Pep Talk: Riverdale Episode 307, "The Man in Black"

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Riverdale 307 Man in Black

The boys from Riverdale fled across the country, and the Man in Black followed.

Archie (KJ APA) and Jughead (COLE SPROUSE) have headed out on foot, following Archie's escape from a corrupt juvenile detention facility. Despite Archie's exoneration and reversal of the verdict, Archie still has to be on the run or run the risk of Hiram Lodge (MARK CONSUELOS) finding him. It was Hiram who set him up for a murder rap in the first place, and the mob boss isn't about to let Archie free so easily.

The two friends find themselves in the town of Athens after several days of walking. It's nearly a ghost town, devoid of any men. Junk cars line the streets, girls strung out on Fizzle Rocks play G&G, and fresh grafitti mimics the symbology of the Gargoyle King. Jughead knows things are wrong here, and needs to tell Archie, who is working on a nearby farm for lodging, and getting closer to the girl who runs it, Laurie Lake (RILEY KEOUGH). What they uncover is the town is under the thumb of the so-called Man in Black, who is building a prison using the indentured servitude of all the men -- a prison where he also develops and distributes the Fizzle Rocks drug.

And the Man in Black is coming for Archie. Because the Man in Black is none other than Hiram Lodge.

In the second vignette of tonight's drama, Veronica (CAMILA MENDES) is finding that owning Pop's and running the speakeasy at night is simply not making the money that it should. So she decides to have a casino night, with the help of her friend Elio (JULIAN HAIG). But her new friend's help may spell the financial end of Veronica's dream, when she determines he's using the night to cheat her all the way into bankruptcy. Fortunately for our girl, she has one ace up her sleeve, and it all comes down to a single harrowing hand of blackjack.

Finally, we catch up with Betty (LILI REINHART), who has been committed to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, where things are quite hellish for our little detective. The sisters are passing out "candy" which is a daily ration of Fizzle Rocks. They bunk her with Ethel Muggs (SHANNON PURSER) who is still very much in thrall to the Gargoyle King. When Betty's resourcefulness leads her to discover the source of the Fizzle Rocks, as well as the experimentation performed on all the girls, she attempts an escape, only to be brought face-to-face with the Gargoyle King, and the Betty we leave behind is not the Betty we know and love.

It's a very unsettling episode of RIVERDALE, which makes quite clear that Hiram Lodge is the devil incarnate. It also presents all this evidence to witnesses who are unreliable: a teenaged runaway, a clinically insane girl, and his estranged and legally compromised daughter. Will Hiram ever face justice? And who, exactly, is the Gargoyle King? The writers have definitely ratcheted up the tension this season, and succeed in bringing viewers back.

But I'd dearly love one tiny throwaway scene of a blur of lightning rushing past for no reason during next week's ELSEWORLDS crossover of the other CW shows...

4.5 / 5.0