On this week’s episode of Riverdale, The Noose Tightens, the noose tightens — but for WHOM? It could be Archie, who’s already in too deep with the Lodge crime family, or Betty, as the murder of Chic’s drug dealer resurfaces, or Cheryl, currently institutionalized by a pack of homophobic nuns… or perhaps the point is that every character on this god forsaken show is already noosed up, and we’re all just waiting to see who will drop first.
(Can I be Jughead yet?)
Part I: Kelli
We begin the episode with the Sisters of Quiet Mercy Home for Troubled Youths — or SQMHTY, for short. Jughead’s tortured voiceover leads us through Cheryl’s headspace; it’s “movie night,” and as Cheryl watches yet another conversion therapy film, she imagines the characters are played by Moose and Kevin. The phrase “ensnared by deviance” is used.
Meanwhile, everyone other than Cheryl is attending the PTA sponsored “school hall” event, which I guess is like a town hall but even less important. Alice moderates as students ask questions of the candidates for student council: couple teams Bughead and Varchie, plus Josie and Reggie, who are now running together (and should also probably be a couple). This scene made me feel like I was actually in a high school assembly in that it was really boring and I learned nothing. Notably, Reggie makes an excellent case for his and Josie’s campaign: “We’re chill. Unlike these guys.” Honestly, I hope they win.
Afterwards, Betty and Jughead leave in a hurry because Betty doesn’t want to deal with her mother. She fondly refers to Alice as a “heat-seeking missile,” and she knows Alice is waiting to attack her about the fact that she’s living with Jughead. Luckily, Alice finds another target in FP. She yells at him for encouraging Betty’s behavior, but he turns it around on her and tells her that she needs to make things right with Betty before it’s too late. He also mentions that he and Jughead are sleeping on the pull-out sofa so that Betty can have the trailer bedroom, a fact which Alice seems bizarrely comforted by.
The Lodges and Andrews have a meeting about the mayoral situation. Archie and Veronica are like, ‘can’t this be a fair fight???’ but that’s easy for them to say because they’re both siding with the Lodges. Before things can heat up too much, Lenny and Carl show up to discuss ‘private business’ with Hiram. Hiram later tells Archie that Hermione’s mayoral campaign is making his business partners anxious because they think it’ll draw attention to their activities. They’re going to have a mob dinner to talk it out, and Archie offers to tag along as a helping hand. Hiram says yes, because Archie “always finds a way to make himself useful,” to which I counter: when has Archie ever made himself useful to anyone? The dog doesn’t count.
Back at home, Archie’s mom asks Archie to be there for Fred’s mayoral announcement so that they can look like a wholesome family unit. She says it’ll mean a lot to Fred, who’s too proud to ask Archie himself. Archie’s like, ‘of course I will,’ which means he definitely is going to fuck it up.
Alice and Chic discover via the local news that the police department found the dead man’s car — the one that Betty and Jughead sank Norman Bates style a few episodes back. FP, Alice, Betty, and Jughead meet at Pop’s to discuss the situation, which seems like an incredibly public place to chat about the murder they covered up, but it’s probably fine. JK, Sheriff Keller walks in like five seconds later and FP tells them to play it cool. Alice uses this opportunity to tell Betty she needs to come home, and Betty replies with a hard no.
At school, Reggie approaches Archie because they need to settle which one of them gets the Bulldog vote. Obviously, the only way to decide this is by arm wrestling, because the Bulldogs “respect the Alpha.” They arm wrestle for about three seconds, but then Reggie shit talks Fred, and Archie wins using the power of his love for his father, or something.
Later that night, it’s MOB DINNER! At a fancy Italian restaurant, the old dudes tell Hiram they’re interested in his prison idea, but they want 25% of the Riverdale pie. Hiram says that in that case he’d be operating at a loss, and thus he must respectfully decline. Lenny are Carl are like, ‘bro, the only people you have on your side at this point are your bodyguards and a high schooler,’ which Archie immediately takes offense to. He steps up to the table and tells Lenny and Carl not to underestimate him, reminding them that they should be very scared because of that one time he heard them gossiping and told Hiram about it, plus that other time when he punched another teenager in the face. Lenny and Carl promptly burst into hysterics, unable to even begin to take him seriously. They assume he’s joking, and the mood lightens considerably, and Hiram agrees to consider the offer.
After dinner, Hiram tells Archie that he was acting like a “mad dog” in there — but he’s not mad, because Archie is a “good boy” (still basically a dog). Fan theory: at some point, unbeknownst to the viewers, Archie and Vegas the dog switched bodies. Looking forward to this reveal.
Back on the campaign trail, Jughead is trying to convince the Serpents that his running for student body president is a good thing. Sweetpea doesn’t approve of Jug running around with the “northside princess/turncoat’s daughter.” As long as Jug is running with Betty, he’s not getting the Serpents’ vote. Later, Betty asks Jughead what else she needs to do to gain the Serpents’ trust, since apparently risking her life for them multiple times isn’t enough. “Do I need to wear plaid?” she asks. It wouldn’t hurt, Betty.
The subject quickly changes to the dead drug dealer and the car, and the two of them agree that despite their parents’ warnings, they should investigate further. No one has any respect for their parents on this show (except for Veronica, and that’s because she’s part of a MOB FAMILY). Jughead and Betty meet up with Kevin at Pop’s to get intel about the case, questioning him under the guise of writing an article about the environment. Kevin believes them for some reason, and he tells them that the car was claimed by the owner this morning; turns out it was stolen in the first place.
Bughead brings this information back to their parents and Chic, who says the dealer used to borrow his girlfriend’s car. They agree to stick to the plan for now, which gives Alice the opportunity to once again segue into a conversation about Betty’s living situation. Chic offers to move out, and Betty says she’ll come back once Chic is gone, but Alice demands that Betty come home right *clap* fucking *clap* now *clap*. Finally, Betty concedes.
Over at SQMHTY, Sister Livingston tries to therapize Cheryl. She hypothesizes that Cheryl’s problem must come from the fact that Nana used to confuse Cheryl and Jason for each other as children, dressing them in each other’s clothes. Cheryl’s like, 'it’s called cataracts, bitch.' Sister Livingston sends Cheryl to perform ‘physical therapy’ until she’s ready to listen. Physical therapy at SQMHTY appears to be dragging heavy burlap bags across a farmhouse. What’s inside them? Rice? Flour? Mummified human remains? I’m afraid we might never know the answer.
Somehow, despite Cheryl’s incredibly noticeable presence, the only person who’s noticed that she’s missing is Toni. Toni approaches V and Josie about her suspicions, and they agree to help Toni investigate. They head to Thistlehouse to interrogate Penelope, who caves after a single threat from Josie re: Sheriff Keller, who’s basically her stepdad now. Penelope says she sent Cheryl abroad to a ‘private wellness center,’ and as proof of Cheryl’s insanity, she provides the drawings Cheryl did a thousand years ago of herself and Josie together. Finally, a returning plot point!
Josie freaks out and leaves, telling the girls she can’t participate anymore because Cheryl sent her a bloody pig’s heart, which… you know, it’s not a bad reason. At this point, I don’t actually remember if Cheryl sent the pig’s heart or if that was a BH-adjacent crime, but it hardly matters at this point. But do you know what does matter on this show?
Trick question, lol! The answer is nothing.
Part II: Mary
Betty wants Alice to sign a consent form so she can get a gang tattoo. No big deal. Alice is obviously NOT okay with that. They don’t have time to talk about it too much, though, because Chic barges in with Darla, a woman with a southern drawl and a whole lot of attitude.
Darla is just SO CONFUSED why her car was found in Riverdale. Chic called her in an attempt to get more information, about what I’m not sure. In return, Darla wants $10,000 that was owed to her by Wayne (AKA Shady Dead Guy). She says, in so many words, that if she gets the money she’s owed, she won’t report the Coopers to the police. Betty, Alice, and Chic are all TERRIBLE LIARS, so Darla knows that they were responsible for Wayne’s death. Alice readily agrees to give Darla the money, and the family settles in while they wait for the bank to open.
Meanwhile, across town, Jughead helps Fred Andrews with his announcement for the mayoral race. Fred calls Jughead the greatest writer he’s ever known, and I have to ask if he’s ever met any other writers. Archie isn’t pleased that Jughead is helping, or that Fred is running at all.
Later, we cut to THE BLACK HOOD BEATING UP ANDRE. Just kidding, it’s not the BH, it’s the fake FBI guy who we just saw at the restaurant Hiram met the mobsters at. I didn’t know that there was another restaurant in Riverdale aside from Pop’s, so this is impressive. Archie vows to protect the Lodges, and Hiram tasks him with escorting Veronica everywhere and basically being her keeper. Because of course.
Betty goes to the bank and Alice calls her to say that the motel owner who harassed Chic earlier in the season is back and at their house. Betty begins to think of a plan.
Nana Rose is left alone at Thistlehouse and CRAWLS ACROSS THE ROOM to a weird antique phone. She makes a phone call to Riverdale High and tells Toni that Cheryl is being kept nearby. Claudius catches Nana before she can complete the call, though.
Kevin knows about the sisters of quiet mercy because he’s gay and has used the “secret gay hookup tunnel” that leads into their institution. This is the most ridiculous part of the plot (and there are lots of ridiculous parts). I’m not sure why Riverdale, which seems to be a fairly progressive show (aside from Cheryl’s weird conversion therapy stint), continues to abuse Kevin as their token gay character. He magically appears when the gang needs to know something about gay culture. Why.
Darla and the motel owner decide that they might want more than the money. They might want to move into the Cooper house, which I’m sure wouldn’t raise any questions with the neighbors. Betty smiles to herself (I need this as a reaction gif!) and the Serpents bust in with knives! Well, the younger Serpents—like Sweet Pea and Jughead—rush in. It’s kind of like the junior Serpents. With tiny knives.
After the blackmailers leave, Alice tells Chic he needs to leave. He seems pretty OK with it to be honest.
Hiram and Archie touch base and I guess Archie is a criminal mastermind now. He has a plan for how to scare the mobsters, or at least a plan to show them the Lodges are totally capable of protecting themselves. As a result of Archie creeping around with Hiram, he misses Fred’s announcement speech. Of course.
Archie recruits the football team to help him intimidate some mobsters, and they agree in exchange for some votes in the school election. Sure, that seems fair. They’ve rebranded the Red Circle as the Dark Circle and it’s ridiculous. They all wear black hoods and try to look intimidating.
Meanwhile, Veronica—looking BOMB in a black outfit—goes with Toni to break Cheryl out of the nunnery. They find her watching an old propaganda movie during one of the sisters’ movie nights. Toni runs in and calls Cheryl’s name and they KISS IN FRONT OF THE PROJECTOR AND IT IS VERY ROMANTIC. I screamed. My roommate screamed. My cats were scared. It was a good time.
To round out the episode, Hiram gives Archie a car to drive Veronica around in, Alice embraces her Serpent roots and starts wearing some dark makeup, and Cheryl returns to school talking about the upcoming SCHOOL MUSICAL. That’s right, next week is the musical episode and I CANNOT WAIT.
Kelli: I am so here for Toni and Cheryl’s romance, not just their cute kiss but also them being all hand-holdy in the student lounge. I like that they don’t seem to be keeping it any kind of scandalous secret, which is the sort of thing a show like this might have done if it had come out just a couple of years ago (and admittedly what they’ve done with the Kevin and Moose plot). Speaking of Kevin/romance, can we bring Joaquin back already? Please?
Also speaking of Kevin: I’m interested to see what his vision will be for Carrie, and I’m both excited and terrified at the prospect of a Riverdale musical episode. I love musical episodes, but also, almost all of the musical moments on this show thus far have been utter trash. It’s quite possible that we have only one day to prepare ourselves for 45 minutes worth of the Mad World pole dancing sequence. Get ready, y’all.
Mary: This episode was fine. I’m over the mobster stuff, and that’s saying a lot. I had a bit of a mobster phase in high school. I watched The Godfather a lot and read a webcomic about teenagers embroiled in the mob. I read YA novels about mafioso teens. All that, and I’m tired of the Lodges’s antics. The mafia storyline feels forced in Riverdale, and I’m not sure why the writers felt it was needed.
I’m also glad Chic is out of the picture, though I suspect he’ll be back, and I also suspect he’s FP’s son, which might mean some bad things are on the horizon for Betty and Jughead. I mean, would you want to date your half brother’s half brother? Maybe, but also maybe not.