Riverdale’s second season has introduced a serial killer who is pulling cues from the Zodiac, the Axeman of New Orleans, and The Phantom Killer of Texarkana. In the latest episode, The Black Hood Killer stepped deeper into Zodiac territory by sending an encrypted letter to Betty Cooper. And this crucial clue points to her domineering mother, Alice.
Is Alice Cooper the Black Hood Killer? She’s not the one who shot Fred Andrews, murdered Geraldine Grundy, and wounded Moose. But I propose she is the one whose tied these crimes together with letters she’s been all too happy to run in her newspaper.
In “Watcher in the Woods,” Alice claimed to have received a package from the Black Hood Killer. This missive introduces a motive to the otherwise unrelated attacks, reading:
This is the Black Hood. I am the man who shot the adulterer at Pop’s. I killed the child predator in Greendale. I shot the drug and sex-addicted teenagers at lover’s lane. Riverdale is not innocent. It’s a town of hypocrites, degenerates, criminals. My wrath is the price of your lies, your secrets, your sins. I will not stop. I cannot be stopped. I am the wolf. You are the flock. This is the blood letting. You will hear from me again.
First off, this brand of high-drama diction is very Alice, who scathingly asked her daughter Betty if she’d been “defiled” by her weirdo boyfriend. Now let’s consider the so-called sins of these targets. The first, Fred Andrews, is accused of adultery, which was far from common knowledge. Who not only knew that Fred was hooking up with Hermione Lodge, but also tried to rub it in his estranged wife’s face during a school dance? Alice. Who was the only person who both knew Grundy was committing statutory rape, and used the word “child predator” to describe her? Alice. And lastly, who knew Reggie had sold Moose and Midge jingle jangle the night they were shot? Alice. She even snapped a pic on her phone.
Hearing this talk of sinners shot, Polly Cooper understandably decided to get out of town, declaring, “I’m an unwed mother carrying my cousin’s babies. I am the poster child for sin!” It’s a solid argument, yet Alice seemed wildly unconcerned, insisting her eldest daughter was perfectly safe in Riverdale. And this week in the opening of “Chapter Seventeen: The Town That Dreaded Sundown,” Alice rolls her eyes at husband Hal as he adds another lock to the door of their home. Alice isn’t afraid of the Black Hood, because the sin-punishing vigilante angle is merely a motive of her own creation.
But why would she do it? We got insight into that in Alice’s two big scenes from this ep. In the first, she tearfully learns Polly has run away, and bellows at Betty, “I’m terrified. Every time that you walk out that door, every time that I call you and you don’t answer the phone, my heart stops. But how am I supposed to protect you two girls when you go and do this? And then you go and think I’m a monster.” The implication: Alice will go to monstrous extremes to protect her girls.
Later, Archie summarizes Alice’s news coverage of the Black Hood, saying, “Mrs. Cooper says he’s a South Sider with an ax to grind.” Then at the big town hall meeting, Alice openly declares “the real problem in Riverdale (is) the South Side.” Remember Alice came from the South Side herself, but now she wants its drug and gang-infested high school bulldozed to the ground, and that budget used to bulk up the police force. An idea that Fred Andrews discounts as divisive and “blood lust,” saying, “Alice, you’re the one holding the cleaver.”
This ties back to the letter Betty received from someone claiming to be the Black Hood. She was horrified to learn that she was the writer’s inspiration, her speech about what Riverdale could be twisted into a “blood letting” manifesto. But a big fat clue that this letter didn’t actually come from the Black Hood is the cypher that cracks the code. It comes from Nancy Drew and the Secret Code, a book Betty says she “used to check it out obsessively.” Uh huh. And who might know what detective novel a young Betty Cooper checked out obsessively? Her mom. Her mom who fears for her, and wants her not to date a Serpent, wants her not to make the same mistakes she did, wants her to feel empowered and better than the scum of the South Side.
I propose to you that Alice Cooper is writing these letters for a number of reasons. One is to terrorize the people of Riverdale into shaping up and living by the ideals her daughter set forth in her jubilee speech. The other is to manipulate her daughter away from that brooding bad boy Jughead Jones. The third is definitely to sell papers, because Alice’s greatest love may well be her own ego. (That smirk when she told the Sheriff the killer wrote to Betty because “He needs a platform to grandstand on, and he’s terrified of me.” Oh girl.)
So where does this leave the identity of the real killer(s)? As I laid out before, I think the Green-Eyed Man who shot Fred Andrews is not the same man who killed Grundy and fired at Moose and Midge. The connections between them is only a black hood. And if the news of the black-hooded assailant at Pop’s spread fast, it’s safe to assume the second man copy-catted the look to muddy his motives. Remember, Moose and Midge did not confirm their attacker had green eyes. Midge said only they were “blank.” And we never got close enough in the second or third crime to be sure it’s the same assailant from Pop’s.
The one hiccup in my theory is that Fred’s wallet and Grundy’s Lolita sunglasses were included in the package sent to Alice. Admittedly, I don’t know how she’d have gotten her hands on either. But considering the duplicity and corruption that roars through this town with pep, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn this investigative journalist snatched some souvenirs to sell her story.