The eighth episode of Riverdale’s second season focuses mostly around the retirement of FP Jones from the Southside Serpents. I didn’t know that gang retirement was a thing, but there are a lot of things that I didn’t know were things before this blessedly informative show brought them into my awareness.
The episode’s title, House of the Devil, may be referring to a 2009 horror film of the same name - one of my favorites, if you’re looking for something spooky to watch. However, unlike some of the other titles, I’m not sure how this reference really works with the themes or events of the episode. We don’t get anything particularly Satanic, but we do get more information about the Riverdale Reaper and the murder house, plus the most iconic use of the song Mad World since Donnie Darko. Why didn’t they name this episode Mad World? Idiots.
Anyway, read on (if you dare) for Mary and Kelli’s spoilerific two-part recap of Riverdale S2E08: Mad World. I mean, House of the Devil.
Part I: Mary
Riverdale is so over the top now that I’m not even surprised anymore. I recently spoke to someone who was just watching season one and they seemed so innocent.
We begin with Jughead lovingly narrating Veronica and Archie making out EVERYWHERE. Jughead seems to know a lot about Archie and Veronica’s sex life, for some reason. After one such tryst, Archie says he loves Veronica and they both lose their minds over it. I don’t know about you, but I love a lot of people, and while romantic love in a relationship is different (of course), I don’t know that it’s something to freak out about. Love is a good thing!
Jughead and Betty sit down to crack the case of the BH, and discover that the Reaper—a murderer from way back—killed people in the murder house the BH sent Betty to! Aaaaah! Jughead also finds out his dad is getting out of jail! Hooray!
And yet, Penny is probably up to something. Hmmm… Jughead and Betty ask Veronica and Archie to do some detective work while they get FP out of prison.
Cheryl gives Josie a back massage and I am here for it. Cheryl gets more and more into Josie with each episode and it’s honestly a very interesting plotline.
Veronica finds out that—as Hermione says—“the shadow of the black hood has fallen on our home.” Hiram seems OK with the shady letter the BH sent, though. After all, their butler Andre knows karate and Archie is “brawny.” Sure. Great plan, Lodges. When Brawny Archie comes over to smooch on Veronica, he doesn’t want to talk about the BH at all—he wants to talk about looooove. But V isn’t having it. They do agree to investigate the murder house, though.
Betty tells Alice that Jughead is a Serpent now and that she wants to support him. Alice isn’t shocked, but she is very judgy—considering she used to be a Serpent, too.
Archie and Veronica both talk to their parents about the L-Word (LOVE), and the parents have some surprisingly sound advice for once. They say that it doesn’t really matter and not to think on it too much. People say stuff all the time. What? Parents actually parenting?
Alice goes with Jughead and Betty to pick up FP from jail and GOSH IF ALICE DOESN’T WANT TO JUMP HIM RIGHT THERE IN THE PARKING LOT. She says to him, “Is it true what they say about men who just got out of prison? That they’re incredibly sexually frustrated?” Jughead’s reaction says it all, “WOW.”
At Pop’s, Alice listens to FP’s plan to not rejoin the Serpents. It sounds like he’s getting his life on track, which is nice!
Detectives V and Archie talk to Keller about the old Reaper murders. Apparently, Sheriff Howard (who is dead) became obsessed with the case and worked on it constantly. Howard’s daughter sounds like she’s rolling her eyes from her tone. She says that he used to call that house “The Devil’s House” and that he “lost his mind” investigating the case. Archie says, predictably, WE HAVE TO GO.
Cut to motorcycles riding down a scenic country road near a lake. Jughead and FP sit at the top of a hill (for some reason) in their serpent jackets and discuss Penny. Jughead insists that his relationship with Penny is that he did ONE job for her, and now they’re good. FP tells a story about how terrible his life has been, and how Jughead deserves better.
At Pop’s Cheryl is being a turd, purposefully spilling a milkshake and then telling FP to clean it up, like he “cleaned up [her] brother’s blood.” Jughead feels distraught about this because FP used to be a “king.” Ok, sure, but a GANG KING. Betty suggests a retirement party (because I guess you can retire from a gang?), and she plans to take care of it.
Betty goes to check out a venue for the party, and she calls on Toni to help out. Betty explains that she’s kind of interested in joining the Serpents—or at least being Serpent-adjacent. A drunk-sounding woman says that to join, Betty must do the “Serpent Dance,” which Toni insists is misogynistic. Judging from the shots of a stripper in the background, I’m guessing the dance is a stripper dance. So complex. Wow.
Penny calls Jughead (which he lies about), and threatens him with his dad’s freedom. Penny plays hard, and she accurately reminds Jughead that she has evidence against him, but he has nothing on her. She threatens Betty, which is just the button she needs to push. Jughead falls for it, and gets visibly agitated!
Part II: Kelli
With Betty and Jughead out of commission, Archie and Veronica go to investigate the murder house in the woods. They walk through the rooms, noting from the police report where each family member was murdered. The kids were shot under the bed, and of course, the bedframe and excessive blood stain underneath it are exactly as they were on the night of the slaughter. Has anyone in this town heard of crime scene cleanup?
Veronica finds the kids’ height chart on one of the doors, and upon closer inspection she realizes that there are measurements for not just two children, but three. Beside the door, they find a cobweb-strewn file folder containing all of the notes from the original detective’s investigation, which he apparently kept at the house for his personal convenience and which has been sitting there ever since his death — because why would anyone at the police department want or need such a thing for their records? God knows Sheriff Keller would never think to reopen an unsolved serial killer case when a new serial killer shows up in the same town. He’s too busy having motel sex with Mayor McCoy.
Anyway, in the folder, Archie and Veronica find the photographic evidence that the Conways were actually a family of five. Gasp.
Cut to the Cooper residence. Betty is on the phone with Pop, busy planning the fourteenth arbitrary party she’s thrown this year, when Alice walks in on her. Betty tells her mom what the party is for, and Alice immediately storms into Pop’s to scream at poor FP, who looks a lot more innocent and sympathetic when you put him in a soda jerk uniform. Alice tells him that she better not see Betty in a Serpent’s jacket, and that she doesn’t want their kids making the same mistakes they did. “They weren’t all mistakes,” FP retorts, and Alice rolls her eyes, a reminder of what I think might have been hinted at in season one but which I forgot about until now - FP AND ALICE USED TO BE AN ITEM. Unlike with Fred and Hermione, I totally ship this. Who cares if their children are dating? This is Riverdale. We have bigger problems to worry about.
FP tells Alice that if she’s so worried about Betty, she should just chaperone her at the retirement party. Alice says Hal will never come, to which FP responds, “Well then leave him…………………….. At home.”
I rest my case, people.
Over at Riverdale High, Archie and Veronica tell Betty and Jughead what they found out about the Conway family - that they had a secret third child, Joseph. They have a picture of him as a kid from the file, and they also know that after the murders, he was given a new identity and adopted by a family in Riverdale so that he could start a new life. They think that if they look through all of Riverdale’s old yearbooks, they might be able to match the photo, leading them to the third child who might be able to tell them more about the Reaper. Jughead posits a different theory: maybe the child was so traumatized by what he witnessed that he BECAME the BH in order to punish the town for what happened to his family.
Either way, Archie and Veronica are expecting help from Betty and Jughead on this, but then Betty and Jughead are like ‘oh, about that, we have a party that we’ve been planning and it’s tonight… you guys should totally come! If you want! No pressure!’ Anyone who has ever extended a last-minute invitation to someone you don’t want at your party knows this routine. Y’all aren’t invited. Please don’t show up.
Anyway, Bughead departs to get ready for the party, which leaves Archie and Veronica to parse through the yearbooks alone looking for a child match. This seems like ambitious plan. Everyone knows that all children look exactly the same. Especially small white boys. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Also, the photo they have is all old and faded and you can barely make out the facial features. Archie is clearly already bored, and he starts trying to talk to Veronica about their love situation again, but just as he brings up the subject, Veronica miraculously finds the child in some random recreational activity photo. I’m would start a list of unrealistically easy plot devices this show employs, but that list would be longer than this blog post.
The name of the boy in the photo is familiar - last name Svenson - and that’s because it’s THE JANITOR! You know, the janitor! The one they introduced for the first time last week in an seemingly inconsequential three second insert as part of Josie’s storyline, and the one who returned this week to accidentally walk into the girls’ locker room! See, he’s not a plot device. He’s a PERSON. A person who just so happens to be mopping the floor right outside the classroom.
“WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE, JOSEPH CONWAY,” Archie shouts dramatically. Janitor Svenson immediately breaks into a sprint, but Archie grabs him and throws him into a classroom. They begin their interrogation, and the janitor insists he only ran because he was scared. He explains to them that the Reaper was a con man preacher just passing through town (though I have no idea what would possess him to murder an entire family, but okay). He says that after the Reaper killed his family, he waited outside so that he could see the man’s face. The next day, a group of men (what men?) took him to the motel where the Reaper was staying (how did they know where he was staying?) and as soon as he identified the Reaper by face, the group of men took him away and killed him. Janitor Svenson says that justice was served, because the town demanded blood for blood.
At this point, Veronica says that line of thinking sounds a whole lot like the BH. She starts yelling at him, trying to get him to confess in what I assume is a sort of bad cop routine, but before she completely loses her shit, Archie’s like, ‘oh, his eyes aren’t green. Wrong dude, lol.’
Later that evening, everyone gets ready for the retirement party. In a candidly sensual moment, Betty looks at herself in the mirror while she touches her own face, and then she dramatically releases her ponytail. What would Kevin say about this? Hey - has anyone seen Kevin?
Veronica and Archie both talk to their parents about their ‘L word’ situation (and no, the ‘L word’ is not ‘lesbian’). Veronica asks Hermione why it’s so hard for her to say it to Archie, and then she realizes it’s because her parents never say it to each other. Hermione is helpfully silent.
Finally, we reach the moment we’ve all been waiting for (because it is inevitably going to be a shit show): FP’s retirement party. It’s pretty packed inside the Whyte Wyrm tonight, and Jughead walks around, surveying the situation. He is distracted when Betty and Alice make their grand sexy entrance together - Betty with her hair down, and Alice wearing an outfit that would have been a lot more shocking if we’d not already seen that snake number a couple weeks back. Still, she’s dressed the way I normally dress when I’m trying to look like a sexy goth witch during the Halloween season, so she’s obviously trying to make a statement. While Jughead drools over Betty, Alice is like, “I tried to get her to dress appropriately,” and then she brushes past them to the bar and demands tequila, straight up, “hold the worm.” What I want to know is: what is the worm?
It turns out that Archie and Veronica don’t know how to take a hint, because they show up at the retirement party. Archie wants to discuss their relationship, and he tells Veronica that she shouldn’t feel pressure to say anything back to him. Veronica hugs him and thanks him for understanding, at which point Archie transforms into every fuckboi you have ever known and immediately starts sulking. Maybe he’s a were-fuckboi. He informs Veronica that he signed them up to sing “that Donnie Darko song you love, or at least strongly like,” which is a real bitchy thing to say. Veronica is clearly upset, and Archie follows up with further bitchiness and says, ‘OR CAN YOU NOT DO THAT EITHER?’
Cue the most uncomfortable duet of all time. I don’t know why Archie thought this was a good idea in the first place, because I can’t imagine a more morbid choice for karaoke, but things are even worse now that the two of them can barely look at each other. They get through about two mournful verses before Veronica flees the stage, Archie chasing after her. The entire bar starts booing, as one does when the Mad World piano is playing and no one is there to sing about faces and places and what have you. Luckily, Betty is there to step in. And oh boy, does she step in.
Betty sings approximately one line to get people warmed up, and then, just like that, she starts stripping. It was at this point that I started to disassociate, because this shit is so insane that I thought I thought I might be hallucinating. In what essentially becomes a Donnie Darko softcore, Betty STRIPS DOWN TO HER UNDERWEAR and then LITERALLY SPINS AROUND ON THE POLE, all while Mad World plays and the entire audience stares at her in silence. I can’t even get into how confusing it is that Betty’s voiceover continues while she dances even though she is no longer singing, because even though it a physical impossibility, it is the least absurd thing about this moment. I know that Betty wanted to do something to get in with the Serpents, but was this really the best thing she could think of?
Both Jughead and Alice look on in unique forms of horror, and the song ends to uncomfortable silence which is only broken by the strangely polite applause of FP (I guess at least he wasn’t leering…?). He gets up on stage and drapes a Serpents jacket over Betty’s shoulders, and then she is ushered offstage so that he can make his speech.
He starts out sentimental about his leaving, but quickly turns the tables in a classic surprise move and tells everyone that he’s not going to ‘let a pig tell a snake what to do’ - he’s not retiring! The crowd roars as he leaves the stage and approaches Jughead, who is reasonably upset - after all, they wasted their time having this fucking party. He’s like, ‘what happened to retiring?’ and FP pulls him into a hug, using the closeness to whisper into his son’s ear. He says he heard about Jughead’s debt to Penny, and that FP is back in so Jughead can be out. ‘You broke my heart,’ FP says, and then kisses Jughead on the forehead before taking a celebratory shot like the true gang daddy he is. So much for AA.
Outside, Archie tells Veronica that it doesn’t matter if she can’t say it, which is exactly what he said earlier, but now we’re supposed to believe that he’s actually feeling forgiving. Veronica argues that it does matter, and that she should be able to say it to him, but she can’t let herself go there. She apologizes and leaves in her fancy car, crying all the way home in the backseat. I guess we’re supposed to understand that they just broke up, but if I were Archie I’d be kind of confused and would need a bit of clarification. Like, are we done, or…?
In the parking lot, Betty, who has somehow temporarily escaped the clutches of her mother, is waiting for Jughead. He’s upset, and she asks if it’s because of the dance she did. He tells her it’s not just that, it’s everything - but also that, cuz wtf? She says she just wanted to be a part of his world, but that it’ll be okay, they’ll figure it out together. Jughead says no, not together - he can’t let her get hurt. Betty asks him how many times they’re going to push each other away, and Jughead answers, ‘UNTIL IT STICKS,’ which I gotta say broke my heart a little bit.
As the episode comes to a close, we get Jughead’s most Carrie Bradshaw-esque voiceover to date - “That night I realized…” It turns out that what he realized was some metaphorical drivel that I didn’t write down, but the POINT is that everyone is broken up now, and that breaking up has shaken everyone and everything loose, including LONG BURIED FEELINGS - feelings, apparently, between Archie and Betty. We see shirtless Archie staring out his bedroom window, watching Betty from across the way, and she looks back at him. So, I guess this is finally happening.
Mary: I gotta say, I have been singing “Mad World” since this episode aired, and I hate it. The whole sexy dance thing is so contrived and stupid. I explained to Todd, who doesn’t watch the show, that guys who want to join the Serpents have to go through the Gauntlet, where they get punched a lot. I told him girls don’t have to go through the Gauntlet, and he asked, “Do they have to go through a Gauntlet…of dicks?” YES BASICALLY YES. I agree with Toni that is stupid and misogynistic that initiation into the Serpents involves stripping. I mean, geeeeeeez. I can’t. This show.
I don’t feel any closer to finding out who the killer is, though I still think that it’s someone related to Betty, and most likely Hal. I just want it to be Hal at this point.
My biggest gripe with this episode is that the writers delivered on what they hinted at a few episodes ago: all the couples are about to change. I HATE that Betty gazes out her window at Archie at the end. I hate that she and Jughead split up and that Veronica can’t get over her aversion to saying she loves someone. I know that this is the way of these characters, but it feels so forced this time around.
Kelli: I’m honestly so bummed about the Archie and Betty thing. I knew it had to happen eventually, but I hate it. I’m going to be VERY pissed off if Jughead and Veronica become a thing. I said to my roommate that they’re about as compatible as Blair and Dan from Gossip Girl, and we all know how that went. Actually, I forget, and I think I stopped watching halfway through that debacle, but you get what I mean.
Also: what happened to the supposed reckoning? Where the fuck is the BH? After this shitshow of an episode, I need some murder, stat.
Whether or not we get the murder Kelli so desires, check in with us next Sunday for another riveting installment of the BSG Riverdale Recap. Bye, y'all.
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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.