Riverdale Recap: Holiday Horrors

The mid-season finale of Riverdale is upon us and the holidays are anything but merry. Betty and Archie find themselves facing off against the Black Hood, but is it truly over? Jughead takes it upon himself to save his newfound Serpent family from the clutches of the Penny the snake charmer. Cheryl learns her family may not be having a Faberge egg Christmas this year, and everyone exchanges gifts regardless of relationship status. “Chapter Twenty-Two: Silent Night, Deadly Night” was written by Shepard Boucher and directed by Rob Seidenglanz. Here’s what happened.

FINGER OF ACCUSATION | Betty’s (Lili Reinhart) anxiety about the Black Hood is at an all time high and now it includes holiday themed nightmares. Her anxiety is only matched by Archie’s (K.J. Apa) guilt over not being able to stop the Black Hood from hurting the people he cares about. The pair share in their misery at school and notice that Mr Svenson (guest star Cameron McDonald) the janitor, aka Joseph Conway, has been missing for a few days under the guise of being sick. But when they check out his house, they turn up nothing but a never-touched pot of soup on the porch. Betty returns home to find Alice (Mädchen Amick) in full super-mom mode baking cookies just in case Polly comes home for the holidays and informs Betty that she has a gift upstairs from her “Secret Santa”. Betty is understandably confused and even though she has already received a Secret Santa gift, and there is a serial killer on the loose with a habit of sending her things, she decides to open the box. Merry Christmas it’s a severed finger! With Archie now, she reads the note clarifying, just in case they weren’t clear, that the finger belongs to Svenson and her job is to find the “final truth” and reveal it to the town. As if sensing they were talking about him, the Black Hood calls to give her more cryptic ‘clarification’ to “find where the primal sin was committed.”

Archie remembers that before Svenson was Svenson, he was Joseph Conway and lived at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy so they head there to try and gleam any information they can about what this “primal sin” might be. The Sisters are less than forthcoming but with a little threat of exposure from Betty, they open right up. It would seem that while Joseph pointed a finger at who he thought was the man guilty of killing his family, upon later reflection he began doubting himself and believed he led to an innocent man being murdered by the handful of townsfolk who decided to take matters into their own hands. The Sisters don’t remember who those townsfolk were but they do remember the single woman in the group; a woman with white hair save for a single cherry red streak. Recognizing the spot on description of a young Nana Rose Blossom, Betty and Archie head to the Blossom’s next where they interrogate Nana Rose (guest star Barbara Wallace) while Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) looks on. She tells them that she waited at home while the men buried the “bad man” alive under a particularly creepy looking tree. And to make matters worse, Betty’s grandfather was one of them. Outside in the car, Betty tells Archie she remembers an old picture that may be of that group with shovels under a tree and that they should be able to find that picture at her house. Before they leave they share a kiss in the stressed moment that Cheryl absolutely sees. That’s what they get for kissing well within her ‘drama senses’ range.

At Betty’s they find the picture (how anyone thought it was anything other than a group of men burying a body is beyond me) and Archie recognizes the park. They head straight there, calling the sheriff on their way. They arrive to find the freshly dug grave of Joseph Conway but when they dig it up, they find the box empty. That’s when the hear a gun cock and the turn to see the Black Hood with a gun to Betty’s head. He makes Archie get in the box and has Betty close it and start to shovel dirt on top. They are interrupted by the sounds of sirens and Betty uses the momentary distraction to absolutely brain the Black Hood with the shovel. He drops the gun and takes off running and once Betty gets Archie back above ground, they give chase, Archie with the Black Hood’s discarded gun in hand. They chase him to the docks where he tries to escape, ignoring the gun Archie now has pointed at him. Arriving just in time, Sheriff Keller (Martin Cummins) shoots the Black Hood, killing him. He comes over and removes the hood, revealing it to be Svenson, missing finger and all. None of them can wrap their minds around it even later at Pop’s as they try to make sense of it all. Later that night, Betty sneaks downstairs to burn the contents of her Murder Box but can’t bring herself to burn the hood (she has for some reason) because she senses, as we all do, that there is no way this is over.

INDENTURED SERPENT | Now that F.P. (Skeet Ulrich) is home and has retaken control of the Serpents, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) is determined to help get them out from under the control of Penny (guest star Brit Morgan). F.P. doesn’t want his son anywhere near this and refuses to let him be part of any Serpent business beyond the holiday Toys For Tots the Serpents do. He even goes as far as calling up Sweet Pea (Jordan Connor) instead of Jughead when they need extra hands on a mysterious and shady run for Penny. The trailer is paid a visit by F.P.’s parole officer and that is the final straw for Jughead who confronts his dad when he gets home. While this particular seemingly shady bag is just gifts, it could have just as easily been drugs or worse and Jughead isn’t going to stand by and watch the Serpents be destroyed by Penny. He calls the younger Serpents together to join him in taking down Penny once and for all. The other Baby Snakes (as I’ve taken to calling them) aren’t quite on board but when Toni (Vanessa Morgan) steps in and reminds them Serpents are ride or die, they put their metaphorical hands in. They jump Penny and take her to Greendale where Jughead tells her she isn’t welcome in Riverdale anymore. She tries to use a similar tactic of Serpents are forever and shows off her tattoo but Jughead ‘solves’ that problem by having the Baby Snakes hold her down while he cuts the tattoo off her arm (as you do). Proud of himself, he returns to Riverdale to tell his dad everything is how it should be now but F.P. is pretty certain Penny isn’t the type to stay down for long.

SECRET SANTAS | There are very few folks in Riverdale having an actual Merry Christmas. On top of the serial killer in their midst, the teenagers are all having lovers’ quarrels, the families are having squabbles, and one Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) is drowning in hospital bills to the tune of $86,000 (WOOF). While Veronica (Camila Mendes) didn’t get Archie as her secret santa, she still has a Christmas present for him and gives him a very expensive engraved watch. She doesn’t want things to feel forced between them even though they are broken up and he tells her it’s not her, it’s everything, and confides in her about his dad’s money troubles. She wants to help but he just brushes her off. At home, she tells her parents about it and wants to use Lodge Industries to help but Hiram (Mark Consuelos) shuts it down immediately. Determined to do something, Veronica sneaks into her dad’s office and ends up finding the paperwork showing he bought Pop’s and has been lying to her about it this whole time.  So she does what anyone would do – steals her mom’s black card and calls up the hospital and pays Fred’s entire medical bill as an anonymous donor. The bank absolutely calls Hermione (Marisol Nichols) immediately to make sure this charge of $86,000 is real and she and Hiram confront Veronica about it when they get home. Veronica throws the lie about Pop’s in their face and demands to be included in family business if her name is going to be on family business documents and surprisingly they actually agree. Of course all these secrets are spilled behind closed doors from us the audience but whatever they told her, Veronica is on board with as long as she is not a part of anything illegal and Fred gets to keep their ‘donation’. Veronica later goes to Archie’s where she tells him she loves him and they share a kiss on the porch. Of course someone is taking stalker-style photos of them because this is Riverdale after all.

HARD-CANDY CHRISTMAS | All the tragedy and scandal the Blossoms dealt with last season seems to have taken its toll this holiday season. Cheryl is all about the Christmas, excited to decorate the house as she’s accustomed to but Penelope (Nathalie Boltt) bursts her bubble with the news that they are broke. Broke for the Blossoms is probably still pretty rich but that is neither here nor there. Cheryl isn’t about to let that stop her so she goes out and buys a tree and all the trimmings much to her mother’s fury. Christmas morning isn’t quite what Cheryl is used to when she finds her mother on the couch doing her own rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”.

OTHER THOUGHTS:
• I never knew how much I needed a duet between Kevin (Casey Cott) and Josie (Ashleigh Murray) of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” but now that I have it I am obsessed with it.
• Leave it to Hermione Lodge to call plausible deniability a way to get around the “illegal” aspect of anything.
• I know we had no time but I would have really enjoyed a scene of Toni, Sweet Pea, and the other Baby Snakes delivering toys to kids.

So what did you think? Is the Black Hood really dead and gone? Will Archie and Betty keep their kiss a secret? Is Penny really going to stay away? What did the Lodges reveal to Veronica behind closed doors? Let us know your theories in the comments below!

Riverdale returns Wednesday, January 17th at 8/7c on The CW!