Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, anyone and everyone: Let me officially welcome you to the great town of Riverdale, where we just got the exposition-dumping, poison-wielding mother of all season finales. Death cults, serial killers, organ harvesting, Archiebowl! If you’re still struggling to figure out what the hell is going on, or want to dip your toe into the world’s most-baffling swimming hole for the first time, our Q&A is here.
Hold up. You just said Archiebowl. Does that mean what I think it means? Archie fights a bear again?
Archie fights a bear again.
Well, sorta. It’s a very large man in a bear costume.
Well, that’s less fun.
That’s kind of “Survive The Night” in a nutshell.
Okay, help me out here. What the hell happened in this episode?
A lot. A lot, a lot, a lot, a lot.
Betty narrowly escapes a surgical procedure from The Farm’s evil cult leader dude who’s brainwashed her mom and sister—thanks to a surprise visit from Cheryl’s mom, Penelope Blossom. Penelope has learned that the cult is harvesting organs, and wants to “buy in bulk”—meaning she literally buys Betty Cooper. Betty wakes up in Penelope’s hunting lodge, is told to put on a fabulous evening gown, and joins Archie, Jughead, and Veronica at the dinner table where they learn they’re about to play the Most Dangerous Game of all. Gryphons & Gargoyles: The Deluxe Edition.
Penelope, who was the secret mastermind behind pretty much everything, wants these four to prove they’re not as screwed up as the rest of this dirty stinking town, and forces each of them to participate in a deadly challenge in the woods. Archie fights a bear, because fuck yeah Archie’s gonna fight a bear. Jughead fights a guy too, because bros love to punch stuff. Both Veronica and Betty get the “friendship is magic” challenge, where they’re told to kill somebody they know.
Meanwhile, while Penelope is looking fabulous in her red hunting gear, Cheryl grabs an army of bow-wielding fem-warriors to fight off Penelope’s gargoyle minions (in her own fabulous red hunting gear), and literally all the cultists disappear and the FBI is looking for them now.
Was Penelope, Cheryl’s mother, really behind everything?
Um...maybe? It kind of makes sense—in that Riverdale way where you have to excuse a lot just to make sense of a tiny bit. She seems to be at the center of every major conflict, and the show definitely presents her as the woman behind the curtain. But it takes a lot of time for her to explain it all. She spends about 15 minutes on her villain monologue over a lavish table filled with food that no one gets to eat. Quite rude if you ask me.
Penelope reveals how she was the one who’d “encouraged” Hank Cooper to become the Black Hood last season and start murdering people to cleanse the town of Riverdale. Then, after he got arrested, Penelope continued her work in season three by finding herself a Gargoyle King and getting all the kids hooked on Gryphons & Gargoyles, a role-playing game that made teenagers carve occult symbols into their bodies, drink poison, or even kill themselves.
How could a role-playing game do all that?
They said it’s because the game was invented by patients at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, the orphanage and mental facility where Penelope grew up, as a coping mechanism for their trauma. It’s considered to be “born of madness,” and is known for fostering delusions and violence. Or it could be the fact that Claudius Blossom, the estranged twin brother of Penelope’s dead husband Clifford, kept poisoning the local water supply with hallucinogenic drugs because he was a lazy butt. Either way, the true answer is because it’s Riverdale.
I’d heard Jughead say that Jason Blossom, better known as the bloated corpse from season one, was actually the Gargoyle King. That...can’t be true.
No, turns out it was Chic, that guy who was pretending to be Alice Cooper’s long-lost son and Betty’s estranged brother in season two. Hank apparently saw a “kinship” in the kid as he was about to murder him and brought him to Penelope. She coaxed him into spreading Gryphons & Gargoyles throughout the school and taking on the form of the Gargoyle King. She also convinced him to dye his hair red and took to calling him Jason, as a substitute for her dead son. Now Chic has impersonated two long-lost children.
Penelope’s sole goal was revenge. Her late husband had tried to groom their son into his “maple syrup” drug trade, only to then kill him. (Apparently, no one sent her condolences after the death either, which really pissed her off. Penelope may be a poison-wielding murderer, but dammit she likes decorum.) But really, Penelope’s grudges went back way further. Even though she spent most of her life in the lap of Twin Peaks-esque luxury, she held a grudge against the Blossom family for adopting her as a child to groom her for marriage to Clifford Blossom—
Oh yeah, there’s a fun tidbit. Penelope was a child bride who was forced to marry her adoptive brother.
What the hell, Riverdale?
The incest in this thing makes Game of Thrones look like that Sesame Street parody. The whole Blossom family is a big pile of weird, and we still haven’t learned how deep the beast’s belly goes. I have a feeling we’re going to learn a lot more fucked-up things about the Blossoms in the future.
Jason’s still dead, then.
Yes, but he’s back.
We’ll get there. We still have to get to the big Black Hood 2.0 reveal.
Okay... so who was Black Hood 2.0?
Still Hank Cooper.
It was underwhelming. The show didn’t seem to care much about this whole Black Hood return, except for the fact that they wanted it as another reason to show Penelope’s master plan and frustrate Betty.
To be honest, the show didn’t even need it. Penelope was a bad bitch even without the Black Hood. She was responsible for getting Gryphons & Gargoyles out of the orphanage, exposing Archie, Betty, Jughead, and Veronica’s parents to the game back when they were teenagers. Then, she did it again. Also, she got one of the orphanage’s nuns to murder all of the other nuns. We didn’t need her to be the woman behind the man here, but alas here we are.
But wait: If Chic was the Gargoyle King now, who was the Gargoyle King when Penelope and the others were teenagers?
A mystery for another day (read: season), sadly. But it may have just been Penelope.
Also, what’s the link between The Farm and the Gargoyle King? They both talk about “ascension.”
Bigger question mark. We’ve seen a lot of parallels between The Farm and the Gargoyle King, but having Penelope as the mastermind kind of deadens that. At least for now. This is Riverdale, so if there isn’t a connection now there will surely be one later.
Where did the cultists go after they ascended?
We’re floating in a sea of question marks. All we know right now is they didn’t think Kevin was cool enough for their club, and they were all nice enough to leave tiny piles of clothes and shoes around the room when they took off. It’s presented like they indeed “ascended” to a higher plane of existence, but clearly they went to another location, where presumably even more horrifying stuff is going to happen.
Otherwise, why would an FBI agent who’s also Betty Cooper’s long-lost brother be working with his mom, Alice Cooper, as a secret informant to expose The Farm’s organ harvesting conspiracy?
Hold. On. A. Second.
Just go back and read through that paragraph a couple of times, it’ll make sense eventually.
I can’t wait any longer. How is Jason Blossom around?
Apparently, The Farm thought it would be cool to pull a Chilling Adventures of Sabrina , exhume Jason’s corpse, maybe stuff some organs inside it (??) so Cheryl could have some quality bonding time. In any case, Cheryl’s cool with it eventually (after screaming bloody murder when she first saw the body). After all the action of the episode, she brings the corpse back to the manor where he stares up at the ceiling with his mouth sewn closed.
It’s incredibly creepy, and I don’t really care for it. Not only does it show Cheryl is following in her mother’s weird-as-fuck footsteps, which is highly unwelcome, but I don’t think Cheryl’s girlfriend going to care for it very much. Of course, it’s not the only weird, creepy thing that happens at the end of this season finale.
Yeah, I love how the episode ends with Archie yet again asking everybody to cool it with the death cults and serial killers...only for us to flash-forward to spring break of senior year, where Betty, Veronica, and Archie are nearly naked and covered in blood, swearing an oath to burn Jughead’s bloody hat in the bonfire, go their separate ways, and never speak of this again.
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