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Riverdale season 3, episode 11 review: The Red Dahlia

Riverdale returned to form tonight with a noir-meets-camp thriller of an hour that solved several mysteries and presented several new ones.

After last week’s attempt at making school seem relevant again, Riverdale drastically shifted gears tonight with a noir detective drama, complete with ’50s outfits, jazz music and an extended narration by Jughead. Basically the only element missing was chain-smoking, which is good. The residents of Riverdale certainly don’t need to increase their likelihood of dying.

With Hiram still in a coma, Veronica hires Jughead to find out who shot him. Betty investigation of Claudius’ suspicious death leads to shocking revelations and a moral quandary. Archie finally hits rock bottom, and someone returns from the dead. Here’s a look at what went down in “The Red Dahlia.”

Who killed Claudius… and a lot other men?

While Claudius’ death by poison is ruled a suicide, Betty isn’t buying it. As always, her suspicions are solid. He did not kill himself… nor did his brother. On a hunch, Betty has the creepy coroner determine how Clifford died. He discovers that Clifford not only had poison in his system but was also “already dead when he hung himself.”

Convinced that Penelope is responsible for both of their deaths as well as Darryl Doiley’s back in the day, Betty confronts her. Penelope admits her guilt but tells Betty to consider the circumstances. She had a messed up childhood, and she’s only ever killed bad men.

She felt that Darryl had betrayed her; Clifford killed her son; and Claudius’ drug operation was causing girls to seize. (Apparently, the runoff from his Fizzle Rock lab had been seeping into the town’s drinking water. It remains unclear why only girls were affected, though.)

Penelope also confronts Betty about Chic, the bad man she sentenced to death at the hands of the Black Hood. Penelope uses it as leverage and threatens to take Betty down with her if Betty outs her as a murderess.

However, Betty soon becomes more concerned about the morality of the whole situation. Is Penelope actually worth taking down in the first place? “Maybe not every murderer is guilty, and maybe not every victim is innocent,” Betty says, as she confided in Hal. While that’s certainly true, it doesn’t mean she should start trusting her father again.

Who shot Hiram?

As I suspected, FP and Hermione were working together. FP was the shooter, and Hermione appointed him sheriff as a reward. Apparently, Hiram had promised to shut down his drug operation after the seizures. (Hermione had set up the quarantine as a “smokescreen” to allow him to do so discreetly.) When she realized he’d played her and set up shop elsewhere, she decided an assassination was in order.

Of course, FP didn’t stick around to make sure Hiram was really dead, though. (Rookie mistake, man!) So, Hermione activates her back-up plan in this week’s episode.

As Jughead discovers in the course of his investigation, the brutally murdered Sheriff Minetta is very much alive, and Hermione is having an affair with him. She tells him to shoot Hiram in the hospital with a sheriff’s firearm, so they can frame FP.

Yet again, the assassination doesn’t go to plan, though. Archie, despite almost shooting Hiram himself, rather conveniently has his come to Jesus moment in the hospital room and scares off a masked Minetta with a warning shot.

Meanwhile, FP takes care of both his and Jug’s problems by publicly naming Tall Boy as Hiram’s shooter in an interview with Alice and puts Hermione on the spot to back him up. He also claims Tall Boy resisted arrested, so he was forced to kill him. To save her own skin, Hermione later tells Jughead that she’ll take FP down with her if Jug reveals her part in the conspiracy.

What’s next?

This episode revealed that Hermione has actually played a much bigger role in this season’s events than anyone realized. Additionally, she ends the episode by shooting Minetta in cold blood to tie up loose ends, so Hermione has proven she’s capable of anything now. It’s a marked improvement for her character, and hopefully, she’ll be the one to take down Hiram once and for all someday.

Speaking of Hiram, he calls for a truce to his and Archie’s feud on account of Archie saving his life. But what’s he playing at? A man like that does not just move on from a creepy obsession with a teenage nemesis.

Archie, at least, seems to truly be turning a corner. After he spirals down real fast (fighting, drinking, etc.), Josie comes to his aid and suggests he channel his feelings into more beneficial outlets like boxing at a gym with Mr. Keller or getting back into music. Of course, she ends up unintentionally encouraging Archie to murder Hiram. (Whoops.)

But after Archie comes to his senses, he takes Josie up on her suggestions. She agrees to jam with him as long as he’s the back-up singer (Yaaas, girl, put him in place.) Sparks definitely start flying, so it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here.

Meanwhile, Veronica and Reggie destroy the remainder of Riverdale‘s Fizzle Rocks supply much to Hermione’s chagrin. Veronica’s suspicions that Hermione killed Hiram to profit off of his empire are proven correct, but the situation is more complicated than she’d realized. The buyers won’t want to leave empty-handed, and Hermione had needed their money to continue paying off the governor to keep her reputation clean.

Riverdale Randomness

  • Riverdale introduced its biggest guest star ever tonight! Kelly Ripa, who is married to Mark Consuelos (Hiram), made her highly anticipated debut as a shady Health & Sanitation inspector who is also Hiram’s mistress.
  • After Archie shot at Minetta, my first thought was, “Okay, Archie, are you really just saving Hiram so that you can shoot himself yourself, though?”
  • It was nice to see Fred finally call out Archie for his behavior and put his foot down, even if it didn’t really work.
  • Penelope’s unapologetic debut as a brothel madam was wonderfully ridiculous.

Riverdale will return for another episode on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 8:00 p.m. ET on The CW.