All season long, Riverdale faced the menace of the Black Hood. Though he only had a handful of confirmed kills – Ms. Grundy (Sarah Habel) and the latest Sugarman (Robert Baker) among them – he struck terror into the town while Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) never found a suspect who “looked good” for the crimes.
Not that they had time to remember the case amid break-ups, misdirections and Alice Cooper’s (Mädchen Amick) continued slide into Awesometown.
And even though the killer was seemingly unmasked in the mid-season finale, Betty knows the darkness he unleashed is far from over. Also, let’s face it, the person revealed as the Black Hood was something of a letdown. He ticked all the boxes for knowledge and opportunity, but Joseph Svenson (Cameron McDonald) was, ultimately, a cipher who was introduced only two episodes ago and lacked the impact the Black Hood’s identity should have. There is also the fact Archie failed to identify Svenson when he starred him in the eye last week — a fact he was more than willing to dismiss while discussing it with the gang — and the ever-present possibility that Svenson did not work alone. With that in mind, we present five Riverdale characters we are leaving tacked up on our conspiracy board as Svenson’s conspirators or the true dark heart behind the Black Hood.
He’s been a suspect since the first season ended with Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) getting shot at Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe. The motive was so simple then: revenge for Fred and Hermione’s (Marisol Nichols) affair. Now, the stakes are bigger. All season long, Hiram (Mark Consuelos) and Hermione have engaged in shady dealings to put the Southside in a very bad position. Their apparent intent: redevelop the whole district and reap the rewards of creeping capitalism. While it often seemed Hiram is just using the Black Hood situation (and Alice’s grandstanding) to his advantage, is it possible he was directing Svenson all along?
We were told repeatedly in the first season that he is a powerful man. He even orchestrated the attack on Andrews Construction last season from inside his cell. At the time, it was viewed as retaliation for the affair, but perhaps he was not done hurting Fred and hired someone to kill him while still inside. Once Archie’s (KJ Apa) father survived the attack, Hiram turned the “random” assault into the Black Hood, using Svenson’s personal tragedy and guilt to give him a new lethal purpose. Also, directing a spree killer sure comes in handy when one wants to make the Southside look irredeemable so one can turn it into a giant Zara.
Provided, of course, he was pulling Svenson’s strings all along.
The big problem with Hiram as the mind behind Black Hood is the Betty connection. The killer knows a lot about her and states he was present for her speech during the first season finale, something Hiram definitely did not witness. Svenson could have been going off mission with Betty or, perhaps, he hid his fascination with her from Hiram. But that still leaves the question of what he and Hermione told Veronica (Camila Mendes) about the family business. Considering she flatly refused to do anything illegal, just how plausibly can one deny inspiring a serial killer?
While Chapter Twenty, “Tales from the Darkside” explained away Sheriff Keller’s (Martin Cummins) strange behavior as a side effect of his affair with Mayor McCoy (Robin Givens), it doesn’t completely rule him out as a suspect either. Neither does appearing on the scene to shoot Svenson at the most convenient of moments. It is entirely possible to think he cracked under the pressure or, perhaps, was tied somehow to the men in Svenson’s photo. Maybe he knew all about the Riverdale Reaper and always fantasized about showing the town its own dark, black heart. Add in the details of Jason Blossom’s murder and you have the ignition for Keller’s long held wish to bathe the town in blood.
Also, torturing Betty a few chapters ago could be viewed as Keller getting back at the pushy girl reporter who will not leave well enough alone.
Granted, being the town sheriff, stepping out with the Mayor and becoming the Black Hood leaves precious little time for sleep or keeping up with his fitness regimen. He also provided Betty with enough alibis to exclude the whole sheriffs department. But Svenson could have been the triggerman while Keller planned the killings, the notes, and the phone calls. It would certainly explain why Archie never recognized his eyes whenever they crossed paths.
Although, if you go back and look at the scene, Sheriff Keller’s T-Zone resembles the man who shot Fred far more than Svenson’s does.
Comes to think of it, Archie’s eye-witness testimony was the crucial piece of evidence used to eliminate Svenson last week. Is his memory of the shooter’s eyes faulty? Midge (Emilija Baranac) recalled the Black Hood’s eyes as blank. And while we know Archie believes his memory of the killer’s green eyes to be true, 19 years of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has taught us that witness identification is often faulty.
Yes, we’ve been down this road before with Betty’s father Hal (Lochlyn Munro). Last time around, she suspected him of killing Jason and learned the harrowing Cooper secret: their relationship to the Blossoms. All that pent up anguish could lead a man to kill. Maybe, even, fabricate a whole ethos to obscure his true intention. When you consider the Betty connection and Hal’s overall creepiness, he starts to look good for it.
Also, he’s been extremely quiet this season. He collected Betty from Keller’s office two episodes ago, but otherwise, he just stands in the background while Alice does something spectacular. Is it possible he is lashing out because of her behavior?
To be fair, the characterization of Hal thus far does not suggest he is capable of murder. Then again, he is not a well-drawn character. But that brings us back to the Archie problem. If we assume his memory is not as shaky as a SVU day player, then he should recognize the eyes of Fred’s assailant as Betty’s father, right? If this one detail is so meaningful, then it cannot be dismissed as easily as it seemed to be in the mid-season finale.
Or, perhaps, it’s just Hal’s fate to always be on the suspects lists as an eternal red herring.
This suspect relies on two pieces of information: that fact we know the character is scheduled to appear and that incident at the Riverdale Reaper house.
Shortly before the second season debuted in October, TVLine broke the news that actor Hart Denton would play Betty’s long lost brother Chic. While he has yet to appear, Chic’s story line was said to begin around the mid-season point. He has to fit into the show’s tapestry somehow. Perhaps it is just a reconciliation with Alice, who revealed last season that she gave up Chic for adoption as he was the result of her wild says at Southside High. But, perhaps, there is more to his return.
With Chic established as an eventuality, let’s take another look at that night in the Reaper House and Betty staring into that mirror while wearing the Black Hood. As she saw herself, the killer said he wanted her to recognize that they were the same. If Chic is the Black Hood mastermind, then part of his plan is getting Betty — or Dark Betty — to join his twisted crusade.
His overall motive is obvious: revenge on the entire society that cast him aside. He also connects back to Betty and happens to be someone Archie cannot eliminate because he has never seen Chic in person. But then why choose to shoot Fred Andrews? The Black Hood seems to know everything going on in town, so it is possible Chic has been spying on everyone for a very long time (he may even be the person spying on Archie and Veronica). Maybe he is using his reign of terror to push Archie toward Betty. Could his rampage also be a means to restore his favorite OTP?
Also, he and Svenson both ended up at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, which is just a bad news place all around.
But then again, he also seems like an obvious suspect (for this or a future crime) by virtue of being absent. And to cast one last bit of doubt on this suspect: Denton looks nothing like Fred’s assailant. Although, Archie’s willingness to assume his memory was wrong definitely casts doubt on using the constant flashbacks to that scene as reliable evidence.
If Svenson knew he fingered the wrong man as the Riverdale Reaper, it is possible that older spree killer is still on the loose and, perhaps, inspired Svenson to kill with the same mindgames Svenson inflicted on Betty.
And even if Svenson acted alone the whole time, the mystery of the Reaper’s identity is once again unsolved. An intolerable state in the Riverdale world.
When Svenson was a boy, he identified a traveling preacher as the man who gunned down his family. A Riverdale posse made up of Betty’s (presumably paternal) grandfather, Cheryl’s Nana Rose (the always stellar Barbara Wallace) and three other unidentified men tracked the preacher down to a motel and, after telling Nana Rose to go home, buried the preacher alive. If Svenson is to be believed, this was the town’s original sin; from which Moose’s Jingle-jangle habit, the Lodges’ deviousness, the Blossoms’ whole V.C. Andrews shtick and Ms. Grundy’s penchant for boys all originate.
It sounds grandiose, but if Svenson was correct to doubt his identification, than who really killed his family?
One thing that makes the Reaper hard to track is his presumably advanced age. If Betty’s grandfather is dead and Nana Rose is often lost to old age dementia, than the Reaper — if he’s not the man Svenson identified — should still have shuffled off the stage long ago. Unless, of course, he is part of the weirdness in Greendale. Or if you want something more fitting the usual reality of Riverdale, the Reaper could have a descendant interested in sowing discord and fear around the town. Svenson may have just been the first part of a grander design. Perhaps this was the man who shot Fred Andrews while Svenson terrorized everyone else.
And if all of Riverdale’s sins originate from this one crime, then it might behoove Betty to learn the identities of the other men in the photo.
Though it would seem the Black Hood’s reign of terror is over, there are too many lingering doubts to definitely say Svenson was the sole perpetrator. The final moments of the mid-season finale seemed more than happy to wrap everything up — from Svenson’s ability to know about Grundy to Archie’s willingness to set aside his memory of the attack — and move on to something new. In fact, it was a little too happy to move on. But Betty’s reluctance to burn the hood she was given in Chapter Twenty suggests the Black Hood may still have a few surprise left to reveal.
Riverdale returns on Wednesday, January 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.