Pep Talk: Riverdale Episode 207, "Tales from the Darkside"

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Jughead and Farmer McGinty (Cole Sprouse, Tony Todd)

The writers take some chances in the telling of this episode of Riverdale, beginning with the opening presentation, done in a crime documentary style. It then splits the episode into three vignettes, all happening simultaneously.

The Black Hood has left a note on the door of Pop Tate's diner, giving the citizens of Riverdale 24 hours to live a sin-free life. That doesn't seem so much to ask.

In the first vignette, Jughead gets a call from Penny Peabody, the "Snake Charmer" lawyer to whom he owes a favor. She's calling it in. She says Jug's father, FP, got beat up in prison by Goolies who are angry that they got arrested after street racing with Jughead and Archie last episode. She says they need to get him out faster, and they need money for that to grease the wheels of justice. And since Jughead has no money, she will have him do a job for her and take his cut of the money as payment. He has to deliver a crate to Greendale.

Needing a truck, Jughead turns to Archie and says that Arch owes him for having called the cops on that race. Archie agrees to use hid dad's truck to carry the crate to Greendale. On the way, however, the truck blows a tire, and they find themselves at the mercy of a mysterious stranger, who offers to take one of them--and the crate--to Greendale, for cash. The farmer (guest appearance from TONY TODD, Review: THE MAN FROM EARTH), listens to radio evangelists who extoll the virtues of the Black Hood's actions, and tells Jughead the tale of the Riverdale Reaper, and how the Black Hood might be the same man. He then tries to ditch Jughead at a diner and take the crate for himself, except that Archie shows up in time to save him. They complete delivery of the crate to a creepy old couple in black leather and berets, where Jughead learns he's not doing a one-time thing, but is the appointed regularly delivery boy.

The next morning, Jughead visits his father in prison--and FP is just fine. Penny played Jughead. Worse, she has video of Jughead and Archie making the drop, and she blackmails Jughead into servitude.

The second vignette is, if possible, even creepier. It follows Josie McCoy, who has been rehearsing after school, by herself and without the Pussycats. Only janitor Svenson knows she is there, and he keeps her secret. It seems that Josie is being scouted by a music talent agency, but they're only interested in her as a solo act. The only other person who knows this is Cheryl Blossom, who made the connections for Josie.

Josie's been getting secret admirer gifts in her locker, with notes, and she thinks it's Chuck Clayton. Of course she won't date Chuck, because it's well known he's a serial sexual harrasser, who got suspended from school. However, Chuck claims he is trying to change, and has been taking classes and attending church -- all verifiable. And when Josie finds herself scared and alone in an empty school, with nobody but Chuck, she turns to him for a ride home, which involves a stop at the diner first. Mayor McCoy interrupts the date, however, as she has been extremely concerned for Josie's safety with the Black Hood on the loose (and the letters she's been receiving that have begun to specifically mention Josie).

The next day Josie gets another letter -- a drawing of her portrait with text: IF I CAN'T HAVE YOU, NO ONE CAN. And in the accompanying box -- a pig's heart. Cheryl, who is with Josie when they find the box, takes Josie to confront Chuck, who denies it. But when Josie confirms the accusation, Svenson forcibly escorts Chuck to Weatherbee's office.

That vignette concludes Josie having a nightmare about having her throat slit by the Black Hood. And at the Blossom residence, we see Cheryl sitting up in bed, sketching. It's a portrait of Josie and Cheryl, together. Looks like Cheryl Blossom has a Josie-crush. Can we ship "Joryl," or with that milkshake just bring all the CW SUPERGIRL fans to the yard?

Finally, we follow Betty and Veronica as they sleuth for clues following Betty's hunch that the identity of the Black Hood might just be Sheriff Keller. Betty thinks it explains why the Sugarman was able to be shot to death in a holding cell at the sheriff's office by the Black Hood. Veronica thinks Keller definitely has a secret, but her intuition says that it's an affair, since the Sheriff is living alone while his wife is stationed overseas.

To prove things out, Veronica arranges a sleepover at Kevin's house, where we learn Kevin is something of a roleplaying-gamer, much to Veronica's chagrin and boredom. She takes the opportunity to probe around the Keller house, and finds the Sheriff in the basement, working out, but gets no more information than that. She does, however, see the Sheriff leave much later that night, returing at four in the morning.

For Betty, that time window aligns perfectly with a reported death of a drug dealer, but Veronica still doesn't believe it. So Betty does her own sleuthing this time, waiting for the Sheriff to leave before finding the key to his house and entering. She unlocks the study doors that blocked Veronica before (with a hairpin, of course), and finds a conspiracy wall -- newspaper articles about the Black Hood, photos of people labelled "Sinners" -- and in his drawer, a black hood.

And that's when Sheriff Keller finds her.

Turns out that Keller has an explanation. It's research into the case, and the hood is the one he took from Archie's locker several days ago. He offers Betty a look at his log book to prove his whereabouts at the time of all the other murders. But Betty is still suspicious. So she and Veronica tail the Sheriff on his next wee-hours trip, following him to the local motel where they take photos.

It turns out Veronica was the one with the correct instincts. Sheriff Keller is indeed having an affair.

With Mayor McCoy.

Back at Pop's, all six teens are present, paired off. And Pop gets a phone call.

"That was him on the phone. The Black Hood. He says that we've failed his test. That we're all sinners. That the reckoning is upon us."

Creepily told, and full of suspense, this was an exciting episode of RIVERDALE to watch, and gives us even more depth and darkness to the characters.

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0