Netflix UK TV Review: Riverdale Season 2, Episode 5 (When a Stranger Calls)
Riverdale’s Dark Side8
Betty vs Veronica8
Martyn Conterio | On 10, Nov 2017
Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 5 of Riverdale Season 2. Not seen Riverdale? Catch up with spoiler-free review of the first three episodes.
Dear Riverdale writers, stop trying to make Jingle-Jangle happen. The town’s designer drug was readily consumed this week by Veronica, Josie and the Pussycats, Archie and Ronnie’s old pal from back east, Nick St. Clair (Graham Phillips), a rich kid Ivy League douchebag type, seemingly with a name from a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, who managed to wrangle some primo stuff while visiting Riverdale with his folks (who might invest in Hiram Lodge’s property development scheme). The only person in the room who demurred from tweaking was Betty. Is it so transgressive, in the year 2017, for a show to depict teenagers off their faces on drugs? Not really, but when it’s Archiekins and the gang, it feels very daring.
After the last damp squib of an episode, Riverdale returned with an absolute cracker. Jughead joined the Southside Serpents proper, enduring an initiation which ran the gamut from looking after a canine named Hot Dog (where do we sign up?) to retrieving a knife from a glass case containing a rattlesnake (luckily for Jug, its venom had been removed) to enduring a Fight Club-style bruising, including a knuckleduster to the mush. Jug took it like Jake LaMotta in the ring and doesn’t once collapse under the barrage of blows. The scene was very brutal, but Jug’s got his Southside Serpents jacket and can wear it with pride and without being constantly ribbed by Sweet Pea and the others.
Elsewhere, The Black Hood got his hooks into poor Betty Cooper and was playing her like a violin. She has become a kind of God over Riverdale, the Black Hood her avenging angel. It’s very messed up. The psycho killer was dropping hints as to his identity, but before he answered any of her questions, Betty had to do something for him. This involved a range of requests: outing her mom as a former Southside Serpent (makes total sense because Alice Cooper is a badass), putting rich girl Veronica in her place (Betty’s takedown was incredibly convincing and upsetting), breaking up with Jughead (Archie is the bearer of bad news, but he’s peeved with Jug at the minute, so kind of enjoys it) and signing the proverbial death warrant of would-be rapist Nick St. Clair, who slipped Cheryl Blossom a Mickey Finn (probably that goddamn Jingle-Jangle!) and was about to assault her, when Veronica and her gal pals stormed in and kicked the living shite out of the scumbag. Yay!
The Black Hood forcing Betty to ostracise herself from her pals and mother was incredibly creepy. In one scene, towards the end of the episode, she was directed to a deserted old house out in the woods, where she opened a box and donned a black hood. The fiend told her they are the same (theory alert: is this Betty’s previously mentioned long-lost brother?), but it could also be a classic red herring, the Black Hood pointing out the symbolic thin line between being a judgemental moralist like Betty and acting to correct perceived crimes by dishing out justice. Is Chic Cooper, like Michael Myers, preparing to return home?
One could journey further down the Reddit fan theory hole (the place is rife with guessing game chatter) and propose that Betty and the Black Hood are totally in cahoots and this season is basically Scream 2. But would Betty’s involvement with the Black Hood be so readily complicit? Nope. Betty is good, she’s just a girl in trouble (to quote a David Lynch line). She’s being forced to do things through emotional blackmail (the Hoodmeister General threatening to kill pregnant sister Polly, if Betty doesn’t do as she’s told, etc.) Betty is one of Riverdale’s most beloved figures, so turning her into a full-on head case would be totally wrong. She can be Dark Betty, yes, but not Zodiac Killer Betty.
Episode 5 (When a Stranger Calls) was top-tier Riverdale, taking relationships between the quartet to horrible places and complicating friendships royally. What will become of Betty? Will Veronica forgive her bestie? Will Archie and Jug patch up their differences and celebrate a renewed bro-ship over hamburgers at Pop’s? Of course, but the journey back to normality threatens to be a very bumpy road.
Riverdale is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Thursday, within 24 hours of their US broadcast.
Photos: The CW Network