This post contains spoilers for Riverdale.
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Riverdale’s never been a show to shy away from genre, but “The Red Dahlia” is a film noir stunner. It’s beautiful, sexy, complex and, appropriately, packed with mystery. Our hardboiled detective (Jughead Jones) isn’t visited by the femme fatale for the job. She’s saved for later, and stuck in a dance with the girl with sympathy for the devil. Instead, he’s visited by the story’s action girl: Veronica Lodge.
The Lodge family story might be complicated but, at the end of the day, they maintain fierce familial loyalty to one another when the chips are down. When Hiram is shot, Veronica steps in to ensure the family business continues to run smoothly. While she’s dealing with mobsters and ensuring her father’s fees are collected, she goes to the one person in Riverdale fit to solve the mystery of her father’s shooting. She helps Jughead out by providing a down payment, despite the Serpents already being under her employ. Since she and Jug are friends, she even gives him place to start.
It seems that daddy dearest had been having an affair, and Hermione was less than pleased with the news. With a down payment and mystery itching to be solved, Jughead ventures out to find Hiram’s mistress. For a brief time, he teams up with Betty (who admittedly fits the role of action girl as well, up until the very end of the episode). The town’s Nancy Drew is on the trail of one Penelope Blossom. She knows the madam has been poisoning the men in her life, but when Betty finds herself stuck waiting for the coroner reports, she decides to help out with the investigation of Hiram’s shooter.
Because everyone’s dirty in the town of Riverdale, Betty and Jughead run across “The Red Dahlia”s femme fatale sooner than expected. Penelope may not have been given the brothel she planned on, but that didn’t stop her from creating her very own red light district in what she likes to call The Maple Room. (Ew.) Though Betty has her all but caught, Penelope sends the children off the play with little more than a shrug.
Let’s see, so far we’ve got the hardboiled detective, a couple of action girls, and a femme fatale. How about we toss in the jerk with a heart of gold, and the chanteuse to spice things up? Archie continues to spiral after his return to murder town, but Josie McCoy has no time for his nonsense. After he makes a scene in the speakeasy, Josie tosses him in the shower and tells him to get his life straight. Because our darling Archie is a moron, he takes that to mean that he should murder Hiram once and for all.
Who knows if Archie would have finished the job had he not been interrupted. Here’s what we do know: Sheriff Manetta isn’t dead. Also? Hermione’s having an affair. Weirdly enough, finding out about this affair felt more like she was cheating on Fred than it felt like she was cheating on Hiram. All the same, we learn that the mafia has had a twisted plan all along.
It wasn’t Hermione that shot Hiram. At least not directly. Instead, she paid FP to do the job. He was willing and able, since Hiram almost got his boy killed less than a year ago. As payment for the deed, FP was given the position as Sheriff. But Hermione’s plan didn’t end there. Not only did she want Hiram shot so she could profit off of his drug trade, she intended to sell FP down the river so she could live happily ever after with her money and Sheriff Side Piece. FP’s not going to roll over and take the blame though, not this time.
Since his darling Serpent dummies up and shot their hostage, Jughead and FP devise a plan to back Hermione into a corner. Alice and her new news gig head to the station to film a statement from Riverdale’s new Sheriff. They tell the town that it was Tallboy who tried to murder Hiram. Once he got wind of the suspect, the good Sheriff made chase. Tallboy was shot in an altercation while resisting arrest. Watching Hermione Lodge be bested by someone who she believed to be her lesser is one of “The Red Dahlia”s many gifts.
Before we continue with her story, we find ourselves back in her husband’s hospital room. Hiram’s awake, and he knows that Archie saved him from his second would-be assailant. After a brief moment with Veronica, Archie sits down with Hiram to come to a truce after all of the bloodshed. The two sworn enemies will be the only party to make a truce in this week’s episode. Everyone else is out for blood.
After hearing her mother’s plan to profit off of her father’s drug trade, Veronica takes matters into her own hands. She sends Reggie to steal the entire stash from the prison, and the two subsequently burn all of the fizzle rocks in town. Veronica’s about to deal with some serious momma drama, but Betty might actually come to blows with Auntie Penelope.
Betty finds her hard proof. Thanks to an unauthorized coroners report, she can now prove that Penelope is responsible for a string of murders. Those murders include her late husband Clifford, and her brother-in-law Claudius. She shows no remorse, asking Betty if she really believes that she’s in the wrong. Clifford murdered her son. Claudius was responsible for the fizzle rocks run-off into Sweet Water River, allegedly causing the seizures among the girls of Riverdale. Knowing that she’s caught, Penelope issues an ultimatum. Betty is welcome to go to the police, but she should know that Hal’s been sharing her secret’s too. Like the fact that she fed her fake brother to the Black Hood.
It’s in this moment, and the following scene with her father that we see Betty shift into the girl with the sympathy for the devil. She sees that not everything is black and white, and that sometimes some folks should just be murdered. She’s, you know, completely wrong, but here’s hoping her pondering Hal’s question of whether or not she would ever be able to look at him with such compassion was just to feed into the trope and won’t be too much of a focus going forward. Penelope’s reasons could be argued, but Hal’s a straight-up murderer.
Things come to a close in “The Red Dahlia” with one final murder. We’re pretty sure Manetta is actually dead now. If he isn’t, we want to know how he survived three gunshot wounds at a short distance. Hermione’s starting to spiral as the walls close in. The question is, how many people does she intend to take down with her?
Riverdale starts to come unraveled at the seams next week. Gladys is back in town, Reggie gets shot, there’s a lot happening. You know what to do if you had thoughts on this week’s episode in the meantime!