After many false leads and red herrings, Riverdale's season 3 finale, "Survive the Night," revealed the true identity of the Gargoyle King: Penelope Blossom! This season's penultimate episode suggested that the Gargoyle King might actually be Cheryl's brother, Jason Blossom, somehow returned from the grave. However, the real truth is even more twisted than that.
Yes, while Penelope may have been the mastermind behind the Gargoyle King - both in the present day, and in the days of the Midnight Club - she wasn't actually wearing the mask and terrifying outfit that has been seen throughout season 3. That was none other than Betty's "brother" Chic, who was revealed to be a fraud in season 2 and was supposedly killed by Hal Cooper a.k.a. the Black Hood... though we never actually saw him die. In an effort to bring her beloved Jason back to life, Penelope had dyed Chic's hair red, dressed him in Jason's clothes, and started calling him by Jason's name.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of Riverdale's season finale was an ominous tease of things to come in Riverdale season 4. As the core group of four friends sat in Pop's, sharing milkshakes and vowing to have a less horrifying senior year and to stay friends forever, a flash-forward revealed that those plans are already doomed. Archie, Betty, and Veronica were shown gathered around a fire in the woods, covered in blood, burning their own clothes and Jughead's hat, and declaring to go their separate ways and never speak of that night again. But before we get to that, let's break down the many twists and turns of Riverdale's season 3 finale.
Penelope Blossom and Chic Are the Gargoyle King
The clues leading to Penelope Blossom as the mastermind behind the Gargoyle King were actually there all along. We learned that Gryphons & Gargoyles had originated at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy - the asylum where Penelope had been raised before being handed off to the Blossom family at the age of eight. Because of her red hair, Penelope was adopted purely for the purposes of eventually being married off to Clifford Blossom, something that she deeply resented. It was here that her hatred for the town of Riverdale took root, and became the motivation for unleashing the Gargoyle King on the town.
When she was a teenager, Penelope introduced Gryphons & Gargoyles to the Midnight Club, having presumably planted the game in the teacher's desk drawer. As their game master, she led them deeper and deeper into the game until one fateful night culminated in the death of Principal Featherhead by poisoning. This was the second clue to the fact that Penelope Blossom was the Gargoyle King: she has a reputation for being skilled with poisons, and poison was how the Gargoyle King claimed his victims.
After the death of Penelope's son at the start of season 1, she felt abandoned by the other parents of Riverdale, and started plotting to make them feel the same pain that she felt upon losing Jason. She began by secretly working with the Black Hood to eliminate the "sinners" of Riverdale, like the predatory Miss Grundy. When Betty offered up Chic as a target for the Black Hood, Hal recognized a "kinship" in him, and instead decided to take him under his wing. When Hal went to jail, Penelope took control of Chic, dying his hair red and pretending that he was Jason (something that Chic wasn't be averse to, since he had already posed as someone else's son). Through Chic, Penelope brought the grim game of Gryphons & Gargoyles back to Riverdale, with Chic introducing the game to Ben Button, who then shared it with Dilton Doiley - the first new victims of the Gargoyle King.
Penelope's plan culminated in one final twisted game, with Archie, Betty, Jughead, and Veronica instructed to "survive the night" while carrying out quests. They passed all the tests, but Penelope double-crossed them anyway, sending her Gargoyles to chase them down and kill them. Fortunately the day was saved by the timely arrival of the Southside Serpents and the Pretty Poisons. The season ends with Hal dead, Chic behind bars, Penelope on the run, and the Gargoyle King defeated... for now.
The Farmies Have Ascended... Whatever That Means
After surviving their final ordeal with the Gargoyle King, the gang raced to the Farm, where Edgar Evernever had been gathering his followers in preparation for their "Ascension." Cheryl had succeeded in escaping with Polly's other baby, Juniper, and reuniting her with her twin, Dagwood. However, Alice had decided to stay behind with Polly. Archie and the gang arrive at Harvest House to find only Kevin Keller left behind, surrounded by a circle of clothes and shoes, miserably stating that everyone else had ascended and he'd been left behind as a witness.
Now, it's safe to assume that the Ascension was as fraudulent as everything else about the Farm, and that Edgar and his followers have simply skipped town again, as they have done multiple times before. Both the brainwashing and the apparent visions of dead loved ones were induced by a combination of drugs and hypnosis, so Edgar could easily have used the same methods to convince Kevin that he saw his fellow Farmies ascend (rather than simply slipping out the back door). With the departing cultists go Fangs, Polly, and Alice - though we learned that Alice isn't quite as brainwashed as she appeared.
Betty and Jughead's Brother Charles Is Still Alive
In one of the Riverdale season 3 finale's many twists, it's revealed that Betty and Jughead's older brother, Charles, is still alive and working for the FBI. Not only that, but he was actually working with Alice, who was only pretending to have been brainwashed by the Farm in order to get closer to the center of their operations. This makes sense, as many fans were incredulous of the fact that a sharp-minded investigative reporter like Alice could be so gullible as to fall for the silver-tongued Edgar Evernever.
As a reminder, Charles Smith is the son of Alice Cooper and F.P. Jones, making him half-brother to both Betty and Jughead. We were told in season 2 that Charles had been killed by Chic, who then took his place, but it probably won't be too hard for Riverdale to explain that away. This does, however, explain why Alice was so angered by Betty setting up a fake gravestone for Charles earlier in the season; she knew it was fake, because she already knew that her son was still alive. Speaking to EW, showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa said that the Farm plotline will continue into season 4, but will be resolved "pretty quickly" and that Alice will soon return to the show.
Hiram Lodge is Behind Bars - And Still Pulling Strings
A close-up on a correctional officer's badge that says Lodge Detention Center tells you everything you need to know about how defanged Hiram Lodge has become - which is to say, hardly at all. Even after being locked up for the illegal dealings at La Bonne Nuit, Hiram still managed to arrange for Hermione Lodge's arrest for conspiracy to murder her husband. We see him working out in his own private exercise yard, complete with an elegant-looking breakfast buffet, with the guards reporting to him like his own personal butlers.
With Hermione out of the way and Veronica now vulnerable, it seems as though Hiram will be targeting his daughter next - as revenge for getting him locked up, and likely to further other interests as well. He ominously says that Veronica doesn't even know what's coming next before getting back to his workout. Could Hiram's plotting have something to do with the season finale chilling flash-forward?
Could Jughead Die in Season 4?
The flash-forward scene at the very end of "Survive the Night" obviously seems to imply that Forsythe Pendleton Jones III will die violently in Riverdale season 4... but after a full season of Gargoyle King fake-outs and multiple characters coming back from the dead, fans will know better than to take this scene at face value. Aguirre-Sacasa said that Riverdale season 4 will pick up the thread of Betty having the "serial killer gene," and it's Betty who forces the others to vow that they'll never speak of that night again, so we could very well see the sweet girl next door give in to her dark heritage next season.
Jughead's absence and the fact that his hat is being burned could also mean that Jughead is responsible for killing someone, and that he has already gone on the run while his friends burn the evidence. Assuming that Jughead himself isn't the victim, the big question is who the blood belongs to, and what they did to deserve their fate - if anything. One thing's for sure: senior year at Riverdale High isn't going to be all sunshine and roses.