Young Alice shared a kiss with Fred Andrews, Jughead became obsessed with Gryphons and Gargoyles, and the Midnight Club kept a murderous secret on Riverdale Season 3 Episode 4.
Below, TV Fanatics Kat Pettibone, Brandon Vieira, and Becca Newton debate Penelope's sordid origin story, the impact of Gryphons and Gargoyles, and their theories for the identity of the Gargoyle King.
Alice's story showed us the '90s past of the Riverdale parents. Which parent's teen past surprised you the most?
Kat: First and foremost let me just say this was, in my opinion, the best episode Riverdale has ever done to date. With that out of the way, I feel like I have no choice but to say, Penelope? I was surprised to see Alice part of the Serpents before FP; that he was busy trying to "live the straight and narrow" before putting on the leather jacket, but Penelope's backstory had me screaming.
I could not believe she was brought up in SOQM [Sisters of Quiet Mercy], and then groomed to be Clifford's sister wife. That just ... blew my mind. Also, hearing that and knowing she still sent Cheryl there? Wow.
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.
Brandon: I wasn't necessarily surprised by a particular character's past, but I was surprised by a few of the moments these characters shared. The most surprising one was the fact that Alice and Fred shared a tender kiss.
We knew that she and FP have a past, and Hermione and Fred had a past, but I never expected that anything happened between Fred and Alice based on their interactions as adults.
Penelope's story was also somewhat surprising, but we all knew her backstory had to be dark and twisted in some way. There is just no way someone is that evil without a tragic backstory behind it.
Becca: Penelope. Her being an orphan the Blossoms adopted in furtherance of a wife husbandry scheme is one of the best twists Riverdale has pulled off. It works well because even though you don't see it coming, it is so very Blossom.
Another sign of a good reveal is when the twist enhances what came before it, and now knowing this about her, Penelope's actions in previous episodes are even more disturbing.
Out of all the teen characters, which '90s version was your favorite?
Kat: That's tough. I genuinely think they all did a fantastic job in this episode, and I originally was worried this concept would backfire. I'd say Fred and Alice tie for my favorite, though.
You could tell K. J. Apa, and Lili Reinhart really put their all into becoming these new characters, and it paid off hugely. Honorable mention to Penelope, though.
Brandon: I would have to say it's a tie between Fred and Alice. Lili Reinhart embracing her inner badass as Alice was something I didn't know I needed. Maybe it was because the story was from her perspective, but Alice came off as the most well-rounded character by the time the episode concluded.
I love the '90s version of Fred mainly because K. J. Apa really did a fantastic job of capturing Luke Perry's mannerisms. It was like watching Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills, 90210. As a fan of that show, I just couldn't help but applaud Apa's performance.
Becca: Fred, if his only contribution to the episode had been his line about how he can do both music and sports, he would still be my favorite. His good nature was a delight, and when Alice said he always does the right thing, it didn't come across as an empty statement.
The scenes of him comforting Alice and expressing his grief at Pop's really showed why he shouldn't be dismissed as a righteous bore.
Gryphons and Gargoyles has sucked people into the game within the first playthrough alone. Why do you think this game is so hypnotic?
Kat: I think it's mainly what Fred and Alice were saying. The game creates this epic fantasy world that allows you to detach from all your pain, stress, and struggle. On a lesser degree, isn't that what we do with TV, movies, and media?
Allow ourselves to detach from the real world for a little, in order to relax? This game just takes it much farther; lets you be all the things you can't be in your everyday existence. And then it becomes an addiction.
Brandon: It's basically Dungeons and Dragons on steroids. Role-playing games are popular with all types of people because it allows people to escape their normal lives. In a small town like Riverdale where everyone knows everyone, it's understandable why this game seems so appealing.
It attracts people who feel bored with their mundane, small-town ways and makes them feel they are a hero in a much bigger world. Anybody who plays the game isn't thinking about the danger they are about to face, they are thinking about being a part of something much bigger than them.
Becca: Playing G&G is wish-fulfillment. The episode did a really good job articulating how the game allowed you to escape and gave license to do the unthinkable. This is why I think Hermione was the one behind the ascension party. She's the one who saw morality as a burden to escape from.
On top of this, we have the episode going out of its way to say it wasn't Penelope or Daryl. Hermione was awfully disappointed when it seemed like the ascension party was just going to consist of drinking something innocuous. She's the one who hid the chalices, aka the murder weapons.
Also, everyone receiving a physical invitation to the ascension party could've been a hint that the planner was related to Veronica.
Penelope shared her sordid history of how she joined the Blossom family. Did you have more sympathy for her or still hate the character?
Kat: How can you not have sympathy? She was a little girl brought up in a hellscape version of foster care, then adopted so she could be ghoulishly groomed into her brother's eventual sister bride. That's legitimately heinous.
However, it doesn't excuse the uncontainable things she's done to Cheryl, especially considering she knew how terrible SOQM was and then sent her there anyway. Also, does that make Nana Blossom the villain now?
Brandon: I have a little bit more sympathy for her, but not enough to make me forgive her for everything she's done. She may have been put through the wringer by the time she had Cheryl and Jason, but that's no excuse for the way she treats Cheryl.
If anything, she should've learned from her own tragic past and tried to protect Cheryl from the darkness rather than push her closer to it. Sorry Penelope, but you're still kind of awful.
Becca: I have sympathy for the girl she was but not the woman she became. Having a sympathetic backstory doesn't negate her free will nor her ability to know from wrong, and it certainly doesn't give her the right to inflict equal and worse abuse onto others.
If there comes a time when Penelope realizes the error of her ways and tries to make amends (in a way that feels earned and not like the narrative cheat), maybe I'll have sympathy for her then.
The kids were afraid that they would be implicated and charged with Principal Featherhead's death. Do you think their fears were right?
Kat: Yes and no. They made a few good points about the blame being directed toward them. It seems possible one of them actually was the murderer. However, the right thing to do was go to the police. If they had made that choice, things probably would have ended better all around.
Brandon: I mean they're kids so it makes sense why they'd be scared. I don't blame them for keeping it a secret back then, but they should've come clean as soon as the Gargoyle King resurfaced. If they did, maybe Dilton and Ben would still be alive.
Becca: Considering that Archie is currently serving time for a murder he didn't commit, it takes very little provocation for the citizens of Riverdale to sanction mob justice, and it's highly unlikely things were different then. I would say their fears were justifiable.
Their mistake was the choice to hide the evidence and forget about what happened. They should have investigated and found proof that would've exonerated themselves and caught the culprit.
Now that we've got more information through the parents' flashback, who do you think could be the Gargoyle King?
Kat: It's still really up in the air for me. It has to be someone older, so it can't be one of the current teens. I would say Hiram, but that feels too easy. Sierra was writing in lipstick during the first flashback bathroom scene before Alice saw the lipstick on the walls with the chalices, so that's questionable.
Sierra seems like a random choice, though. Either way, whoever it is, I wish they didn't show him/her so often. This person walking around with a cape, using sticks as arms. Almost feels like it should be a hallucination, not an actual human being.
Brandon: The show likes to have the parents be the people committing the crimes (i.e. Cheryl's and Betty's fathers), so I'm guessing it's going to be someone in that room. Fred, Hermione, Hiram, Alice, and FP don't seem like likely suspects.
The three people I'm most suspicious of at the moment are Tom Keller, Sierra McCoy or Daryl Doily. It's still way too soon to really make any guesses, but if it's one of these three people, I won't be surprised.
Becca: Even though we received more information, I don't think what we learned got us closer to figuring out the Gargoyle King's identity. Something that makes him/her different and scarier than other Riverdale villains is that the Gargoyle King, at least so far, doesn't have to constantly manipulate the victims into doing his/her bidding.
They let the victims take things to extremes on their own volition, and they reap the benefits in the end. I don't think (s)he planned the ascension party, but they were there as an observer.
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Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.