Pep Talk: Riverdale Episode 204, "The Town That Dreaded Sundown"

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Riverdale, The Town That Dreaded Sundown

Archie's video of himself and The Red Circle has gone viral, and is making waves. Hermione Lodge forbids Veronica to continue dating him, his father wants the video removed (too late, it's already been shared), and Principal Weatherbee wants the Red Circle disbanded and a letter of apology to the community be signed, or else Archie will be suspended -- and he's eliminating the entire football team until this happens.

Even the South Side Serpents have seen the video, and they think Archie makes a fine target -- for Jughead! He can earn his stripes as a Serpent by bringing them Archie's head. They see the Black Hood as a hero, taking it to the Northsiders who have always looked down on them.

Meanwhile, Betty gets a letter from the Black Hood killer, crediting her with inspiring him on his mission to clean things up when she gave her speech at the town hall at the end of last season. He's also included a cipher for her to figure out, a test to see if she can guess his next move.

Reggie is angry that the football team is disbanded, and urges Archie to sign the letter of apology. But Archie doesn't want to send a message of weakness to the Black Hood, and wants to take things to the Black Hood's "home turf" -- the South Side. Reggie walks and takes the team with him, leaving behind only Dilton, who knows what Archie is planning and sends him to a place where he can get more material for his mission -- an Army/Navy surplus store on the edge of town.

Veronica speaks with her daddy, Hiram, to see how he may have inspired Archie to make this video. Hiram has convenient amnesia, of course, but Veronica comes away with a new mission: support Archie and expand the Red Circle. To that end, she designs t-shirts that get distributed to the entire school; white shirts displaying the prominent red circle logo.

Betty and Kevin Keller work to crack the cipher, while Jughead works at South Side high with Toni Topaz on the same thing. There's definitely tension building here as a triangle starts to develop between Jughead, Betty and Toni. Betty feels like she's seen the odd symbols before, but she just can't recall it.

Archie's foray into the South Side isn't as much a bravado move as a gang of red-hooded football players might have made, so he resorts to vandalism. He's tagging the area with large red circles -- and he gets confronted by Serpents. They pull a knife. He pulls his gun. And they run -- but the scene was witnessed, and Archie is called out of class later by Weatherbee and Sheriff Keller to search his locker. They don't find a gun -- but they do find a Black Hood, which is enough to get him barred from school property.

Mayor McCoy calls a town hall meeting, and all the adults are there presenting their sides. Alice Cooper wants to pin it all on the South Side and calls for their "drug-ridden" high school to be closed down and for the money to go toward more police. Fred Andrews calls for calm and urges the people not to take sides against each other, which prompts Hermione to remind Hiram that she told him Fred would be trouble.

Meanwhile, Betty has cracked the code, thanks to an old book she used to check out as a younger kid, and the message directs her to where it all began, which she interprets to be the town hall where she gave the speech. She and Jughead race there to get people out before the Black Hood can strike.

At Archie's place, Veronica comforts Archie when Reggie and the team show up with pizzas. Reggie is supporting Archie because Archie did not tell Weatherbee and Keller that the black hood was his, and that's major loyalty in Reggie's book. But the Riverdale Bulldogs aren't Archie's only visitors. The Serpents also come calling, and a street brawl ensues.

And after evacuating city hall, Betty returns home -- and gets a phone call from The Black Hood!

It's all very intriguing and exciting, but I've been wondering lately if the story would be just as compelling if the characters were not Archie Comics characters. Would we care as much if we weren't constantly asking, "What have they done to my beloved characters?" And how far can that tense dichotomy drive the series?

 

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0