Good evening, Riverdalians.
This week, we’re pulling out our typewriters and putting on our strangely-shaped hats as we recap “Chapter Forty-Six: The Red Dahlia,” or as I’m going to call it, “Chapter Forty-Six: Jughead Experiments With Film Noir Narration.” Grab your magnifying glass and join us for another excessively wild ride.
Kelli: So, as I mentioned in the intro, this episode of Riverdale is semi-unique in that it has an actual concept. The show has done this before — last season, we had the episodic “Tales from the Darkside,” as well as the musical episode, “A Night to Remember.” In general, I tend to enjoy it when the show experiments with form, mostly because I think Riverdale’s typical format leaves a lot to be desired. In “The Red Dahlia,” we have Jughead narrating as usual, but this time he’s taken a decidedly noir approach, with himself as the detective at the center of several interwoven plots that end up providing us with more answers than we’ve gotten all season. It kicks off when Veronica approaches Jughead with a single mission: to find out who shot Hiram Lodge.
What did you guys think about the conceit of this episode? Did it work?
Mary: Big no from me. I get that Riverdale experiments with form, and typically that’s something I really enjoy, BUT I don’t think that the noir style works well, even for an episode. I’m not entirely sure what they’re going for, and it’s not something I usually enjoy anyway. It kind of reminds me that Jughead is the narrator and very much IN HIGH SCHOOL. It makes sense that he’d be playing with style.
Gabriella: I’m with Mary, this did not work for me at all, though I usually like film noir style of narration.
Kelli: I’m going to start with the simplest and smallest piece of this puzzle of an episode, which for once happens to be Archie.
Fresh off his return to Riverdale and break-up with Veronica, Archie is having some typical teen strugz. He’s apparently rethinking college along with everything else in his life, and goes to work for his dad’s construction company for roughly 30 minutes before he loses his shit and tries to beat up a construction manager. He then proceeds to get drunk at Veronica’s speakeasy, and afterwards, when encouraged by Josie to put his anger into something constructive, he decides that his best option is to go to the hospital where Hiram is recovering and murder him once and for all (which we all know he isn’t actually gonna do).
You know, normal teen stuff.
Other than being deeply annoyed with Archie, which I’m 100% sure you both were, what were your thoughts on Archie’s storyline this week? My main takeaway from it was that him and Josie are probably going to start dating. I don’t mind Josie having more screen time — I really enjoyed seeing her back in badass mode this week — but like, what about Val? Is she dead? Where did the other Pussycats GO?
Gabriella: Yeah 100% annoyed. His storyline this week felt like a neat bow on what is actually heaps of trauma that will take years of therapy to get through. I get so frustrated that pop culture constantly uses boxing as an ‘emotional outlet’ for men. It just perpetuates this idea that the only way men can work through emotion or trauma is with their fists… Um. No.
Mary: Yeah, where ARE the other Pussycats?! We haven’t seen them all season and it just doesn’t make much sense. I know Josie wants to be a star and go solo, but I miss the Pussycats as a band. Their harmonies were lovely.
Anyway, yes I’m super annoyed with everything Archie. To continue our theme from last week, the boy needs some serious therapy. I agree with Gabriella that Archie is the posterboy for toxic masculinity. There’s more than one way to solve issues, and honestly your fists just get you in more trouble most of the time. I don’t know how Archie hasn’t been hauled back to juvie for, you know, running away.
Kelli: I think the charges against him were dropped? Don’t quote me on that.
Moving on from Archie, let’s talk about Betty. Most of her plot this episode involves her trying to take down Penelope Blossom.
Betty is still visiting her dad in jail, presenting him with theories about Penelope, who she thinks is responsible for not just Claudius’ death, but for pretty much all of the other deaths that potentially involved poison. I guess she figures her dad is a good person to talk to about this since he is also a serial killer.
While waiting for Claudius’ autopsy results from Dr. Curdle Junior, Betty joins Jughead on a mission to track down Kelly Rippa at the Five Seasons Hotel (more on Kelly Rippa later). What they find instead turns out to be exactly what we should have expected: PENELOPE’S BROTHEL.
Yes, Penelope Blossom finally got her wish, and now owns a brothel called The Maple Club where “the men are the ones who suffer.” Did y’all die @ this? Because I did.
Gabriella: The thing that annoys me most about this is the name ‘Five Seasons’. Couldn’t they have come up with something slightly more clever? (Like their ‘American Excess’ credit card brand!)
I have mixed feelings about this because I am interested in the dynamic between Betty and her father, but having it play out in the film noir conceit made it feel very contrived. Film-noir is so stylized that it’s hard to actually feel anything.
Mary: I’m pleased that Betty is still visiting Hal in prison. Even though I was kind of hesitant about this last week, I’m warming up to it and think they could be an interesting team. I am SO excited the brothel has finally appeared. I’m not sure how it popped up so quickly (last week Penelope was asking for a location), but now it’s here and I’m totally cool with it. I also like that we’re getting a little bit more insight into Penelope’s feelings about sex work in general—she straight up hates men and thinks they’re dumb, so she wants to take all their money and humiliate them in the process. I audibly gasped at her tagline.
Kelli: Anyway, Penelope obviously insists she isn’t guilty, and the only way Betty finally gets her to talk is to present her with evidence she gets from Dr. Curdle Junior: the conveniently hidden-til-now autopsy of Clifford Blossom, who was “already dead” when he hung himself. As it turns out, Penelope did kill some folks, but to be clear, it was only men. She’s practically innocent.
We learn that Penelope killed Clifford and Claudius because “men are the true poison.” It turns out we were right about the cause of the seizures: Claudius was running the fizzle rocks operation out of the Blossoms’ maple factory and depositing the runoff into Sweetwater River, where it then got into Riverdale’s water supply. When Betty asks why the runoff only affects the women, Penelope’s like, “I’m an HERBALIST, not a doctor,” which is what I’m going to say from now on when someone asks me my opinion about anything.
Were you guys satisfied with this reveal?
Gabriella: I don’t know, honestly. I go back and forth on Penelope. They tried to give her a sympathetic backstory, which I sort of buy, so her actions now are all motivated by those traumas. But the first season made no mention of them, nor did anything she did or said reflect those traumas - so it feels like she’s a brand new character.
Also, I have a problem with the ‘Red Dahlia’ moniker. The Black Dahlia aka Elizabeth Short was brutally murdered and mutilated, but there were a string of other murders in Hollywood around that time (one was even called the White Dahlia by the press). To call her the Red Dahlia felt like she was supposed to be a vigilante avenger, but to me, she just seems selfish and narcissistic (like, you know, a murderer).
Mary: I’m with Gabriella here—I don’t sympathize with her per se, or think her reasoning is justified, but I am interested in where this goes. Honestly, the reveal that Penelope is killing people just makes me a little tired. Is everyone in this town a killer?
Kelli: Yeah, it’s not surprising at all that she’s a murderer. I just assume that every adult in this town has killed one person at minimum.
I’m now going to move into what I found to be the most convoluted part of the episode: the weird crime square of FP, Hermione, Hiram, and Sheriff Minetta.
Jughead’s first suspect in the case of Who Shot Hiram Lodge is Hermione Lodge, because Veronica mentioned she recently walked in on her parents having a vicious argument. Jughead visits Hermione and asks her, point blank, if she did it. She says that she absolutely did not shoot her husband, and admits that they were fighting because Hiram was having an affair. She suggests Jughead consider Hiram’s mistress a suspect, because she might be angry that he cut her off.
Through Penelope’s aforementioned brothel, Jughead manages to track down Hiram’s mistress, who is hilariously played by Kelly Rippa (Mark Consuelos’ wife IRL). It turns out that she’s a health and sanitation inspector, and Hiram paid her to fake the water supply test reports so that no one would know Sweetwater River was contaminated with Fizzle Rock runoff.
My question is: what was the point of this whole mistress section?
Gabriella: Honestly, what even. There was no point. If Hermione was trying to confuse the situation by making it about a mistress she certainly succeeded because I was hella confused.
Mary: It’s. A. M E S S. It’s good to see Hermione being assertive, because it seems that since she’s become mayor she’s acted passive and removed from Hiram’s BS. I’m not sure that I entirely understand the whole crime square (though I think that’s a good way to describe it!), but it definitely felt like a crime triangle until Kelly Rippa was like, hey, let me get in on this, Mark. It honestly felt like she was just there because someone wanted her on the show, not because it made a whole lot of plot sense. Also, the reveal that BOTH Hermione and Hiram are cheating on each other seems to come out of nowhere to me. Yes, they’ve both seemed distant because of all the crime business, but I don’t think that translates immediately to cheating.
Kelli: Meanwhile, Jughead has instructed his hench-serpents (Sweetpea and Fangs, obviously) to guard Tall Boy’s decaying body while they figure out what to do with it, and also to tail Hermione. Sweetpea reports that he followed Hermione and, guess what: she’s having an affair with Sheriff Minetta’s corpse!!! JK, he never died, they faked it and he’s been in hiding. He and Hermione are secretly plotting to have Hiram killed, which Jug and his friends discover by basically creeping behind a bush and listening to Hermione and Minetta’s post-coital murder plot convo. Best of all, they’re going to use a police-issued gun (Minetta’s) and then frame the new sheriff, FP!
Jughead rushes to his dad to warn him that he’s getting framed, but FP admits he can’t completely be “framed” for a crime he ACTUALLY COMMITTED, because Hermione HIRED HIM to shoot Hiram and gave him the Sheriff position as his prize, which he thought would protect him from repercussions but OH MY, was he ever WRONG!!!!!
Guys, I’m exhausted.
What do we think about the two-birds-one-stone solution that Jughead and FP manage to come up with to fix this mess?
Gabriella: I’m just glad I once again called a plot point - that Hermione hired someone to kill Hiram.
I did not see the hitman being FP, but the whole situation was so convoluted that each reveal didn’t feel like a reveal, but like another confusing part of the puzzle. Like doing two different puzzles where the pieces have all been mixed together, Bird Box style.
I guess the solution works? But if we know anything about Riverdale it’s that nothing is permanent or what it seems, or even what it flat out tells you it is.
Mary: Kelly, I am also tired and you’ve done a good job of untangling this mess.I don’t know why FP would do this! Remember when FP did some crime way back in the first season, and he was like, yeah I’m not doing that again. AND YET.
Kelli: Also, shouldn’t FP be ejected from the Serpents now, as per Jughead’s ‘no crime’ gang rules?
Re: Fizzle Rocks — while Jughead is dealing with the sheriff situation, Veronica roots through her mother’s papers and discovers that Hermione is actually a part of the fizzle rocks empire. She confronts Hermione, who insists that she was trying to get Hiram to shut it down. In fact, the entire quarantine was ordered as a distraction so that Hiram could end it quickly and cleanly, but Hiram lied to her and simply moved the operation from the maple plant to the jail. Hermione wants to sell the fizzle rocks operation while Hiram is still in the hospital, and Veronica’s like, ‘sounds good mom’ and then gets Reggie to help her steal all the fizzle rocks and equipment and set it on fire.
That can’t be good for Riverdale’s air quality, can it? I mean, we saw what fizzle rocks did to the water.
Anyway, when Hermione finds out about what Veronica did, she’s extremely pissed off because now the buyer is going to want his product, and Hermione no longer has the money to pay them back. Do we see this coming up in future episodes? I am willing to bet this mysterious “buyer” is someone we’ve already met, but I don’t know who. Any guesses?
Gabriella: I was pissed off at Veronica. What an idiot. I loved when she tried to backtrack by saying she knew what she did. No, bitch, you did not.
Also, WHERE IS THE FARM IN ALL THIS? Once again, Riverdale picks up and drops plots willy-nilly.
Mary: Oh yeah, that buyer is coming back for SURE. I wonder if it’s the casino crime family, since that guy showed up recently to remind us he existed. Also, yeah Veronica, that is a dumb move.
Kelli: A couple more important (?) things:
Archie and Hiram form a “truce” after Archie ends up shooting Minetta in the arm when he shows up to the hospital, effectively saving Hiram’s life.
Jughead tells Hermione all of the shit he’s got on her, but she reminds him that if she goes down, so does FP. They’re in a stalemate. After their convo, Hermione returns to her sex den with Minetta, where she shoots him not once, not twice, not thrice, not fource, but FIVE TIMES.
Smithers is back?
Do y’all have anything else to add? And overall, what did you think of this episode? I’m so conflicted about it, because I felt like it was actually structured a bit better than this show typically is, but there was SO MUCH going on that I felt like there was almost no room to breathe.
But I know, I know — forget it, Kelli. It’s Riverdale.
Gabriella: My favorite thing about this episode was Smithers’ vague “when I was in the trenches” line. WHAT TRENCHES, SMITHERS? WHICH WAR?
There was definitely too much going on, especially for a stylized episode like this one. But I am looking forward to the fizzle rocks buyer plot (I know, a Veronica plot!) because that is going to get real messy.
I’m really hoping that the season ends with a massive denouement which proves the writers knew what they were doing all along. But it’s doubtful.
Mary: I’m kind of exhausted with all this. It seems like the focus of this season has shifted from G&G and the Gargoyle King to organized crime, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Also, yeah, where is the Farm? I’m interested to see that plot unfold. The thing is, Riverdale always has so many things going on that if you don’t like one part there’s probably something else you’re interested in.
AND YES, ALL HAIL SMITHERS!