“Riverdale” Episode 502 Recap: Is It Just Me Or Were There More Murders Than Usual?

This week on Riverdale, we’re going to kill two preppies with one stone and also solve two mysteries previously thought to be one mystery, so let’s get down to business before another serial killer shows up in town.

I suppose I let the cat out of the bag up top there, so yes, let’s start with the death of two Stonewall Prep students. Moments after Bret calls Jughead and Betty to tell them he’s ready to spill some important information in exchange for them helping him get placed in solitary, Jughead and Betty arrive to the prison to learn that Bret was stabbed to death. Thanks to Dr. Curdle Jr., the mortuary who these wild teen detectives have on retainer, they also learn that Bret’s eyes were gouged out! Yuck! But also, farewell Bret Weston Wallis. You were as much of an asshole as your name implied. Good ol’ deranged Donna phones Betty—from a wharf?—to say she thinks someone’s killing off the preppies, and Betty is kind of like “u tried to kill me so bye” but then another phone call informs us that Joan is also dead, so Donna, while still a “narcissistic psycho” to borrow Betty’s words, was probably right. Someone’s killing the students of Stonewall Prep’s underground literary murder cult. Also, I just remembered that on Riverdale there’s an underground literary murder cult.

Other things I recalled while watching Riverdale this week: THE SERIAL KILLER GENE. I must have tucked this information away deep in the recesses of my brain because every time I remember that this show peddles the idea that being a serial killer is hereditary, I risk losing consciousness. But here we are. Back to talking about the serial killer gene, which Betty has (at least, we think so—here’s a thread of somewhat conflicting opinions but most people say yes she does). Charles once told Betty he also has the gene but that he “joined” “the FBI” in order to “control” his “murderous” “impulses.” Sure, Charles!

This is a full-on angst episode for Archie. In his first scene, he visits his father’s grave on what my girlfriend accurately described as “the set of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He’s upset! Understandably so. His mother asks him to write a letter to the judge in the case against the man arrested for Fred Andrews’ death in order to lower the sentence. As a reminder: This man is taking the blame for his son, who was actually responsible for the hit-and-run. But later in this episode, the son confesses and Archie’s faced with the decision of helping reduce his sentence or not. As Archie sees it, the kid hitting Fred was an accident, but the decision to drive away was no accident.

Ultimately, Archie does go through with writing an apology letter but only after he has a complete and total breakdown. Mary Andrews finds the tape sent by The Auteur recreating Archie’s run-in with the Black Hood, which of course is all tied up in Archie’s dead dad feelings because it was the first instance where he felt like he could have saved his father but failed. Mary hilariously suggests that they give the tape to the sheriff OR JUGHEAD AND BETTY, who have so firmly established themselves as local teen detectives that even adults are like let’s give them criminal evidence. But there will be no investigation today: Archie rips the tape in half and then beats up the TV with his baseball bat, which 1. Is overkill and 2. Probably could have been prevented if Mary’s butch girlfriend had intervened! Where was she?! Instead, Archie is taught a “lesson” by Uncle Frank, reformed mercenary who has up and decided to turn himself in but not before he lets his nephew beat the crap out of him as a coping mechanism. I’m begging the Andrews to put Archie in actual therapy.

Archie’s dead dad feelings spill over into his breakup with Veronica, which Veronica wants to hide from the rest of school. According to her, if people find out they broke up, questions will be asked and then Jughead will find out that Betty also lied to him about the kiss with Archie. She says it’s better this way and Archie blows up at her, and I do hope this is mostly about his dead dad because Archie has no right to get mad at Veronica after cheating on her and then lying about it until he was, essentially, caught!

On that note, Hiram shows up at Archie’s gym and threatens to beat the shit out of him for breaking his daughter’s heart, and well, we all could have seen that coming. Hiram will jump at any excuse to try to murder Archie Andrews, a literal teen. But Hiram has never been one for a moral compass. And Veronica and Hermosa are finally over it (again?)!!!! Hermosa visits Veronica at the diner and seductively eats what looks like a fruit parfait, but hey, I’m all for chaotic diner orders. It’s a good thing she’s there, because a pack of Malloys catch Veronica in the alley and are about to kill her on account of her daddy killing their daddy (yes these mobsters literally say daddy twice in one line). Hermosa shoots them dead, because this apple doesn’t fall far from the poisonous Lodge tree. Hermosa, Hermione, and Veronica band together for a hostile takeover of Lodge industries, which sounds a lot more exciting than it ends up being. Hiram agrees to step down; Hermosa goes a little too hard on teaching him a lesson; Veronica’s allegiances and motives shift for approximately the billionth time when it comes to her family; Hermione announces that she’s finally divorcing Hiram for good and moving back to the NYC to join the cast of Real Housewives of New York, and I’m not making that up! Turns out that Andy Cohen cameo from a while back has long-term plot implications. Who woulda thunk!

Veronica wins best line of the episode with “Your astrological sign might be the Scorpion, daddy, but in fact you’re more like a dog.”

If you’re merely here because you want to know what our blessedly chaotic cherry-haired lesbian maple maven Cheryl Blossom is up to, here’s the lowdown: First, she gets up to some classic bitchy Cheryl shenanigans, yelling at an adult because she ordered crimson caps and gowns and blue ones showed up. Something I absolutely love about redheads is their commitment to exclusively wearing the color that matches their hair. They take power-clashing to a whole new level. “Fix this or perish,” Cheryl threatens before a dramatic exit. Love this for her.

But I’m a little confused about the rest of Cheryl’s storyline this episode. For the record, Cheryl and Toni did NOT breakup last episode, a development I was a little lost on because Toni choosing her Nana over Cheryl seemed like a big deal and then suddenly seemed like not a big deal at all and I guess it wasn’t really that big of a deal, because they are still dating and even maybe mostly living together???? But they’re both setting out to make things right between their families. Cheryl wants to cleanse the Blossom name, so she hosts a virtual board meeting to suggest that the estate sell land back to the Uktena people. Her family of (probably incestuous?) redheads—including aunt CRICKET, in case you don’t keep a mental family tree of Riverdale character names in your head like I do—are like fuck no we don’t care about our family’s colonialist past. The Blossom bitches also say that blocking Cheryl is revenge for “killing our beloved Bedford” and oh right remember Toni killing Uncle Bedford when he was threatening to kill Cheryl? And then Cheryl possibly FEEDING Uncle Bedford to Aunt Cricket in a MEAT PIE! I have to imagine that a Blossom family reunion would just look like a crimson-colored The Hunger Games.

So Cheryl then pays a visit to her mother seeking help, which is already a red flag because this woman has been her lifelong abuser. And then Penelope gives Cheryl the early graduation gift of POISONING THE ENTIRE EXTENDED FAMILY—Cricket included—and making it look like a mass suicide?!?!?!?!?! I do NOT think this is what Toni had in mind when she told Cheryl they need to work on getting their respective families. So Cheryl’s still lying to Toni a bunch. And Cheryl’s also kinda chill with mass murder and, like, I don’t exactly like the extended Blossom bunch either but isn’t Cheryl trying to distance herself from the bloody legacy of her two murder-happy parents? Why is she accepting a graduation gift from Penelope at all? Isn’t it time to realize that maaaaybeeee Toni should get out of this toxic relationship?

One thing I unironically love about Riverdale is how the parents have just entirely given up on treating their children like teens and instead give them free reign to operate like full adults. Betty and Jughead are the perfect example of this. Early in this episode, we see them spooning in bed together because they do indeed live together (because their parents are dating! Bless Riverdale for having so much going on that there isn’t even time to unpack this blended family containing TWO couples) like old marrieds. They also work together as teen detectives. Jughead invites his father to the local speakeasy—also run by a teen—because he thinks the conversation calls for drinks. IS HE EVEN 18?

But hark! We have two mysteries to solve: Who is The Auteur and who is killing off preppies and also creepy David from Blue Velvet Videostore. All these deaths happen very casually in this episode btw. The killer made it look like David hung himself, but Betty’s spot-on murder instincts tell her he was killed by the same person who killed Bret. Only ONE person in their lives could have all the information and resources to pull off these killings. Only ONE person in their lives has admitted to them that he would probably do some lite serial killing if given the opportunity. One ONE person in their lives had admitted to being in a romantic relationship with one of the other murderers in their lives. Yep, it’s Charles. Who never stopped dating Chic. Which means that both Betty’s fake brother and her real one are killers. But Charles thinks of himself as Riverdale’s Dexter, only killing people who deserve it, like the preppies who framed Betty for Jughead’s fake-murder and the guy peddling snuff films at the local video store. The only thing surprising about it being Charles is that it took Jughead and Betty this long to figure it out.

Charles, however, does not confess to being The Auteur, just a regular serial killer without much style. Riverdale shows its hand a little too early on this one though, zooming in on Jellybean’s distressed face after Jughead learns that he was accepted to the Iowa Writers Workshop (yes, once again, I’m not making up this detail). Clearly Jellybean doesn’t want her brother to leave. So even though a tape arrives showing The Auteur freely roaming the Cooper-Jones household and holding a knife to Jellybean’s sleeping face, it seems likely that she’s involved. Because also wouldn’t she wake up if a knife caressed her face???? Sure enough, Jellybean confesses right away. In her defense, according to Jughead, she probably didn’t understand “the enormity and the darkness of what she did.” In her mind, she was just creating a murder mystery for her brother to solve so he wouldn’t leave town. She roped a bunch of other kids into it, including bad news Ricky who she used to play G&G with. Together, these lil babies recreated some of the town’s worst horrors, complete with impressive set design, costumes, really some A+ production work here. It would be cute if it wasn’t so incredibly macabre! Jellybean says she’s sorry and, well, I guess that’s the end of a multiple-seasons-long mystery.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Miami. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 309 articles for us.

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