Welcome to The Riverdale Review, a continuing series on the ever-popular television drama, Riverdale. We’re slowly approaching the end of this season, and this week we were treated with the twentieth episode, Prom Night – getting close to the end of this season!
Prom Night Episode Recap
This week, we watch a couple of couples deal with the issues that have been boiling up all season.
For Veronica and Archie, their challenge is sorting out Archie’s future in boxing. The two work together to get Archie into a match and to renovate his gym, and one wonders how it could get complicated. Well, that is Riverdale’s best weapon.
For Archie, it starts with a visit from his mother, Mary Andrews. She’s come in just to see him but can’t help worrying about him boxing. Mary doesn’t say anything at first, but when Archie approaches her with a parental permission slip for his boxing tournament, she makes her opinion crystal clear. She didn’t even like when he played football, and the brutal boxing matches are something she just can’t condone – especially not after she hears that Archie may not want to pursue college in favour of pro boxing.
He isn’t about to let her get in his way, though. After their disagreement, he just forges her signature and prepares to go anyway. Mary has other plans. She invites a recruiter from a military college to visit Archie – Mary hopes that the recruiter will be able to sway him with a boxing club at the school and a place in the military for five years after he graduates. Unsure but willing to humour his mom, Archie agrees to a match at his gym so the recruiter can assess him. Unfortunately, it’s on the same day as his big tournament.
On Veronica’s end, she works to get a loan to help Archie renovate his gym – as an investor. Pop overhears her on the phone, and Veronica cheerfully explains how she feels comfortable expanding her portfolio to include the gym and maybe more because La Bonne Nuit is doing so well. We watch Pop’s face fall, a heavy secret on his heart. He carries it with him as the episode goes on and Veronica finally asks what’s wrong. He reveals a secret he (and we) learned episodes ago; Veronica doesn’t own La Bonne Nuit, or the diner. When she negotiated it from her father, he gave her a fake deed. When she vents to Archie about it, he asks if she will tell her father that she knows. Veronica replies that she won’t. Instead, she’ll manipulate him into “digging his own grave,” as she says.
Their storyline culminates with Archie’s boxing matches. During his evaluation for the tournament, Archie learned he was about six pounds overweight, with only the week to lose it. On top of that, he has to fight twice in the same day – once for the tournament, and once for the recruiter. He enlists Veronica’s help to get him from the tournament to his gym, but spending the week fasting and working out and sweating doesn’t make for a very good fighter. Exhausted, he loses his tournament fight.
Despite being “dead on his feet,” as Veronica puts it, Archie insists on fighting for his mother and the recruiter. Veronica tries to get him out of it, but Archie has never been known to back down from a challenge. He appears in the ring as Veronica is making an excuse for him, and insists he’s ready. So much for even standing in the ring, though – tripping over the wires, one tumble to the ground is all it takes to knock Archie out cold.
Our boxer extraordinaire wakes up on a couch, watched over by his mother. Filled in on everything by Veronica, Mary lectures Archie about his reckless behavior. Now even more than ever, she’s worried about him endangering himself. Archie argues back, but Mary insists that he isn’t thinking about the rest of his life. She leaves, but the next morning they share a moment. In the horror mystery town of Riverdale, learning to fight isn’t the worst thing Archie could do, and Mary admits it. As long as he does it right – with no more double bookings or crash diets – she thinks she can get on board. Mary also decides to stay in Riverdale a little longer, since Fred is planning to be away for a while. With a smile, these two gingers are brought back together.
With our other couple, Betty deals with the reality that her father could be alive and escaped, even as everyone reassures her. She insists that since the bodies are unidentifiable, though, that anything is possible. Mercies come in little ways, and Betty’s trip to the farm to warn her mother turns into another lead when she sees Alice’s new tattoo – an infinity symbol on the wrist.
Coupled with Jughead’s new information about the Gargoyle King’s gospel – where the mysterious figure supposedly keeps all his secrets – the two get to work. It helps to have the dad as your sheriff when you’re a teen acting like a P.I. F.P. leads Jughead to an old crash pad bus of the gargoyles’, and investigating a cut in one of the seats reveals exactly what he needs. The Gospel is an old, leather-bound book, and Jughead shoves it in his bag before F.P. can see it.
All the while, Cheryl chirps in the back of their ears about their Junior Prom and announces that she and Toni are running for Prom Queens. People, including Jughead with Betty, and Veronica with Archie (who insist they are only going as friends), buy their tickets directly from the redhead herself, but it draws eyes. Evelyn approaches their booth to remind Cheryl that campaigning for Prom Queen goes against the Farm’s scriptures of equality. Cheryl shoots back a lot of sass and Evelyn backs off – only because she’s loading a bigger gun. At the farm, Edgar sits Cheryl down to say that should she go against what the Farm believes, she’ll be cut off. Not only from her community and girlfriend, but from Jason. Terror appears in Cheryl’s eyes as she promises to stop campaigning – anything to keep seeing Jason.
We catch our two teen detectives talking to the doctor who performed the autopsy on Kurtz. He bears tattoos of the symbols carved into the backs of previous victims. They visit a tattoo parlor in town and find out that the artist there worked on Kurtz. He recognized the symbols because Kurtz wasn’t the first man to ask for them. The one before Kurtz, the tattooist described as camera-shy, blue-eyed, and with sandy blonde hair. Sure that she has everything she needs, Betty nods and strides out of the building.
Back at home base, Jughead mulls over the idea that Edgar could be the Gargoyle King. The new one, of course, since the first one was seen two decades before the farm was in town. In Betty’s mind, the evidence all lines up. The tattooist gave the first man the tattoos around the same time the farm came into town. Alice had just gotten a tattoo at Edgar’s request. The Farm bought the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, where Griffins and Gargoyles originated. The Gargoyle King and Edgar both preach similar ideals, if in different ways.
Convinced, or at least willing to look into it, Jughead agrees to confront Edgar. The pair crash one of his group meetings to ask to see his tattoos. Edgar takes off his shirt – to reveal no tattoos on his back. Betty is defeated, but Jughead offers another solution. The gospel that Jughead has been reading talks about an event where a Griffin Queen will be crowned and usher in the Gargoyle King as ruler of Riverdale. Interpreting this as none other than the Junior Prom, the two take advantage of Cheryl’s defeat to swoop in and nominate Betty. They sway Cheryl to a renaissance theme, and Pretty Poisons and Serpents team up to guard the Prom and watch out for the King.
The Prom is a lively event, and the exaggerated medieval theme casts a warm, candle-lit glow on our couples – Cheryl and Toni included. As Cheryl hums and haws over not getting to be Prom Queen, she admits that suddenly, being a Farmie is making a lot less sense. We barely have time to process that before we catch Betty getting a secret note from a masked party-goer. It summons her to where the first ascension night was held and insists that she come alone and tell no one, or everyone at Prom will pay the price. With a grimace, Betty slips away just as they begin to announce her as Prom Queen.
We watch Betty flow down the halls of Riverdale high, dress sweeping behind her, and have flashbacks to Alice, in the very same hall, on the very first ascension night. These flashbacks are personal and literal; the show cuts between the two women and two scenes as we watch Betty slowly enter the restroom. It is full of the same markings Alice saw as a teenager, and with just the same two metal cups, filled with blue liquid. The mirror declares, “Flip For Your Fate.” As we watch Alice reach out for a cup, we hear Betty say, “Not gonna happen.”
The room around her suddenly floods with darkness and is illuminated again only by the red hum of emergency lights. Betty leaves the bathroom – to find the Gargoyle King waiting down the hallway. She begins to question him, pulling a pistol from her purse and taking aim- but is knocked to the ground by someone. The Black Hood looms over Betty as she gets her bearings, and the horror in her eyes is unmistakable. Unarmed and helpless, Betty runs, but the Hood is in hot pursuit. He and the King chase Betty around Riverdale High’s halls, and around each corner she finds another body – presumably their victims.
Finally, a storage closet offers refuge, but the banging on the door is hardly reassuring. Betty holds it shut, desperate screams escaping her lips, and there’s silence. After a moment, a quiet rapping of knuckles on wood comes from the door. We can see the tears rolling down Betty’s face- until Jughead innocently calls her name. Betty throws open the door and leaps into his arms, still sobbing.
F.P. and Jughead sit Betty down, and they all contemplate what this means. Not only was it all a setup, from the gospel to the Prom, but now they have two serial killers running around Riverdale. She knows she has to warn Alice, so Betty runs to the Farm the next morning. She takes her mother’s hands and tells her that she was right – the Black Hood is back. Alice tries to say that she left that life behind, but Betty assures her it’s still following her. Hal is still following her, and he might go to the Farm next, to stop her wedding. Betty pleads with Alice, asks what they do next – and Edgar comes to the rescue. He speaks out from behind her. Stay with the Farm. They are strong, he says, strong enough to protect both of them. Will she stay?
Eyes glossy with tears, we watch Betty look between Edgar and Alice. With the slightest nod and a hesitant sigh, she replies. Yes.
Thoughts on Prom Night
There’s so much to wonder about this episode, but foremost on all of our minds – what end are we gearing up to? Only a few episodes left in the season and we’re still hitting a lot of question marks. Certain snowballs are rolling faster too though; the Farm and the Gargoyle King is at the top of my list. The Farm has Betty?! Will this be another one of her plots to infiltrate them? Will it go wrong like all the others? Or maybe worse, has our favourite heroine been really engulfed by Edgar’s doctrine?
Cheryl was, and I never really thought Cheryl could be engulfed by any doctrine but her own. That may be changing, though, if this episode has told us anything. Despite the hypnotic patterns of the Farm’s rituals, there’s no actual brainwashing (that we know of…). People who join still have a brain. The truly effective tool is manipulation; Cheryl would do anything to keep seeing her brother, and Edgar knows it. All he needs to do to keep her with him is pull on the strings enough that she knows he could be taken from her. But if there’s anyone I know who can use the backstabbing, crafty techniques of popular high school girls to their best advantage, it’s Cheryl. I bet by the season’s end her story will finish on her terms.
Our Archie side plot seems to be wrapping up a little too, with his dedication to boxing instead of college. And his chemistry with Veronica this episode was unmistakable, leading me to think we’re gearing up for an end-of-season kiss, hookup, reunion, whatever you want to call it. We’ll see how effective they are at believably bringing them together again, especially since Veronica has seemed even more insistent on “just friends” than Archie. I’ll give them credit for taking their time, at least!
I promised you my theory on who the Gargoyle King is, so here I go. If I had to guess, it’s all an elaborate Farmie plot. This episode was meant to throw us – and Betty, clearly – off their scent. And it’s fair that Betty would give up after this. You need more solid proof, and they had nothing else concrete to go on. We’ve seen what lengths the Farm will go to to entice Betty, though. Nothing seems too bizarre. What their obsession is with this one girl, in particular, is up for debate with a couple of theories, but the obsession is there nonetheless.
Everything Betty said about the Farm and the Gargoyle King being similar makes perfect sense. Too much sense, too many coincidences, to mean nothing at all. I’d say that Edgar is using the mantle of Gargoyle King, with the Gargoyle Gang as his hands, to do his bidding in Riverdale, while he must remain and appear as a separate entity with the farm. For him, it’s the perfect solution.