Last night, the final moments of Riverdale revealed a major shift in the season two’s central mystery. With episode one, we wondered who is the green-eyed man who gunned down not only the town with pep’s beloved Fred Andrews, but also the sexual predator Geraldine Grundy, who was hiding out in Greendale across Sweetwater River. While the police point out the crimes do not remotely share a common M.O., viewers know what Archie suspects: it is the same killer. That means Archie is the apparent thread between them. As grief-stricken redhead passionately points out to Sheriff Keller, Grundy was strangled with the cello bow Archie gave her! How could that be coincidence?
But with the end of “Chapter Fifteen: Nighthawks,” a new wrinkle formed in the theory that Riverdale’s Angel of Death was Grundy’s mysterious ex (who we are told has an “airtight alibi” besides). After scoring the upper “jingle jangle” from Reggie, Moose and Midge took to a secluded makeout spot to get wild. Instead, they got shot when a man in a hood came out of the darkness and fired into their car. True crime fans know this means we may have hit the magic number. The Green-Eyed Man/Angel of Death is officially a serial killer (even though it’s unclear if Midge and Moose are dead). And horror lovers might now recognize his M.O. from the chilling classic The Town That Dreaded Sundown.
Directed by Charles B. Pierce, this 1976 horror offering is a proto-slasher film that features The Phantom Killer, a serial killer who stalked the night, wearing a homemade hood, and targeting teens on lovers lane. While this seminal movie offers gory death scenes—including a particularly bizarre one involving a trombone—it’s most chilling aspect is that it’s based on a true story. The Phantom Killer was real.
Over four months in the spring of 1946, the state-straddling town of Texarkana went from blissful to rigid with fear as a spade of attacks splashed their idyllic streets with blood and left five of eight victims dead. The attacks all happened at night, focused on couples, and involved grotesque violence both physical and sexual. The killer favored a gun. And just as mysteriously as the attacks started, they stopped. The Phantom Killer’s identity remains a mystery to this day.
So how does this relate to Riverdale? Having the Angel of Death shooting Moose and Midge on lover’s lane while wearing a homemade hood, the show’s creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is clearly signaling a comparison between the show’s Angel of Death and the Phantom Killer. The Texarkana’s first victims even recalled him approaching the car as he shined a flashlight in their eyes, a move the Angle of Death does to keep Moose from seeing his face. On the most obvious level, Riverdale is like Texarkana, a seemingly sleepy town that’s peacefulness is eviscerated by a series of confounding killings. But Archie as a motive is undermined by this most recent shooting, because he’s never had a meaningful interaction with either of the latest victims. So what could be the Angel of Death’s reason for shooting Moose and Midge?
The most popular theory is this Angel of Death is a self-appointed arbiter of sin. Fred Andrews was dating a married woman, and got his business entangled in the web of the notorious Hiram Lodge as well as the dangerous gang the Southside Serpents. Perhaps this seemed a brazen hypocrisy to the shooter. We can guess that Grundy was killed for her serial sexual abuses against underaged boys. And this latest ep made a show of Moose and Midge publicly purchasing the illegal drug, jingle jangle. Considering Alice Cooper slyly snagged a shot of that transaction, you can bet that this will soon be public knowledge. Which could make jingle jangle dealer Reggie Mantle the next suspect or victim.
This plays into a brewing theory that the Angel of Death is a lesser known comic book hero,The Black Hood. A character owned by Archie Comics, Black Hood has taken on various forms, but is generally a skilled detective who fights crime and kills, according to his moral code. Bustle notes that the 2015 reboot of this franchise went dark and gritty with murder, grief and drug abuse. Which would make the figure a good fit for Riverdale. Aguirre-Sacasa has confessed the Angel of Death is a nod to the Black Hood, and Archie Comics is leaning into this theory to promote the line’s digital availability.
So the sin angle is clearly the one Riverdale’s makers are selling. But this seems too straightforward, especially when we’re only in episode two of a twenty-two ep season.
The second theory would be that the Moose and Midge shooting was random. The Angel of Death stalked Lover’s Lane to find any couple to shoot, just to send the police off his scent. Perhaps by targeting teens who will be found with jingle jangle in the car, the killer is purposefully setting up a red herring for the cops. (It’s already working on many recappers.) They’ll chase down the drug angle, while the killer is free to continue on with his potential revenge plot. But this assumes that the cops will connect the shooting at Pop’s with the strangling in Greendale, which as the Sheriff points out they have zero reason to do.
My suspicion is there’s more than one hooded shooter. So far the only good look at him we’ve gotten was in Pop’s, where Archie stared him right in his green eyes. When Grundy was killed, we don’t see for certain those signature peepers.
When Midge and Moose were shot, the show cuts to a POV shot of from Moose’s perspective. It’s all blinding flashlight, with no clear shot of the shooter’s face.
Aside from that, this is as close as we get.
Can you say for certain this is the same man from the diner? I can’t. Plus, there could be a curious clue in this scene’s soundtrack. “Season of the Witch” plays over this climactic shooting. Which could be a tie to Sabrina, the teenage witch whose spinoff is in the works. But more importantly, who lives in Greendale, where Grundy was murdered. I posit that the Green-Eyed Man seen in Pop’s is not the same man who suffocated Grundy and shot two of Riverdale’s tripping teens. Meaning The Angel of Death and Black Hood could be two separate Riverdale characters.
From here, it’ll be curious to see if each ep of season two will end with an attack. Not necessarily a killing. Remember, we don’t know that Moose and Midge are dead. My guess is one or both will survive, just as the Phantom Killer’s victims sometimes did. But we’re sure to learn something crucial in two weeks, as Chapter Seventeen is titled, “The Town That Dread Sundown.”
But there’s a disturbing threat hanging over this particular allusion. The Phantom Killer was never identified, never caught. Now, I can’t imagine Aguirre-Sacasa would be so cruel to his audience as to leave this mystery unanswered. But Riverdale Justice is deeply flawed. Just last season we saw sexy serpent/murder accomplice Joaquin split town, escaping cops and courts just as the molester Miss Grundy did. Jason’s killer/father evaded police capture by seemingly committing suicide in the Blossom family barn. And now even FP Jones will likely be spared prison time, thanks to Dark Betty’s brutal blackmailing of Cheryl Blossom.
My guess is we’ll learn the identity of the killer. But Archie and the gang will not see him put before a court or a jury of his peers. Riverdale justice is never so civil.