On this past week’s episode, "Tales from the Darkside," Riverdale plays with a new format inspired, we can only assume, by the 1980s horror series of the same name. Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of Tales from the Darkside before I googled it today, but a Twilight Zone-esque anthology series created by none other than George A. Romero seems more than worthy of checking out. In fact, it might even be a better show than Riverdale.
Okay, it’s most likely a better show than Riverdale, but… we’re still here.
The episode opens with a static title card informing us that what we’re about to witness is a retelling of the “tragic events that befell the town of Riverdale,” and without further ado, we’re dropped into the action. Join us, won’t you, for our recap of these… TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE.
Part 1: Kelli
This episode actually starts with a montage, which has to be Riverdale’s laziest opening move to date. We find out that the Black Hood left a note on the door of Pop’s, which was promptly published in the paper, allowing every set of characters a chance to read the letter aloud to each other in a series of awkward cut scenes. In the letter, BH explains that he shot Mr. Phillips the “drug dealing child killer” in jail, and now he’s posing a challenge to the people of Riverdale: the town has a 48-hour time limit to stop sinning, LEST he take up his sword again. I’m not sure how he plans to keep an eye on literally every member of the Riverdale community over the course of two days, but hey — they’re obviously destined to fail anyway.
Betty and Jughead are spooning in the trailer. Betty, as usual, is struggling with feelings of guilt, and Jughead reassures her; even if Mr. Phillips didn’t deserve what happened to him, he was still a bad person. Betty wants to know how BH even got into the station in the first place, and then she gets a look on her face that seems to say “UNLESS………,” but when Jughead questions her about it she says the idea is too crazy. Really Betty? Too crazy for the town of Riverdale? Oh, honey.
The snuggle session is interrupted by a call from Penny Peabody. She and Jughead meet at Pop’s, and she casually informs Jughead that FP had an “accident” in the showers with some Ghoulies and now his beautiful Skeet Ulrich face is all fucked up. Jughead is understandably upset, but Penny can’t help FP without money. He tells her he has $18 to his name, and she suggests he complete a “delivery” for her, because apparently drug running is the only way to make money in this town. Jughead asks what it is that he’s delivering, to which Penny responds, ‘pancake mix.’
This is where we get our second title screen of the episode: “Archie and Jughead.” I’m pretty sure the writers stole this split-plot-by-character format from that recap Mary did a few weeks ago. Riverdale, our legal team will be in touch.
Jughead shows up at Riverdale High unannounced and successfully guilts Archie into helping him with the delivery. This guilt trip is interrupted when Cheryl pushes past them, which I mention only because she calls them Bert and Ernie, and this fact amuses me. I have to assume that Jughead is Bert and Archie is Ernie, because Jughead is surly and Archie is an idiot.
After school, the two of them take Fred’s truck to pick up the crate, which is wrapped in chains and looks like it’s been buried under the sea for several hundred years. During the drive to Greendale, Archie waxes poetic about his dreams of moving to New York with Jughead and living like artists in the East Village. Thankfully, before he can spew any more cliches, God intervenes and blows out one of their tires. They get out to assess the damage, and panic for about fifteen seconds about not having a spare before a strange old man pulls over to help them.
The stranger is immediately ominous and creepy, and he tells them he can take them to Greendale. However, if they want to fit the crate, only one of them can go, and so Jughead and Archie part ways. As they load the crate into the truck bed, the driver warns Jughead not to look under the tarp in the back. Could this possibly be foreshadowing?
Jughead and the driver take off, leaving Archie behind to wait with Fred’s truck. The driver tells Jughead that for a second, he thought Archie was Jason Blossom, because ‘you never know on the road to Greendale.’ What the fuck does that mean, tho? Jughead doesn’t press for details, which is probably smart. Instead, the subject changes to the Black Hood, and the driver says the whole thing reminds him of the “Riverdale Reaper.”
Meanwhile, back on the road, Archie calls ‘Triple C’ (lol) for a spare tire. Then he turns and sees a deer run out into the road, only to realize THE DEER IS COVERED IN BLOOD AND IS FOR SURE DEAD.
Quite frankly, this is ridiculous, but it’s also my favorite moment of the episode. It’s a totally uncanny and surprising moment, and it’s also the first real glimmer of anything supernatural that we’ve gotten in the Riverdale universe up to this point. With the Sabrina the Teenage Witch series officially acquired by Netflix, I’m hoping there will be more of this mysticism to come.
We return to Jughead and the creepy old man, who pulls over to get gas. He leaves Jughead to fill the tank, which provides Jughead the perfect opportunity to look under that pesky tarp, which he now sees is definitely being swarmed by flies and is at least a lil blood soaked. When he pulls back the tarp, guess what he sees?
IT’S A DEAD DEER, YOU GUYS.
Cut to Jughead and the driver eating in a diner, because apparently the road to Greendale is long as hell and they needed to stop for food. The driver is like, ‘I saw you looking in my truck, but don’t worry, I have permits,’ and then he launches pretty quickly into the story of the Riverdale Reaper. It’s an extremely underwhelming story — apparently a dude broke into a family’s house in the woods and shot all of them one by one — and nobody knows what happened to him. Jughead wonders if it was the BH, and the driver explains in the vaguest terms possible that there’s a cycle. “It’s killing season in Riverdale,” he says spookily.
Things escalate very quickly when the driver says Jughead has to pay for the meal. Jughead is like, ‘I only have $18,’ which we know is true because he said so to Penny earlier! If this seems like an arbitrary detail to fixate on, you can take it up with the screenwriters. Anyway, the driver threatens to leave with the crate, the waitress says she’s going to call the cops, and then Archie conveniently walks in like, ‘hey Juggy u good?’ The driver starts screaming about how Archie and Jughead are sinners with a crate full of sin, and Archie quickly pays for the meal and saves Jughead’s ass for the five hundredth time.
Finally, Jughead and Archie make it to the drop-off point, which is a very eery warehouse in Greendale. They meet with a German (or Russian?) woman in a wheelchair and a funny hat, which seems like a rejected idea for a villain from the first draft of Austin Powers. She warns them not to be late next time, and Jughead’s like, ‘there is no next time,’ which is when he finds out that the Serpents are taking over dealing for the Ghoulies, and that Penny fucking Peabody has set a regular delivery time with a regular delivery boy. “Are you Jughead Jones?” she asks ominously. He’s def the delivery boy.
Archie and Juggy make it back to Pop’s without further incident, and share a quick, tender friendship moment before Jughead heads out to visit FP. When he arrives, he discovers — surprise! — that FP’s face isn’t fucked up at all. Not even a little.
PENNY, YOU FUCKING BITCH.
Immediately, Jughead goes to confront Penny about lying to him. In response, she shows him the video footage she has of him and Archie dropping off the crate in Greendale — the perfect blackmail material. When Jughead asks why she’s doing this to him, she finally admits that FP broke a promise to her, and as far as she’s concerned, FP’s debt has passed on to Jughead. You’d think FP being in jail would be enough for Penny, but apparently not. I wonder what the promise was, but also, I don’t really care.
We now enter our second Tale from the Darkside: Josie. We open on her playing solo at the school after hours, which is apparently a thing she does. She gets home — or to the Five Seasons, rather, where she and her mom are temporarily living because ‘safety reasons’— to find Mayor McCoy waiting to scold Josie for walking the streets alone at night. This seems perfectly reasonable considering all of the recent gang violence, not to mention the murderer on the loose, but Josie seems annoyed about it anyway.
At school the next day, we see Josie talking to Cheryl about all of the stressors in her life, which are having a negative effect on her voice. We find out that Cheryl is helping Josie work on her secret solo career, and has even hooked Josie up with a producer who’s going to give her studio time, but this only serves to stress Josie out more, because she’s doing all of this behind the Pussycats’ backs. It’s then that Josie opens her locker and discovers a teddy bear with a note that says ‘I’ll be watching you.’ This prompts a surprising lack of distress from both girls. Cheryl is like, teehee, maybe it’s the Black Hood, teehee! But like... seriously. Maybe it’s the Black Hood?
Later, one of Josie’s solo music room sessions is interrupted by the appearance of Chuck, who I almost completely forgot about. He tries to ask her out, and she’s like, NOPE. “I don’t date,” she says, “especially not chauvinistic, misogynistic harassers of women. Like you.” I really hope she sticks to her guns on this one. Spoiler alert: she doesn’t.
Part 2: Mary
Josie gets bombarded in the locker room by the other members of the Pussycats. They tell her that women are supposed to treat each other better than this! YEAH! GET HER, GIRLS! They tell Josie she’s on her own since she wants to go solo so bad.
All alone, Josie leaves the school and gets spooked by Chuck. She’s so freaked out that she asks him for a ride home, and he tricks her into GOING ON A DATE. I hate Chuck. But apparently he’s changed now. He says he’s going to church, and Pop confirms as much. Josie and Chuck dance in the middle of the Chocklit Shop. **sigh** I hate it.
Josie’s mom storms in and yells, “I DON’T WANT YOU WITHIN 10 FEET OF MY DAUGHTER!” YES, MOM! At home, the mayor forbids Josie from seeing Chuck and tells her that she’s getting death threats—and some of them have mentioned Josie. For some reason, Sheriff Keller is in this scene. Does the mayor just have him on guard duty at all times? Josie says she hasn’t seen anything suspicious, even though she received a bizarre and creepy as hell teddy bear.
In the practice room, Josie gets a REALLY POORLY DRAWN picture of herself with the words “If I can’t have you, no one can” written at the top. And she also gets a pig’s heart in a box. A lovely gift. Cheryl decides it’s Chuck and decides to confront him in typical Cheryl fashion.
“If the black hood weren’t clearly an old white dude, I’d say you were a prime suspect!” is one of the better lines Cheryl gets in this episode. It’s true—serial killers are mostly old white dudes.
Josie says that Chuck’s the one sending her the creepy stuff, and he’s taken away. Later, Sheriff Keller says he’s not sure if Chuck’s the one doing it, but the mayor says, if Josie says it’s him, it’s him! That’s not how police investigation works, Mayor.
At this point I’m wondering if Josie or the pussycats ever play non-cover songs. Don’t they write their own music? If that’s so, why is Josie just covering “Spooky” like so many before her?
Josie starts having stress dreams, thinking she’s gotten her throat slit in the night. I feel you, girl. Stress dreams are THE WORST. We cut to Cheryl, who is drawing a really crappy portrait of her and Josie. SHE IS THE ONE DOING THE CREEPY GIFTS!
New story: Betty and Veronica Time.
Kevin says that his dad has been up at all times of the night and he’s stressed about the BH case. Betty later tells Veronica that she thinks Keller is the BH, but Veronica says no way. He’s cheating. She’s the expert at cheating, I guess? She has experience investigating it? Veronica plans a sleepover with Kevin to investigate the Sheriff’s activities.
Meanwhile, Betty questions Sheriff Keller about how the BH got into the station. The Sheriff says he’s mad that all this happened in his department, under his watch, and he has some valid theories on how the BH got in.
At the sleepover, Kevin is trying to teach Veronica some Dungeons and Dragons like game. She rolls her eyes like it’s stupid. No, YOU’RE STUPID, Veronica! D&D is great.
Veronica goes snooping in her slinky silk PJs and finds the Sheriff in the basement WORKING HIS BOD. He says that he works out to push his limits. OK, but also dat body tho. Veronica immediately starts flirting with him, saying things like, “It must be SUPER HARD….with all the pressure, without Mrs. Keller here…how do you cope?” OK, cool it, V. Kevin is sad that V never got him his glass of milk he requested.
Betty still thinks Keller did it. Why does he have so many locked doors in his house? That’s something ONLY KILLERS DO! Betty decides to stalk through Keller’s house just to check on things. For all those locked doors, he surely keeps a key under a flower pot by the front door. Would a killer really do that?
Anyway, Keller has a murder board pretty prominently displayed in his house. I don’t think this is that weird, since he’s the Sheriff trying to solve a case. Keller comes back in the house and finds Betty, and Hal comes to pick her up. Hal, who IS PROBABLY THE ACTUAL BH. Keller let’s Betty look at his logbook and explains what his alibis are. It’s pretty sensible. Hal just nods like, I told you so. WHERE WERE YOU DURING THOSE MURDERS, HAL?!
Betty and Veronica follow Sheriff Keller when he leaves home in the middle of the night. He goes to a stereotypically shady motel, where he meets THE MAYOR FOR A TORRID AFFAIR. They hug and kiss and it’s very clear what we’re supposed to think. Also, Keller has a duffle bag with him, and while it could be clothes for their affair, or, I don’t know, sex toys or something, I’m suspicious of it. Betty and Veronica decide to keep Keller’s secret for Kevin’s sake.
All three stories converge—Archie and Jughead have a conversation a booth over, tired after their adventure. Cheryl and Josie cuddle side by side in a booth. Pop gets a call and announces to the entire diner that it was the BH. He said that everyone failed his test and that everyone is a sinner and “THE RECKONING IS UPON US.” DUN DUN DUN!
Mary: This episode is insane in a bad way, in a “I can’t suspend my disbelief this far” way. OK, sure, Jughead has to go do a drug-running job for Penny. But the person he’s delivering to is a German woman wearing a beret? Um…OK. What is she doing in Greendale? Also, why is Greendale some hotbed of criminal activity? The rando who drives Jughead to Greendale acts like it’s a crime-ridden town—and it’s also where Ms. Grundy gets killed. Oooooh so dangerous, Greendale.
I’m also not sure how I feel about the splitting up of the three stories. It’s a nice idea, but the weird message at the beginning, edited to make it seem like these are old stories, seems like overkill. I do appreciate that we ditch the rapidfire, interconnected scenes that Riverdale typically favors.
I don’t really feel any closer to solving the mystery of the BH, but I did love seeing Cheryl be the queen she is. Also, is Cheryl into Josie? I hope so. That would be fascinating!
Kelli: I actually really dug the first section of this episode up until the absurd moment with the German woman. I liked the atmospheric feel of the first 10 minutes or so, and sometimes I wish this show would dive a bit further into that creepiness.
As for the other two sections, I think Josie’s was the weakest, despite the fact that I typically enjoy seeing more of her. I am still team Josie x Reggie, but I could be easily swayed into the Josie x Cheryl camp if that’s where this is going. As long as it isn’t Josie x Chuck, because ew.
Also, BH is definitely Betty’s dad (or long lost brother, as some have suggested). Anyone who has already been investigated as a suspect is out as far as I’m concerned, because we know this show thrives on shock value.
Do you have theories? We want to hear them! Comment on this post and let us know who BH is, how exactly JJ is ingested, and whether Cheryl is in love with Josie in a creepy friend way or a creepy sexy way. We need answers.
--Kelli & Mary
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The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.