Riverdale Season 2, Episode 4 – Breakin’ the Code, Breakin’ the Code

Posted November 9, 2017 by Panda Emily Jarrell in Nerdy Bits

Something’s rotten in the town of Riverdale.

I don’t know what reaction Archie was expecting to receive from his fellow townspeople when he posted his “intimidating” Red Circle video, but his actions seem to have shaken them, rather than make anyone feel protected. Everyone has something to say about it, from Veronica’s mother demanding she stop seeing Archie to Mayor McCoy holding a town meeting to discuss “concerns about the recent events in Riverdale” to Principal Weatherbee suspending the entire football team.

Not everyone is upset about these recent events, though; Alice Cooper and Hiram Lodge, for instance, are positively thrilled about what’s been going on. While Hiram has been stoking Archie’s righteous fire, Alice has been fanning the flames of the impending Northside/Southside turf war, because they both live for drama and disorder. Parents being terrible in Riverdale? Must be Wednesday.

Alice tells Betty that the current situation in Riverdale terrifies her, but if that were true, why would she be so eager to give The Black Hood a platform to spread his message? And furthermore, why would she so irresponsibly propagate the unsubstantiated claim that the Black Hood comes from the Southside?

The high school segment of the Southside Serpents have decided the Black Hood is their hero, because he only seems to be targeting Northsiders. There’s theoretically a lot of potential here for examining the differences between Northside and Southside Riverdale, and why it is they struggle against each other, but I don’t foresee that issue being explored with much depth. Doing so would require Riverdale to actually devote effort towards something other than cramming as many references to popular movies as it can into character dialogue, and we can’t have that.

Just as Kevin is rightfully chastising Betty for her actions in the previous episode, another layer is added to the deepening mystery surrounding the Black Hood. Apparently, the Black Hood is taking action on behalf of Betty, revealing in a letter to the Riverdale High Blue and Gold that he was inspired by the speech she gave at the end of the last season. She decides not to tell anyone other than Kevin about the letter, claiming she worries it will provoke some action on the part of the Black Hood. This, of course, is not her real reason, but we’ll get to that later.

Although she keeps the letter a secret, Betty does give her mom the coded message the Black Hood included along with it, which purports to contain information regarding where he’ll strike next. Sheriff Keller wants to keep the cipher under wraps, but this is Alice Cooper we’re talking about, so naturally it’s already been printed in The Register for the whole town to try and decode.

Jughead and Betty are certainly up to the task. When Betty finds out that Jughead has already started working on the cipher with Toni, she suggests that the three of them work on it together, along with Kevin. It’s during this “code-breaking party” at Jughead’s trailer where Toni begins sewing her seeds of chaos in Jughead and Betty’s relationship. She not only insults Betty’s iconic blonde ponytail, but also accuses her of wanting to blame the Southside for all of Riverdale’s problems in a rant peppered with more incorrectly used buzzwords like “fake news” and “neo-nazis.” The more lines they give Toni, the more I hate her; that this show’s dialogue is written entirely by out of touch white men is never more apparent than when she speaks.

Meanwhile, Archie, in all his brilliance, has decided to trek down to the Southside and graffiti a bunch of red circles on random buildings. He’s bought into Alice’s assertion that the Black Hood comes from the Southside and is determined to send him a message by all means possible. Unfortunately, he has a run-in with the high school Serpents that results in him pulling out the gun he bought from Dilton Doiley a couple episodes ago. This altercation earns him a visit from Sheriff Keller and Principal Weatherbee, who determine he needs to be barred from school property. I don’t know if that means he’s suspended or what, but I’m sure we’ll find out next episode.

At the Cooper household, Jughead is returning some books Betty left at his trailer last night, one of which contained the letter the Black Hood wrote her. Here we finally find out why she has insisted on keeping the letter a secret: she thinks that if Archie found out the Black Hood was “inspired” by her, he’ll blame her for Fred’s shooting. Before Jughead can finish assuring her that wouldn’t happen, Betty suddenly realizes why the symbols in the Black Hood’s cipher looked so familiar: they were in a Nancy Drew novel she used to read as a kid. This newfound revelation allows them to decode the cipher, which reads that his next target will be “where it all began”: the Town Hall.

Speaking of the Town Hall, Alice has derailed any legitimate discussion about safety to continue her crusade against the Southside, going so far as to suggest shutting down its high school, a super good idea that would have absolutely no ramifications whatsoever. Thankfully, Fred stands up to decry the way Alice is attempting to use fear to divide the town.

The episode reaches its conclusion with Archie and the rest of the Red Circle getting into an all-out brawl with the Serpents that only stops when Veronica shoots Archie’s contraband gun into the air. This would be wild enough on its own, but in the last seconds of the episode, we see Betty receive a voice-modulated phone call from none other than the Black Hood.

We technically know why the Black Hood is doing what he’s doing, but we still don’t have the full picture. Why Betty? How did he know what book she read as a child? What does all of this mean? At this point, anyone’s guess is as good as mine.

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Panda Emily Jarrell