Welcome to The Riverdale Review, a continuing series on the ever-popular television drama, Riverdale. This week we cover the second-last episode of the season, The Dark Secret of Harvest House!
The Dark Secret of Harvest House Episode Recap
As Veronica and Archie grow closer and closer, they share an arc this week. Enraged that her father has been lying to her for weeks about Pop’s and the speakeasy, Veronica searches for a way to get her revenge; putting Hiram behind bars again and stopping his master plan wouldn’t hurt either. She enlists Archie, his mother Mary, and Mary’s contact in the FBI, to give her a hand.
Any good plan has a couple of steps, and the first is goading Hiram into a boxing match with Archie. He confronts Hiram in front of his business associates, which makes backing down to a teenager difficult. More than that, though, Hiram’s pride couldn’t handle the hit it would take to refuse. As they both prepare, Veronica casually mentions to her father that people want to bet on the fight (bet against him, to be specific). Hiram insists that she should run all betting through La Bonne Nuit to earn good money, and says he’ll involve some of his associates to bet as well – to bet on him. While Archie prepares for the fight, Veronica looks for backup for La Bonne Nuit. Reggie is a perfect choice, who reluctantly agrees to help with the chance to put Hiram in jail for good.
The big night finally comes around, and both halves of their plan fall together. At El Royale, the men duke it out in the ring – things quickly get personal. Seeing that the ref has clearly been bribed to ignore Hiram’s bad practices, Archie throws off his gloves to fight Hiram with his bare hands. Meanwhile, at La Bonne Nuit, illegal drinking and gambling on the match mean Veronica and Reggie need only wait. After a captivating solo, Veronica is pulled offstage by the FBI storming the building.
It’s really only a formality, and Mary’s friend the FBI agent approaches Veronica to ask who owns this establishment. Veronica replies that it’s her father and that she can find him at El Royale boxing club. Plus, the Sheriff is waiting for her. There’s only a small moment of victory before Reggie pulls her away for a moment; people are calling to get odds on Hiram killing Archie.
Back in the ring, things are getting so brutal that even the bribed judge is pulling them apart. Hiram shoves him out of the way and continues to wail on Archie relentlessly. He stands over the teenager and gloats about his victory, with a final punch that makes Mary leap from the crowd to the side of the ring. As Hiram laughs about winning, being the better man, we hear the sound of FBI agents breaking in the doors. Archie smiles a little; no, Hiram isn’t the better man. The next few moments are a blur as Hiram is cuffed and Veronica runs to Archie’s bloody form.
Despite it all, they allow a moment to enjoy their victory. At the prison, he mulls over how his daughter could have done such a thing to him. For an ex-boyfriend, he assumes? No, Veronica corrects him. For herself. Hiram’s assets would be seized by the government, and his empire would be put up for auction. Despite her father’s seething rage, Veronica doesn’t flinch. She leaves him with just one parting thought: she won.
Unfortunately, Archie and Veronica’s victory was the same, but their celebrations weren’t. At home, Archie talks to his mother about Veronica and admits that there are some feelings there – even if he can’t tell where she stands. Mary suggests the obvious solution that teenagers must be led to sometimes; just ask her! Archie decides to go over, but he’s unannounced and enters the apartment to find Veronica with champagne on ice. Veronica cringes as Reggie turns the corner.
Turns out, he came to tell her he wanted to be with her – and that she said she wanted to be with him too. When Archie asks if this is true, Veronica replies hesitantly that it is what she said. She tries to cut the tension and suggest they all celebrate the incredible thing they accomplished, but Archie awkwardly declines and escapes down the hall. Veronica moves to go after him, but only makes it halfway through the doorframe.
We join our other conflicted couple on the other end of town with more drama – though not conflicted with each other so much as the local serial killers. At the farm, Betty bides her time and takes the opportunity to learn a few more secrets. Little things stick out at first, like Evelyn in her bedroom, strung to an IV. Then, during a group session with Edgar, Alice and Polly tell Betty that she was examined by a doctor when she was young. They told them that Betty had MAOA and the CDH13 genes, also known as the “serial killer genes.” They claim that not even Hal had them.
Jughead handles the investigation on the outside, working with his father and the coroner on how Hal Cooper could have faked his own death. They reexamine what was found of Hal Cooper in the crash – just a hand. To be fair, many of the bodies were unidentifiable so the conclusions made about Hal were made about others. In this case, though, Hal seems to have cut off his own hand to leave behind the idea he had died alongside the other inmates.
Betty and Jughead charge on, fiercely but blindly.
At the Farm, Betty begins to have therapy sessions with Edgar. He suggests it after they tell her about her genes so that he can “help her heal.” His soothing voice, paired with the clacking of a Newton’s cradle, lures Betty into talking. She tells Edgar the other person she has felt living inside her, capable of doing terrible things. As Edgar insists the first step is confrontation, Betty is slowly taken in by the rhythmic clicking.
She finds herself in a dark room with leaking water, totally alone. Except for a girl, who creeps along the walls of the room, the shadows, and dark where light cannot reach. This girl turns toward us, and we see it’s none other than Betty. This Shadow Betty calmly talks about horrible things she did during their childhood – like drowning their cat, or pushing Polly down the stairs – even as Betty denies them. These denials seem to carry no weight on Shadow Betty, though. This dark version of herself, Shadow Betty says, is the real Elizabeth Cooper.
As Betty’s head turns and her thoughts race faster, leaky pipes trip to the rhythm of the Newton’s cradle. In a jolt, she finds herself back in the room with Edgar, soothing a headache. Step one was locating her pain, Edgar tells her, and that together they can relieve her of it. This is just his beginning.
Back in her room, a call with Jughead lets her logically piece together what happened with Edgar. Jughead suggests the Newton’s cradle was a hypnotic tool, and she begins to ball candle wax to stuff into her ears for her next session. She has an idea for Jug in return; maybe he could find some information from their peer who slipped her the Gargoyle King’s note during Prom.
Jughead follows this lead down the rabbit hole of G&G players who passed the note along and finally learns that Ricky DeSantos set the note into motion. Thankfully, Jellybean is Jughead’s own little bird on the kid’s actions. She admits that she doesn’t know what it means, but that Ricky is in Fox Forest, getting ready to ascend. Spurred into action in fear of Ricky’s life, Jughead begs for her to draw him a map. He has to know where he is, has to save him.
He’s not too late – but only by a hair. Ricky sits in the middle of the forest, the middle of an ascension circle, in front of an effigy of the Gargoyle King. In front of him, there are two goblets filled with blue liquid. In his hand, a coin bearing a gargoyle on one side and a griffin on the other. Jughead comes out of the woodwork screaming. He lifts Ricky off the ground, kicks the cups away, and takes the boy in his arms. Jughead tries to tell the kid that they’ll end this together, and that he knows what he’s going through, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. Before he has a chance to say more, Ricky calls into the forest to kill Jughead and protect their princess. Jug stands and turns, to find a group of boy scouts charging out of the forest towards him. He escapes to the bunker nearby but isn’t out of the thick yet. Someone calls him Hellcaster, his G&G alias, and Jughead jumps off the ladder to find Ethel Muggs – or should we say, Princess Etheline – waiting in the dark.
Meanwhile, Betty puts together a few more puzzle pieces at the Farm before her second session with Edgar. The first is merely another suspicion; Polly and Betty walk together through the Farm after her first session. Polly describes how proud she is that Betty could take the first step to heal. At first, it seems simply like sister-sister bonding time, but then Polly asks if Betty’s darker half mentioned pushing Polly down the stairs when they were young. Taken aback, Betty doesn’t respond, and Polly continues that she wants Betty to know that she forgave her years ago for that. Polly walks away, leaving our heroine more confused than ever. The second piece is more concrete information, thankfully.
Lunch is communal at the Farm – like most things – and Betty sits down to eat with the other teenagers who’ve joined. They’re talking about Fangs’ recent surgery, something they call a purging. When Betty presses them, they describe how Edgar has turned their emotional pain into physical pain so that it can be more easily treated. Removed, via a “minor medical procedure.” Toni is up next to have it done. As Kevin talks happily about his being gone, Betty lifts up his shirt to reveal a huge scar, dark pink and bulging. She panics, insisting that that’s not from any “minor” procedure, but Kevin shuts her down. Firm and quiet, he tells her never to do that again, before excusing himself from the table.
We catch more behind-the-scenes details during Betty’s second session with Edgar. Equipped with wax earplugs, Betty doesn’t try to fudge or fake any details he asks of her. Alice and Polly might be able to tell Edgar if she lied, anyhow. She behaves just the same as last time, just to see what was being kept from her when she couldn’t see past the clacking metal balls. Turns out, a lot. The dark room with Shadow Betty wasn’t so much a corner of Betty’s mind as it was an actual room in the Farm where Edgar guided Betty when he thought she was ready. Shadow Betty reappeared, so not a hallucination after all. Much, much worse. Though hard to tell through the shadows, and Betty’s clothes, it’s clear that it’s Polly speaking, underneath it all.
After the session, Betty runs to the other teens to cry wolf. They all seem to know that they’re being hypnotized and assume it’s a therapeutic practice, but Betty’s more serious allegations are met with indignation. Why would Edgar inflict pain on them through hypnosis just to take it away? Does she have any proof? With no satisfying answers, her pleas are ignored.
In the woods, Jughead has some convincing to do as well. In the Bunker, Ethel admits that she told Ricky to send the letter to Betty on Prom night and that she’s been playing G&G with the “true” king since Betty freed her from the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. Jughead demands that she tell him who the king is behind the mask, but her love for him keeps her quiet, even though she fears him too. So Jughead must convince the lost boys he’s on their side, and that their quest is complete so that they can all stop living in the woods.
Ricky is included, but he seems to have vanished just after Jughead went into the bunker. And another boy is missing, the youngest, named Jack. Ethel insists they can’t leave him behind, so Jughead agrees to search their camp on an abandoned bus. He and Ethel find him easily but are treated with a visit from the Black Hood. Jughead jumps into action, leading them out the emergency exit on the back of the bus, propping it closed when the Black Hood is inside. He circles the front and manages to block that off with some old metal – but it won’t hold him, they’re sure. The three run for their lives, escaping back towards the wood.
At the Farm, Betty’s story comes to a climax. Her actions are spurred by seeing Evelyn hooked up to tubes again – only this time, Betty enters her room and starts asking questions. Evelyn reluctantly admits that when she was young her kidneys failed, and she’s having dialysis – a treatment for people with kidney problems that basically does the job of a kidney for her body. But further inspection of the machine indicates Evelyn is on anti-rejection medication as well. The kind you would have if you had just had an organ transplant.
The scary details all click into place in Betty’s mind; the treatments for Farmie’s “pain,” the scar on Kevin’s back, and Evelyn’s need for a kidney… They could have been getting organs – but it couldn’t be all for Evelyn alone. Evelyn calls out that Betty doesn’t know what she’s talking about, even as she leaves the room to find out more.
Betty is a modern day Nancy Drew by now, and it’s almost too easy for her to sneak into the Farm’s medical rooms. She didn’t want it, but her suspicions are confirmed. It all lies right in front of her. Shelves full of human organs – there are sacks of blood, things suspended in liquid, and coolers labeled: The Farm Harvest Program. Betty snatches a box and rushes away – she finds Cheryl’s room first. It’s easy to cut through protests when you have a heart in a box to show. A sickened look falls over Cheryl’s face as she realizes Toni is about to have her procedure. The two split up – Cheryl to rescue her girlfriend, and Betty to find Fangs and Kevin and escape. She leaves the heart behind, but it’s a mistake. With no proof, the boys have nothing to snap them from their delusions.
While Cheryl fights off nurses to convince Toni that something sinister is going on, Betty is overcome by Kevin and Fangs when she tries to run away. Only one of five escapes tonight – though Toni and Cheryl manage to escape the medical team, security is after them. They manage to jimmy open a window, but the guards are too close for comfort. Cheryl closes the window after Toni, and tells her to run – have her chance at freedom. The security guards approach down the stairs, and Toni finally flees, escaping into the night and followed by Cheryl’s echoing screams.
Betty wakes up on a medical table, strapped down by every limb. She sits up to find Edgar wearing a bloodstained apron and doctor’s suit, a slight smile on his face. Thrashing against the table does no good, and Edgar approaches with a chuckle. He says that she put up a good fight, but that he now doesn’t have a choice. Betty insists that Jughead and F.P. will come for her, but Edgar doesn’t seem to believe her – or if he does, he doesn’t care. He only walks away and asks the nurse to prepare her for the procedure. Whatever that might be. The last glimpse we catch is of the anesthesia mask being wrangled onto Betty’s face.
As the episode comes to an end, we see Jughead and Ethel in a meeting with F.P. He is assuring them that the boy scouts, and Ethel, will be placed under police protection until the Gargoyle King and the Black Hood are caught. A deputy comes in to wave F.P. away for a moment, and in their moment alone, Ethel thanks Jughead for all he has done. She’s emotional and overwhelmed and insists that the Hellcaster deserves a reward for his bravery. Namely, the identity of the Gargoyle King. Jughead’s eyes go wide, and Ethel leans over to breathe the name into his ear.
“That’s impossible,” we hear him say. He reveals what he knows on a call to Betty, just before she confronts Cheryl – Ethel told him that the Gargoyle King is Jason Blossom. Jughead knows what he has to do, but it’s hard to admit until Betty reminds him. He must dig up Jason’s casket.
The last scenes of this episode show Jughead in the Blossom family graveyard. He stands in a shallow, rectangular hole before a gravestone, bearing a shovel. We watch him add to his pile of dirt, sweat rolling off his head and dust coating his clothes. At long last, he makes contact; the top of the casket thuds when met with the shovel. Hurriedly, Jughead uncovers enough to lift the lid, and we gaze up at him from in the hole as it opens. Wide-eyed, we’re treated with Jug’s view – an empty coffin. Jughead’s breath becomes heavy. His hands shake- and the casket lid drops.
Thoughts on The Dark Secret of Harvest House
The endings of this episode were huge, climactic moments, and I can’t find that I know exactly which I’m more out of my mind about. Hiram being taken down with one plan in one episode by a couple of 17-year-olds? Huge. The Farm harvesting organs for Evelyn, and maybe others, by manipulating the people who join them? Huge. Jason might be alive, AND he might be the Gargoyle King? HUGE! An easier question is, which one surprised you the most? For me, probably Jason. The implications of this being alive spiral until your brain hurts from thinking about it. Did Penelope know? She buried his casket, right? How could she not notice it was empty? Does this mean that Cheryl really has been talking to Jason at the farm? If so, what is the connection between G&G and the Farm? Is there one? If Cheryl has really been talking to Jason, has Alice really been talking to her son, Charles? Or are they just more Shadow Betty’s – hallucinations onset by hypnosis, controlled by Edgar? I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
If you had to google a couple of things from today’s episode, have no shame. I myself google dialysis when Evelyn first brought it up – I never would have understood the leaps Betty made if I hadn’t known what it was. I did spoil the next five seconds of Betty figuring things out for myself though because going through the sites pretty much told me everything Betty was about to explain. The kidney failure, and how dialysis is sometimes a permanent part of someone’s life but can also just be to tide them over until they have a donor’s kidney.
At first, I wondered how Evelyn could need something this serious and still be attending high school and Farm events day-to-day. Apparently, though, there are lots of different types of dialysis, and plenty that you only need to do sometimes, like intermittent hemodialysis, which you only do three times a week for three or four hours each day.
Maybe I’m just totally oblivious and know a lot less than I should, but I’m a little surprised that Riverdale’s explanation on-screen of dialysis was so short. I suppose that Evelyn did say her kidneys failed, though, and add that to Evelyn being hooked up to some fancy medical stuff and Betty saying that she’s on medication for organ transplants. So even if you didn’t know what dialysis was, there’s enough to at least follow Betty’s conclusions.
Something I had to look up specifically for writing this piece that I thought I’d mention was the contraption with metal balls that Edgar used to hypnotize Betty. I had seen one before of course but had no idea what they were called. The real name for them is Newton’s cradle, after Sir Isaac Newton, but they’re also called Newton’s balls, or executive ball clickers (because of how often they’re used as office decoration). There’s not a ton of examples of them being used in hypnosis, but they’re considered in the same field as other hypnotic tools because they’re basically just a bunch of pendulums moving together. Interestingly, the hypnotic aspect of these kinds of tools is usually the movement, with the notable noise being the hypnotist’s voice less so than the noise the tool is creating. So, I thought it was cool that they included that in this episode.
The first two things you may have had to look up because of something you did, but this last one was sometimes googled because it rang a bell. Something you did know or thought you did. That was definitely my experience. I’ve rewatched the episode a couple of times now and each time, there was something familiar sounding about that scene. A google search for serial killer genes will offer headlines about this episode at first, but if you dig into those articles a bit more, or scroll to the ones not spurred by television, it gets really interesting! A blog article on Scientific American details the original suggestion that there might be a genetic component to serial killings.
To sum up the article, in the 1990s there was a suggestion that having a defective version of the MAOA gene, which was mentioned in the episode, could make someone prone to aggressive behavior. The thought was that the brain didn’t get enough dopamine and serotonin, making a person irritable or just plain violent. Studies went on to find that violent behavior had some correlation to producing a low amount of the MAOA enzyme that regulates dopamine and serotonin. It was dubbed the “warrior gene” around 2004. This all sounds pretty intimidating, but research on the subject has been flawed since the 1990s. Studies had poor sample sizes, and one was openly trying to determine that one race had the gene more often than others.
One study in 2009 said that males with the gene were “more likely to report being gang members,” which was misleading. Their research showed that 40% of gang members do not have the gene and that most people with it are not gang members. A study from the same year that spurred the most recent media attention for the warrior gene did claim to say those with the gene were more prone to aggressive behavior.
There were several flaws in the study (including those with and those without the gene having nearly the same results) but a big problem was the definition of aggressive. The hypothetical situation used in the study was that someone had cheated the subject out of money for a lab test. Aggressive behavior in this situation was defined as having the cheater eat hot sauce for punishment. A lot of scientists consider this to be an unsatisfactory marker for aggressive behavior. Despite its media coverage, it seems MAOA has no leg to stand on.
A lot less is known about the other gene mentioned on Riverdale, CDH13. It has gotten less publicity than MAOA has, so research has been minimal. If what we’ve learned about MAOA is an indicator though, maybe it’s better science doesn’t waste time on it. CDH13 has been connected to being more prone to certain mental illnesses – like Bipolar Depression or ADHD – and one study in Finland investigated it as a “serial killer gene.” The Finland study suggests that 5% – 10% of crime in the country may be caused by the gene. Not only is that an incredibly small percentage, small enough to be a scientific coincidence, but there are few to no other studies to support their argument or indicate that their numbers are consistent. Altogether, not a lot of compelling evidence.
Now that we’ve picked apart Riverdale’s logic and fearmongering a bit to distract us from next week’s episode, we can think about story details! I mean, why didn’t Betty bring that heart to convince Fangs and Kevin of what was going on? She knew that Cheryl wasn’t convinced until she saw it. And it doesn’t make sense to just abandon it somewhere and tip someone off before you have to. It feels a little like lazy writing to me; they needed Betty not to convince them so that Betty would be caught. So don’t bring the convincing evidence you risked your neck for!
While we wait to see what happens, don’t forget to think about what it’ll mean for season 4 coming up! We could have some clues about the theme as early as the end of the next episode!