Holy shit, Riverdale’s flashback episode is actually AMAZING???
I take back everything I said before! Riverdale IS a good show!
by Nian Hu
So if you've been keeping up with my recaps, you'll know that I haven't been super impressed with Riverdale Season 3 so far. There are so many goddamn plot threads forcibly packed into every episode that I literally have to organize my recaps by plotline — Betty and Jughead's Gargoyle King plotline, Archie's stupid prison plotline, Veronica's even stupider speakeasy plotline, and any other assorted bullshit that the writers of this cursed show try to shove down our throats. It's just too much, alright!
But last night's episode "The Midnight Club" proved once and for all that Riverdale is truly the greatest show of all time. There wasn't a single mention of the underground fight club, not a hint about Veronica's speakeasy, and thank GOD, not even a tiny glimpse of Ethel. No, this episode was 100% dedicated to showing us a flashback of the Riverdale Adults, who are arguably the best characters in the show. And it was AMAZING.
Last night, for the first time in a loooong time, I was actually proud to call myself a Riverdale fan. Let's break down some of the top highlights of this episode:
Literally everything about young Alice Smith
Not gonna lie, I had my doubts about Lili Reinhart's ability to pull off this role. After all, Betty is such a goody two-shoes with her high ponytail, cableknit sweaters, and earnest wide-eyed gaze. Her mother, on the other hand, is a massive bitch who simply does not give a fuck. May I remind you of that time she was outed as a Southside Serpent and reacted by sauntering down the streets of Riverdale in a cleavage-baring snake print dress and golden snake necklace?? Alice did NOT come here to play!
Young Alice surpassed all of my wildest expectations. Armed with a dark and brooding glare, pristine blonde curls cascading over her Southside Serpents leather jacket, a black crucifix around her neck, fingerless gloves, and a goddamn LACE BUSTIER, she struts down the hallway like she owns the place. Can I also add that she looks hot as fuck? I can totally see why the most popular guy in school impregnated her! Shit, I might have a bit of a crush on her too!
See, the thing that makes young Alice so damn sexy (no offense, but Betty is more on the "cute" side, and Dark Betty is just…cringeworthy) is her attitude. The way she glares at FP and calls him "Forsyth," the way she brings a giant knife to school and uses it to angrily carve her own initials in the windowsill. What can I say? Teen angst is a good look on her! When insufferable teacher's pet Penelope Blossom (because of COURSE this abusive cunt was a brown-noser in high school) makes a snide comment about her family, young Alice simply responds by slapping her across the face. And when Penelope fights back, there's this truly delicious moment where Alice fucking SMILES and licks her teeth in anticipation. Holy fuck, that's so metal. Nothing but respect for my Serpent Queen!
The terrifying backstory for Penelope Blossom
So the Blossom family is fucked up. We've known this since Season 1, when it was revealed that Jason Blossom was murdered by none other than his own father, Clifford Blossom, who ended up hanging himself in the barn. And then there's the whole thing with the creepy uncle Claudius that's never really explained. And also the whole Black Hood thing is vaguely linked to the Blossom family as well? Something something maple syrup? Look, I'll be honest — I don't really know what the fuck is going on with them. All I know is that there's a lot of incest and murder involved.
However, the backstory for Penelope Blossom is really…something else. During the detention confession circle, she reveals that she's not actually a Blossom, but rather grew up in the Sisters of Quiet Mercy — you know, that creepy orphanage that dabbles in corporal punishment and conversion therapy. When Penelope was 8 years old, the Blossoms came and asked to see all of the red-headed children. They adopted Penelope, but it wasn't out of the goodness of their hearts. Instead, they groomed her to become Clifford's sister, "and then eventually his life companion."
Holy crap, can you IMAGINE? Like, welcome to our family! This is your brother! Now you have to have sex with him! Seriously, no wonder Penelope turned out the way she did. (Still not an excuse for being a homophobic piece of shit though).
The sweetest and purest friendship :(
Aww okay. Watching this unlikely group of high school kids band together in detention, Breakfast Club-style, was insanely heart-warming. Just look at them in their dorky little Gryphons & Gargoyles outfits. These fucking losers literally went LARP-ing in their high school every night, and if that's not the nerdiest but most wholesome shit you've ever heard, then I don't know what is. And their role-playing characters are SO fitting. Like, of COURSE Fred is the Radiant Knight clad in a goddamn white robe! Get it, guys? He's a white knight! Hahahaha.
Their unlikely friendship makes the ending all the more heartbreaking. We watch as Tom Keller drops off food for Sierra in detention, we watch as Alice tenderly kisses FP, and we watch as Hermione cuddles up against Fred's shoulder — and at the end of the episode, when the Midnight Club splinters apart, we're left with a bunch of tantalizing "what ifs?" What if Hermione listened to her mother's warnings about Hiram and ended up with Fred instead? What if Sierra and Tom decided to date anyway, despite their parents' disapproval? What if FP wasn't such a fuckboy and actually gave Alice the support she needed during her unexpected pregnancy? Ahh…what if?
This absolutely frightening death
Okay, I'll admit it! I'm FINALLY a little bit frightened of the Gargoyle King. Don't get me wrong, it's still a massive pile of sticks that has done nothing except stand around ominously. However, I will concede that it derives most of its terror from the fact that nobody seems to know what the fuck it is. Is it really a fellow member of the Midnight Club, as Alice seems to believe? Or is it some supernatural deity? And which is more terrifying — the thought that another human being is capable of inflicting so much evil, or the thought that there's a murderous monster roaming around the streets of Riverdale?
Also, I'm seriously creeped out (and majorly confused) by what happened to Principal Featherhead. Alice seems to believe that he stumbled upon the poisoned chalices that were intended for the Midnight Club and accidentally drank it, but I'm not convinced. First of all, what idiot sees a cup full of blue liquid and thinks, "Hmm I don't know what this is. Let me take a sip to find out!" Second of all, it doesn't really seem to line up with the other deaths. All of the other deaths (Dilton's, Ben's, Ethel's near death experience) were voluntary and almost blissful suicides. But the principal wasn't even involved in the game AND he was found shoved in a closet. Someone — or something — definitely murdered him. Definitely the creepiest thought of all is that students walked around his rotting corpse for weeks before they discovered the body. SO GROSS.
This even MORE frightening ending
If the flashback ending wasn't terrifying enough, the real-life ending of this episode is even WORSE. So Alice finishes telling this horrific story and warns Betty that the game is dangerous. It's not really clear HOW the game is dangerous — but apparently the more you play it, the more at risk you are. And from what we've seen so far, Gryphons & Gargoyles seems to seriously mess with your sense of reality. People who get too involved in the game start believing that it's real, and that the only way to "ascend" to the next level is by…killing themselves. "Is it murder or suicide?" Betty asks her mother. "In the end, it's just death, Betty," Alice responds in an extremely dark twist that not even I saw coming.
Betty goes sprinting into the bunker in the woods to tell Jughead everything she's learned — and, you know, tell him to STOP PLAYING THAT GAME. Unfortunately, she's too late. She finds Jughead playing Gryphons & Gargoyles with Cheryl, Toni, Sweet Pea, and Fangs in the bunker. Frightened, she asks him what he's doing. Jughead, with a crazed expression on his face, holds up the player's manual and goes on a deranged rant. "Betty, it's all making sense," he says excitedly. "The game, the gargoyle king. I'm on Level 3 and it's only a matter of time until I ascend." And as we all know, "ascend" is a euphemism for "drink a cup of blue liquid and kill myself."
Holy FUCK. Does this mean that Jughead might actually…? All I know is that this show has definitely made things a hundred times more interesting. No more fucking around with speakeasies and impromptu football games, please! THIS is the kind of dark and psychologically twisted insanity that I want to see.