'Riverdale' recap: The gang's all fear

Price Peterson
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Warning: This recap of the “Chapter 17: The Town That Dreaded Sundown” episode of Riverdale  contains spoilers.

To join a gang, or not to join a gang — that is the gang question. Certain gangs have their perks, like matching jackets or decades of postcollege career networking. But other gangs require a lot of crime and cussing to join. Everybody wants to feel like they belong to a tight-knit community of like-minded friends, but are all the inevitable gang brawls worth it? According to this week’s Riverdale … kinda! Not only are the South Side Serpents doing OK for themselves, but Archie’s Red Circle crime-fighting gang has everybody all hot ‘n’ bothered. Sure, the two had to meet in the street for a wet fight, but what else are teens going to do on a school night? It’s all just good, clean gang fun!

“Chapter 17: The Town That Dreaded Sundown” followed Archie into the dark night of his soul, but really the only result was that Archie realized he should probably not own a gun. Other than that, this was more of a journey than a destination type of episode. A good one! Let’s talk about it…

We began on an ordinary day in an ordinary public library.

Jughead had decided to take a break from reluctantly joining gangs so that he could research famous serial killers (while not-at-all-insanely imagining they were hanging out in the library too). The Zodiac Killer (aka Valerie Solanas, if you’re watching the current season of American Horror Story), the Axeman of New Orleans, and even good ol’ Baghead from The Town That Dreaded Sundown were all standing in the stacks, but the Black Hood was the volunteer librarian this day. In other words, Jughead was not in a great place mentally.

And as the rest of Riverdale dealt with their own anxieties about having a masked killer on the loose, Betty received yet another piece of mysterious mail from him. “I would like to be left out of this narrative,” she said aloud to nobody in particular. Betty was not stoked to be receiving snail mail from a serial killer who is bad at murder, let alone a death threat written IN CODE, but at least she hadn’t started a softcore porn gang.

As it turned out, Archie’s Red Circle gang was NOT going over well with many of the townsfolk. Putting aside the fact that his “threatening” Youtube video was a major lol, the north side of town found it uncouth and the south side of town found it threatening. Jughead’s new gang (whose leader is possibly Jughead’s doppelgänger?) felt like they needed to literally kick Archie’s butt now, so this put Jughead in an awkward position. Ugh, crime prevention gets so crime-ridden sometimes.

At first Veronica had her arms crossed to the Red Circle video, but Archie then told her that it had all been her dad’s idea. After that she was ALL IN, and even borderline-encouraged him to move ahead with his vigilante plan. I mean, sure. It did look like a sexy good time, and she wasn’t exactly a stranger to the idea of propping up a crime lord.

Unfortunately, the school administration hit back at Archie and his cohort by shutting down the football team until the Red Circle disbanded. Archie accepted this and decided that if he wanted to take down the Black Hood, he’d have to go on the offensive as a solo artist. So the next thing we knew he was brandishing a fake ID at the Army surplus store, stocking up on ammo and bulletproof vests. Whuh-oh! A teenager buying shooting-related gear wasn’t at all a red flag. Thank goodness for gun safety laws haha just kidding we live in a hellscape. (Also, has there ever been less of a “Wilbur” than Archie?)

Not knowing how else to help, Veronica launched a Red Circle T-shirt line, which allowed the rest of the student body to show their support, and it also allowed the CW to open up another merchandising revenue stream. Smart all around!

Over at Poor People High, Jughead had begun to bond with Toni over their shared interest in true crime, and the two even decided to work together and decode the message that the killer had sent to Betty. As you can imagine, Betty was not stoked to hear this, but she did the right thing and invited herself into their group to help out. Why be jealous when you can get involved? But when she made the mistake of openly theorizing that the killer had been targeting Northsiders only, Toni took offense, even throwing the “p” word around (privilege!) and storming out. This was one love triangle that was just not coming together. Which, great.

Archie went FULL ON hardcore bad boy when he crossed onto the wrong side of the tracks and DID GRAFFITI. Yes, his graffiti was mainly just lopsided red circles, but it was enough to make his point. What was his point? Unclear. I guess he wanted to smoke out the killer somehow. But the South Side Serpents did not appreciate this cavalier property damage and brandished a small switchblade to prove it. That’s when Archie got out his GAT and started telling everyone to “step up, son.” Archie, no! He did not end up executing anybody gangland style, but it was still harrowing. What was happening to this nice boy?

Later, after Archie had been fully banned from his high school and grounded by Luke Perry (as himself), he called upon Veronica to retrieve his gun for him. Now, obviously she’d been down to help him with his sexy vigilante posse, but this seemed a little much, even for her. Also, she had to reach into a public toilet to get it, and as far as I’m concerned these things were dumpable offenses.

Except Veronica wasn’t all that steamed; she just simply told Archie she’d thrown the gun into the river and they shouldn’t speak of such things again. That’s when Hotter Reggie showed up with pizzas and friendship and the gang informed Archie that they were back in the Red Circle, mostly on account of the fact that Archie hadn’t ratted Hotter Reggie out for once wearing a black hood as a prank. I don’t know. But within minutes of their arrival, the South Side Serpents showed up politely requesting a fistfight. It was on! Gangs gotta gang.

Betty had to finally admit to Jughead that the coded message they’d been attempting to crack had been sent directly to Betty herself. (She’d had her mom put it in the paper for the town’s help, but neglected to mention there was a second note written in English citing Betty’s “Riverdale is f***ed up speech” from last season’s town jubilee as inspiration for his crime spree.) But that’s when she realized that she’d spent much of her childhood obsessed with a Nancy Drew code-cracking book! It was weird that she hadn’t immediately thought of it when she received the note, but nobody’s claiming Betty is a great brainstormer. Anyway, she and Jughead went to the library, found that old book, and got to work.

Meanwhile at a townwide meeting, the people had already begun forming a schism between folks who are poor and folks who hate poor people. Very America, in other words. And now that we know Alice Cooper has outed herself as anticompassion, it’s clear her journalism career is about to take her directly to an on-camera pundit job on a cable channel, right? Or is she not blond enough?

Anyway, the mayor was not impressed. Fortunately, the meeting was interrupted by a couple of excitable teens!

Betty and Jughead had cracked the code, and it basically said that the next shooting would happen “where it all began,” which in Betty’s mind meant this here town hall where she’d once delivered her speech about Riverdale. But because nobody seemed super-interested in running outside into the pouring rain, Betty had to pull a fire alarm and FORCE them all to. Thanks a lot, Betty. But had she prevented a shooting, or merely played into the Black Hood’s manipulations? Hard to say.

Outside, Archie and his buddies were in the middle of a slow-motion fistfight with the South Side Serpents. But things began getting wild when one of them got stabbed with a tiny pocketknife!

Fortunately, the mayhem was broken up when Veronica arrived and fired a warning shot into the night sky. She HADN’T disposed of Archie’s gun after all! And I guess this was an example of a gun saving the day? Except Archie openly admitted that if he’d still had it on his person he probably would’ve murderized some folks tonight. So guns are bad in the hands of a good person, but good when they can help break up gang fights. Noted.

I can’t remember what happened in this scene.

Anyway, then Archie and Veronica decided to throw his gun in the river FOR REAL this time. But now how will they break up slow-motion brawls? Too soon to tell.

We ended with Betty receiving a personal phone call from the killer! He had apparently gotten a hand cramp and then realized it’s 2017 and there are easier ways to communicate. But what will he say to Betty? Will they become phone buds? Does he need friend advice? Will they stay up all night and gossip? We will have to wait until next week to find out.

“Chapter 17: The Town That Dreaded Sundown” was an example of how an episode where not much changes can still be exciting and eventful. The Red Circle isn’t officially disbanded, but Archie DID get rid of his gun. And Betty was contacted by the shooter, but it’s not clear what effect, if any, it’ll have on things. Cheryl was basically a background actor this week, which was a bummer considering she seemed to be helping Veronica sell her T-shirts, which would’ve been a fun scene to observe. Still, the stormy weather, fistfight, and, of course, production design kept things both cozy and riveting. Truly hoping Riverdale doesn’t spin its wheels too much before it’s finally revealed that Sheriff Keller is the shooter (screengrab this), but for now I’m not feeling too restless. YET. But something tells me that if we’re on Episode 9 and Betty’s still decoding messages, I’m gonna have to start a vigilante gang and take to YouTube with my baseless threats. Bring it on, show!

Riverdale airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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