“The Locked Room,” in which we learn why and how Jughead Jones almost died and then subsequently faked his own death in order to solve his own murder, is exactly what makes Riverdale extremely Good. This is excellent television. This is beautiful chaos. This is the movie Clue on poppers.
It’s not a whodunnit; it’s a WHYDUNNIT, as Jughead helpfully explains. We do indeed already know that it was the Stonies who conspired to kill Jughead and then framed Betty for it. That much has been clear since the beginning of this mystery, because the Stonies are stone cold demons in prep school uniforms. But WHY! The answer…is even better than I could have imagined.
“The Locked Room” plays out like a locked room mystery, Betty and Jughead trapping Mr. Dupont and the members of the literary society in a room so they can walk us all through the murder conspiracy they’ve uncovered. We flashback to things from throughout the entire season, Riverdale quite literally showing us all the threads of this mystery web. Somehow, it isn’t tedious. It’s thrilling (and absolutely absurd, but thrilling nonetheless). We’re watching Jughead solve HIS OWN MURDER. We’re watching Jughead explain to HIS MURDERERS how and why they MURDERED HIM. Riverdale, I love you.
Essentially, the Stonies decided to kill Jughead as part of a time honored tradition where whoever ghostwrites the Baxter Brothers book series has to prove their skills at writing murder mystery BY COMMITTING MURDER! Yes, this season of Riverdale hinges on a literary society that has been casually murdering people for decades. It all started with Mr. Dupont, who is a masterful serial killer in the sense that he has never instructed his pupils to murder and yet has still instilled this deranged tradition in the minds of these young writers. The Baxter Brothers series must be a lot more lucrative than I initially realized if people are willing to kill for it but you know what let’s not get too deep into any issues of believability here because honestly? Riverdale sells the shit out of this thriller. The whole episode is like a living, breathing murder board.
Can we talk about the fact that there is a character named Charles Chickens on this show? Can we talk about the fact that instead of Nancy Drew, there is a teen female detective in the Baxter Brothers universe named TRACY TRUE??????
Speaking of Tracy True, there’s actually another layer to Jughead’s murder case. Mr. Dupont (who btw jumps out a window after he’s caught) thinks he’s the mastermind, but there’s a mastermind above him. Donna!!! As an act of revenge on the behalf of her grandmother, who Dupont stole the idea of Tracy True from, Donna was all along plotting on securing the Baxter Brothers contract and revamping it as a Tracy True series. It doesn’t matter how many people had to die. She wanted that writing contract that badly. I love a literary scandal, and Riverdale has crafted the greatest literary scandal of all time.
I’ve been mixed on Donna as a character along the way, but it does all come together with her in “The Locked Room.” Donna vs. Betty makes for a glorious dynamic. They’re both incredibly smart and conniving in their own ways, perfect foils to each other. Honestly? Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes found dead in a ditch. Donna and Betty are the new ultimate adversaries.
Meanwhile, Cheryl and Toni are eating popcorn while watching the local news. And that’s pretty much it!
And now, I know this is not how I traditionally do these recaps, but I do think this episode of Riverdale is very special. So here is just a list of actual verbatim quotes from “The Locked Room” that deserve to be honored. Pure poetry.
- Jughead: The weirdest thing about pretending to be dead is that after a while, you actually start feeling like you’re dead.
- Jughead: To solve my own murder, I needed the illusion to be perfect to buy myself time.
- Hermosa: Because that’s the kind of thing that secret girlfriends do: They kill each other’s boyfriends so they can be together.
- Veronica: I don’t know what kind of crypto lesbian pulp fiction you’re conjuring, Hermosa, but Betty and I are just friends.
- Jughead: Because in all your plotting, all of your lurid conspiring and your brilliance, you didn’t kill me. I mean, whose job was it to check my pulse?
- Jughead: As they say in Lord Of The Flies, I have the conch.
- Betty: Use the beanie to stop the bleeding.
- Betty: Specifically, the three members of your original literary society… who you murdered.
- Donna: Are you really so delusional you would believe I would mastermind some elaborate conspiracy that caused the deaths of multiple people just to win a YA book contract?
Clue on poppers… I’m dead.