After a circuitous and uneven second season, Riverdale fans had a right to be wary about Season 3. But happily, the CW welcomed fans back to this soapy mystery series on Wednesday with an episode stocked not only with all the usual treats—lovestruck teens! Campy dialogue! Mark Consuelos in immaculately tailored suits—but also newer goodies, including a mysterious “Gargoyle King” and a cult that allows Betty’s mother and her sister, Polly, to levitate infants over a fire.
Other changes are in store for the series as well: Archie Andrews will be behind bars, at least for an episode or two longer. Veronica has severed all ties with her father, while she and her mother’s dynamic continues to grow more interesting by the minute. And Betty ended Wednesday’s premiere convulsing in shock. The series is at its best when it divides its focus evenly between these characters’ personal relationships and their crazy adventures—and so far, Season 3 is doing just that. It’s also setting up plenty of burning questions, starting with this one:
Who or what is the Gargoyle King?
Toward the end of Wednesday’s premiere, a jittery Dilton approached Jughead with an urgent message about the Gargoyle King—someone he thought was just a character from a role-playing game, until he learned the King was real. Though Jughead did not find the Gargoyle King lurking in the woods—it’s only Episode 1, after all!—he did discover the next creepiest thing: Dilton and his friend Ben, kneeling before an altar with strange carvings in their backs. Dilton was unresponsive; Ben was puking up what appeared to be green dish soap.
The Gargoyle King is going to be important this season; Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has already shared a shadowy image of the character on Twitter, calling him “gruesome, gory, grim, and gnarly.” We also know that he’s got either horns or rabbit ears; it’s hard to tell when you’re working off a silhouette.
— RobertoAguirreSacasa (@WriterRAS) September 26, 2018
What the hell is up at “The Farm”?
Polly Cooper and her weird cult storyline appear to be paying off in record time this season. As you may recall, in last season’s typically bonkers finale, Betty and Polly’s mother, Alice, was distraught upon learning that her husband was the murderous “Black Hood.” Polly then came by with the twins and offered Alice some help—specifically, a visit from her “friend” at “The Farm,” which definitely sounded like a cult. The image of Alice and Polly floating Polly’s twins over a bonfire sure does feel like confirmation—unless Betty was hallucinating.
It seems inevitable that whatever “The Farm” and Polly’s friend Edgar are up to, it’ll somehow intertwine with the Gargoyle King; Jughead did, after all, discover Dilton and Ben hunched in front of that altar just moments before Betty saw the airborne baby rotisserie. Maybe Edgar is the Gargoyle King. Maybe it’s another one of Betty’s alter egos. Or maybe this season will have two mysteries for the price of one. In either case, Riverdale is getting more supernatural than ever.
Will Archie spend the rest of this season in jail, after pleading guilty to murder?
If this were the real world, probably! But since it’s Riverdale. . .
Let’s be clear: Archie choosing to accept a deal in exchange for pleading guilty was, as his mother and attorney Molly Ringwald tried to tell him, very dumb. Even for a character as prone to baffling choices as Archie Andrews. But in the world of Riverdale, teens on trial for murder also get weekends off to hang out with their families and friends—so Archie does not seem long for juvie.
That said, it’s inevitable that Archie will meet someone important while he’s behind bars—although no obvious choices come to mind. Perhaps he and some imprisoned Serpents can hatch a plan to help newly installed Serpent King Jughead win back some turf from Penny Peabody and Ghoulies. Either way, anything—even Morose Prison Archie—beats Weird Fascist Archie.
Do Jughead and the Serpents stand a chance?
It’s not looking great—although at least Hot Dog, the Southside Serpents’ adorable communal mutt, is alive and well after his capture by the Ghoulies. Jug and the Serpents rescued their imperiled pooch, and in doing so provoked the Ghoulies and their new ringleader, Penny Peabody—who is working with Hiram Lodge to take over the Southside for nefarious purposes. Now, Penny has proclaimed that the North Side is fair game in the Ghoulies’ turf war against the Serpents—and it doesn’t really look like Jughead has a plan, or any real idea what he’s dealing with. This does not bode well.
On the bright side, Jughead has Betty as his Serpent Queen. It’s. . . still unclear what that actually means, but Betty insists that the Serpent Queen is a warrior queen, and so she will be by Jughead’s side during all of his future nighttime gang encounters. He’ll probably want to keep a close eye on his girlfriend anyway, since Penny has named Betty as a target. If Jughead, Sweet Pea, and the rest of their fellow Serpents don’t take action soon, they could find themselves with nowhere left to go—but as Jug’s father, F.P., reminded his son, “You’re a Serpent by blood, and no one can take that from you or any one of us.”
Where in the world is Cheryl Blossom?
The biggest premiere mystery of all! Sure, the fan favorite character showed up a couple times—swimming with her girlfriend, Toni Topaz, and standing on the back of a truck during the Hot Dog rescue mission, wielding a bow and arrow in what can only be described as “Bra-and-Leather-Jacket Warrior Mode.” Still, this premiere could have used a bigger dose of this show’s sauciest redhead and her seemingly endless supply of one-liners. Actually, strike that: Riverdale always needs more Cheryl.