Recapping Riverdale: Chapter 5, “Heart of Darkness”

The one constant in Riverdale is that everyone and no one seems actually interested in solving the murder. Heck, even the Blossom family barely cares about getting justice for their son.

Speaking of the Blossoms, they live in a big, creepy mansion called Thornhill. Our Gothic heroine, Cheryl, descends the stairs toward her brother’s coffin. There are candles on every conceivable surface. She opens the casket to find it empty, and a zombified Jason appears behind her. When she wakes up from this nightmare (in Jason’s bed, no less) her mother is waiting at the door, and tells her she’s not going to be speaking at Jason’s funeral lest she humiliate the family. The incest vibe continues with full force. 

Archie takes his frustration with last episode’s ending on a punching bag in his room. He’s shirtless, and Riverdale earns its fan-given subtitle “Sexy Archie.” Sexy Archie tells his concerned father that getting ripped leads to being football captain which leads to a college scholarship which leads to music. Kevin helps Betty and Jughead draft a version of his dad’s stolen murder board (quick Q: why isn’t he helping his dad do this?) when the doe-eyed Trev walks in to make sure he and Betty are “still on for tomorrow?” Betty confirms, reassuring a concerned Kevin and a weirdly moody Jughead that it’s all in service of their investigation; Trev knew Jason well.

At football practice, Archie gets knocked around. The coach, who is a black guy despite being a white guy in episode one, is pretty mad about this. He chews him out in the locker room. If Archie doesn’t step up his game, he’s going to make Reggie captain of the team instead. Why is the coach making sophomores captain of the varsity football team? Who cares? Reggie is cute.

Pictured: Hermione "I just wanna be friends" Lodge and Fred "I just want to feel the touch of a woman again" Andrews. Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW Network
Pictured: Hermione “I just wanna be friends” Lodge and Fred “I just want to feel the touch of a woman again” Andrews. Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW Network

Hermione has takeout ready to go for Fred Andrews when he shows up at Pop’s, but it turns out he’s actually there to ask her on a date. Hermione cites that they’re both married. Fred realizes he’s been friendzoned and GTFO’s pretty fast. At lunch, a Pussycat named Val gives Archie the number for a Mr. Castio, a music teacher to replace Grundy. Cheryl invites the whole gang to the funeral. Veronica catches up with her in the hallway (special shout out to the red-and-black-and-sexy-all-over costume design for this scene). She doesn’t want to be “locked in a catfight to the death”; Cheryl agrees that they are clearly equals in combat and accepts frenemies status on the condition that Veronica comes to a sleepover the night before the memorial. “I don’t want to spend the night before I bury my brother alone.” Jesus. Everything Cheryl does is a cry for help.

After imagining the two roads diverged in the yellow wood of his life, Archie calls Castio. In person, Archie briefs him on his musical history. He started writing after Jason died. The first song he wrote was about him, in fact (which, like, give us the drama please???). Castio makes clear that there are no shortcuts; he’s going to be tough. He needs Archie’s sheet music, which of course Archie’s never made. At Thornhill, Cheryl’s mom, Penelope, reveals to Sheriff Keller that they’ve invited everyone on their suspect list to the funeral, ‘cause every mourning parent knows that’s the real way to catch a killer. Apparently that’s also why they invited the Lodge’s.

At Pop’s, Trev tells Betty that Jason started acting weird when he began dating Polly. He sold off all his things and began dealing drugs for fast cash. Archie invites Val over to help him write music. It’s pretty romantic, until Fred walks in and is like, “Ah! Um! Ha hey hm hey! A girl your own age! Ah! I love the Pussycats!” Archie tells him to GTFO; Fred obliges, but keeps the door open a crack because he loves the drama of it all.

Speaking of dads, Betty asks her dad about Polly as they work on the car together. Turns out Betty knows literally nothing about the Polly/Jason situation, including what Jason did to her–she’s not even allowed to call her sister. Her dad basically skirts the question; all he knows is Polly tried to kill herself so they sent her away, because the Coopers are literally the worst and don’t know how to handle teenage mental illness at all. Betty informs Jughead of everything she learned from Trev and her dad. Jughead proposes sneaking into Jason’s bedroom to snoop for clues as to why he’d want to run.

Archie gets bowled over a few times at practice and busts up his wrist. Black coach is pretty happy he’s trying, though. As he wraps it up in the hallway, Veronica sees him and goes to help, chastising him for abusing his “instrument.” He tells her he was up late working on songs with Val. Veronica notices this immediately, probably because she, like me, has a huge crush on Val. She shakes off Archie’s questions of jealousy, and although the writers clearly want us to read this as a shippable moment, they come off as really wonderful bros. I love them as bros. Just bros. Please, god, let them just be best bros.

Archie and his broken wing. Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW Network
Archie and his broken wing. Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW Network

All the hard work with Val didn’t pay off, however. Castio criticizes Archie’s music as juvenile breakup songs. Archie tells him vague details about Grundy. Castio says, “She must have connected with you on a level that I never will,” which, ew, and ends things. At Thornhill, Veronica and Cheryl have an extremely awkward dinner with Cheryl’s parents, Penelope and Clifford, and her barely-lucid grandma with one punk-rock streak of red still left in her white hair. Clifford passive aggressively asks about Veronica’s dad, and she’s surprisingly vulnerable with him about how hard it was to watch him arrested in front of her. Cheryl’s mom throws some mean shade at her own daughter, clearly blaming her for Jason’s death.

Closing alone after her shift, Hermione hears a noise and goes to investigate in the diner. A box has been left on the ground and inside is a hissing snake. Betty wakes up in the middle of the night to some childish giggling downstairs, where her father watches family videos of Polly as a little girl. In Cheryl’s room, Cheryl and Veronica look way too club ready for bedtime; I mean, Cheryl is literally wearing heels. In bed. Anyway, Cheryl reveals she invited Veronica because she was the only person who helped her through her panic attack in episode two. Veronica encourages her not to take her mother’s shit and to speak at the funeral anyway. Cheryl agrees but says her parents will “kill her”–wait, was there real fear behind that expression?

Hermione called her BFF Fred Andrews to help her with the snake, which was a message from the Serpents. She doesn’t trust the police, or anybody. Seriously, when will they bone? I don’t even ship it, I just want to get it over with so I can have some peace in my life. I think Fred agrees with me.

For some reason Jughead is at Betty’s place as they get ready for the funeral, and they both are dressed in all black (is he couch surfing? seriously, where is Jughead living right now? did he carry around that suit in his backpack? how is it not wrinkled?). Betty tells him he looks good in his suit; Jughead does his signature anime blush. At the funeral, Hermione and Penelope have a fucking weird moment, even though upstairs their daughters are bonding. Cheryl, wearing a black widow’s veil, tells Veronica she’ll catch up with her downstairs.

Photo: Diyah Pera /The CW Network
Photo: Diyah Pera /The CW Network

Archie presents Jason’s jersey to Penelope as a gift. She weirdly touches Archie’s hair and says, “You’re so much like him.” The parallels they’re setting up here between Archie and Jason are really starting to make me think he’s going to die at the end of the season. Betty sees her dad and Clifford Blossom having an argument, but before she can say anything about it the funeral begins, and Cheryl walks in. She’s wearing all white because she doesn’t give a single fuck. (Bonus: I’m Kevin whispering “Yes” under his breath.) Her parents clearly hate this but V gives them the death stare. Cheryl starts a speech about how Jason was the only one who ever truly loved her and protected her. When she breaks down, Veronica gets up to hug her. Penelope finally rises and ushers everyone into the next room for a light lunch–I guess the service is just over now, even though I’m sure one of Jason’s football bros had a really nice poem he prepared.

Fred catches up with Hermione and offers her a job keeping the books at his construction firm. They embrace; Hermione’s face is like, “This is too much,” while Fred’s is like, “I haven’t felt the touch of a woman in 100 years.” Upstairs, Jughead and Betty sneak around in Jason’s room. Jughead’s practically twitching with excitement until the door slams shut and from behind it rolls Creepy Grandma. Jughead leaps behind Betty and pushes her forward as Creepy Grandma tells her to “come closer, Polly, dear.” Betty rolls with it and they learn that Grandma had given Polly a ring, which Penelope didn’t know about. “Your wedding was the last thing I was living for.” This is too much for Betty. She takes off, Jughead close behind.

Elsewhere in the mansion, Penelope verbally abuses her daughter and tells her she’s going to ship her off to boarding school for what she did at the funeral. Veronica witnesses this through the crack in the door. Archie starts to get anxious about his music, and Val basically tells him she doesn’t have time for his male tears and that he needs to just believe in himself already. For those of you wondering what makes Archie Andrews tick, your answer is Val. They better get together after this, I mean, Jesus.

Betty tells her dad that Jason and Polly were engaged. Of course he already knew. She demands to know what he and Clifford were talking about. He explains that their families have had a feud for generations because Cheryl’s great grandfather MURDERED Betty’s great grandfather out of greed for their business profits. (Yeah, you read that right!) Her dad insists that Jason made Polly sick because his whole family despises their family, and that Betty needs to stay out of it; meanwhile Betty is screaming “WHAT THE FUCK DAD, YOU KEPT A GENERATION-LONG BLOOD FEUD FROM ME AND MY SISTER? NO FUCKIN WAY DAD! YOU’RE THE ONE WHO’S SICK! WHAT THE FUCK!”

Well, it was something like that.

At the Lodge’s, Veronica thanks her mother for not being as shitty as Cheryl’s mother, which is a pretty low bar. Hermione tells Veronica she has something to tell her. At school, the football coach grants Archie captainhood, but Archie declines because “your starting lineup deserves someone who’s only love is football.” He continues: “That part of me that I would have to give to you if I were captain… I have to save that for something else” (what’s he talking about? Virginity? Marriage? Man, this kid’s relationship with mentors is fucked up). Later, he plays his music alone, and Val comes in and smiles at him.

Cheryl continues to have visions of her dead brother, but she’s a little more at ease with them now. Betty and Jughead work through some of Betty’s issues and they realize that her dad wasn’t at the drive in the night that Sheriff Keller’s murder wall was stolen, which means he’s the one who stole it. Since they can’t trust Betty’s family and can’t get any answers from Jason, they decide together that they need to talk to Polly.

"I'M NOT CRAZY, BUT ALL THE WOMEN IN MY FAMILY ARE!" - a man who is definitely not sexist
“I’M NOT CRAZY, BUT ALL THE WOMEN IN MY FAMILY ARE!” – a man who is definitely not sexist

Honorable Mentions

  • I think the reason the coach is now black is because two episodes ago we met Chuck Clayton, who was also black. It must be standard procedure to challenge consistency five episodes in rather than just having canon biracial characters.
  • Why is Veronica being really mean to Archie about Grundy? There’s no reason for this. Where’s the consistency.
  • I guess it makes sense that Val and Archie wouldn’t IMMEDIATELY BONE as soon as they start hanging out; I mean, Archie has a lot of shit to work through.
  • Nothing we learned in this episode disproves my theory that Betty could still BE Polly–as in, Polly was an alter-ego, a different hair color, a personality disorder that Betty doesn’t know she has, etc. I mean. Grandma literally thought she WAS Polly. So. I’m JUST SAYING.
  • My overall theory is that Jason and Polly never actually fought at all; they were in love and were caught up in some stupid feud between their families. Jason wanted to leave because he wanted to marry Polly; meanwhile, she was planning her own escape from whatever mental ward she’s in, and they were going to meet up somewhere in the woods.

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