Riverdale season 3 premiere recap: Do we already know who the Gargoyle King is?

Riverdale -- "Chapter Thirty-Six: Labor Day" -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW -- Acquired via CW TV PR
Riverdale -- "Chapter Thirty-Six: Labor Day" -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW -- Acquired via CW TV PR /

There’s no such thing as summer in Riverdale as Archie’s trial reaches a shocking conclusion, The Farm takes over the Coopers, and the Gargoyle King begins its reign.

Not long ago, Riverdale wrapped its second season and put various dark storylines to bed while teasing a few new ones. Naively, I had hoped to manifest a lighter season adorned with the trimmings of a carefree teenage summer. Well, Archie and the gang did catch five seconds of summer (literally), but it’s hard to bask in your youth when a murder trial looms large over your friend group.

Picking up at the end of Archie’s trial, for which he had been pinned for the death of Cassidy at Shadow Lake, Riverdale side-steps a prolonged arc of The People v. Archie Andrews: American Crime Story and delivers the verdict you didn’t see coming. Elsewhere, cult mentality swarms Riverdale with The Farm’s stronghold over Alice and Polly, and Jughead stumbles upon a haunting entity called the Gargoyle King. Could we already know who’s behind this new mystery?

Let’s dig into the five most shocking moments from the jaw-dropping season 3 premiere of Riverdale(Warning: It’s about to get real spoilery in here.)

1. Archie’s oh-so bummer summer ends.

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Archie, Archie, Archie… Oh, it’s going to be a long season if I’m opening with a triple Archie. Look, we know that our sweet, sweet idiot always has his Superman complex tucked away for emergencies. But the trial for a murder you did not commit isn’t the time to pull out that cape, Archiekins.

The jury deliberation gets postponed until after Labor Day, which allows Archie to hit a pool party at Cheryl’s and live in a 5 Seconds of Summer music video with Veronica and Bughead at Sweetwater Swimminghole. But guilt gets the best of him.

He feels responsible for the occurrences of the past year because he chose to align with Hiram, which led to a series of events that placed him mere minutes from actually acting on his rage. Of course, Archie would talk himself into deserving Hiram’s blackmail. As it happens, the trial culminates in a jury deadlock, resulting in Archie hastily accepting a plea deal.

Here’s that Superman complex in play, taking the fall so his friends and family don’t have to go through another trial. Would that really have been worse than jail?

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2. The Ghoulies declare war on the Serpents — again.

We’ve been here before, haven’t we? As the leader of the Serpents, Jughead seems to make more enemies than he does friends. But, to his credit, he’s leading a much more civilized gang, which is something to be proud of in the world of Riverdale.

However, Penny Peabody still has it out for Jug, and since the South Side doesn’t belong to them anymore, she and the Ghoulies take the first strike against the Serpents. Little do they know, the Serpents have a new secret weapon/loose cannon by the name of Cheryl “Hawkeye” Blossom.

Riverdale Season 3
Riverdale — “Chapter Thirty-Six: Labor Day” — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — Acquired via CW TV PR /

3. It’s the end of the Lodges as we know them.

You know what will really cause some strain in a family? Your dad accusing your boyfriend of a murder he didn’t commit. Let’s just say the Lodges are going to have an awkward Thanksgiving this year, if they even make it to the table together.

Veronica tries to level with Hiram to save Archie from the jury’s vote, but he won’t admit to having any responsibility of the accusation until after Archie takes the deal. Hiram confesses that putting Archie behind bars is Veronica’s punishment for choosing him over family. Here’s the question: What will Hermione do?

4. Betty can’t handle the cult in her backyard.

Given that Betty’s had just about the worst year anyone could ever have, Alice and Polly push for Betty to seek treatment from The Farm. But their relentless cult-like platitudes keep Betty resisting recovery for her father’s psychological torture. Instead, she dives into Archie’s case as an intern, a tricky tightrope act of unhealthy compartmentalization and avoidance.

Once she witness (or hallucinates?) Alice and Polly participating in a cult ritual that involves holding the twins over a fire, she faints into a fit of seizures. Maybe she shouldn’t have faked her therapy sessions.

Riverdale — “Chapter Thirty-Six: Labor Day” — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — Acquired via CW TV PR
Riverdale — “Chapter Thirty-Six: Labor Day” — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — Acquired via CW TV PR /

5. Goodbye, Black Hood… Hello, Gargoyle King.

Dilton Doily returns in the third season premiere and hands the new mystery to Jughead on a silver platter. Jug runs into Dilton and Ben playing a fantasy role-playing game called Griffons & [redacted] — Ben cut Dilton off before revealing the full title.

But that missing word just might be gargoyles, as Dilton leaves Jughead a map that leads him to the Gargoyle King’s altar in the park. Dilton and Ben, naked and branded with symbols, bow before the True Detective season 1-esque altar, foaming at the mouth. What in the what? Do we know who could be behind this terror?

Next. 5 questions answered from the Riverdale season 2 finale. dark

Odds & Ends:

  • Let’s place our bets on the Gargoyle King now. Do we think it’s someone we have known from day one that crafted this role-playing “game”? Are they a dangerous, murderous figure? Is the Gargoyle King an actual person or a state of mind?
  • Follow-up: Only Riverdale would make us say the words Gargoyle King.
  • Josie and Sweet Pea are a thing! Kevin wants junior year to be a 2000s sex comedy with Moose, and Choni are still going strong. Thoughts on the couples?
  • Looking at this from the lens of a character who would very much avoid her problems, it’s easy to accept that Betty would forge her prescriptions and lie about going to therapy. But that sends a dangerous message about mental health. The series should instead lean all the way into proper treatments for trauma.

What did you think of the premiere? Let us know in the comments!

Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.