Grab your plaid and baggy denim, Riverdale fans. It's Flashback Wednesday here on Riverdale Season 3 Episode 4!
Alice's storytelling hour took us on a lovable, and totally '90s, trip back to the time of grunge, New Kids, and Beverly Hills, 90210. The teens perfectly played the parts of the younger parents, capturing all their '90s mannerisms and looks. (Seriously, did you see K. J.? Serving Dylan McKay realness there.)
All leading to the parents' fateful origin story of Gryphons and Gargoyles. Suffice it to say the tale was worth the wait.
Even though "Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Midnight Club" primarily took place in the '90s, I loved the John Hughes tone during the flashback scenes.
The Breakfast Club is an iconic coming-of-age '80s masterpiece that many other movies and TV shows have tried to replicate. In most cases, the new properties failed to capture the magic. Thankfully, that wasn't the result here.
Background music, clothing choices, and the editing heightened the retro (I hate myself for saying "retro" as a '90s baby!) vibe. Riverdale was on its A-game with the nostalgia. But, it was the honest dialogue between the characters that took notice.
A John Hughes film isn't complete without its #realtalk.
The younger versions opened up about their insecurities and the problems that hung over their lives. We finally learned why the parents turned out the way they did. And in many cases, the truth was an eye-opening experience. (I have sympathy for Penelope blossom now, that's how eye-opening it was.)
The Gargoyle King storyline notwithstanding, this episode is a must for Riverdale fans and new watchers. The plot explains so much in the show's history that it can't be missed.
Alice's development had the biggest change between her teen and adult self. Though, that's not about Lili Reinhart's portrayal. She did an amazing job acting like young Alice, and she even looked like a young Mädcen Amick too.
Riverdale Season 1 discussed her Southside Serpent past, but now we have the moment where she traded in leather for pink plaid. A secret, a death, and a pregnancy would change someone's world.
Alice: Forsyth Pendleton Jones Jr. He was the BMOC. An all-American athlete, a “stud muffin” as we used to say. He was different back then, Betty. Trying to be something different than what he was, but still trouble.
[Flashback returns to present]
Alice: I was as tough as nails, but around FP, silly putty. Even in detention with the secret growing inside me, I hated him … but I wanted him.
[Betty waves for her mom to stop]
Betty: Ugh, okay, okay, Mom. I get it.
How could you not feel bad for her during the Gargoyle King past?
She dealt with a lot thanks to her pregnancy and Principal Featherhead's death. Though, even as the "criminal," Alice had the most moral fiber. She pushed all fears aside for the sake of wanting to come clean. We should applaud her for that determination.
If only the parents had listened to her. The future would've turned out so differently, and both Ben and Dilton would still be alive.
Based on the teen friendships, it's a shame that Alice, Sierra, and Hermione didn't stay friends.
Sierra and Hermione instantly kept Alice's pregnancy a secret after discovering her in the bathroom. They didn't tell Penelope nor FP; those are friends she could've trusted had their group not imploded. They had her back at her lowest moment.
Even Penelope was turning over a new leaf at first before her self-preservation Blossom side took over. Though, she totally caused those fights!
Alice and Hermione were not going to let Penelope's perceived superiority tear them down. Call it a Dynasty or Melrose Place influence, but the catfights were a guilty soapy pleasure. Let's face it; the parents could hold their own as teens.
Plus, FP and Fred should've stayed friends after the trouble.
Compared to the others, their friendship was more downplayed; with exception to the streaking. I always assumed they were best friends based on the way they talked about each other, but they just seemed like buddies.
Maybe we got it wrong all this time?
Veronica: Newsflash, Mom: banning something only makes it more interesting
[Veronica hands Betty a mug]
Betty: Thank you.
Veronica: Now this stupid game is literally all anyone is talking about.
Betty: You’re not playing are you, V?
Veronica: B, you don’t make Vibe’s 20 under 20 by prancing around in the woods dancing in a deer carcass.
Penelope's origin story also cleared up a lot of incorrect assumptions. She always came across as someone from money and had the blue blood lifestyle, but the truth had a more sinister spin to it.
Being raised at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy explained her vile personality. That type of trauma from the nuns would absolutely have a lasting effect. And, an adoption made on the hopes of finding a future match for Clifford Blossom was next level insanity.
The Blossoms are monsters! Penelope deserved better than dealing with that ordeal.
Also, now that I'm thinking about it, Penelope is a monster too for sending Cheryl to that facility on Riverdale Season 2 Episode 17! She knew how evil that place was and yet she still sent her daughter there to fix her.
That truth isn't simply cold; it's downright ruthless. I have sympathy for Penelope, but that's something that can't be forgiven.
Gryphons and Gargoyles didn't need a grand discovery, which thankfully didn't happen when the teens found the game.
Breaking into the teacher's desk was a natural fit for them to find the game, and it suited their character's motivations. Of course, they would take back their stuff after the principal took it away, and Alice would enjoy the curiosity of playing the game. The entire scene felt like something that would've happened.
Penelope: I’ve heard of this game before. We shouldn’t play it; it doesn’t belong to us anyway.
[FP takes the game from her]
FP: “Gryphons and Gargoyles.” I thought this was an urban legend.
Fred: I heard some kids have been playing it at Seaside.
Hermione: I heard one of them had a heartache and died.
[Betty takes the game from FP]
Alice: In that case, we definitely have to play it. Right?
Even though the game caused plenty of trouble, it looked like fun. I could see why it swept through the halls of Riverdale High. The mechanics and rules allowed you to dive into its immersive world.
Penelope loved being the Game Master; she finally got to be in charge, and people listened to her. And the others enjoyed the carefree nature of their new world.
If they hadn't merged with the second group (Tom Keller, Hiram Lodge, Marty Mantle, and Darryl Doily), things wouldn't have turned upside down.
Firstly, the secret would've kept only to The Midnight Club.
All six members could continue their game night in peace. The risk of exposure increased when new people joined their group. Trouble didn't find them until more people were involved in their nightly shenanigans.
Plus, the new romances and friendships could've kept growing without the added eyes around.
Secondly, Hiram bringing the Fizzle Rocks into play caused the group to lose control. They would've avoided the killer quest from The Gargoyle King and had a clearer head during that night.
Just imagine what other drug-filled activities there were at Riverdale High. Someone else could've died instead of Principal Featherhead if they had been reckless.
Speaking of that night, the editing and visual style was so captivatingly dark after they took the Fizzle Rocks.
As the group descended into their haze, the lighting, music, and camera angles shifted to match their chaotic moods. The style was as if we experienced the world through their eyes at the pinnacle of the hit.
Lights shifted into strange neon colors, and camera angles were slanted. Hiram must've purchased a strange batch because the group completely lost their senses. Hopefully, Fizzle Rocks never return to Riverdale High.
Alice grounded us when our point-of-view returned to reality.
She looked scared watching her friends act animalistic and hedonistic, and in turn that made us worried. The jury is still out if Alice is a reliable narrator for the complete truth. But, for the sake of trust, we'll take her words to heart.
Betty: Jug, what are you doing?
Jughead: Betty, it’s all making sense. All of this is becoming clear. The game … the Gargoyle King. I’m on Level 3, and it’s only a matter of time before I ascend. And I get to beat him!
The Gargoyle King mystery has narrowed down to someone from The Midnight Club. Alice set up the tone that one of the 10 members created the murderous test and accidentally killed Principal Featherhead.
Luckily, we can cross a few names off the list.
Marty Mantle and Darryl Doily have yet to appear on Riverdale, so it's safe to say they're not an option. Unless this is all a red herring and they make guest appearances, of course. Also, we can rule Alice out for now since she told the story.
That leaves us with seven suspects. We'll need to compile clues and start searching for the Gargoyle King fast.
From the looks of Jughead in Dilton's bunker, Gryphons and Gargoyles has claimed another follower. Betty will need to save him before he tries to "ascend" like the others.
Plus, Creepy Jughead is the scary face of our nightmares. Block it, return to sender, leave those creepy eyes on unread ... just nope!
Last Thoughts From Sweetwater River:
Hermione's mother had the right gut feeling about Hiram. He was shady as a teen, and he's shadier as an adult.
Michael Consuelos, who played the teen version of Hiram, looks exactly like a young version of his father Mark Consuelos, right?
Sierra and Tom's romance is so underappreciated. Their love literally took decades for them to be reunited again as adults. Minus all the cheating, it's sweet they got their happily ever after.
Were the nods to the future too on the nose, like Sierra making fun of being mayor?
Fred upset over his father's death was understandable; however, he shouldn't have beat himself up over not being by his side. He couldn't have foreseen when he fell to his sickness.
The musical number had no reason to be included at all. The song, while fun, was pointless.
- I wish we could go back in time and warn Alice about Hal Cooper. She didn't know what trouble would soon follow because of that milkshake. Every big change seems to be going back to this game.
Now, over to you, Riverdale fans!
What did you think of "Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Midnight Club"?
Should the parents have told the truth about Principal Featherhead when they were teens? Did the origin story of Gryphons and Gargoyles live up to expectations? Which teen version did you like the best?
If you missed the latest episode of Riverdale, you can watch Riverdale online via TV Fanatic. Come back here and share your thoughts in the comments.
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.