Pep Talk: Riverdale 202, "Nighthawks"

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Riverdale 202, Nighthawks

This episode of RIVERDALE takes its name from the famous Edward Hopper painting; appropriate, since most of the action of this episode centers around Pop's Chock'lit Shop. It should be a "come together and save a landmark" kind of uplifting chapter in the series. But this is RIVERDALE, and so this is perhaps the darkest, most non-Archie-like episode yet.

Jughead (COLE SPROUSE) continues as the show's narrator, and we open with him approaching Pop's in the morning to see that someone has spraypainted "Death Diner" on the outside of it. Because that happens to a restaurant when someone gets shot in it all the time. Pop's staff has quit, but Betty (LILI REINHART) refuses to let the Chock'lit Shop go gently into that good night, and spends much of the episode looking for ways to save the diner, getting rebuffed both by Mayor McCoy (ROBIN GIVENS) and Cheryl Blossom (MADELAINE PETSCH). Fortunately, Betty can always count on Veronica (CAMILA MENDES) to have her back, and Veronica is looking for any excuse to stay out of the house now that her father, Hiram Lodge (MARK CONSUELOS) is back home.

Archie (KJ APA) has been spending sleepless nights with a baseball bat protecting his house, certain that "The Black Hood" is still out there. He's ready to attack anybody who comes in the house at night, including Jughead, whose father, FP Jones (SKEET ULRICH), is facing 20 years in prison for his part in Jason Blossom's death. And this is when Archie starts to truly be a role model for the high schoolers of America: he goes to Reggie Mantle (CHARLES MELTON) to make a drug buy. Yep, that practical joking, prank-pulling rival from the comics is, in RIVERDALE world, a drug dealer, and he's just made a sale with Midge Klump (EMILIJA BARANAC) for something called "Jingle Jangle" to help her and Moose Mason (CODY KEARSLEY). I guess Midge doesn't know about Moose's flirtation with his repressed gay side that we saw with Kevin Keller (CASEY COTT) in the series pilot episode. Archie wants some uppers, something that will keep him awake at night so he can continue to be alert.

And then Principal Weatherbee (PETER BRYANT) delivers the awful news to the class that Geraldine Grundy (SARAH HABEL) was found murdered. Archie's paranoia spikes. He's sure the killer is the same guy who shot his father, Fred Andrews (LUKE PERRY). And when the autopsy reveals she was not shot, but strangled with her own cello bow, Archie is more certain than ever that this is all about him. After all, he gave her that cello bow when they broke off their teacher/student affair.

Jughead, desperate for a way to find a better deal for his father than the one the public defender has gotten him, meets with a South Side Serpents lawyer named Penny Peabody (SUPERGIRL's Livewire, BRIT MORGAN). She's called a "snake handler" and she doesn't work on commissions, but on a favor basis. You can bet that this will lead to more drama down the road for our gang. She knows all the legal loopholes, and in FP's case, there are none. But she says if the victim's family can forgive him in front of a judge, he might get leniency.

Unfortunately, as Betty Cooper realizes, Cheryl Blossom has gone full-on Poison Ivy, and she and her mother would both rather see FP fry in the electric chair than to leave any loose ends dangling around reminding them of the sordid story of Jason's murder by Cheryl's father.

Veronica's home life continues to look more like a crime syndicate. She confronts Hiram about how she had defended him before only to learn he was a cruel man. As evidence, she whips out the letter he wrote that threatened her mother, Hermione (MARISOL NICHOLS), if Veronica didn't testify as a character witness for her father. And that's when Hermione claims Hiram didn't write the letter -- she did. Blackmail comes easy to the Lodge family, which we'll see more of later in this episode.

Betty, up against a wall for saving both FP and Pop's, turns once more to her dark side. She barges in on Cheryl in the locker room (where viewers get a gratuitous bra-and-panty shot of the psychologically scarred redhead) and straight-up extorts her for assistance. It turns out Betty kept a copy of the video of Daddy Blossom shooting Jason, and if Cheryl wants it all to go away like she says she does, then she'll help Jughead's dad with a testimony or the video will go viral. Also, she wants the Vixens cheer squad to help out at Pop's to clean it and staff it for a special night.

Pop's place does get saved, and Hiram and Hermione Lodge even show up to make a "charitable donation" to the establishment. But we later learn Hiram bought the place, and allowed Pop to stay on in exchange for his silence. In their snug little booth we also hear Hiram thank Hermione for taking the fall for that letter he actually did write. "Your loyalty knows no bounds," he tells her.

Also in attendance is Betty's mother, Alice Cooper (MADCHEN AMICK), who takes several photos as Reggie sells drugs in the parking lot and the South Side Serpents make an unprecedented appearance at Pop's. She later congratulates Betty on having saved the Chock'lit Shop: thanks to her, the Serpents have crossed the border, Lodge has a grip on the diner, and crime has a toe-hold in Riverdale.

And Archie? Well, he left the diner to have a meeting on the bridge with Dilton Doiley (MAJOR CURDA). See, Archie doesn't need the drugs to stay awake. He needs what Dilton can give him so he can sleep. So Archie has gone from setting up a drug deal to making a gun buy.

And he may just need it. Because that night, two more of Riverdale's own fall victim to the Black Hood. At the rate they're dropping, there may not be many original members of the cast left by mid-season.

3.5 / 5.0