Normally — and I’m sure you, the casual reader, were very curious about this — I like to take an aspect of a Riverdale episode after it airs, focusing on one scene or theory in particular. But this week’s episode, “Chapter Sixty-Three: Hereditary,” packed so much into its final few minutes, it’s hard to know where to focus first.
That said, what happens at Stonewall Prep, the elite school Jughead attends, is the big one… In that Jughead’s storyline is the focal point of the season (so far, at least). We’ve seen flash-forwards to the circumstances surrounding Jughead’s seeming death, though so far nothing at Stonewall Prep — even getting “buried” in a coffin, and a fun game of “Murder” last episode — seemed to suggest actual death was in the offing. That all changed this week when, uh, someone died.
Spoilers for Riverdale Season 4, Episode 6 “Chapter Sixty-Three: Hereditary” past this point.
For most of the running time, “Hereditary” is a fairly typical episode of Riverdale. Which is to say that yes, it is bonkers by regular TV standards. But everyone is trucking along doing their own weird thing, and not often crossing paths.
Over at Thistlehouse, Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) and Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) are dealing with the rotting corpse of Cheryl’s brother, a haunted doll, and the surprise return of Aunt Cricket (Arabella Bushnell) and Uncle Bedford (Alex Zahura). Meanwhile, Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) is going full vigilante to help save his community center, and tangling with a criminal named Dodger (Juan Riedinger). Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) has some issues of her own, as Hermosa (Mishel Prada) pledges her allegiance to their father, Hiram (Mark Consuelos) while Hermione (Marisol Nichols) also gets enamored by his charms.
But the bulk of the mysteries — as usual — are reserved for Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse). Betty is investigating whether her half-brother Charles (Wyatt Nash) is a serial killer, and in the process accidentally goads old enemy Chic (Hart Denton) into revealing that Betty, Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) and FP Jones (Skeet Ulrich) all covered up a murder back in Season 2. Meanwhile, Jughead suspects that the “Baxter Brothers” books, a series of mysteries he read as a kid, may have actually been created by his grandfather, Forsythe Pendleton Jones I (Timothy Webber). In the process, he causes the death of Mr. Chipping (Sam Witwer), and maybe reveals a bigger conspiracy at work.
After confronting author Francis J. DuPont (Malcolm Stewart) over potentially stealing the first Baxter Brothers book away from Forsythe Pendleton Jones I (Timothy Webber), a.k.a. pen name Frosty Pajamas, Jughead appeals to Mr. Chipping’s better nature, urging him to help bring the truth to light. Mr. Chipping seems conflicted — it’ll probably cost him his job, after all — but it gets worse during a class when, in the middle of a lesson about “Heart of Darkness,” Chipping seems to almost glitch, saying, “I’m sorry Jughead, that I couldn’t help you,” and dives headfirst out the window. Meanwhile, the other Stonewall Prep students sit there, not moving an inch.
Later DuPont takes over the class, which seems like pretty bad news for Jughead — but it’s Chipping’s death scene that is far weirder. Is he being mind-controlled? Is he a robot? Are they all robots? Is the school filled with evil robots??? And how does this all connect to Jughead “dying” over Spring Break? Why are Betty, Archie and Veronica taking the fall for his “cold-blooded” murder? Did FP call it “cold-blooded” murder because the oil inside of robots that is their blood is cold?????????????
Lots of dots there with no clear connections, but given that Westworld style robots would probably be a step too far for Riverdale (…he said, probably one episode before they introduce evil robots), the more likely possibility is that whatever is going on with the “Baxter Brothers” books is a much deeper conspiracy. It’s reasonable to surmise, given what DuPont says earlier in the episode, that if/when it comes out that Forsythe actually wrote the first novel, he’ll become the heir to the Baxter Brothers fortune. That could, potentially, lead to the destruction of Stonewall Prep, since the money from the novels pay for the school — so it’s about much more than DuPont’s plagiaristic honor.
So why would Chipping, who seems like a good guy, kill himself? And why don’t the students move an inch? Is it mind control, or were Sam Witwer’s chiseled cheek muscles pulsating because he was steeling himself for what he was about to do? I would err on the side of the latter, with DuPont blackmailing Chipping in some way, and being in league with the Preppies. But this is Riverdale, the show that — just three episodes ago — had a cult leader attempting to escape town on a rocket he built himself, so who knows?
Regardless, whether DuPont and company are mind-controlling Jughead’s friends to kill him, Jughead is faking his death to expose DuPont, or a third option, we’re down the rabbit hole now, folks. Strap in.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.
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