After (somehow) surviving his bear attack, despite being apparently dead, Archie goes back to his father’s house like a prodigal son. But Archie isn’t the same as he was before: he has dark hair, an even darker soul, and he now prefers root beer floats over milkshakes. Sounds like me after puberty.
But with Archie back, Riverdale takes a moment to breathe and reassess the insanity that has been building. For one episode, we have finally returned to the high school realness (you know, as much as Riverdale represents anything real, I guess).
And it could very-well come off as boring, but “The Stranger” actually ends up being interesting, if a bit confusing.
At Pop’s, after Archie’s giant, root beer-related confession, Betty learns that her debit card has been denied. When she returns home, she learns that Alice has drained all of her accounts to donate to the Farm, including Betty’s college fund.
And it all feel very thematic, as the kids’ SATs draws nearer. Archie, having missed most of his academic year, is advised by Principal Weatherbee to retake his junior year. And somehow, the only thing about this that Archie finds upsetting is not graduating with his friends.
So Archie begins cramming for the exam with Betty and Jughead. I don’t know how to tell these gets that you’re able to retake them, but I only just realised I never took the SATs, so what do I know anyway? Archie’s “dimness” is reworked in this episode to suggest that Archie isn’t stupid, but has a learning disability. But if this was the case, surely he would have received some help at some point? Or was Ms Gruny the only tutor in town?
But Veronica is apparently not on the “let’s get Archie to succeed” train. Instead, she throws him a Welcome Back party, which he promptly leaves when he’s reminded of Hiram.
Speaking of, with the Sisters’ of Quiet Mercy convent now open, Hiram begins to plans to buy the building, and he needs Claudius Blossom’s help. And by help, I mean forcing his wife to select Claudius as Riverdale’s new sheriff.
Jughead and his Serpents get to meet Claudius face-to-face when they try and set up Hiram. With Fangs undercover in the Gargoyle gang, they’re able to infiltrate a meeting and discover the identity of the Gargoyle King: Tall Boy.
Yes, that Tall Boy who was definitely dead and definitely was the Black Hood (the non-serial killer one). With Tall Boy’s reluctant help, they get a meeting with Hiram, but Claudius meets them instead, leading Claudius to be thrown in jail…?
While Jughead spends time with that Black Hood, Betty spends time with the real one – her father, Hal. After learning about her bank accounts, her lawyer, Sierra tells her that her father had also signed the papers. But Betty quickly notices that the signature was forged. The only way to get her money back is to have her father sign an affidavit.
She goes to see her father in prison, and old Hal tries out his best Hannibal impression. Its almost laughable how much Riverdale lifts from Silence of the Lambs, it sort of crosses the line of homage. But anyway, little
Clarice Betty asks for her father’s help. Hal agrees, but only if she brings him the Gryphons & Gargoyles manual.
When she eventually gets him the manual, he claims that he was there at ascension night. And that he is the original Gargoyle King. Betty soon susses out that he’s lying. He gathered all of his details from sleeping with Penelope Blossom, who was posing as Alice.
But while this is seemingly the darkest part of a fairly “normal” episode, Riverdale lets it all spiral at the end.
Hiram is shot in a rather similar fashion to Fred. Only this time, we don’t even get a hint of the shooter’s identity. No shadow. Nothing. Now, both Fred and FP threatened him earlier in the episode. And both seem to have a good motive.
FP reveals that he is the new sheriff in town, and it’s pretty clear that it was a deal between him and Hermione. What that means, who knows. Hopefully that the two have been in cahoots all this time. I like Hermione too much for her to be a boring pawn like she’s been coming off for the last two seasons.
But Hiram isn’t the only one with someone out to get him. Claudius is found dead in his cell soon after Hiram gets out of his surgery. Is it someone’s greater plan? Hermione’s?
There’s certainly a lot of deceit going on in this little town. Veronica misses an opportunity to be open with Archie about being with Reggie. And ultimately, there’s no trust between the two anymore anyway. But with her dad in the hospital, girl seems certain it’s Archie (apparently Hiram was shot around the same time Archie fled the SATs).
Dark Archie isn’t my favourite Archie. Sweet, guitar-playing one is. Can we have that one back? Or is it as Archie thinks? There’s no going back. He certainly didn’t shoot Hiram. Boy would kill him, not do the job half-assed.
It was pretty good to see some scenes with Fred in them again. Seeing Luke Perry is always calming and lovely. More Fred, please!