Riverdale has been toying with this notion of Dark Archie since season 2 began. It’s been a tricky concept that the show has pulled off well. Despite increasingly scary behavior, Archie hasn’t lost his wholesome, innocent charm. In this episode, entitled “The Town That Dreaded Sundown,” that situation is truly tested. Archie goes further than ever but thankfully Riverdale manages to pull things back before the character, or the show for that matter, go too far. Archie goes over the edge, but it’s only the edge for Archie.

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Red Circle Revolution 

Archie’s Red Circle video goes over as well as can expected, which is not at all. The entire town sees it as a exactly what it was meant to be, an act of vigilante justice (and also a kid that has no idea what he’s doing). The moment the Red Circle video hits the web, Archie becomes a bit of a pariah and the whole circle disbands (except for Dilton Doiley because that boy is a straight creep). 

Veronica even starts to pull away from Archie, until she learns that Hiram is the one really behind Archie’s erratic behavior. Veronica’s terrifically fun rage for her father is reignited. So Veronica takes The Red Circle into her own hands and turns into a full social movement (with low cut t-shirts included) among the students. She makes vigilante justice hip and cool. No number of shirts with swooping necklines can quench Archie’s bloodlust however. Archie ends up putting himself out there more and more determined to grab the Black Hood’s attention. instead all he does attract is the attention of the Southside Serpents. 

The Black Hood has done more than make people paranoid, it’s also severely stirred up tensions between the two sides of town. This hasn’t been helped by Riverdale‘s resident pot stirrer (and the best source of ridiculous melodrama) Alice Cooper. North and South side blame each for The Hood. This whole class warfare thing falls rather flat as it comes off as a (failed) attempt by Riverdale to be current and political. At one point,Toni Topaz calls the Red Circle “Neo Nazis,” which is beyond out of left field. Riverdale works as best as its own little soapy reality with incredibly sexy “teenagers.” There’s no need to get any real world issues.

Black Hood Bait

While Archie is trying to spark a class war, Betty gets a mysterious letter in the school mail. It’s reportedly from The Black Hood. In the letter The Hood explains that he’s doing all of this because of Betty’s speech from season 1 where she said the town had to “do better.” The Hood believes himself to be this cleansing fire and he wants Betty to be the Clarice to his Hannibal Lecter. He even includes a cipher that only Betty can crack about his next attack. 

The Southside versus Northside conflict might’ve fallen a bit flat, but this is a rather brilliant move. Betty’s investigative skills were a highlight of season 1 so to have the killer purposely target her and have it be an intimate cat and mouse game is fantastic. Even if Betty isn’t truly communicating with the Black Hood and that’s a very genuine possibility. Jughead points out that the communication with the public goes against his M/O. Regardless, it’s a great use of Betty. It even makes the otherwise cliched story of Betty being jealous over Jughead’s friendship with Toni more interesting. The Toni situation just becomes another plate Betty needs to spin, rather than her own story.

Eventually Betty does figure out the cipher, determining it comes from a Nancy Drew book she loved as a child. (A very suspicious and specific clue about The Black Hood.) Betty decodes that the message and discovers that The Hood is planning on targeting the school gym (where an emergency town hall meeting is taking place). Betty and Jughead rush in and dramatically announce this fact which averts anyone dying. Ms. Cooper isn’t out of the woods yet, however, because immediately afterwards her phone rings. On the other line is The Black Hood. 

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Stabbed

While Betty’s story ends on a cliffhanger, Archie’s tale comes to a bit more of a conclusion. Archie’s erratic behavior reaches a fever pitch when he aims a gun at a Southside Serpent’s head. (K.J. Apa continues to do a great job of toeing the line between scared kid Archie and crazed maniac Archie.) This act gets Archie suspended from school. Yet being confronted by the principal and not ratting out the other kids, convinces the rest of the Red Circle, aka Reggie and a bunch of meaty extras, to come back to Archie.

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This is just in time too. Reggie arrives at Archie’s house to make amends (where Veronica is also present) right before the Southside Serpents arrive. The Serpents want a huge fight but Veronica negotiates things down to just a brawl (there’s a difference) with no weapons. (Veronica, no matter the situation, is always in charge and it’s wonderful.) The rules set, The Red Circle and The Serpents rumble, in the pouring down rain, in almost complete slow motion. It might just be the most homoerotic fight scene in TV history. 

The fight comes to a halt when someone (Dilton? A Serpent? It’s unclear.) pulls out a knife and Dilton Doiley ends up gets stabbed (in the leg). Sadly, he will survive to creep another day. Veronica then shoots off Archie’s gun, causing everyone to scatter. The good thing about the fight is that it finally convinces Archie that he’s gone too far. If Archie had the gun he thinks he would have killed someone. It’s too much. With Veronica by his side, Archie throws the gun into Sweetwater River and determines that this isn’t him. So ends Riverdale‘s Dark Archie arc … probably. 

But what do you think? Is Archie truly going to mellow out now? Was the fight enough? Do you think Betty is talking to the real Black Hood? How do you feel about this new North vs. South storyline?

Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW. Want more news? Like our Riverdale Facebook page!

(Image courtesy of The CW)

Derek Stauffer

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Derek is a Philadelphia based writer and unabashed TV and comic book junkie. The time he doesn’t spend over analyzing all things nerdy he is working on his resume to be the liaison to the Justice League.