This post contains spoilers for the Riverdale Season 2 midseason premiere.[hhmc]
There’s a new stalker on the loose in Riverdale—but who could it be?
On Wednesday, Archie, Veronica, and the gang finally came back to our screens in an absurdly jam-packed episode that moved several plotlines forward—including Veronica colluding with her parents, Cheryl’s mom becoming a “lady of the night,” and Jughead’s descent into the world of the Southside Serpents. But the question of which Riverdale citizen has become a particularly avid photographer remains unsolved. During last year’s midseason finale, someone photographed Archie and Veronica making up—but it was impossible to know who their stalker might be. After Wednesday’s overstuffed premiere, however, we’re ready to venture a few guesses.
First of all, let’s talk about Betty’s long-lost brother. His name is Charles Smith, but he goes by Chic. He’s Alice and Hal Cooper’s oldest child, conceived when they were in high school; Hal wanted Alice to get an abortion, but she refused, instead checking herself into the Sisters of Quiet Mercy and then giving the boy up for adoption. As we found out during Wednesday’s premiere, however, Chic never got adopted. Instead, he grew up to live in a place called Last Resort Hostel. (Yep, seriously.)
What does Chic do for a living? Well, it’s not entirely clear—but as he shooed Alice and Betty out of his hotel room, Chic said he had a “client” on the way and, when asked what he does, he scoffed and said, “fantasy fulfillment.” His room was fairly sparse—save for a microwave, a chess board, and, most notably, a video camera in the corner of the room, pointed directly at his bed. Later on, when Betty returns, she finds Chic fighting with a larger man, who has stabbed him in the arm. She maces the assailant and brings Chic home. It’s unclear so far what we’re supposed to make of Chic—but as the episode closes, we see him looming over a sleeping Betty, which seems ominous.
Could Chic be the stalker? It’s possible, but seems unlikely; it’s hard to imagine what his motivation would be. Then again, stranger things have happened on Riverdale—like the janitor being revealed as the Black Hood. So while I’m pretty confident we can rule Chic out, perhaps it’d be wise to keep him on the back burner.
This seems like the most logical option. As the feds ramp up an investigation into the Lodge family, an agent has already made contact with Archie, in the hopes that he’ll prove useful. (Plus, Archie’s dad leaves the Andrews family vulnerable, too, which means Archie has pretty good motivation to cooperate—despite his obvious interest in keeping his girlfriend’s family intact.) Is it legal for the F.B.I. to enlist a minor to help in its investigation without his parent’s consent? Probably not, but then again, this is Riverdale.
As seen on TV and in film, every F.B.I. investigation rests on taking lots of pictures. Veronica and Archie’s reconciliation would be of obvious interest to the feds, as it presents a potential lead in the case—which might explain why the first photo taken was of them together, and the second, as seen this week, was of Archie alone.
Could the Bureau be using Archie in a way he did not anticipate? Almost certainly. Then again, if the photos are simply a part of an F.B.I. investigation and not the actions of a crazed stalker, that’s not quite as fun as some other possibilities. Namely . . .
This one would be a little far-fetched, but not outside the realm of possibility (in the world of Riverdale, anyway). As we saw during the midseason finale, the whole Black Hood experience really changed Betty—but if she has become a photo stalker, what would Betty’s motivation be?
Is it possible that Veronica and Archie’s reunion set off a slightly more violent, perhaps less “together” Betty Cooper? Is she far less O.K. with them parading their love around than she’s letting on? Given Cheryl’s threat to out Archie and Betty’s kiss, as well as that meaningful look Betty shot Archie when she first saw him with Veronica, it seems very likely that The Kiss will come back to haunt this trio eventually—it’s just a matter of when and how Veronica will find out. For now, though, this still seems like pretty flimsy motivation for Betty to stalk the two people she sees more than basically anyone else, so let’s toss this one aside barring new developments.
Speaking of Cheryl, let’s just say it: she’s the show’s biggest wild card. Especially because Cheryl doesn’t necessarily need motivation to engage in some light stalking.
Cheryl’s life is a mess: her family is broke; Veronica’s friend-turned-enemy Nick St. Clair tried to rape her; and after she decided to deck the halls of her home, despite her family’s dire financial situation, her mother turned to prostitution as a way to earn a living. Even after Cheryl got a hush-money check from Nick, her mother insists on continuing her newfound profession. We already know Cheryl is prone to rash decisions, and stress like this could make just about anyone lash out in weird ways. But perhaps the most damning piece of evidence pointing toward Cheryl is that surreptitiously following unwitting subjects without clear motivation is already part of her M.O.
Did we ever find out why Cheryl was apparently stalking Josie earlier this season? The answer is a huge, resounding “nope.” So while it’s not entirely clear why Cheryl would want to stalk Archie and Veronica, I’m inclined to keep my eye on her for the next few weeks—because even if she doesn’t turn out to be the stalker, she probably has a few more crazy tricks up her sleeve.
Get Vanity Fair’s HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Full ScreenPhotos:In Portrait: Darren Criss Is A Triple ThreatLaura BradleyLaura Bradley is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com. She was formerly an editorial assistant at Slate and lives in Brooklyn.