Note: This article discusses plot points of Riverdale’s first and second seasons.
We liked Riverdale’s first season well enough, what with the syrup and the incest (both real and implied) and the filicide. But all of that pales in comparison to the delicious, delirious mania of its follow-up, which began where the preceding season left off: a mysterious green-eyed man in a black hood shooting Fred Andrews, Archie’s dad, right in the middle of Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe.
Since then, the Black Hood has strangled Miss Grundy with her own cello bow and shot at Midge and Moose point blank just as the jingle-jangled-up pair was about to have sex in a car. He has also sent threatening letters to Alice and Betty Cooper and has now ensnared our beloved Betty into his web of violence, with threatening phone calls demanding that she cut her friends out of her life or else he’ll carve up her loved ones like jack-o’-lanterns.
Who could this mysterious killer be? Like Betty with her Nancy Drew decoder book, we sat down with Cameron Scheetz, co-host of The A.V. Club’s Dial M For Maple podcast, to survey the evidence and narrow down a list of suspects, separating the Black Hoods from the lack-the-goods.
Betty’s long-lost brother is a frontrunner in the Black Hood race. After all, the killer not only says that he was inspired by Betty’s “clean up Riverdale” speech, but he also points out that her mom, Alice Cooper (a name that will never not crack us up), “has been a thorn in both our sides long enough.” And when Betty covers up her “iconic and beyond reproach” ponytail with the Black Hood’s eponymous headgear, he tells her, “See? We’re the same.” He assures Betty that his face is one she would recognize; the Coopers are also known for their non-brown eyes. One point in favor of the Cooper brother’s innocence: Hart Denton, who’s been cast as Chic, appears to be too young to be the killer.
Is there anyone more suspicious than the town’s No. 1 chump, Hal Cooper? Having previously forced Polly to live at the Sisters Of Quiet Mercy group home and then insisting she get an abortion, he’s already shown the great lengths he will go to in order to keep his daughters “untainted.” It’s not that much of a stretch to think that the Black Hood’s games would be an elaborate ploy to isolate Betty from all of the bad influences in her life. And who else would know of preteen Betty’s obsession with Nancy Drew? While we don’t believe Hal would ever follow through with violent threats against his own daughter Polly, he would definitely take this opportunity to drag his wife through the mud by having that Serpent mugshot published. Mom and Pop Cooper haven’t been on the best terms since she kicked him out last season, and Hal appeared all too happy to be the sole reporter for The Riverdale Register at the Lodges’ SoDale open house. How would we know for sure that the Black Hood’s calls are coming from inside the house? Once he stops blackmailing Betty to make her ditch her friends and starts asking her to clean up her room and do her homework.
Outside of Fred Andrews, Tom Keller seems to be Riverdale’s sanest, most even-keeled parent, which is exactly why it’s easy to point a finger at him. No one in “the town with pep” is without their secrets. While the sheriff has proven to be a loving father to sweet Kevin, that doesn’t mean he extends that love to the rest of Riverdale’s residents. As the sheriff, Keller’s sworn to serve and protect, but maybe his warped idea of keeping the peace means taking out some of the bad eggs himself. There’s no denying that Keller’s access to evidence gives him an easy way to pull strings in the Black Hood’s favor; all he had to do was lie about mismatched handwriting to throw a wrench into things, so is he pointing to a conspiracy or covering up for his own? In Betty, he sees a kindred spirit—after all, the Black Hood was admittedly inspired by her rousing speech at the jubilee, and Betty unwittingly further aligned herself to Keller when she warned him of his son’s habit of cruising in the woods. For a show that loves to wear its genre influences on its sleeve, we shouldn’t be too surprised if Riverdale wants to have some fun with the dirty-cop trope by way of Sheriff Keller.
Archie’s not much of a sleuth, but even he points out that Miss Grundy had a gun and changed her name to get away from her apparently violent ex. It definitely would explain Miss Grundy’s death and possibly the shooting of Fred to get back at Archie, who had an illicit affair with her. Maybe Miss Grundy’s frequent dalliances with teenagers in cars inspired her ex to go after a few more. The ex’s connection to Betty is much less solid, but if the sheriff’s two-different-letter-writers theory holds up, maybe Mr. Grundy (we know, not his real name) is the original shooter and Betty’s current torturer is a copycat (like her brother or her father).
If there were any validity to the North Side elite’s classist allegations that the Black Hood hails from the South Side, then de facto Serpent ringleader Tall Boy would be the lead suspect. As FP’s right-hand man, Tall Boy is intent on maintaining his gang’s power and influence throughout town. And though the Black Hood claims to be cleansing Riverdale of sinners, only current (or former) Northsiders have been at the wrong end of the killer’s gun (or cello bow). Might Tall Boy be using the cover of a Zodiac-esque murderer to carry out the Serpents’ dirtiest work and ensure they stay ahead in the Riverdale turf war? At the very least, Tall Boy appears to be an exact physical match for the masked assailant—though it would be tough to fit such a luscious mane of hair under that hood.
One of the most startling developments from the first-season finale is that the Coopers are, in fact, Blossoms, having changed their family name long ago. In light of that revelation, among a whole mess of others, Daddy Blossom shoots his son and hangs himself; Cheryl then sets the whole Blossom estate on fire, disfiguring her mother. (And whatever happened to Nana Rose?) After ruling Riverdale for so long, it seems unlikely that the Blossom clan would take nearly being wiped out lying down, so maybe there’s some rogue Blossom family member who is out for vengeance against Betty and the Coopers specifically, and Riverdale in general. Perhaps even Jason Blossom is back from the dead? Hey, he’s done it before.