“The Watcher in the Woods” is the third episode of Riverdale’s second season, and with sex jogging, poorly-named rival gangs, and even more jingle jangle, things in our favorite trash-fire of a town are only getting more trash-fire-y. This week, due to Halloween-related scheduling conflicts, Kelli and Mary skip their usual chat format and instead bring you a recap in two parts, with Mary’s take on the first half of the episode and Kelli’s on the second.
We’ve got a lot to cover, so buckle up, people — and make sure to grab your baseball bat.
Part One: Mary
As usual, Riverdale starts with some super dramatic action shot paired with a voiceover from Jughead, who is, as usual, a dramatic edgelord. We see a little flash of what was happening at the end of last episode (with Moose, Midge, and the killer). Kevin is there for some reason.
Cut to Veronica, who says that The Bachelorette (or “The Matchelorette,” because apparently the CW did not pay for rights usage) is more important than a serial killer on the loose. She wants the gang to come over to watch trashy reality TV—oh, and meet dearest daddy, who she’s trying to be nicer to. It all seems very suspicious. Rightfully, the gang mentions that, oh hey, THERE IS A KILLER ON THE LOOSE. Important things are happening in Riverdale. Archie seems just as crazy as ever.
Betty tracks down Kevin to ask him why he was in the woods. He says he was “night jogging,” which is a VERY thinly veiled way to say he was cruising for dudes in the woods. I was kind of skeptical—the woods, Kevin?!—but when we see the woods later in the episode, they’re beautiful and picturesque with a cute little bridge. I guess it’s OK. Betty thinks Kevin should just jump on Grindr, and Kevin gives a speech about how that’s not an option. I guess—but maybe it is? Has he tried it?
Moose and Midge lived, apparently, with Moose taking the brunt of the damage. He says, “If I wasn’t such a big slab of beef, I’d be dead right now.” Um, okay, Moose. I’m starting to think that Riverdale has some magical healing property, because no one ever stays hurt for long. Moose got SHOT the night before, but he seems pretty OK. -sigh-
Jump to Jughead’s new school on the Southside, where JINGLE JANGLE IS BACK, Y’ALL. We get more explanation of this totally bonkers drug, thank goodness — from Jughead’s new Betty stand-in (who is also a Serpent), Toni. We learn that there’s a rival gang called the Ghoulies, which is a ridiculous name.
Apparently (insert eye roll here), jingle jangle is a “gutter drug,” but it looks like a pixie stick. No one acknowledges that it looks like a pixie stick, and I’m not sure if that’s a treat to all the 90s babies who are watching or not. We all know what a pixie stick is, writers. You can’t convince us it’s drugs.
Overall, Southside High seems alright. It’s clean and everyone seems welcoming more or less (except the literal gang members). One thing of note: there’s not much of a dress code here. Toni wears a bra and jacket to school. Also, there are “rumors of cannibalism?” Does Hannibal go to high school here?
Side note: I would LOVE a TV show about high school Hannibal.
Jughead gets the award for best line of the episode when he justifies sitting alone at lunch by saying, “I self-identify as a loner.” Keep being you, Juggy.
Archie casually mentions to Fred that he thinks they should buy a gun. Whoa, son!, says Fred. Don’t be crazy. Too late, Fred Andrews. TOO LATE.
When talking to the gang at Veronica’s (pre-Bachelorette, I’m assuming—Veronica would never allow them to gab through a rose ceremony), Archie has a valid point that a group of teens solved Jason’s murder—maybe Sheriff Keller isn’t doing his job.
Hiram and Hermione, dressed to the nines, come out to say hi. Hiram casually PROPOSES VIGILANTE JUSTICE as a solution to the recent crime wave. Archie looks visibly aroused at the prospect. This is the first moment when I thought—WILL ARCHIE BE A SUPERHERO? I hope so.
At this point, I feel I have to mention that my roommate brought up an excellent observation. When talking to each other, the Lodges all drop in frequent Spanish words. They call Veronica mija and at one point Hermione tells Veronica, “oooooh pobrecita, poor little princess.” This Spanish is easy to understand, even for people who don’t know Spanish, but it forces the idea that yes, the Lodges are Latinx. When speaking with other people—like Archie or Fred, or anyone who is not a Lodge—there’s zero Spanish. None. Nada. I’m not sure what this means, but I think there’s an interesting observation to be made about code switching and language. Let us know what you think!
Hermione tells Veronica, “No need to be so thirsty, Veronica” in regards to how Veronica is trying to win Hiram’s affections. I’m not sure if Hermione ever got the memo, or if maybe she’s just a mom using slang inappropriately, but that’s not the definition I think of when I think thirsty. Moving on.
Archie, inspired by Hiram’s suggestion, has a vigilante interest group meeting with the football team and Dilton. I’m not sure how Dilton found out about this meeting (since he’s not on the football team). Maybe there’s just a sixth sense he has as a gun enthusiast that lets him know when things are happening. Either way, he’s standing at the back of the room and sharpening a stake. He might have thought that the club was about hunting local vampires.
Theory: Dilton believes the killer is a vampire and is preparing the only way he knows how.
We get another scene to show us that despite being a reasonable looking school, Southside High is HELL. Jughead is the only student that participates in class and answers some routine questions about Ray Bradbury. The English teacher, tired and confused, offers to consider Jughead as a writer for the school newspaper, which is now defunct. I’m not sure how Jughead is supposed to sustain the entire student paper on his own, but anyone can do it, it’s probably him, the only person who reads at school.
Cheryl is everywhere this episode, just listening, looking fabulous. She gave away her spider pin last season, but she has a new one and it’s beautiful. Cheryl’s eavesdropping becomes important later, but for now all you need to know is she’s looking good while listening.
Veronica tells Archie that dinner with her family is NON-NEGOTIABLE. This reaction is so forceful and so sudden that it genuinely surprised me. I was in high school once, and I can’t imagine ever wanting someone to come eat dinner with my parents like that.
“The black hood”—which is what we’re calling the killer now—wants Alice Cooper to publish a letter in the local paper. Honestly—his letter ain’t wrong. He raises some good points about Ms. Grundy being a child predator, at least. The mayor doesn’t want to letter published, but TOO LATE, ALICE COOPER IS SO EXTRA SHE ALREADY HAS IT SCANNED AND READY.
Theory: I still agree with Kelli that Hal could have done it. Think about it—he’s not such a beloved character in the comics that they’d be scared to vilify him, and he’s been weirdly absent yet there this entire season. Last season we saw him and Alice on the brink of divorce (I guess? He wasn’t living at home for most of the season), and now he’s just quietly back in the picture, trying not to make waves. He’s in scenes when it makes sense he’d be there, but that’s it. He’s not doing much, and that is suspicious. Also, who else has open access to the Cooper home to plant that letter in their box? Who else knows so much about Riverdale? It just makes sense.
Jughead gets to write for the paper at his new school, but is forbidden from writing about jingle jangle. Aw man. During all of these Jughead scenes, I do not like how he’s hanging out with Toni. It’s clear the show is setting up Toni and Betty for some sort of rivalry for Jughead, and I hate that. Toni seems cool. Betty is cool. They don’t have to fight over a boy. And yet, that’s what the whole comic is based on. -sigh- I don’t know what I’m complaining about.
Jughead says he’s done with the Serpents and won’t be asking them for any more help! A new Serpent, named Sweet Pea, is the face of the gang at the high school, and I’m not sure what to make of that. His name invokes pretty flowers and Bath and Bodyworks fragrances from the 90s, not cool gang vibes.
Sheriff Keller confronts Archie about his new vigilante group, the Red Circle. He says “I’m not gonna let a group of teens start a lynch mob.” Whoooooaaaaa there. Though I don’t think it’s the writers’ intention, calling a group a lynch mob has some serious racial overtones. I think in a show as white as Riverdale, that’s significant. The principle of the school has no problem with the Red Circle, and comes up to defend Archie. None of this seems like a good idea.
Polly Cooper (which, where has she been?) says she wants to run away to a farm she and Jason talked about because she’s scared of the killer on the loose. I’m not really sure what Polly’s been doing, but it’s my suspicion that the writers want to get her off the show because twin babies are just a lot to deal with and the Jason plotline is so last season.
Kevin visits Moose in the hospital and it’s clear that KEVIN AND MOOSE ARE STILL INTO EACH OTHER. I’m excited to see Kevin get more of a plot this season, and I’m eager to hear what Riverdale has to say about being gay in small town America. I sense that it’s not going to be great because already I’m suspicious of how Kevin describes his life as Riverdale’s only out gay teen. His dad, his friends’ parents, and the entire town, seem totally fine with Kevin being gay. We haven’t had any cringey homophobic plots a la Glee, and everyone seems to like Kevin and think he’s a good egg. That being said, Kevin constantly complains about how he doesn’t have any romantic interests and is now cruising the park for hook ups. This seems contradictory to community seems open to his sexual orientation.
Part 2: Kelli
Back at the Lodge’s fancy apartment, Veronica is polishing silverware. Hermione approaches to inform Veronica that she’s ‘playing with fire’ when it comes to this family dinner with Archie, even though Veronica points out that Hiram is the one who’s insisting on having it. She also asks Hermione if she thinks Hiram is dangerous, and reminds her that she was the one who welcomed him back into the house in the first place, at which point Hermione does her cold silent ‘I have no comeback’ thing. Hermione has been weirdly threatening for this whole episode, and I have to admit I’m a little bit confused about what they’re trying to do with her character. At the beginning she seemed like a cool, caring mom who drinks wine on weeknights, but now she’s like… the worst.
Meanwhile, Archie sneaks out with Reggie for some more dumb vigilante shit. He brings his bat because of course. Archie gets a phone call from Ethel (or, as I like to call her, Barb), who is panicking because she was walking home alone and a suspicious van started following her. Reggie makes a very dramatic u-turn and they find and ‘save’ Ethel, though I’m not entirely sure if anything was going on or if Archie and his “Red Circle” have sent the entire town into a paranoia spiral. Only time will tell!
Over at Southside, Betty visits Jughead at the Red & Black, which in several days has somehow turned into an operating newspaper once again. Jughead is gonna bust this Jingle Jangle story WIDE OPEN, or so he claims, because he’s discovered that the Ghoulies are the ones who’ve been trafficking the drugs, not the Serpents. Betty is like, “that is probably maybe not a good idea though?” because she has a brain, but Jughead is far too focused on all of the parts of her that aren’t her brain, so he’s all, ‘Are u worried about me Betty? It’s hotter when I’m a bad boi, let’s fuck lols’ and they start making out. Toni shows up in the middle of this, obviously, and the weird and petty jealousy between Betty and Toni begins. I 100% agree with Mary on this one — I am not down for a girls-fighting-over-a-guy plot, not just because it’s a problematic trope, but also because it’s boring and predictable as fuck. But, again, that’s what the Archie comics ARE, so.
Cheryl has been creeping on Kevin for this whole episode, because she is well-dressed Pennywise. She watches him leave Pop’s for a “run,” at which point she whispers to herself, “Oh, Kevin. You precious, beautiful, compulsive piece of trash.”
Kevin, resident precious, beautiful, compulsive piece of trash, is chilling in the forest waiting for dudes to fuck. Unfortunately, Betty and Cheryl show up to ruin his fun. Betty is like, ‘KEVIN, YOU NEED TO HAVE RESPECT FOR YOURSELF.’ Kevin is not having this, and he makes some really good points to Betty about how she needs to not be judging him for the ways in which he expresses his sexuality, because he doesn’t have the same options she does. He says, “If you can’t accept what I do, whatever I do, then we’re just not really friends.” Up until this point, Kevin and Betty have been besties, so this is actually a pretty painful thing to watch — Kevin is obviously genuinely hurt by Betty, and Betty is hurt too, because as usual, she’s trying and failing to fix things.
I think most of what’s going on here stems from Betty’s worry about him wandering around in the middle of the night when there’s a killer on the loose, which is entirely justified, but she really shouldn’t have thrown the ‘respect yourself’ thing into the equation, because Kevin’s right — she has no place telling him what he should or shouldn’t do.
Kevin also manages to get a jab in at Betty exploring her ‘BDSM sexualty,’ egged on by Cheryl, who seems to have no skin in this game but simply wants to watch the world burn.
Far away from the park where Kevin finds people to fuck, Jughead is leaving the paper very late at night and hears some sounds in the lockers. BTW, Mary, I don’t know what you’re talking about — this school looks fucking ridiculous. The amount of graffiti on the walls is truly hilarious, my favorite piece of which is actually in the background during this scene: ‘$CHOOL OF LIE$.’ Some Jingle Jangling Serpent or Ghoulie is real proud of that.
Anyway, all the lights start turning off behind Jughead, and then someone says his name. He tries to open the door but realizes he’s LOCKED INSIDE DA SCHOOL. He doubles back, and then we see some very artful shadow footage of Jughead getting the shit beat out of him just off screen.
The next morning, we see Betty cleaning his wounds relatively calmly, which seems shocking until we realize Jughead lied and said he fell off his motorcycle. I’m pretty sure if he told her he got his ass kicked by a rival gang member, she would’ve been a tad more frantic. Toni is there watching, a very skeptical expression on her face, and once Betty is gone, Toni turns to Jughead and immediately is like, TOLD YA SO! Which, I would’ve done the same, let’s be real.
Over at the Andrews’, Fred and Archie are talking the morning before the big Lodge family dinner. Fred basically warns Archie to be careful, saying ‘Hiram is my business partner. He is the kind of person who will find a way to be offended if that’s what he wants.’ I’m not entirely sure what that means, but okay, Fred.
We get a short scene of Hiram and Hermione getting ready for dinner. While zipping up Hermione’s dress, Hiram takes the opportunity to casually inform her that “Sound carries in this apartment,” meaning, essentially, ‘I heard you talkin shit to mija and you’d better not do it again.’ It’s very frightening, but he’s still sexy as fuck.
Cut to the Lodge family dinner. After a bit of vigilante small talk, Hiram asks Archie if he’s ever had rum, and Archie says ‘rum? Like the alcohol?’ Veronica gives him a look like ‘Jesus, Archie, don’t embarrass me in front of my cool dad, but nobody is paying attention to her. Hiram says they have their own Lodge family rum label and invites archie to join him to drink some in his study. Veronica wants to go, but she gets closed out, so then we get a bit more of Hermione being annoyingly mean. ~*~*~*POBRECITA*~*~*~*~
In his study, Hiram weirdly has a painted portrait of Veronica above his desk. He sits Archie down to talk about the Red Circle while they drink rum. Hiram says he hopes they can respect each other, and as such, Archie shouldn’t sneak into Veronica’s bedroom, ever, or hurt her, ever. Never ever. Then he circles back to The Red Circle, the success of which he seems bizarrely invested in; he says, “Evil has no regards for nobility or good intention.” He tells Archie that terror and fear should be his weapons, since that’s what the Black Hood is using. Basically, he’s telling Archie to be scarier and fuck some shit up.
Betty, after saying farewell to Polly who is going to live out the rest of her days peacefully on a farm, heads over to the Kellers’ in search of Kevin because she wants to apologize. Kevin isn’t at home, though — he’s obviously at the sex park — and we watch him get into a stranger’s car and promptly get stabbed in the tummy! He hears Betty’s voice in his head telling him how dangerous it is, and then we realize he didn’t actually get in the car but is still standing on the sidewalk, looking in through the window. He changes his mind, and the guy in the car says “Get into the car, you little tease,’ and Kevin runs away.
He gets home super late, and his dad, of course, is waiting for him. He asks where Kevin was, Kevin tries to lie, and the sheriff is like ‘nah Betty came over and we talked about what you’ve been doing.’ This seems like it might be a bad moment, but then Sheriff Keller basically tells Kevin that he needs to know he’s safe — he says that he knows there are things they don’t talk about, but that maybe they should start trying, and then they share a very sweet hug and Kevin cries, and I once again felt my heart warm up because I kind of love Sheriff Keller for being a good dad. We need more good parents on this show.
Speaking of needing more good parents, cut back to the Lodges; Veronica and Hiram are having breakfast the morning after family dinner. Veronica says she wants more of a role in Lodge industries, and Hiram quickly does his best to fake enthusiasm while Hermione side-eyes them. I am assuming that this is introducing a Veronica-discovers-her-family’s-corruption plot line, which could be cool or could be really boring. Hoping it’s the former.
As usual, we end the episode with another trite monologue from Jughead, this one about fairy tales and children getting lost in the woods. We see a montage during which Jughead finally succumbs to the Serpents and sits down for lunch with them, while over at Riverdale High, Betty tries to patch things up with Kevin to no avail.
Finally, in the last scene, Archie and the Red Circle (my new band name) record a really creepy video message that lowkey looks like a terrorism video. He says, “WE ARE LEGION,” which is so ridiculous that I nearly choked on my coffee while watching. Hiram is also watching from his study, where he is creepily sitting beneath his painting of Veronica. He seems pleased by all of this, and I’m not sure if he’d just amused by the antics of idiot children or if he has something else up his sleeve.
End thoughts and predictions:
Mary: WHOO this episode is nuts, and I loved it. I’m more interested in how Archie’s friend group is falling apart than I am in the killer at this point, though the killing—can we really say killing at this point? more like one murder and a lot of attempted murder—is a nice backdrop to the personal drama. I still think Hal is probably the killer, although Hiram is making some shady moves that suggest he could be involved. I think Hiram is probably too easy of a suspect, but I’m enjoying seeing him being terrible. I would still like to see Oscar Isaac swoop in to play Veronica’s young uncle or something.
Archie is officially bonkers at this point, and I’m not entirely sure what he’s trying to prove with his promotional video for the Red Circle. I mean, it’s just him posing in front of a group of hooded shirtless dudes. Ooooh I’m so scared.
Kelli: I’m kind of upset that nobody died (or almost died) at the end of this episode. I was digging the pattern. However, I am pleased by the amount of Papa Lodge we’re getting, because I’m kind of obsessed with him. Also, hardcore shipping Moose and Kevin, even though I’d drop Moose in a heartbeat if Joaquin returned. COME BACK, JOAQUIN.
Agreed about Hal being the killer, though the killer’s motivations in the letter he wrote don’t entirely seem to line up with what we know about Hal, who is the type of person who actually tried to force his daughter to have an abortion — not a good look, Hal. The killer, on the other hand, is one of those annoyingly moralistic people who thinks that everyone who “sins” deserves to die, a plot I was tired of halfway through watching David Fincher’s Se7en and am not particularly keen on revisiting here.
-Mary & Kelli
About the Blog
The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.