We knew Hiram Lodge was Batman villain-levels of evil. But, his latest puppet master influence as the mysterious "Man in Black" has spun a dangerous web in Riverdale.
Riverdale Season 3 Episode 7 connected three separate stories of fear, fraud, and Fizzle Rocks into one overall web of development. The plot pieces fell into place, and even as the characters went their separate ways, their paths still tied together.
If one thing was made clear: Hiram was the one getting the job done on the Riverdale chess board. Regardless if he's the Gargoyle King or not.
"Chapter Forty-Two: The Man in Black" wasn't the first time that Riverdale presented their plots in a short story format.
Riverdale Season 2 Episode 7 first tried this structure when it separated the characters' stories into three different dark tales. None of the plots interrupted the others, and the pace provided a clear layout of the beginning, middle, and end. Separately, they pushed the momentum forward, but together they elevated each other up.
The same format happened here with Archie/Jughead's, Veronica's, and Betty's misadventures.
I enjoyed this format because it gave ample spotlight to focus on the changing stories.
Plot points and character developments wouldn't be buried within competing narratives; each story would get their moment to shine. And, the important takeaways were brought to the forefront so that we would know them for the future.
Plus, certain developments that weren't strong enough on their own would be supported by others. In this case, Veronica's story needed a bit of help.
Though with all things considered, this format is a guilty pleasure to have once in a while, but it shouldn't be a recurring theme in multiple episodes.
The pacing felt too much like a roller coaster with its stop-and-start progression between tales. And tonally, the three individual stories were completely different from one another.
Betty's story went dark while Veronica's came off like an Ocean's Eleven-style casino flick. Archie and Jughead's story balanced them out; the tone had both of Riverdale's light-heartedness and the dark betrayal.
I'm curious to see what comes up in the next attempt for Riverdale Season 4.
Archie Andrews was peak "Disaster Archie" during his time on Laurie Lake's farm. It's almost as if his character development completely regressed since leaving town.
The trouble started the second he gave wistful eyes to Laurie (played by guest star Riley Keough).
He barely knew this woman but he was ready to fall for her and explore this new romance. Even Jughead picked up on that fact right away from his flirtatiousness. And, let's not forget Archie enjoyed 10-seconds of making out and intimate shaving with Laurie before his "true love" popped into his head.
Archie: Look, Jug, maybe you should go back?
[Jughead gives Archie a surprised look]
Archie: I’m fine. Really, dude, I’m going to be fine.
Jughead: Archie, no offense but Betty took down a serial killer last year. You can’t go for five minutes without being kidnapped or getting the c*** kicked out of you. And that was before you were marked for death by Hiram Lodge.
Though, his flirty ways wouldn't have hurt so much if he had not made the boneheaded move of telling her everything about his identity. WHAT WAS HE THINKING?!
He and Laurie were in the "Mariah Carey saying she didn't know Jennifer Lopez" stage of their acquaintanceship. Archie didn't know her.
I've discussed in the past how frustrating Archie can be with his choices and his dating life. He made the same ill-advised moves her again based on his reckless nature.
His entire story was a huge step back.
Laurie and Gracie's inclusion most likely play an important role later on in Riverdale Season 3.
We learned a lot of backstory about Laurie's family, and her connection to Hiram Lodge. That type of exposition wouldn't have been given to round out a one-time guest character unless they were going to appear again in the future.
Their need to save their father and brothers might be the key piece here. If she was willing to knock out Archie and give him to Hiram, she'll be determined to do anything to get them back.
Maybe they'll team up with Archie and friends to free them? She and Archie did have a connection ... before, you know, the betrayal.
The most interesting development from Archie/Jughead's story came in the form of Athens, the nearly abandoned town. How long had the Fizzle Rocks, and Gryphons and Gargoyles, decimated the quiet community?
From the way Athens looked, nearly everyone had fallen under the spell. The streets were empty, the men were forced into servitude, and symbols from the game were plastered across buildings.
Athens served as the perfect symbol for what Riverdale could be if the Gargoyle King succeeds in corrupting all.
Riverdale isn't too far off from reaching that reality. People are obsessed with the game, but it's the second element that could make the difference: Fizzle Rocks.
This drug was included a lot this week in the plot elements. So, it brought up an interesting question: are all the followers of the Gargoyle King obsessed due to just the game or are they also addicted/high on Fizzle Rocks?
The town of Riverdale is currently obsessed with Jingle Jangle, but if Hiram were to unleash Fizzle Rocks into mass consumption, the odds might be Riverdale would turn into Athens. Preventing Fizzle Rocks might be the key to overthrowing the Gargoyle King.
Hermione: Okay, Veronica. First of all, I sincerely hope that you don’t think I’m capable of...
Veronica: I don’t know what to believe anymore! Which is why I’m leaving this house of horrors while I still can. Maybe you should too.
Hermione: He’s my husband.
Veronica: Right, well, you and Daddy can pop open a bottle of Cristal because he finally did. He finally won. He finally drove Archie and me away for good.
[Veronica leaves the room with her bag]
Veronica's plot was the weakest compared to the others.
Sure, Hiram was the overarching person that tied everything together, but her troubles with the club seemed like filler in between the bigger issues at hand. Archie/Jughead and Betty had a heavier weight to the story.
Surprisingly, the developments between her, Hermione, and Hiram outweighed in importance over the drama at casino night.
We already knew of the growing tensions between the Lodges, but Veronica moving out of her house made the biggest difference. Hiram wouldn't have continually reached out to his daughter to win her back if that move didn't make a huge emotional impact in his life. Veronica hit the right nerve.
He saved her from Elio's deceit and that will help rebuild their relationship. However, Veronica should use that bridge to find out more about "The Man in Black." The group might not have another opportunity to manipulate Hiram in this war.
Elio's drastic personality shift made no sense based on his past character history.
Ever since he was introduced, he played the role of a trusted business ally to Veronica; that extended criminal contact to connect her into Riverdale's dark world. They found ways to help each other and foster that relationship, especially since they were both motivated by succeeding in spite of their fathers.
The fact that he would then try to take Veronica down because he thought she didn't have her father's protection came off like a convenient plot twist.
Dealer: Twenty-one. Ms. Lodge wins.
Elio: That ... that’s impossible.
Veronica: Why, Elio? “The house always wins.” Isn’t that what they say?
Veronica is the apple of her father's eye. Regardless if they fought, Hiram still loved and treasured her; that truth wasn't a secret to the world. Hiram would, of course, retaliate if anyone went after Veronica.
Elio threw his relationship with Veronica out the window for a quick dollar. That move wasn't savvy or thought-out. Plus, he risked making enemies of the Lodges.
It's a shame that he'll no longer be around. Elio offered that criminal connection, and he provided some glimmering hope of goodness in the crime world. And, he's pretty cute (a Veronica and Elio ship wouldn't have been a bad thing).
Betty's story gave me life.
Her misadventures within the Sisters of Quiet Mercy had a great mix of humor and wit with investigation and darkness. No wonder we had to wait until the end. The third story provided the most exposition, which in turn helped connect Archie's story.
Hiram's use of Fizzle Rocks is the means of his control. This drug was how he got people to follow him, how he made money and the answer to what he'd been dealing through his business.
Plus, it explained how the Gargoyle King corrupted a lot of people.
Without the drugs, the number of obsessed followers wouldn't have risen quite high. The drugs kept people in line, and the Sisters used it to help turn people in loyal Gargoyle King followers.
This mystery went full circle by answering the "How." (Though, I wouldn't be surprised if there was still more explanation to this.)
The best part about Betty's story was the use of her inner monologue. We don't typically hear the thoughts of the characters, except with Jughead and his episode narration.
Betty's thoughts gave us a peek inside her mind and the reasoning for what she was going to do. The added commentary provided so much more depth to the events around her and her imprisonment. We were pulled into the investigation with her.
The scene felt like it was inspired by Veronica Mars.
In particular, I couldn't help but smile after hearing her thoughts about Ethel. Betty might be poised and a kind individual, but she absolutely hides her true feelings.
Ethel nearly got the wrath of Dark Betty if she kept pushing. We have to give Betty kudos for faking her smile whenever Ethel went off the deep end with her Gargoyle King nonsense.
Ethel: Betty, I don’t think Jughead’s into you anymore. We ... connected ... when we played the game together, and things got pretty hot and heavy in the bunker.
Betty: [In her mind] This psycho b****.
Betty: Oh, he definitely told me about how you blackmailed him into kissing you.
What could be behind those chapel doors?
Something terrifying must be there to twist the minds of the drug-fueled patients. (I'm thinking it could be creepy statues dedicated to the Gargoyle King.)
My jaw dropped once Betty was revealed to be brainwashed. Betty had always been the one that we as viewers could see through their eyes during the investigations. With Betty gone, we don't have that safety blanket anymore.
Hopefully, the group will discover where Alice sent her. Betty has pertinent information about the investigation, and without her, the mystery can't be solved.
Her life could depend on this, especially with all the drugs they're giving her.
Last Thoughts From Sweetwater River:
- Jughead and Archie should've been tipped off the second Gracie AND Laurie pointed their guns at them. What if they had only asked for a phone? That was strange behavior, even to strangers.
- How did Jughead not make the connection of the symbols to the game? He saw them before on Dilton Doily's back, and Gryphons and Gargoyles.
- I won't believe Sheriff Minetta is dead until they confirm the body belongs to him.
- Ethel's resentment came from a deep-rooted place long before she became a minion. She was close friends with Betty and the group going into the game, so where did all the hate come from?
- Is it a coincidence or an official title that everyone called Hiram, "The Man in Black"? It could be his Gryphons and Gargoyle character?
Now, over to you, Riverdale fans!
What did you think of "Chapter Forty-Two: The Man in Black"?
Did Hiram's multiple appearances confirm (or disprove) the theory of him being the Gargoyle King for you? When did Ethel get a major case of saltiness toward Betty? How will Betty be freed from the Sisters of Quiet Mercy?
If you missed the latest episode of Riverdale, you can watch Riverdale online via TV Fanatic. Come back here and share your thoughts in the comments.
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.