The sixth episode of Riverdale left the eponymous town splintered, so it makes sense that this episode saw the main cast dealing with the fallout.
Veronica is left abhorred by her old friend Nick’s actions after episode five, with his harassing her and attempted date-rape of Cheryl Blossom. Jughead is left pondering where to go with his life, with both his status as a ‘newborn’ Southside Serpent and his “break-up” with Betty, the latter left shell-shocked by the Black Hood’s manipulation.
And then there’s Archie, who is left wondering how everything went so wrong.
But despite all the emotional drama, the focus of this episode is once again on Betty’s newfound ‘partnership’ with the Black Hood. At the end of the episode five, we saw Betty nominate Nick St. Clair to be killed by the Black Hood to save her sister. However, Betty discovers that the Black Hood, despite his joy at ‘breaking’ Betty, has not carried out the execution and instead asks for something else: the identity of the town’s jingle-jangle dealer, ‘The Sugarman’. This task forces her to investigate the shadiest places of Riverdale and to forge an uneasy partnership with Veronica, whose friendship with Betty is still at sixes and sevens.
Things aren’t any easier for Jughead (the episode’s secondary focus) who is still reeling from his ‘break-up’ with Betty and his consequential rebound with Toni Topaz. If that wasn’t bad enough, the jungle-jangle trade has forced the Mayor’s hand to enforce crackdowns and arrests of students in Southside High, leaving the Serpents vulnerable to a partnership/hostile takeover from the drug-dealing Ghoulie gang. Realising his role as de facto peacekeeper, Jughead must step-up and protect the Serpents way of life, even if it means entering a deadly wager with the Ghoulies leader, Malachai.
Both of these sub-plots were the best parts of this episode, showcasing the duality present in Riverdale. It also goes beyond the Bughead ship, showing Betty and Jughead are still their own characters with their own strengths, weaknesses and problems. Another good sub-plot was Cheryl’s involvement in the Sugarman case, as much of the clues pertaining to the dealer’s identity were also intertwined with her late father Clifford and his dealings that led the events of Season One. The chain of events set off by Clifford’s murder of his son Jason exposed the darkness in Riverdale and set up the show, so it makes sense that his shadow would still linger over the town.
The cons for this episode were few, but the most obvious one was the resolution of the issues from the last episode. Seeing Betty distance herself from her friends and splitting herself up with Jughead was quite the development, but instead of continuing the tension and drama, the cast managed to clear everything up in only two scenes. Having the characters fighting and being apart like that was a nice change of pace and teased the audience with further characterization. While it is good to see everyone solving their problems, it’s a shame that we didn’t get more tension between the main characters.
In closing, this episode was a little bit of a step down from the heavy drama of episode five. Yes, we got to see some more of Detective Betty, a team-up with Betty and Veronica and some clashing egos with Archie and Jughead, but in the end, it was the anti-climactic resolutions that became this episode six’s undoing. But nonetheless, this episode (like its predecessor) is one of the best so far this season.
I give this episode 4/5 Sugarmen