Up until this week, we were under the illusion that Gryphons & Gargoyles was a role-playing game so compelling that it could manipulate the minds of teenagers — both past and present — into suicide. Or murder. And that the entire game was being controlled by the mysterious Gargoyle King, who may or may not be one of the parents in the OG Murder Club.
But this week offers another perspective, and that is that Gryphons & Gargoyles is not a game you play so much as it’s a game that plays you. That all of Riverdale are pawns in the game whether they pull on their cloaks or not. That Riverdale itself is the board upon which the game is played and that the Gargoyle King is … God?
I dunno. After last week’s fairly well-grounded flashback episode, this week’s episode begins to lose the thread. I’m not sure how Riverdale landed here, but I suspect the writers were all wondering how to combine the Gryphons & Gargoyles storyline with Archie’s prison storyline and simply decided to merge the two. The prison warden wasn’t an evil man in the pocket of Hiram Lodge, per se: He’s been playing the game the entire time, and Archie is just a character in that game — The Red Paladin, to be exact — and by failing to kill Archie, the warden’s game is over and he must ascend. Or descend. Or whatever the hell it is they do when they drink the cyanide and kill themselves.
In this week’s episode, Jughead, Cheryl, Toni and others have been completely pulled into the game, so for the time being, let’s leave them in Dilton Doiley’s bunker where Jughead is narrating the events of the game. The others — who are playing the game but don’t know it — endeavor to orchestrate Archie’s prison break-out after Archie gets another year tacked onto his sentence for a failed escape.
After Veronica learns that there is a sewer grate in the fight pit with which Veronica can sneak Archie out, she, Kevin, and Betty begin working on their caper. In the meantime, the Warden feeds Archie his last meal. Thinking that he’s gonna die, the Warden also tells Archie how Hiram Lodge framed Archie for murder, which will presumably become invaluable information once Archie escapes prison (assuming that the real murderers are still alive and can be located).
The prison-break plan basically entails Veronica and Kevin sneaking into the pit and tossing smoke grenades disguised as coke cans into it during Archie’s last fight, offering a smokescreen to Archie so that he can escape through the sewer grate. Two complications arise, however. One, Joaquin kisses and then shivs Archie before the fight (he has to, because the Warden promised Joaquin he would ascend if he did), and the final fight also pits Archie against … Mad Dog. Who is not dead (but good luck finding out what happened to him). Mad Dog — which is definitely not his name, and almost certainly the name of a character in the game of Gryphons & Gargoyles — ultimately holds off the guards while Archie escapes through the sewer grate where Betty is waiting for him on the other end.
While Kevin and Betty — posing as Veronica and Archie — escape on a motorcycle, luring the guards into a chase, Veronica and Archie make their actual escape. Archie is eventually secreted away in … Dilton Doily’s bunker, where Jughead and the rest of the gang have been playing Gryphons & Gargoyles the entire game. As Jughead notes to Betty, the game that takes place in the realm of Eldirvare, which is an anagram for Riverdale, which means that the Gargoyle King must be … I dunno? Michael Langdon?
Takeaways from this episode? Archie is out of prison and has the goods on Hiram Lodge; Mad Dog is still alive; Kevin is still hot for Joaquin; the prison warden has killed himself; and the entire town is a The Truman Show horror show being manipulated by the malevolent Gargoyle King, who is definitely not the Prison Warden because the warden is totes dead.