During season 2 of Riverdale, the show has toyed with horror movie elements and conventions with The Black Hood’s reign of terror. In this episode entitled “Tales from the Darkside” Riverdale fully submerges into horror. The show breaks up its usual format and instead breaks things up into three character-centric stories all of which are tremendously and incredibly bone-chilling. Riverdale still might be at its best when its more fun than frightening. Still as a creepy experimental and quasi-filler episode “Tales from the Darkside” is one of the more memorable Riverdale installments.
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Archie and Jughead’s Nightmare Road Trip
The first of the trio vignettes concerns Jughead and Archie, but really just the former as it’s yet another story of Jughead getting in deep with the Serpents. This is becoming more than a little repetitive but Jughead’s story does set the right (terrifying) tone for everything that follows in the episode. That’s mainly because Penny Peabody returns. “The Snake Charmer” is back to get the favor that Jughead owes her and it doesn’t take long for Jug to get way over his head.
Jughead ropes Archie into his task from Penny, which is picking up a mysterious crate and dropping it off in Greendale to the most ridiculous foreign stereotypes Riverdale can imagine. (Even if the show is being extra creepy, it’s not devoid of its odd sense of humor.) Before Jughead and Archie can meet their vaguely Russian recipients, their car breaks down in the middle of the road and they’re “helped” by a enigmatic stranger played by character actor Tony Todd.
The stranger couldn’t be more cliched and all he does is deliver some exposition to Jughead. (Evidently there used to be a serial killer decades ago in town and he was called the Riverdale Reaper.) However, because Tony Todd is playing the role and just the right horror movie cliches are used, the stranger goes from creepy to terrifying awfully quick. Every scene with Jughead and the stranger is incredibly tense but it turns out the horrors are just beginning for the young serpent.
After Jughead drops off the crate, he learns that this “favor” isn’t just a one-time deal. Whatever Jughead is dealing (presumably jingle jangle) is now a weekly arrangement and there’s no chance of him getting out of it. Penny Peabody recorded Archie and Jughead making the delivery and she’ll go public with it, if Jughead doesn’t do everything she wants from him. This is all because of revenge for “something” F.P. did but that doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that Penny Peabody just rocketed to the top of the scariest Riverdale characters and she didn’t have to engage in attempted murderer to do it.
Josie in the Red Widow’s Web
Shocking, not because it’s undeserved but because Riverdale routinely ignores her, the second tale is given over to Josie. Cheryl is involved, in a huge way, but this is all Josie and it’s as fantastic as it is creepy. Josie, evidently, has been getting mysterious (and sometimes creepy) messages in her locker from a secret admirer. This, along with the fact that she’s breaking away from the Pussycats and her mother has become such a helicopter parent (she’s liable to chop off Josie’s head with one of her blades) is putting a lot of stress on Josie.
However, there does seem to be a bright spot when Chuck Clayton shows genuine interest in Josie. Evidently, since his horrific appearance in season 1 when he was one of Riverdale‘s first sexual abusers, Chuck has reformed and is trying to be not a monster anymore. It seems like a real transformation too, but once Mayor McCoy and Cheryl find out about Josie’s (honestly) sweet connection with Chuck, they go berserk.
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Mayor McCoy forbids Josie from ever seeing Chuck again. Meanwhile, Cheryl does her hyper-aggressive Cheryl thing and pins all of Josie’s creepy love notes she’s been getting on Chuck. Chuck is confused and hurt because he’s not behind it at all. Cheryl, however, is quite pleased because it’s implied, though not confirmed, by the end of the vignette that Cheryl is Josie’s secret admirer stalker. Between this reveal and Penny’s blackmail, Riverdale is completely undermining the threat of the Black Hood. Crazy Cheryl and crazy for revenge Penny just became way more interesting antagonists.
Betty and Veronica in the Mysterious Case of Best Friend’s Dad
Sadly, Riverdale has not completely abandoned the Black Hood storyline. The last story, which is oddly the most humorous, tackles the Hood head-on. After Kevin confesses that his father is acting strangely, Betty and Veronica become convinced of two theories. Betty believes that Sheriff Keller is the Black Hood and Veronica thinks he’s having an affair while Mrs. Keller is away at war (which should be news to everyone watching Riverdale).
Mrs. Keller’s existence (and occupation) aren’t the only surprises in store. Throughout Veronica and Betty dual investigations, which are effectively played for laughs, it’s discovered that Sherriff Keller not only has a surprisingly jacked bod but a wall devoted the Black Hood case and his own black hood. While Keller has explanations for all of this (the hood is Archie’s and he is after all the Sheriff so he would be devoted the case) Betty’s not convinced.
Betty and Veronica continue to stalk the sheriff and follow him to a motel late at night. This is when the real bombshell drops. One of the girls is right but it’s Veronica, not Betty. Sheriff Keller is having an affair with Mayor McCoy. It’s much less impactful than Riverdale thinks it is because Mrs. Keller hasn’t been mentioned before this episode, but it’s still intriguing that Betty and Veronica decide to keep this secret for Kevin’s protection.
All of this comes right before The Black Hood’s newest message, where he promises that the reckoning is finally arriving. Yeah sure, pal we’ll all believe it when you kill more than two people.
What did you think of this unusual Riverdale episode? Which character-centric story was your favorite? Do you think Cheryl truly is Josie’s stalker? How did you feel about Penny Peabody?
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(Image courtesy of The CW)