betty decides to throw FP a “retirement” party. Complete with all the Serpents. She goes to ask Toni for help, who agrees. While at the Wormhole, Betty tries to learn how she can be affiliated with the Serpents herself to keep an eye on Jughead. One of the older Serpent women tell Betty that she can do “the Serpent Dance,” which is some sort of sexist strip tease. And we all know Dark Betty will be super into that.

Veronica, who is doing her best to avoid all relationship chat, and Archie go to the Devil’s House together. The flashback shows the identity of the Riverdale Reaper, and proves that it’s no one in the cast. When going through the rooms one-by-one to follow the sequence of events, they discover a clue: the initials carved into the doorframe. They realise that while four people were killed that night, there were five people in the family.

The next rule of order is discovering who the surviving son’s identity. V and A learn that the boy was adopted by a family in Riverdale, and his identity changed in order to be protected. The two go through the Riverdale year books to find a match, and Ronnie does. A Joseph Svenson, the school janitor.

When they confront him, Mr Svenson says he knew the identity of the Reaper. He had crawled out of his window and watched to see the identity of the man who killed his family. Later he pointed out the man, a conman, to some men in town. The men took it upon themselves to serve justice, and killed the man themselves.

While Veronica jumps to conclusions, Archie immediately realises that Svenson isn’t a vengeful man posing as the Black Hood. Again, the green eyes don’t match.

The night of FP’s retirement party arrives, and everyone is getting a bit freaky. Alice, upon FP’s invitation, arrives dressed in full Serpent get up. Betty takes out her ponytail.

Then the painfully uncomfortable events begin to unfold.

Why, Riverdale?

Archie finally gets his moment to confront Veronica about the whole “I love you” business. She thanks him for being understanding that she’s not ready, when that’s clearly not the case. They go onstage together and sing “Mad World” together. Which is such a weird choice for karaoke.

Veronica runs off stage mid song, and Archie follows. When the Serpents begin to boo and get rowdy, Betty hops on stage and begins to sing instead. Cute!

Then she begins to strip and do the Serpent Dance. Not cute. I mean, your mom and your boyfriend’s dad are there. YOU ARE SIXTEEN, BETTY.

In seriously one of the most excruciating scenes in television history, Betty is ushered off stage by FP. Again. YOUR BOYFRIEND’S DAD.

Alice tries to get her daughter to leave, but Betty is convinced she’s doing the right thing. Though she soon learns she really fucking didn’t.

FP, now on stage, doesn’t choose to sing “Sweet Caroline,” but instead announces that he’s going against police orders to stay with the Serpents. Off stage, FP tells Jughead that he learnt that Penny Peabody wants a lot out of Jughead (meaning more “pancake mix” deliveries). With FP staying, Jughead is off the hook.

Frustrated, Jughead pushes Betty away. In fairness, not many boyfriend would be thrilled to see their SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD girlfriend strip in front of a biker gang. He tells her that if she gets involved, he’d no longer be able to protect her. And with that, Bughead are over yet again.

Which might be okay, as it’s curtains for Veronica and Archie as well. It had been written in the stars since last season that Archie was having a sort of “Betty sexual awakening.” And he didn’t even get to watch her little show!

I’m in some sort of feminist pickle here. On one hand, ladies have every right to express their sexuality. If you want to be a stripper, be a stripper, girl! But it feels profoundly wrong putting a teenager in that situation. Even if actress Lili Reinhart is 21. Riverdale is great when its insanity is cranked up, but this probably isn’t the right direction to push it in.

It almost didn’t matter that these two relationships ended. I mean, it would be an Archie comics based show if we didn’t have Archie swapping between his favourite two ladies, so we saw this coming anyway. But those moments shouldn’t be overshadowed. They should be important. Even when you’re just a teen, these things are really profound.

I’m going to forget about this episode now. This really wan’t a good one. I’m just going to think happy thoughts of Mädchen Amick and Skeet Ulrich’s sexual tension.

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