Riverdale is many things to many people: A show about teens. A show about murder. A show about teens murdering. A show about magic?? A show about...zombies? (Still forever holding out hope on that one, #zombiestrong.)
You heard it here first: I think it's going to be a show about superheroes. Or, like, as close to a superhero as human lump of room temperature Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) can get.
While this week's episode, "Chapter Twenty: Tales from the Darkside," messed with the show's usual format with a really fun triple-POV storyline and introduced us to Jughead's (Cole Sprouse) new side hustle as begrudging drug mule, as well at Betty's (Lili Reinhart) impressive ability to talk about everyone in Riverdale being "sinners" with a straight face, and finally our introduction to what I'm pretty sure is Archie's origin story.
In the opening of the episode, serial killer (or serial killers, plural, if my earlier theory holds true) the Black Hood delivers another friendly update, demanding that the residents of Riverdale "prove that you are pure of heart" or suffer the consequences. P.S., the consequences have about a 50/50 chance of being survivable, based on Hoodie's attacks so far, so maybe it's not the absolute riskiest behavior for Riverdale's teens to indulge in a few vices, you know? I'm less interested in the threat from our resident nearsighted terror (seriously, how did he manage to not kill even one of two teens he was shooting at from point-blank range in a car?) than his phrasing: "pure of heart."
In the Archie Comics universe, there's a recurring fantasy/alternate timeline in which Archie is a spandex-wearing superhero by the name of Pureheart the Powerful, or sometimes Captain Pureheart. It's a lot of kitten-rescuing and detention-getting-out-of, as I recall. The source of Pureheart's super-strength is, unsurprisingly, the pureness of his heart. He's gotta really mean what he's doing, you know?
"Wait," you might be saying, "I haven't read the comics before, but Pureheart somehow sounds so familiar. Am I on the Jingle Jangle? What's going on?"
You're probably not on Jingle Jangle, unless you've been inhaling Pixie Sticks or visited a Trader Joe's recently, but you've definitely heard that phrasing before if you've kept up with Riverdale this season. In the Season 2 premiere, Jughead tried to make Archie feel better about his attempts to save, well, everyone: "Are you kidding me? You saved your dad's life. First Cheryl, and now your dad, if you keep this up you are going to need a superhero name. Pureheart the Powerful."
I wrote it off as just an Easter egg at the time, but maybe we should be paying closer attention. After all, the exact phrasing "pure of heart" came up twice this episode, once in the Black Hood's letter and again on the radio when Jughead was hitching a ride to Greendale with that spooky deer carcass dude (Tony Todd, who, by the way, played the titular Candyman in the 1992 horror movie, what does it all mean and is he made of bees??). It's a very specific phrasing, right? This can't be an accident.
So far, this season has been low key about Archie's attempts to find purpose and be effective in the increasingly dangerous town of Riverdale. He's done medium-OK at saving people, but his vengeful vigilante group, the Red Circle, failed miserably and really backfired, turning all authority figures and Betty against him, even though his intentions were good.
Could it be that he needs to focus on his will to help, rather than his need for revenge, for his plans to stop the Black Hood and restore the balance of Riverdale to come to fruition? Enter Pureheart the Powerful.
There's even someone who's been newly introduced as a potential biographer: Chuck Clayton (Jordan Calloway), who is now less interested in sexual assault and drowning in a hot tub, and more into church and drawing comic books. After all, every hero needs an intrepid reporter to chronicle their exploits. (See also: Superman, Spider-Man, etc.) Archie now has Betty's one-ponytail reign of terror at the Blue and Gold, paired with Chuck's aspirations as a comic book artist, to make sure his story is told.
It would also explain the final shot of this episode, a tight zoom on Archie in which he looks ready to Clark Kent the hell out while Pop (evil) relays the message that the Black Hood has found them wanting and that "the reckoning is upon us." Archie: Music, football, or saving the world?
Sidenote: All of this even explains Dad Lodge's (Mark Consuelos) absence this episode: he was probably off sketching Archie's new superhero outfit or something. That's what rich guys with nice suits love to do, right? Learned that one from Iron Man.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)