Here we are, fellow Riverheads: the end of the COVID-19 shortened season of Riverdale. What a year it’s been for my favorite over-the-top teen drama. We started the season with a memorial for the gone-too-soon Luke Perry, and we’re ending it on with this, three episodes short of a full story season after the show was shut down when a crew member tested positive for COVID-19.
This ad hoc season finale of Riverdale begins as so many other episodes this season began, with the gang watching a VHS tape left at their door. Charles (Wyatt Nash), Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) watch the Archie snuff film from the end of the last episode side by side with the Jason Blossom snuff film uncovered at Blue Velvet last week. Charles wonders aloud why the VHS bandit would switch to this now, after months of static shots of houses. Wouldn’t that be a question you could answer best, Charles? Since all arrows seem to be pointing to you and Chic being our VHS bandits?
In a matter of weeks, Betty went from having no work done on the yearbook to giving a final product for Principal Honey (Kerr Smith) to review. You can imagine her dismay when he announces there will be no yearbook this year. Get used it, Betty. This is prepping you for countless projects needed ASAP from you by management that seem to disappear into the ether after you turn them in. Betty missed the printer’s deadline by two days. Despite Betty having made special arrangements with the printer, Honey says he won’t have the time to approve every page by that afternoon’s new deadline. Imagine if this is the incident that sends Betty over the edge as the baddest killer to ever hit Riverdale?
Jughead gets a call from someone at the University of Iowa. Jughead is in, if he can get them another story. Wow, Cole Sprouse’s hair is getting really long under that hat. Side note: my quarantine hair is approaching that length. I need to order myself a Jughead beanie.
When Betty tells the gang about Honey killing the yearbook, Veronica offers to pay for the printer. YOU CAN’T BUY YOUR WAY OUT OF EVERY PROBLEM, VERONICA. Betty lists off a series of ways Principal Honey has wronged them over the course of his short tenure, during which it’s revealed that Archie (KJ Apa) and Jughead might be the only seniors left in the school who haven’t been banned from prom. Betty muses, “The only thing that would stop Mr. Honey is if we killed him.” That’s a totally normal thing to say. She then walks it back to scaring him into leaving town. Betty quickly comes up with a plan that involves assault, kidnapping and water torture. Betty looks way too happy with herself at the end of this scenario. Reggie (Charles Melton) offers they pull off the most epic senior prank ever, which seems to be coating Honey’s chair and phone with crazy glue. Betty and Reggie are like Winston in New Girl when it comes to pranks. Either too underwhelming or way too overwhelming.
Betty wakes in the morning to the sound of Jughead’s fingers tap-tap-tapping on his keyboard. She inspired the short story he’s writing for his Iowa admissions submission. It’s called Killing Mr. Honey. Betty starts to read and we see the story played out on screen. This first draft finds Honey a prisoner of the gang, who are all disguised in bunny masks. Archie and Jughead stop Reggie from beating Honey to death when he figures out it’s them under the bunny masks. In the real world, Betty calls it a bit dark. Jughead worries it’s too dark, but Betty then says she loves it. Of course she does; she’s a future serial killer.
Charles texts Betty that he needs help on something. She goes to him while Jughead stays behind to write more.
In Honeyland, Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) is watching over a tied up Mr. Honey. He tries to talk her into freeing him. Cheryl agrees to free him if he lets them go to prom and forgets this happened. Honey suggests releasing him and calling the police instead. They’re at a bit of an impasse. Cheryl tells him, “It’s your funeral, Mr. Honey” when he refuses to give in to her demands. Looks like Jughead is going really dark here. Though really, is it any darker than the first three season of Riverdale?
In real life, Charles has a new video. Ethel’s mom received it. It’s a recreation of Midge’s crucifiction by the Gargoyle King. Betty wonders aloud who is providing these snuff films to Blue Velvet Video in the first place.
In Honeyland, Archie and Veronica have a turn at watching Honey. They find him on the ground, unconscious. Veronica says he’s dead. Dun dun dun!
In real life, Honey has returned to work, freed from his chair. He’s pissed. He’s cancelling prom for everyone unless the perpetrators step forward. Cheryl explodes on Reggie, blaming him for this. Cheryl, aren’t you already banned from the prom? The problem is that Reggie had help from Archie and Kevin, which gets Veronica to back down from supporting Cheryl here. Oh, and Cheryl is pissed because she planned on crashing prom. I’m sure that would have gone very smoothly. So many students at Riverdale High look just like Cheryl that she would have blended into the crowd easily. It’s practcally a school full of long haired redheads, right? Wait, it’s not?
In Honeyland, Betty tells her friends not to panic. They’re all panicking. Betty gets them in line though, telling them to stick together in order to save their college-bound futures. Once calm, Veronica asks who has experience removing a dead body. Reggie does not fail to notice that he’s the only one who didn’t raise his hand. Man, growing up in Riverdale is dark.
In the real world, Betty did some research. Principal Honey has cancelled prom at every school where he was principal. She spreads the word to the gang, who all tell their folks. Surprisingly, none of them are happy to not have to pay for a limo or tux rental. The parents (and one grandparent) descend upon Honey in the halls of Riverdale High. Alice leads the charge, demanding that Honey reinstate prom and allow the banned students to attend. Mary Andrews threatens a lawsuit, while Hiram Lodge threatens to call the governor. Alice tops that with the thought of producing a “Principal Cancels Prom Out of Spite” news segment that she hopes will go viral. This scene is like a Voltron of Karens combining their forces demanding to see Honey’s manager.
in what will be his first of only two lines of the past two episodes, Skeet says “Oh, we’re just the muscle,” when Honey asks what he and Mr. Keller will do to him. Man, I’m really hoping the COVID-19 shortened season doesn’t end Skeet’s tenure on Riverdale like this.
In Honeyland, the gang digs a grave. In the real world, Betty talks about how relatable that scene is to their real life. Yikes.
Cheryl announces to a packed house at Pops that prom is officially back on. Everyone cheers. Lots of underage drinking seems to be taking place in this scene. No one bats an eyelash. All the parents get to say something nice about the graduating seniors, finishing with Skeet announcing, “My boy is going to be the first Jones man to go college! Wooo!” It’s a great line from Skeet, but man, with the news about him and and Marisol Nichols leaving the show, it’s a shame how underutilized they’ve been in this build up to end of the season. Skeet deserves to go out with a bang, not disappear offscreen between seasons. Thought at least he got lines this episode. Marisol Nichols was on-screen, but quiet in this finale. The good news is, Roberto Aguirre-Sarcasa has confirmed both Skeet and Marisol will be back for the first three episodes of season 5. He told TV Line, “They’ll be back for those. When this all went down, I reached out to all of the cast, and I reached out to Marisol and Skeet and said that we haven’t finished those tories, and we want to make sure that you guys have great sendoffs.”
In Honeyland, everyone is better at keeping their cool than Reggie. To be fair, they all have more experience in the matter.
In the real world. Betty and Jughead are called into Honey’s office. Charles is there. A VHS tape was dropped at the school earlier that day. Whoever shot the video went through every hall and room of the school.. Honey uses this tape as an excuse to cancel Prom and every other school activity.
Jughead thinks the tape is a fake, that it was shot by a copycat. The fact that there are no masked Archie characters in this tape lends credence to his theory.
In Honeyland, Reggie’s guilt gets the best of him. He almost confesses to his teammates before Archie slams him into a locker, which quiets him quickly.
In the real world, Betty is analyzing the tape. She pauses on a frame that catches the filmmaker’s reflection. It looks suspiciously like Honey. The next day, she, Charles and Jughead pay Principal Honey a visit and flat out accuse him of making that tape. Jughead calls him deranged. Betty says they “already sent the tape to the school board AKA our parents.” Who elected that group to the school board? Any anonymous kid’s parent at Riverdale High sounds like a better option, just for the lack of over the top drama in their life.
In Honeyland, Reggie is dead. Who killed him? The gang killed him. Yikes. Veronica isn’t happy about it, Cheryl is on the verge of breakdown, but Betty is surprisingly calm about it. I feel like we’re getting a good look at final season thrill killer Betty here.
Real life Betty has a big smile on her face as she reads this bit. Yup, this is totally a preview for final season thrill killer Betty. Jughead has an aside where he tells her he’s going to change the names before submitting the story, “so no one knows the perverted truth about us, but us,” as he pulls back on her ponytail to kiss her. If this isn’t a set up for Jughead and Betty: the Natural Born Killers final season of Riverdale, I don’t know what is.
Principal Honey makes his final exit from the school. On his way out, he gives the gang a speech saying that what he did, he was doing to help them, that “what goes around here, murder, mayhem, depravity, it is not normal.” To which Betty responds, “Well, it’s normal to us, which is why we had to stop you.” Honey isn’t even angry. He’s already has his next job lined up as Stonewall Prep’s new headmaster, at triple the pay he was getting at Riverdale.
The school secretary, Ms. Bell, overhears the gang trashing on Honey and can’t take it anymore. She comes to Honey’s defense, saying he was the best principal she ever worked under. The school’s GPA is higher than its been in decades. More seniors are going to college than Riverdale has seen since 1956. He found full rides to colleges for six low income seniors. Oh, and last but definitely not least: no students died under his watch. You can see the “Oh, we fucked up” look on Jughead’s face as she says that last line. She then hands Jughead a letter of recommendation that Honey wrote for Jughead. What a great revenge by Honey, making everyone feel guilty about hating him as he leaves the school to take a job for triple the pay. Well played, sir. Well played.
Jughead finally opens the letter the next morning, and we get some cool Hichcockian camera movement as he reads. Betty, apparently having totally missed Ms. Bell’s speech (likely because she was plotting future murders), thought it would be a bad letter about Jughead. Whatever is in the letter sends Jughead running to his laptop, saying he needs to change his short story.
In Honeyland, Archie and Veronica find Honey’s body. But this time, Archie calls 911 as Veronica does CPR. At the hospital, the doctors say Honey will make it, though that’s bad news for the gang. There goes their futures. Veronica and Archie told the cops everything. Betty freaks out, saying she’d rather Honey die than what’s coming next for all of them. Say it with me: Final. Season. Serial. Killer. Betty.
In the real world, Betty doesn’t look too happy with the changes. Jughead explains his change of heart, saying he had been reveling in the town’s sickness and enjoying the pain of another, even if it was Mr. Honey. Betty wants to know what’s in Honey’s letter. Jellybean interrupts them with another VHS tape before Jughead can tell her. On the tape is the outside of a house, but one we haven’t seen in come time. It’s the cabin where Hermione Lodge killed Sheriff Minetta. There’s a name from the past.
Jughead and Betty drive to the cabin and let themselves in. They find a projector set up in front of a sheet, as well as a TV hooked up to a VCR with a tape ready to go. Betty hits play. On it, another person wearing a mask is tied to a chair. He wears a sign that reads “MR. HONEY.” He’s surrounded by people dressed as the gang in masks of the gang, all with knives. They all look at the camera and then proceed to stab “Honey” to death. As the Killing Mr. Honey tape plays, we become privy to the letter Honey wrote for Jughead, as Kerr Smith reads it in voiceover. It offers nothing but praise for Jughead and is written in an optimistic voice about Jughead’s future. He’s going to bat for Jughead. It’s evident in the letter that he knows the admissions officer at Iowa personally, and wouldn’t stake that friendship recommending someone he thought would fail there.
But back to this videotape. The striking thing about it, and the same thing that has Betty and Jughead watching it in stunned silence, is that it’s a reenactment of a fictional story only two people were privy to, Jughead and Betty. Clearly, this is to get them to trust each other less, and while yes, I’m President of Team Betty Becomes The Final Season Killer, I don’t think either of them are the culprits here. Charles is around Betty and Jughead so often that he’s had plenty of time to install spyware on their computers. We already know he’s adept at surveillance equipment. I doubt this ends at phone taps. Unfortunately, we won’t find out for months. This is a wrap for Riverdale season 4. Roberto Aguirre-Sarcasa says we’ll see how this all plays out in the first three episodes of next season. I hope that’s true, that we get to see this play out in good fashion this fall, and that it’s not given to us in backstory as part of next season’s plot, like what happened with so many shows after the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike. It’s too bad. This was shaping up to be a fun end run to the real finale. Instead, we’re left wondering how things wrap up, and if this was really to be the first season of Riverdale where the big bad killer wasn’t a parent of one of the gang. Sure, Charles is Betty’s brother, that is, if he is even the real Charles.
Like I said earlier, I’m bummed that Skeet Ulrich is leaving. He’s been quoted as saying he’s become creatively bored working on the show. That’s too bad, as it looks like season 5 will see a 5 year jump in Riverdale‘s timeline, which could really jump start things on the show. The show will not fall into the trap that so many shows set in high school fall into when graduation comes: how to explain how everyone stayed in town, or ended up at the same college, or found their way back to town so often during the school year. The college years of teen dramas tend to be a steep decline in quality, so I welcome this jump cut to the future. Plus, now the actors can play characters closer to their actual ages.
Enjoy your summer, Riverheads. I look forward to seeing you next season.