SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Riverdale Season 3 finale.

Taking it over-the-top is the bottom line for the frothy CW series Riverdale and by that measure the Season 3 finale that aired Wednesday was top-notch for a show that is more of a pop television tone poem than a traditional (or rational) storytelling endeavor. The finish-line episode checked off all the boxes for a show that yearns to be sleek, sugary, surreal, sexy, soapy, silly, and swooning, and to always look good doing it,

The young hearts of Riverdale were in Mystery Machine mode in the finale, “Chapter Fifty-Seven: Survive the Night” (written by showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Michael Grassi, directed by Rachel Talalay)  as the climatic reveal of this season’s mystery antagonist, the Gargoyle King, finally played out. There was plenty of other business dealt with, as well, as the never-dull episode sprinted through twists and turns (and illogical leaps) like it was the most glamorous American Ninja Warrior contestant imaginable.

The finale also brought the Big 4 back together, too, as the Archie Comics-inspired quartet of Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), and Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) assembled to deal with, well, a long list of challenges and threats that are, to use a technical term, totally bananas. The foursome once again play the role-playing game Gryphons & Gargoyles (i.e., the Hogwarts edition of Dungeons & Dragons?) and the episode contains more revelations that you can throw your eight-sided dice at.

The biggest game afoot was the promised unmasking of the antler-crowned Gargoyle King. The monster turns out to actually be someone the kids already knew just wearing a mask (and he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those kids…). Yes, the fan theorists were (mostly, kinda) right, it was Chic (Hart Denton), dressed like a reindeer version of the Slender Man. Chic,  you may recall, was the shifty drifter who last season impersonated Betty’s brother, Charles, and was thought dead. It turns out now that he’s been busy foraging and terrorizing locals all at the command of his secret boss, the genuine mastermind: Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt).

Yes, the true Gargoyle King is in fact a Gargoyle Queen, the Cersei Lannister of Rockland County, which makes the Blossom Hunting Lodge her rustic Red Keep. Blossom also has another minion, too, none other than the serial killer Black Hood, aka Hal Cooper ( Lochlyn Munro), who has lost a hand along the way (hey, just Jamie Lannister!). For the third season in a row, the mystery villain is revealed to be a local parent with a deranged secret, which makes perfect sense to anyone who grew up reading Archie Comics or watching Twin Peaks. There were more big “Zoinks, Scooby!” moments, including the fact that Alice Cooper (no, not that one, this one) has been covertly working as an FBI undercover operative.

The episode was a big frothy milkshake that might give some uninitiated viewers a feeling similar to brain freeze, but for fans of the show it was a satisfying meal anyway. Season 4 can go in any direction from here, too, although there is one thing fans know they can expect: A tribute to the late Luke Perry, who tragic absence was a backdrop to the screen success of the show’s third season.

Perry’s death on March 4 at the age of 2 following a massive stroke was a heartrending loss for the Riverdale cast and crew and an emotional blow for fans of both Riverdale and the former Beverly Hills 90210 star. Perry portrayed Fred Andrews, father of Archie (KJ Apa) and husband to Mary (Molly Ringwald) and made his last on-screen appearance in Episode 19, which aired on April 24 about two month after the Ohio-born actor’s death in Burbank. California.

 

 

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