RIVERDALE 100!!!! I remember when Riverdale season 2 came out, thinking there was no way they could top the sheer bat shit craziness of season 1. But they did. And year after year, that’s been true, this Rivervale mini is no exception.
For one thing…Archie (KJ Apa) is alive! How?!? He had his heart literally ripped out just 4 episodes ago. Was it all a dream? Betty (Lili Reinhart) thinks so. Toni (Vanessa Morgan) is still alive and not an apparition! Reggie (Charles Melton) is not in hell! Nana Rose and Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) didn’t body swap! And Cheryl assumedly isn’t the immortal Abigail. Everyone is waking from the same nightmare.
Jughead wakes from a nightmare in which he’s caught in an explosion. He wakes up in Archie’s garage, barefoot, his feet bloodied. He returns home to Tabitha (Erinn Westbrook), confused as to how he sleepwalked to Archie’s garage.
Later, Jughead returns to the halls of
Riverdale Rivervale High, Simple Minds’ Don’t You Forget About Me playing in the background. He sees visions of his friends as students again, which throws Jughead. Not only that, but they’re in their Riverdale blues. He even spots himself as a teen.
A no longer dead Ben Button greets Jughead in the boys’ room. Jughead is very confused.
In the teachers’ lounge, Rivervale adult versions of the gang go over their weekend plans, none the wiser that their teenaged Riverdale counterparts roam the halls. Archie’s shirt confirms we’re still in Rivervale. Oh, and Archie and Betty are getting married this weekend.
Betty gets a call from Dr. Curdle, claiming he’s looking at Jughead’s corpse. Except she’s in the same room as Jughead. Jughead visits Dr. Curdle to see his own corpse. That’s three Jugheads in the opening 6 minutes of Riverdale! Dr. Curdle claims it’s a paradox and Jughead sets out to investigate, starting at the town limit on the Lonely Highway, which let’s all be frank here, looks more dirt road than highway.
The Rivervale town sign now has a front and back. Instead of a Now Leaving Rivervale sign on the back, it’s a reverse of the front but says Riverdale and sports a different motto at the bottom. The front reads “There’s no place like home!” with an infinity symbol next to it, and the back has “The Town With Pop’s!” written backward with a picture of the diner.
Jughead heads home to examine Dead Jughead’s effects, which includes a Rivervale comic titled The Jughead Paradox. Hey, that’s this episode. It’s Betty and Archie’s wedding issue. He finds a whole box of Riverdale comics at his place that recounts the whole TV series. Jughead doesn’t recognize them or notice that the ones in his collection are titled Riverdale and the one his doppelganger had is titled Rivervale. Jughead reads a comic of him reading that same comic and I get a very Animal Man vibe from it. The pages after which are blank.
After reading through the comics, he tries explaining it all to Tabitha, even mentioning that Riverdale turned to Rivervale after some explosion. Tabitha looks at him the way a parent looks at a small child telling them an overly long story. But Tabitha reads the comics too, and her mind is blown as well. She remembers all of the Riverdale events happening in Rivervale. He shows Betty and Archie the comics next, asking them if they remember Hiram’s explosive ending to season 5. They don’t. Jughead theorizes that the explosion started this Rivervale parallel universe.
After reading the comics, Veronica points out a big discrepancy. Hiram is the villain of Riverdale, but he died the night before Rivervale Veronica’s quinceañera. But the best observation goes to Reggie (Charles Melton), who wonders why he looks like two different people. He’s nice enough to refer to Season 1 Reggie (Ross Butler) as devastating handsome too.
Cheryl tells Jughead that Jason is still alive. Jughead doesn’t believe her, until Jason walks in, alive and well, with more lines than he’s ever had in the series thus far. But Jughead searches through their high school yearbook, finding the Jason Blossom In Memoriam page, proof that Jason did indeed die.
Veronica is annoyed at Jughead, and Reggie gives her a shoulder rub to ease her tension. That’s when the doorbell rings and it’s none other than Reggie at the door, Season 1 Reggie!
Jughead heads to the library to check out The Philosophy of Parallel Universes. Unfortunately, their copy was lost when Dilton checked it out years ago and never returned it. When Jughead sighs that he can’t even ask Dilton about it, because he’s dead, the very annoyed librarian corrects him that not only is Dilton alive, but he teaches Physics down the hall, and not only that, Ethel is his teaching assistant.
Dilton hears out Jughead’s parallel universe theory and believes him. Jughead says he has an impending sense of doom, but Dilton says he needs to just live his life. He advises Jughead to stop trying to figure out the secrets of the universe and go with the flow. Of course, the now-not-dead guy would say that!
Reggie and Reggie aren’t fans of each other. Season 1 Reggie provides entertainment for Betty’s bachelorette party, while new Reggie attends Archie’s bachelor party.
Archie confides in Jughead that he keeps thinking his dad (Luke Perry RIP) will somehow show up to the wedding. With all the other resurrections happening, Archie may be right.
Veronica is digging the double Reggie life. The Reggies aren’t down with sharing though. Veronica claims she’s more woman than either of them can handle alone.
The next day, the gang laments being hungover and not being able to skip class when Cheryl bursts in with a ransom note saying Jason was kidnapped by “someone calling himself the Black Hood.” Even Betty doesn’t recognize the Black Hood name. Jughead thinks he knows where Jason Blossom is being held, based on the events from Riverdale season 1. Sheriff Keller shoots the Black Hood dead when they rescue Jason. Jughead unmasks him to find Clifford Blossom.
Veronica walks in on the Reggies wrestling and grounds them both. She wants them to hash out their differences or she’s kicking them both out.
Alice and a not dead Hal host a rehearsal dinner for Betty and Archie. Toni interrupts, walking in late, announcing Cheryl is dead, strangled by someone. Despite Sheriff Keller being in the diner when Toni announces this, it’s Betty and Jughead who investigate the crime scene. Some things don’t change between Riverdale and Rivervale. Jughead theorizes that Riverdale is trying to reassert itself on Rivervale.
Jughead rushes to Dilton to confront him, thinking that Dilton might be the big bad guy of Rivervale. Dilton says he “had to know what would happen if the universes remained conjoined. And now we know! They become dangerously unstable and eventually they’re both going to implode!” Why? Ethel explains that both Riverdale and Rivervale are expanding but are still linked at the point of creation. Dilton brags that he will have the front row seat to their destruction, and become the first scientist to see a prime and pocket universe collapsing. But wouldn’t he also be the last? Jughead wants to stop it, but Dilton says they can’t, right before falling to the ground dead, poisoned by Ethel. She says she knows how to save Riverdale.
Veronica comes home to find her Pembroke apartment trashed and both Reggies dead at each other’s hands. Classic Reggies.
Ethel says they need to recreate the moment of Rivervale’s birth. When Jughead says the explosion in Archie’s bedroom, Ethel thinks it would have to be something more significant. But showing how high the Riverdale characters are on themselves, Jughead calls it the confluence of good and evil. Hiram’s bomb, Betty and Archie’s love. Plus Jughead was writing in the garage and there was some palladium on Archie’s desk. Now they just need to recreate the explosion in Archie’s bedroom and save the universe! Sure!
The bad news: if they succeed, Rivervale will cease to exist. But if they do nothing, everyone in both universes will die. Ethel also points out that not only do they have to set off a bomb under Archie’s bed, but both Archie and Betty need to be in that bed. Jughead suggests replacing Archie and Betty with himself and Veronica. He pitches the idea to Veronica, who is justifiably hesitant to go along with his plan. The way he describes Riverdale to her as a world of “murderous nuns,” “masked serial killers,” and “cults” along with “high school dances,” maybe it’s okay to let Riverdale die. But Veronica agrees with Jughead, saying “Let’s do it. Let’s…make out to save the universe.” Her only stipulation is they do it during the wedding. She’s not enthusiastic about attending. Neither is Jughead.
Unfortunately, Archie gets in the way of this plan. Of course, the guy caught in the explosion that created Rivervale doesn’t want to go back to Riverdale life. He’s happy here – no longer dead, and he just married to Betty. Happy enough to kill. That’s exactly what he did to Veronica to ensure Jughead’s plan failed. And that’s not all who he’s killed. He also killed Cheryl and the other Jughead. Wait, why the other Jughead? If he hadn’t killed that Jughead, this Jughead never would have gone down this path. Or at least hide the body and not leave it in plain sight, Archie! Oh wait, this is Archie we’re talking about, the king of stupid decisions.
Despite all the above, Archie claims he’s not a villain. Then he explains to Jughead that Rivervale is like Krakoa, no one stays dead here. He doesn’t actually compare it to Kraoka, but that’s what I heard in my head. Archie is like the Krona of Rivervale. He witnessed the creation of Rivervale and knows all its secrets. Archie being a quantum physics savant is the most unbelievable part of this episode or any episode for that matter. Archie risking the fate of two universes to see his dead dad brought back to life isn’t unbelievable at all though. That’s pure Archie. Archie grapples Jughead to the floor and is about to strangle him to death until a bullet from Betty’s handgun through his skull stops him. Betty is the most badass bride outside of a Tarantino movie.
Jughead goes over his plan with Betty. Her dead fiancé/his dead best friend downstairs, Betty and Jughead go at it like high schoolers in Archie’s bedroom, all to save the universe of course. They’re interrupted by the Jughead that Archie strangled to death earlier. He’s alive again. He describes heaven as the great Pop’s Chocolate Shoppe in the sky. Everyone is dressed out of a classic Archie comic, Jughead included. There, Jughead found the special comic that took place between episodes 95 and 96, which explained how Rivervale came to be, and how it could be saved. A new power source had to be found. But what?
Imagination. “It’s limitless and all-powerful” says the recently resurrected Jughead. Our Jughead is going to become a battery powering the universe through his writing. But he’ll have to lock himself away forever. Why not the recently resurrected Jughead? Because “I’m the narrator, he’s the writer,” Recently Resurrected explains to Betty. Get it? He’s the narrator Rod Serling it up the last few episodes. Betty doesn’t think it’s fair, but will she even remember all this? Jughead is convinced that he’s the only one who can save the universe.
Writer Jughead heads to the bunker and writes what happens. Betty and Narrator Jughead are in the bedroom while Archie wakes up and grabs a baseball bat intent to stop them. Archie is slowed but not stopped by a locked door. Instead of making out, they hug as the bomb’s timer reaches zero…but nothing happens. The bomb disappears and so did Archie. Jughead opens the door to find the house looking totally normal, all their friends happy and healthy in the dining room. Even Betty and Jughead can’t remember what they just did.
Writer Jughead isn’t alone. Ethel joins him, bringing food. She asks what happens in the prime Riverdale universe. Jughead says they’ll never know if someone did something to change the course of events in Riverdale.
Cut to Archie and Betty making out in bed, the ticking bomb interrupted by Betty getting a phone call warning her to get out of the house. Betty and Archie escape just in time. Jughead’s hearing isn’t so lucky. The bomb shatters the windows to the garage, deafening him. Did Archie and Betty survive? We don’t know. All we do know is that Jughead can’t hear himself scream, even after the ringing in his ears stops. But it looks like we’re back in Riverdale.
Was the Rivervale event strange? Yes. Over the top? For sure. But it had its problems, so many of them! For one, Sabrina was way too overhyped in the trailers for what amounted to little more than a cameo appearance. But my main problem with Rivervale is how disjointed the plot was from parts 1 through 5. Nothing revealed in part 5 is even hinted at in part 1. Part 5 answered questions brought up in part 5 while ignoring all the questions of the previous 4 episodes.
It’s a fun five-episode arc, but spending any time thinking about it brings up a list of questions. Why did Cheryl sacrifice Archie in part 1? What point did that actually serve? It’s never brought up again, and neither is Archie for that matter until he’s back 4 episodes later. And why does it take 4 episodes to resurrect him and then 4 minutes during this episode? It just felt like they couldn’t decide if they wanted to do a Riverdale version of The Twilight Zone for a few weeks or a parallel universe epic, and committed to neither. The explanations this episode felt as ham-fisted as Palpatine’s explanations in The Rise of the Skywalker. I’m happy for Rivervale to be behind us and am looking forward to season 6 resuming in Riverdale in March (hopefully with more visits from Sabrina!)