This post contains spoilers for Riverdale.
Check out our previous review here.
Buckle in, boys and girls: we’ve got some things to discuss.
Changing to a twenty-two episode format undeniably changed the landscape of Riverdale. Now, some may argue that that was an unfortunate change but, if “Judgment Night” is any indication, all that change means is that their seasons will now have a slow burn that ends in you getting hit by a goddamn mac truck. There’s still one more episode left in this season, and it’s almost unfathomable that it may be more action-packed than this week.
“Judgment Night” takes all of its plotlines forward, but let's kick this off with the Lodge family drama. You'll recall that, several episodes ago, Hiram had Poppa Poutine offed after the other mobster started making plans against him. Last week we discovered that his son (who presumably has an equally ridiculous name) was out for vengeance, and that all came to a boil this week. He’s dead after trying to kill Hermione and Veronica (because you don’t mess with the Lodge women), but his involvement is really just a catalyst for Ronnie to go off on her dad after finding his “October Surprise”.
Said surprise is a dossier on Fred and Hermione’s affair that Hiram intends to distribute right before the election. Plot twist: Hermione knows about it. Watching Hermione Lodge exhibit all the classic symptoms of emotional abuse while all of Riverdale burns to the ground is low-key heartbreaking, but it’s hard to feel sympathetic when much of it is her doing. We’re rooting for you, Hermione, but we’re gonna need you to start making better choices. Veronica, unlike her mother, is beyond done with daddy dearest and all the nonsense that comes with being involved with his schemes. Hiram has a difficult set of opponents in Jughead and Betty, but it’s likely that he’s not prepared for anyone as ruthless as he is.
Next up: a storyline that’s acted as the overarching plot through season two - the Black Hood. The reveal of his identity is somehow everything you expected while still having a twist or two hidden up its sleeve. Hal Cooper may have been the one donning the hood in the attempted murder of Cheryl, Moose and Fred Andrews (as well as the successful killings of Midge, Mrs. Grundy, and who knows who else), but he wasn’t the one who interfered in the debate or tried to kill Archie and Fred this week. So, who could the copycat be? Uncle Claudius seems like a prime suspect because of his timing and his whole being-a-giant-jerk situation, but it seems unlikely that Hal would team up with a Blossom (even with tonight’s revelation that they’re the same family). Hiram could be an option, which would explain why no one actually got hurt at the debate, and why he went straight after Archie rather than trying to find Fred. We still don’t know the fate of Chic. It’s possible that there was some elaborate plot set up between the two of them, with Hal needing a distraction so he could leave and get all murder-y. But that’s enough about the mediocre murder-men. Let’s talk about the incomparable heroines who stole the show.
Cheryl Blossom's every second onscreen was incredible in this episode. She snaps from damsel to defender in seconds, injures the Black Hood, saves her girl and gets to rattle off killer one-liners while she’s at it. Let her go to Star City. She’ll solve the Green Arrow’s problems in no time. Continuing the trend of women who will risk everything to protect what they love is the season’s sleeper MVP, Alice Cooper. She intentionally gets Hal to attack her so Betty can get a weapon while getting a little bit of vengeance for his continued emotional abuse over the years. She’s right, Hal. FP Jones is a man in every way you aren’t!
Betty is saved for last because she bridges two stories. Unfortunately for her, neither of them are very happy. Her no good, very bad day starts with the confirmation that her father is the Black Hood, and ends with seeing the love of her life battered and bloody in his father’s arms. The Ghoulies are back, you see, and Penny Peabody wants her pound of flesh. As if their motives aren’t enough, they’re being funded by Hiram Lodge, and Jughead Jones is just too smart for his own damn good.
This has already gotten long, but we need to rewind a bit. Last week, Fangs Fogerty was shot when trying to leave Riverdale county prison. We find out this week that it was Midge’s mother who pulled the trigger (whoops, that’s gonna suck when she hears the news), but the Serpents saw Reggie with a gun in his hands. After some back and forth, Arch gets Juggie to call the Serpents off, but the Ghoulies come in their stead, and they want chaos. The boys are holed up in Pop Tate’s with maltovs and the law ain’t a-comin’, but then sirens go off. There are gunshots! Ghoulies are scattering!
Listen - Good Dad FP is arguably one of the best parts of Riverdale. So, what could be better? A team of hero dads, that’s what! Sheriff Keller might have turned in his badge, but he’s still got his patrol car, and it seems pretty wise to keep a gun or two in that town. FP, (ex-)Sheriff Keller, and Fred all swoop in at the last second to save their sons and their friends, but the Ghoulies still want a war.
Penny kidnaps Toni and demands a little chat. This scene ends up being mostly redundant, as a more important one with the same point will happen later, but Cheryl shows up with a bow and arrow again, so it gets a pass. Penny demands that the Serpents leave the South side, or be eradicated, but the Serpents aren’t the kind to give up without a fight, and that’s where the problem sits.
The Serpents vote to go to war, despite the fact that Ghoulies have an army on their side. Jughead doesn’t want to see his entire family die, so he makes a deal after cracking Hiram’s code: the Serpents stay, the Ghoulies get Jughead, and Hiram is free of his meddling by proxy. Off the skinny little high schooler goes, to take on the opposition thirty to one. Penny gets her pound of flesh, but she and her gang still intend to tear the Serpents apart the next morning.
And that’s where we sit at the end of “Judgment Night”. Hal Cooper is in custody, but will not remain that way next week, Hiram lost his daughter and is close to losing his wife, and Betty, FP, and the rest of the Serpents have a dying Jughead on their hands. This was the penultimate, so you can rest assured that things are going to go down next week. The real question is whether or not they can live up to what they set in motion this week.
You know what to do if you have thoughts on Riverdale’s insanity!