On this very special musical episode of Riverdale, titled “Chapter-31: A Night to Remember,” as the students of Riverdale High prepare for the school musical, a menacing, mysterious presence threatens leading-lady Cheryl as well as the whole production, Alice and Hal reunite, Archie draws a line in the sand with Hiram and the Black Hood returns.
I’m not generally a fan of gimmick-y episodes, but doing a musical episode seems like a more natural progression for Riverdale. The show has a theatricality to it and musical numbers have already been infused from the start. I’ve certainly never recapped one, but there’s a first time for everything. So “throw your mittens around your kittens and away we go” (Grease).
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Phantom of Riverdale High
It’s time for the school musical, Carrie: The Musical. I didn’t realize such a piece of “art” existed, but this was a real off-Broadway production that closed after just five performances. Carrie is a novel written by Stephen King about a young, sheltered woman with telekinetic powers named Carrie White. Carrie is tortured by her classmates and her mother who happens to be a religious fanatic.
But after one particularly cruel incident, the nice girl of the bunch, Sue Snell, convinces her popular boyfriend, Tommy Ross, to take Carrie to the prom as a way to make amends. Carrie’s elected prom queen as a hoax, so mean girl Chris Hardegen dumps pig’s blood all over Carrie during her shining moment. This leads to Carrie killing her entire high school class by trapping them in the gym and setting it ablaze. Bleak material for a high-school musical but apropos since this is Riverdale — a town besieged of late by mobsters and murderers.
The first song, “In,” which is about popularity and acceptance, is sung by the entire core cast as they head out to school and their first rehearsal. They converge on the stage where director Kevin holds the rehearsal. Archie is playing Tommy Ross, Betty is playing Sue, Veronica is taking on the role of Chris and Cheryl is taking on the title role. Along with the students, Kevin has recruited Alice Cooper to play Mrs. White because he finds age-inappropriate casting to be amateurish. Although Jughead is not participating in the musical, Kevin has asked him to chronicle all the backstage drama for a documentary.
Jughead interviews Chuck Clayton, questioning why he is participating in the musical, and Chuck answers that he’s trying to reform his image.
Things are still strained between Ronnie, Archie, Jughead and Betty, but Archie points out to Betty that they need to put things aside as a favor to Kevin, and he hopes they can do that as painlessly as possible. Betty isn’t ready to forgive and forget her bestie’s lies, conspiring with her parents and betraying them all. From where Betty sits, Ronnie is just as privileged, selfish, spiteful and mean girl as the character she’s portraying.
Cheryl addresses the rumblings she’s heard that some members of the ensemble (Josie) think she’s not fit to play or sing the role of Carrie. So, she decides to burst into the song, “Carrie,” to demonstrate her vocal skills, and Cheryl’s got pipes. She wins over most of her doubters, but not a minute after completing her number, she’s almost hit by a falling piece of equipment, a sandbag.
Kevin reveals to Jughead that after Cheryl’s brush with death, he found a letter in his locker from someone claiming to be the Black Hood. Kevin thinks it has to be a hoax. Why would the Black Hood, who was shot dead by Sheriff Keller, demand that the role of Carrie be recast? Even conspiracy-theorist Jughead thinks it’s small-time for the Black Hood, and Kevin swears Jughead to secrecy about the correspondence. After all, the show must go on.
Jughead shows the letter to Betty who doesn’t see how it can be legit. Jughead doesn’t think it’s from the Black Hood, but he believes the threat could be real. They agree somebody wants Cheryl out of the way and go about trying to figure out who the culprit could be. Betty questions Ethel, pointing out that Ethel must be angry that Kevin would give the role to Cheryl without even letting her audition. Ethel admits she’s a little upset. She spots Jughead filming them and realizes Betty is trying to bait her into admitting she may have been responsible for the “accident” that almost brained the leading lady. Ethel makes it clear that she’s not a violent person, and she’d never do anything to hurt another person for her own benefit.
The central focus of the episode may be the musical, and its parallels to what’s going on in the cast’s lives, but the occasional non-musical interlude is necessary to move things forward. Archie has a conversation with Ronnie about keeping his new wheels stashed at the Pembrooke until he breaks the news to Fred about Hiram’s lavish gift.
Hermione speaks to her husband about the election, wondering if Fred actually stands a chance of winning. Hiram sees a fissure in Fred’s platform which is based on family values with none of his family by his side. Mary’s gone, and Archie and Fred have never been so distant. Hiram thinks their best bet is to keep them that way.
Given Josie’s animosity towards Cheryl after Penelope revealed Cheryl was Josie’s stalker, the former Pussycat front woman is playing Miss Gardner, a gym teacher, who has a lot of empathy towards Carrie. But Cheryl can’t take the fakeness and admits to Josie that everything she did was legit crazy. Her excuse is that she was wrestling with some dark, Carrie White-like demons. Cheryl gives Josie a heartfelt apology and begs for her forgiveness. They sing the song, “Unsuspecting Hearts,” which is about friendship, and by the end, the two hug, signifying that Josie appears willing to let Cheryl’s Fatal Attraction-like behavior go.
Veronica does an impressive rendition of “The World According to Chris,” a song about getting ahead at any cost. Kevin gives Ronnie props for totally nailing it, but Betty doesn’t think it’s much of a stretch for Veronica who Betty is convinced is the embodiment of Chris. Betty calls Ronnie out for being rich, bad to the bone and a girl with daddy issues trying to control everyone around her, including her best friend and boyfriend.
Archie takes Betty aside and questions how she can be so mean to Veronica, especially since Betty doesn’t understand the pressure Ronnie’s under at home. Betty wants Archie to clarify things for her, so she can let things go, but Archie doesn’t think it’s his place. He reminds Betty how quickly Veronica forgave her after she said all of those horrible things to appease the Black Hood.
The singing continues with a ballad between Archie and Betty’s characters, and all I can say is Archie’s voice has never been particularly strong but compared to the other characters — those whose vocal stylings we’ve been exposed to and those we haven’t — he falls even flatter.
Archie’s chat has the intended effect. Betty seeks out Ronnie and makes amends with a song, “You Shine” which is an ode to inner beauty.
Hiram Goes Too Far
Once Hiram learns from his daughter that Archie’s keeping his wheels at the Pembrooke to avoid a confrontation with his father, he can’t wait to break the news to Fred. Fred doesn’t give Hiram the satisfaction of reacting. Instead, he acts as if he knew about the gift all along. But Hiram’s meddling has the desired affect. Archie tries to blow the whole thing off as no big deal, but Fred had plans. He wanted to take Archie to the junkyard to pick up some old jalopy they could have fixed up together.
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Cheryl’s Pushed Out of the Spotlight
Kevin may have been able to blow off the sandbag barely missing Cheryl as an accident and the first letter as a joke, but things are escalating. It’s another letter warning Kevin to replace Cheryl or the leading lady will get hurt. Kevin feels he has no choice but to recast the role. Chery isn’t about to succumb to “thespian terrorism.” After all the fires she’s walked though, Cheryl wants everyone to see her in the spotlight — a Phoenix rising from the ashes.
In the midst of their conversation, Penelope arrives. It seems that in order to participate in the musical, Cheryl needs her mother’s approval, and Penelope has told Weatherbee that Cheryl doesn’t have her approval. Penelope promises that Cheryl playing out her “matricidal revenge fantasy” is never going to happen.
Kevin announces to the rest of the cast that due ot unforseen circumstances, Cheryl won’t be playing Carrie. The role now goes to Cheryl’s understudy, Midge.
Toni comforts Cheryl, insisting that it’s time for the red-headed vixen to show Penelope who’s in charge. Cheryl isn’t sure she has any fight left in her anymore. She’s no longer the girl who burned down Thornhill and cut off mommy dearest’s oxygen. Toni reassures Cheryl that she’s not done playing Carrie White, not by a longshot. And for those who don’t know, Carrie murders her crazy mother at the end of the story.
Alice’s 19th Nervous Breakdown
During rehearsals, Alice breaks down. She’s tried to reach Chic who isn’t returning her calls. Not that she blames him since she threw him out. She gave him away after he was born, and she’s done it again. Alice is worried Betty will leave her. Betty tries to comfort her mom, but Alice is the woman on the brink. She’s driven everyone she cares about away. She and Hal are still fighting over some unspoken thing that happened years ago, and her bond with Betty has never been so frayed. Even F.P. is icing her out after their rendevous.
Betty knows her mother has always been on the verge, and Betty tells Jughead she has to do something to help Alice. She’s never seen the woman feeling so alone and abandoned.
Archie reveals to Jughead that Kevin chose him to play Tommy Ross because like the character, Kevin sees Archie as loyal, selfless, a hero and a force for good. Archie doesn’t see himself as any of those things. Lately, he’s been going down a dark path, ignoring how much it hurts his dad.
Archie goes to see Hiram. He warns Hiram not to try to come between him and Fred because that’s a battle he’ll lose every time. Archie then returns the keys to the car.
Hanging with Mr. Cooper
Betty plays matchmaker and somehow convinces her dad to show up the morning of opening night with flowers for Alice. Alice is icy at the start, citing her allergy to the bouquet, but Hal perseveres. He wants to return home. Alice is willing to consider it, but there can’t be anymore secrets between them. She asks Betty to leave the room.
Will Alice tell Hal she hooked up with F.P.? About the murder of the Shady Guy? It’s not entirely clear, but it looks like the only thing Alice reveals is that Chic isn’t his son. Hal suspected as much anyway. I assumed Hal already knew myself because of his immediate dislike of the boy. Hal claims that their secrets can’t hurt them anymore, but since Alice didn’t tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, rocky times certainly lay ahead for the Coopers.
Archie’s Jalopy and Cheryl’s Rise from the Ashes
Archie has a surprise for Fred, He bought a piece of crap car — the shell of comic Archie’s beloved jalopy — and he hopes Fred is up for fixing it up.
Backstage, the cast, sans Cheryl, sees “A Night We’ll Never Forget” in nervous anticipation of the big opening. Meanwhile, Cheryl shows up at Thistlehouse covered in blood to confront Penelope. It’s a very dramatic gesture. Cheryl claims it’s Jason’s and Clifford’s blood, and the next to be spilled is her mother’s. She confronts Penelope about being in cahoots with Claudius, trying to kill Nana Rose and shipping her off to the nunnery from hell. Cheryl warns Penelope that all of this stops now. If Penelope so much as touches a hair on Nana Rose’s head, Cheryl will end her. In addition, Cheryl wants to be emancipated and have Thistlehouse all to herself and her grandmother. She throws Penelope and Claudius out.
Art Imitates Life
Practically the entire town comes out for the big night. The same ominous music that played in the original version of the movie Carrie, leading up to the pig’s blood incident, is the soundtrack. Jughead goes looking for Ethel for a final interview but finds her dressing room empty. In the trash, he discovers evidence that Ethel is the one who’s been threatening Cheryl — cut up magazines (the letters to Kevin were comprised of clippings). Ethel shows up and claims she knows what Jughead is thinking, but she used the magazines for her vision board. This could be true since Reggie and Midge are acting a bit shady and secretive as well.
There is a bit of good news for Chuck. Because of his exemplary behavior during rehearsals, Veronica declares that he’s no longer a pariah.
Chic makes an appearance and is as creepy as usual. He tells his sis to break a leg.
The show begins, and the audience gets a gruesome surprise. Midge is dead, pinned to the backdrop with knives, along with a message, “I am back from the dead. All those who escaped me before will die.” It’s signed, B.H. He’s claimed another victim. And the crowd goes wild.
Who will the Black Hood target next? What will happen when Hal learns about the murder of the Shady Man? Who do you think is the Black Hood? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW. Want more news? Visit our Riverdale page on Facebook.
(Image courtesy of The CW)
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Jennifer has worked as a freelance writer in the entertainment field since 2012. In addition to currently writing feature articles for Screen Rant, Jennifer has contributed content ranging from recaps to listicles to reviews for BuddyTV, PopMatters, TVRage, TVOvermind, and Tell-Tale TV. Links to some of Jennifer’s reviews can be found on Rotten Tomatoes.