SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for the midseason finale of Riverdale, "Silent Night, Deadly Night," which as of publication has not yet aired on the west coast.
All season long on Riverdale, the mysterious serial killer known as The Black Hood has been on a path of destruction -- but that ended on tonight's midseason finale, along with the revelation of exactly who was under that hood.
As the waning minutes of "Silent Night, Deadly Night" revealed, the Black Hood is -- well, was -- in fact Joseph Svenson, Riverdale High's janitor. (Or so it seems at this point, at least.) It was a surprise to the characters on the show -- given that Svenson's family was a victim of a killer, the Riverdale Reaper -- and certainly to Archie Comics fans. In the comic books, Mr. Svenson is as goofy as Archie characters get, a bumbling custodian best known for his comically over-the-top Swedish accent and the catchphrase "By Yiminy!"
Yet on Riverdale, Svenson was the scariest character Archie and the gang have encountered thus far, with his victims including Miss Grundy and Jingle Jangle pusher/Southside High teacher The Sugar Man. Archie's beloved dad, Fred Andrews (Luke Perry), barely survived his encounter with the Black Hood in the first season finale. The Black Hood was finally stopped in tonight's episode by a well-timed gunshot from Sheriff Keller (Martin Cummins), who was on many people's list of suspects earlier this season.
CBR spoke with Riverdale showrunner and executive producer (and Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer) Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa about the decision to turn Mr. Svenson into a murderer, how the Black Hood may be gone but not forgotten, that kiss between Archie (KJ Apa) and Betty (Lili Reinhart), Jughead's (Cole Sprouse) ongoing descent into darkness and what to expect when the show returns in January.
CBR: Roberto, let's start with the big reveal -- that Mr. Svenson is the Black Hood. Or was, given that he's shot and killed by the end of the episode. How did you arrive at using that character in this way? And as a longtime Archie fan, was there an extra layer of fun in taking one of the goofiest Archie characters and making him scariest?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: We definitely always like our Easter eggs on Riverdale. There had been a small but steady contingent of fans who kept asking us to bring Mr. Svenson to the halls of Riverdale. It was something that we tried to do on and off for a few months. Then when we were talking about the Black Hood, and who the Black Hood could be, we made a list of all the likely suspects -- or the most unlikely suspects -- and Mr. Svenson was at the top of the list. We were like, "We better start introducing him immediately if this is going to happen, or people are going to be like, 'Who?'"
So when the Black Hood was originally conceived for this season, his identity was not necessarily established?
When we introduced the Black Hood as the guy who shot Fred, we did not know conclusively who his identity was going to be. Very early on we started coming up with different possibilities and different scenarios.
At the end of the episode the Black Hood is shot and killed. There is the tease there with Betty grabbing the hood from the fire, but how settled is the Black Hood issue at this point? How much will it reverberate when the show returns for the second half of Season 2?
Definitely the fallout from everything that's happened over the last couple of episodes will continue into the second half of the season. As for whether or not the Black Hood is finished, I kind of say what I say whenever someone dies on Riverdale: No one ever stays dead forever on Riverdale. The Black Hood may be a victim or a part of that.
Another rather significant part of the episode is that we see Archie and Betty kiss, though by the end of the episode Archie and Veronica are back on solid ground. The show has held back on exploring the classic Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle dynamic, but is it moving towards a place where that becomes more of an overt thing?
I feel like that kiss happened under very heightened, intense, unlikely circumstances. I don't think Betty and Archie even quite know what it means, because they're in the middle of this investigation, and this mad hunt for the Black Hood. I think that there's definitely going to be things to unpack from that kiss, and what it means, and what doors it opens, and, perhaps, what doors it closes.