This post contains spoilers for Riverdale.
Check out last week's review here.
I know you must be wondering why this entire episode wasn’t about Cheryl storming The Sisters of Quiet Mercy with her bow to save her cousin, but what actually went down was still pretty solid. “The Man in Black” splits off in three distinct plots, kicking things off with Archie and Jughead in a small town called Athens. As the name would imply, Athens is occupied solely by women. It seems all the men are off building the prison, which will act as a fizzle rock front. The second arc is with Veronica and her speakeasy, and the final reconnects us with Betty and the hell her mother put her in.
This episode’s slower than other Riverdale offerings, and a lot more linear than we’re used to their chapters being. Though there are the three distinct storylines, Betty and Veronica’s arcs come back to the same key player as Jughead and Archie’s: The Man in Black. Ronnie’s makes sense, she’s been tied to him since birth, but what in the hell is Hiram Lodge doing at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy?
There’s no doubt that Hiram is a monster. Archie Andrews might be the dumbest person on the planet, but even he doesn’t deserve having Veronica’s father as an adversary. Hiram murders, lies, and apparently now has a bunch of indentured servants working for him? The town of Athens is devoid of men because they’re all somehow contracted to Lodge in one way or another, and their families want them back.
When they arrive in the town, Archie and Jughead are taken in by Laurie and young Gracie. Because Jughead has two brain cells to rub together, he’s wary of the situation. And, because Archie doesn’t, he quickly reveals his entire life story to a stranger. Laurie makes quick work of knocking him over the head with a frying pan, but only after she takes some time to make out with him. Yes, that means it took Archie less than 48 hours to make out with another girl.
Jug manages to save his best friend and get the two of them out of Hiram’s path before Archie can try to commit murder. In the beginning of “The Man in Black”, Arch questions why Jughead isn’t more worried that Betty isn’t picking up her phone. He encourages his brother to go back to Riverdale and make sure she’s okay. Juggie immediately points out that Betty stopped a serial killer last year while Archie Andrews can’t take two steps without getting marked for death. We all knew he was right, but damn does that line ever set the tone for the episode.
Veronica’s arc is disappointing. It starts off solid, with Ronnie finally leaving the Pembrook and the luxuries of her family. She’s spent a lot of time condemning her parents, but it’s been hard to take her seriously while she’s still drinking out of a platinum chalice at supper time. Archie was the final straw, resulting in Veronica taking her solitary suitcase to live in her speakeasy for the time being. Then the real world hits, and she’s immediately willing to break her own rules.
Upon realizing that Pop’s and the speakeasy are just scraping by, Veronica decides to invite Elio and his gambling friends to bring a little more cash flow to her businesses. Now, up until this point, Elio’s seemed like a friend. Unfortunately for Ronnie, all’s fair in love and family rivalries. This week’s chapter reveals him as a bit of a sleaze, but it also humanizes Hiram a pinch. It’s no secret that he loves his daughter, but his behavior when he finds out that Veronica’s tried to ally herself with an enemy who will hurt her was a little surprising.
Veronica has proven herself to be a worthy opponent of Hiram. The fact that he stepped in to help her avoid a career ending failure is the first time it’s been hinted that he might care about his daughter more than he cares about winning his little game. Ronnie looking bad might mean that he does as well, but it would also mean that the one person who’s proven they can go toe to toe with him would have faced a considerable setback. We saw new depth in Hiram this week, and I’m here for it. What I’m not here for is Veronica getting one favor from him and then immediately reverting back to “maybe he’s not so bad”. Girl, maybe you and Archie deserve each other.
Finally, we have Betty. The girl with a plan! The girl who’s going to outsmart the Sisters of Quiet Mercy! The girl who didn’t bank on her one escape route being bricked over. Betty Cooper might be the smartest person in Riverdale, but the Sisters of Quiet Mercy have been in the game of torturing young girls for a long damn time. Though she doesn’t manage to escape, she does manage to dig up some information before the Sisters catch on to her game.
Upon finding her file, Betty makes the connection between Hiram Lodge and the fizzy rocks that have played a part in each of the stories in “The Man in Black”. With that and the knowledge that the other girls are playing G&G and are taken to the Gargoyle King when they’re bad, Betty confidently makes her way to her planned escape before being captured all over again.
It’s clear Betty will be rescued from the Sisters, but the question is now whether or not she’ll be any help when she is. When the Sisters and Ethel catch up with her, Betty is forced to eat the fizzy rocks and is immediately taken to see the Gargoyle King for her misbehavior. When we see her again, her confident inner monologue that has been playing throughout the episode is gone. All that’s left behind is a shell, quietly reciting the answers the Sisters want to hear while having clear visions of the Gargoyle King.
The next chapter is filled with group seizures, Jellybean and Jughead’s mom, and Cheryl Blossom going to war over… something? Fingers crossed it’s that she’s found out that her cousin is being held captive by the very women who practiced conversion therapy on her at the behest of her own monster mother. I mean, someone’s got to realize that Betty is gone eventually, right?
If you had thoughts on this week’s episode, we want to hear ‘em!