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Riverdale recap: Cheryl’s paintings provide some answers

This episode of Riverdale might go down as my favorite since the show’s return. I enjoyed the structure — characters getting separate paintings/stories — and I’m also now obsessed with this idea I’ve concocted that all Riverdale’s inhabitants are actually just paintings in Cheryl’s library, and they never really existed. How else would Cheryl know all their stories?! Wait, is Cheryl… God?

Sorry, I’m getting off track. The episode begins as Minerva pays Cheryl a visit to check out her new paintings, and one by one she gives her a tour. First up: a shirtless Archie, who’s now a miner?

We find Archie working through his PTSD with a psychiatrist who prescribes him some anti-anxiety meds. But when Cheryl comes knocking at his door, things get interesting. Cheryl has learned about the palladium beneath her maple groves, and she wants Archie’s crew — Archie, Fangs, Kevin, Reggie, and Frank — to help her mine it. Apparently Frank has had a little mining experience in his life, because why not, so they agree. And it doesn’t take Kevin long to get his hands on some palladium.

But when Archie starts hallucinating a moth man, he charges into his psychiatrist’s office and rather aggressively accuses her of drugging him. I hate to say it, but crazy paranoid Archie is potentially the most interesting version of Archie. But he isn’t the only one dealing with delirium.

Once the entire crew starts going insane, they realize they’re all suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. We leave Archie surrounded by the ghosts of all the men he lost in the army.

Next up: Betty, the fake FBI agent. Now that she has a murderer in custody — or in the shop classroom at Riverdale High — she’s determined to get some answers out of him.

Her first interrogation method is trying to humanize Polly in his eyes, so she brings in her mother to tell this creep all about raising Polly. Spoiler, it doesn’t work! When he claims Polly “squealed like a pig when I slit her throat,” Alice loses it and gives the guy a good beating. So Betty changes her plan of attack: She has to convince this guy that she might actually kill him.

Honestly, no wonder Betty’s not with the FBI anymore, she’s TERRIBLE at this. She acts like scaring him is some great idea nobody’s ever thought of before?! It’s like watching someone learn torture 101 right before our very eyes.

In order to intimidate this guy, she borrows a speech that the Trash Bag Killer said to her, threatening to cut her into pieces with a chainsaw. It’s dark, I’ll give her that, and I am more intrigued than ever about her time spent as a captive. But when the guy doesn’t budge on giving her info, she runs and grabs a chainsaw, at which point I started screaming, “THIS IS STILL A HIGH SCHOOL, BETTY!” I mean, everyone’s high school experience is going to be a little scarring, but this is certainly taking it too far.

By the time she returns, he’s already dead. The psychopath bit his own tongue off and choked on it. But Betty did manage to develop one theory out of all of her talks with him: She thinks he’s but one member of a family that’s hunting together, which would make them the second-weirdest family in Riverdale (behind the Blossoms, obviously).

That brings us to the painting of Jughead, the Rat King. We find him at an AA meeting, where he’s talking about what happened after high school and how he started drinking as a way to help him write. And how he did mushrooms for the first time to help him with writer’s block. We even get the backstory of the drunk voicemail he left Betty when she bailed on his release party. It was after he left that voicemail that he disappeared for three days. When he woke up, he was in the hospital. And after he hit rock bottom on Skid Row, he returned to New York to try to piece together what happened during those three days.

He remembers telling a story about a Rat King, a man he met in the NYC sewers after he fell through a sinkhole. Quite frankly I find the sinkhole harder to believe than the man living in the sewers, but THAT is the part that’s true. After leaving Betty that voicemail, he drunkenly fell through a sinkhole and woke up covered in rats. Cops found him and took him to the hospital, where he was treated for rabies. (Doesn’t the life of a writer sound glamorous, kids?)

And that brings us back to Cheryl, who convinces Minerva to spend one last night with her before she leaves for South Africa.

I don’t know why I liked this episode so much, but I do think the structure was part of it. Quite frankly, I also like when this show is dark, and it doesn’t get much darker than carbon monoxide poisoning, rabies, and torture.

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