Riverdale Ep. 3.4 “Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Midnight Club”

Riverdale is the ultimate teen show when it comes to taking risks with style. There was the (obligatory) musical episode, and I’m still not over last season’s anthology-style episode, “Chapter Twenty: Tales from the Darkside”.

So choosing to do a flashback episode isn’t that surprising, really. Each of the parents in Riverdale seem to have been cast solely based on how hot they were as teenagers. I’m looking at you, Luke Perry.

At the end of the last episode, every student at Riverdale High received their own copy of the Gryphons & Gargoyles manual. Since the game is pretty suicide-friendly, Mayor Hermione Lodge cracks down and bans the game from being played. But as everyone knows, banning something just makes it all that more enticing.

Betty gets a file from her mortician friend about a similar death to Dilton’s from back in the 90s – both corpses had blue lips. Knowing that her mother has admitted to playing the game before, Betty confronts Alice. But Alice surprises her daughter by agreeing to tell her everything she knows.

Back in the 90s (which is essentially the 80s here for Riverdale‘s sake), Alice was her Serpent-jacket wearing self. Not the crazy journalist we all love or even the bohemian version she is now. In fact, she begins her story at the moment she discovers she’s pregnant with FP’s child.

When Penelope Blossom gets on Alice’s case about it, the girls being fighting. They both get Saturday detention, along with Hermione and Sierra who were trying to break up the fight. FP and Fred also get detention for streaking.

Their principal (Anthony Michael Hall) gives them their writing assignment and leaves them to it for the day. The group somehow manage to get themselves another detention when a fight breaks out again.

Over the span of their detentions, the kids become reluctant friends. It’s not until they discover a box of Gryphons & Gargoyles in their teacher’s drawer of confiscated items that they really begin to bond.

Their obsession with the game grows. They begin to sneak into school to play, eventually taking the game “off board” to play in real life. Like 90s larping, I guess. And with that, they form the Midnight Club (which I really hope is a reference to the Midnight Society and the Breakfast Club).

They gang bump into another group of G&G-ers (including little Sheriff Keller, Reggie’s dad, Hiram and Dilton’s father), and they all decide to play together.

One day, they each receive an invitation for a “ascension party”. The whole group assembles to play. Before they start, they partake in a little recreational drug use in the form of something called Fizzle Rocks (jingle jangles predecessor, I assume). Alice, being pregnant, only pretends to take the drug.

While the rest of the group gets rowdy, Alice’s head begins to spin. She throws up in the bathroom and discovers the chalices when she leaves her stall. But she doesn’t flip the coin to discover her fate. She instead heads back into the hall, where she comes face-to-face with the Gargoyle King.

Strangely, this only kind of weirds Alice out. She turns around, but nearly bumps into Principal Featherhead. She hides from him, knowing he’s looking for the kids. After she sees him leave, she duck out and goes home for the night.

The following day, Alice learns that Principal Featherhead didn’t arrive at school that day. She also learns that Fred’s father died alone when Fred was out larping on drugs.

Featherhead’s body is eventually found in the school, decomposed days after his disappearance. His lips are blue.

Alice begs the other Midnight Club members to go to the police about what they know. But they instead decide to destroy the evidence that they had anything to do with the game. And that is seemingly that.

In the present day, Betty doesn’t get much more out of her mother. Alice does tell her that that night changed who they all were, their guilt making them the adults that we see today.

Betty continues her investigation, spurred by Alice’s story. She discovers the chalices in the trophy cupboard. But when she goes to find Jughead in Dilton’s bunker, she finds him with several other Serpents, getting prepared to play G&G.

Somehow, this must have been a really long story, Jughead is already obsessed with the game, bragging about his ascension. Cole Sprouse does a fantastic job of playing crazy. I guess this is a welcome return to nerdy Jughead?

It was certainly an interesting episode. Having the actors of the children play the young version of their parents was interesting. It blurred the lines of the characters a bit, allowing for the adult’s slightly-off behaviour to feel more real. You can buy a relaxed Fred Andrews when KJ Apa is playing him.

We also got some insight to why these adults are they way they are. Penelope Blossom had one of the more interesting arcs. During the first detention, she admits that she’s not a real Blossom. She was adopted so she could basically be groomed to be Cliff’s future wife. The death of Featherhead basically pushes her into allowing herself to be their pawn. Riverdale has made me feel sorry for a character that definitely doesn’t deserve sympathy on most days.

Notably absent was a young Mary Andrews, which feels like a missed opportunity. We know that she was bullied by the other girls in school. Plus hello, Molly Ringwald. I can only guess it’s because the writers wanted us to feel weird about the parents’ relationships as adults (I really don’t know if I would feel normal making out with my mom’s first boyfriend’s son – but that’s just me).

Riverdale really pulled this one off. A gamble that wasn’t just indulgent, but actually added something to the story. It certainly made me care about the characters more, which is really all you can ask in season 3.

Real question. If there’s a Gargoyle King in this Gryphons & Gargoyles – is there an opposite Gryphons? Is this what’s on the coin? That’s what I get for assuming everything has been played with a quarter.

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