Now that all of the wind is out the Black Hood balloon, Riverdale spends its final hour of season two resolving plotlines and teasing next season’s criminal plot. Elections were won, elections were lost, and the Serpents have abandoned the Southside. But the North may yet prove capable of saving the town provided the glue holds together; even if Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) will try his best to break the bonds which make his opponents so strong.
Which means the episode, overall, is not as strong as last season’s finale, in which Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) took revenge on her mother and Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) was shot at Pop’s. But the show’s strengths — its relationships and its willingness to be the melodrama high school kids always believe they are a part of — were on display with Jughead (Cole Sprouse) not only surviving the Ghoulie attack, but becoming King Snake and inducting Cheryl into the Serpents. Archie (KJ Apa) won the school election despite dropping out for a few seconds; giving Ethel (Shannon Purser) more fuel for her rage when that account comes due. Hermione (Marisol Nichols) won the mayoral race, but seemed poised to offer some sort of amnesty to the Serpents bunking at the Andrews house and the Blossom estate.
Meanwhile, Betty (Lili Reinhart) seemed to face the darkness, but why put her father Hal (Lochlyn Munro) in a Silence of the Lambs inspired cell unless the plan is to use that iconography again?
But for all the moves — and the lame handwave that Tall Boy (Scott McNeil) was hired to shoot Fred all those months ago — the real story is Riverdale‘s Legion of Doom: Hiram, Penelope Lodge (Nathalie Boltt), Claudius Lodge (Barclay Hope), Ghoulie leader Malachi (Tommy Martinez), Penny Peabody (Brit Morgan) and Hiram’s hand-picked sheriff, Minetta (Henderson Wade). Now all revealed to be in collusion, the group is a soup-to-nuts prison-industrial complex. Claudius makes the Jingle-Jangle, the Ghoulies distribute, Penny troubleshoots, the sheriff arrests and the prison gets filled. Penelope’s brothel, meanwhile, services all comers in the scheme. But the plan may be even bigger than that as Hermione finally admits to Veronica (Camila Mendes) that she was right about her father all along. What more could he be planning? The attempt to get into the Blossom maple business — both the legitimate and illegitimate aspects of the enterprise — suggests an all encompassing doom for the town; perhaps the one Jughead has been talking about since the show began. In the short term, though, it seems setting up mundane criminality for the sake of it existing is the primary action item.
Of course, Hiram still has the problem of the Riverdale Four and Archie threatening him directly, but he seems to believe setting the lad up for that murder at Shadow Lake will break their friendships and shatter whatever hope remains. That seems unlikely as as Veronica, Betty and Jug are detectives first before pretty much anything else.
Then again, he may try to use Archie’s arrest in an attempt to get her to be a “good girl” again and tow the Lodge line; even if he disowned her in the deal to save Pop’s from his plan.
Which is the long way of saying he may be the big bad of season three. Instead of a whodunit style mystery, the show may pivot to case in which the perp is known to everyone, but amassing the evidence needed to expose him will take all the resources the Riverdale Four, the Serpents and anyone not aligned with Hiram have to win the day. And even then, there is still the doom Jughead says is coming. Maybe it will be Hiram, the spiritual leader from the Farm or the undead Chic (Hart Denton) bringing the nightmare to full strength. Or, recalling that the show is a high school melodrama, Jughead’s words could still be hyperbole. His suggestion that something “apocalyptic” was coming had me thinking Riverdale High was about to be bombed when, instead, it was just Archie getting arrested.
But let’s ponder what comes next over the long summer. We can also consider whether or not the show had a real endgame for the Black Hood and if they can stick the landing with Hiram Lodge next season.
Riverdale returns in the Fall.