'Riverdale' recap: Break it up!

Price Peterson
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Warning: This recap of the “Chapter Twenty-One: House of the Devil” episode of Riverdale  contains spoilers.

Biker gangs are weird. One minute you and your fellow biker gang members are wearing your cutest matching leather jackets and riding your motor-bicycles around town instilling fear in the middle-class neighborhoods on the correct side of the tracks, the next you’re at your favorite sleazy biker joint watching teenagers sing karaoke at your retirement party. Where does the time go? Nobody ever said that a lifetime spent in a biker gang was the best option, but sometimes you just gotta do you.

“Chapter Twenty-One: House of the Devil” was an odd episode, both compelling and slightly maddening. The main point of it seemed to be getting BOTH main couples to break up, and in both cases the breakups didn’t make much sense. But what this episode lacked in logic it made up for in Archie stepping out of the shower! In other words, Riverdale remains great. Let’s talk about it!

We began in the world’s scariest biker bar, which now doubled as a cozy writing nook.

Jughead was still working on his great American novel, and this week the novel involved Edgar Allan Poe allusions to explain why Jughead’s friends had started doing tons of sin and sex in order to take a stand against the Black Hood.

Specifically, Archie and Veronica could not stop taking their clothes off and touching foreheads and being a perfect couple that does sex while playing guitar.

Take THAT, you judgmental serial-sometimes-killer!

But then one night while they were rolling around nude on a bearskin rug, Archie had to go and make things weird. Yes, it was time for the whole “I love you”-spoken-too-soon plot line, and even though we’ve seen this one million times through the centuries, I can’t help it — it was still fun and heartache-y to behold.

As you can imagine, not only did Veronica NOT say “I love you” back to him, but her refusal to say it turned what had been a white-hot situation into something as cold as the Arctic. White cold. They both noticed the slight and attempted to pretend that it hadn’t happened, but for the rest of the episode they both stressed about what it all meant. Nothing! But also everything. Ugh, feelings are horrible.

And then for reasons that weren’t totally clear, Betty and Jughead tagged OUT of investigating the Black Hood and straight-up requested that Archie and Veronica take over for a bit. Looking at old files, stalking through abandoned homes… It was their turn to freak themselves out. But since Archie and Veronica needed a diversion from their “Do we love each other?” journey, they agreed!

I am not sure if Cheryl is just trying to be a loyal friend to the woman who’d helped prevent her sexual assault, or if she is honestly horny and crushing on Josie, but this impromptu locker room shoulder rub was erotic and sensual and so, so weird. This guy knows what I’m talking about:

Yes, after being featured VERY prominently in last week’s episode, the mysterious janitor was back in the mix. But who was he, and did he own green contact lenses? Stay tuned, folks.

Apparently, Veronica’s parents and dozens of other prominent families had all received threatening letters from the Black Hood. This dude was officially ambitious as h*ck, but fortunately nobody seemed too bothered by it. In any other reality the Lodges would have responded by hiring a New York City hit man to take this dude out, but instead they kept living their mimosas-all-day existence. Also, their advice to Veronica to be safe involved just keeping Archie around a lot, which necessitated a cutaway for us to see what Archie was up to at that very moment:

He was up to important things!

Again, this episode’s devotion to making sure we knew anytime Archie was stepping out of a shower or removing his top made it a good one by any definition. Anyway, here was another important moment, Archie receiving a text:

So yeah, Veronica’s parents were very wise and cared deeply about their daughter, which was touching.

Oh, then Jughead’s dad, Skeet Ulrich (as himself), got out of jail! Even though he had helped a man murder his son and then assisted in disposing of the body and then lied under oath about it, his time had been served. He was now a free man!

His first order of business was to eat brunch with Alice Cooper for some reason, then he went on a motor-bicycle ride with his son (in matching leather outfits), and then he went and got a job at Pop’s! And even though he looked incredible in his starched white apron, his son Jughead was embarrassed for his old man. But it sure beat whatever it was this lady was trying to sign him and Jughead up for:

Yeah, Skeet Ulrich was in the middle of quitting the South Side Serpents, so he needed to stay away from this snake lady’s schemes. Pop’s it was!

Following last week’s tip that the Black Hood might be connected to the Riverdale Reaper, Archie and Veronica found themselves stalking through the same abandoned house Betty had been drawn to by the Black Hood a few episodes back. This was where a man murdered an entire family with a shotgun (which we saw in artfully edited flashbacks). Conveniently, this otherwise abandoned house contained a bunch of the original police files and newspaper clippings related to the incident, so Archie and Veronica barely had to do anything to discover that the murdered family had had another, surviving child, and that child was now the damn JANITOR at the high school. But don’t worry, the janitor could not be the killer, due to the fact that his eyes were not candy-apple green. Also, just so we’re on the same page here, nobody — I mean, absolutely nobody — still suspects Sheriff Keller. He is simply having an affair with the mayor, and they both share an affinity for people behaving themselves. He’s definitely NOT the Black Hood — get real.

Then it was time for Skeet Ulrich’s retirement party from the South Side Serpents, and if you were wondering whether retiring from a street gang was even a thing, yes it’s a thing, and it’s a lot like retiring from an office job. Your co-workers halfheartedly show up for happy hour, and maybe two teenagers attempt to sing “Mad World” from Donnie Darko before abruptly breaking up and running offstage. But at least Alice Cooper showed up in her best leather outfit and demanded tequila shots! What a lady.

Yeah, anyway, Archie and Veronica were both plagued by Veronica’s inability to say “I love you,” and at least she had realized it was because she had never heard her parents say that phrase to each other. This had darker implications for her, but to Archie’s credit he simply retracted the line and apologized, and things should’ve been fine. But then I guess the lyrics to “Mad World” got Veronica all in her feelings, and she had no choice but to run away. If you can believe it, the dozens of gang members forced to watch this performance expressed their disapproval vocally! So it was up to Betty to take the stage and finish the song the only way she knew how.

By STRIPPING. OK, this was, um, strange. Earlier in the episode we learned that the girlfriends of South Side Serpents are supposed to prove their allegiance to the gang by jumping on the pole, so I guess Betty decided to do that here? It was honestly not a great moment for this show. I didn’t really get it or understand this character choice at all. And I guess I wasn’t alone!

As it turned out, Jughead was NOT happy to see his girlfriend’s impromptu striptease in front of his gang and also Betty’s mother. Maybe he was even worried about her mental health at this point. Unclear!

Also, this was the moment when Skeet Ulrich decided to announce to the bar that he was NOT retiring after all. You know a retirement party is bad when by the end of it you’re like, “Nah, never mind.” Anyway, Skeet Ulrich explained to Jughead that he couldn’t retire anymore due to Jughead getting mixed up with Penny, and that this was all Jughead’s fault. Harsh!

Then it was time for Riverdale’s annual Dump-Fiesta 2K17, and it began out behind the bar, where Veronica decided she had to dump Archie because … well, I’m not exactly sure why. Because she liked him too much and her inability to say “I love you” meant she needed time apart from him? That is definitely a real-life problem we can all relate to.

Similarly, Jughead had to dump Betty because her striptease moment had led him to believe that his gang activities had been a bad influence on her. This I could sort of understand, as she had weirdly begun embracing a community he’d been actively trying to escape from. But yeah. Both couples were dunzo, it seemed!

But as millions of Riverdale shippers would soon discover, when one ship sinks, another is, like, dredged up from the ocean floor and dragged to a nearby harbor by a tugboat.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, Archie and Betty were now sexily looking at each other through their bedroom windows again!

Uh-oh! This was too soon! But sometimes when your heart is confused, it wants a sure thing, and sometimes a sure thing lives right next door. Will they be getting together, or was this just Riverdale’s way of keeping us on our toes before the couples begin reassembling, T-1000 style? It’s a good question.

“Chapter Twenty-One: House of the Devil” was a sometimes-clumsy operation, but it brought us both teen melodrama and extremely good Archie objectification, so at least it knew how to push all our buttons. And while it was nice getting a few more tidbits and info nuggets related to the Black Hood, I think we’re officially getting into “OK, tell us who it is already” territory. Because tell us who it is already! Is Sheriff Keller working alone or with the mayor? And how is his workout routine going — is he making progress? Please answer our questions, show! Also, sure, let us know how these couples are doing. Especially Josie and Cheryl. Rooting for them.

Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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