Archie (KJ Apa) is having a weird dream. He’s back in high school, in his football uniform, but there’s an army officer there too. And Reggie. Huh, Archie dreams about Reggie, but not Jughead. That graduation day hug must have meant a lot to him. Cut to Archie in army fatigues, running around barbwire and firing his rifle while Riverdale Bulldogs also run down the field. A lot of soldiers fall, including Reggie (I guess that hug didn’t mean that much after all), and Archie is thrown to the ground in an explosion as Cheryl and the other Riverdale cheerleaders cheer from the sidelines. Archie reaches the soldier they were sent to save, who is Jughead! Uh oh, just as Archie picks up Jughead, Hiram Lodge is there and points a gun at Archie’s head. Archie, you have very weird dreams.
Sgt. Archie awakens in a VA hospital. It’s 7 years since graduation. Amazingly, Archie still has all his limbs. The officer talking to him at the hospital talks about Archie’s brave military career, that his men are alive because of him. Sir, are you sure you have the right Archie Andrews? Archie responds with, “Not all of them, sir.” Ah, that sounds more like it. The officer wants Archie to restart the ROTC program at Riverdale High, but Archie wants to stay on active duty. Sorry, Archie, orders are orders.
That night, Archie reads a story to another soldier who lost his legs. I immediately wonder if this soldier, Jackson, is going to be the new villain of the season, especially when Archie gives him his address in Riverdale and Jackson says, “Sounds nice.”
The first thing Archie sees after the bus drops him in town is the Riverdale town sign, which is half burned away. Archie’s makes his way to Pop’s. Hey Archie, you’re 6 years late on that reunion you made everyone promise to attend. Motorcycles line the parking lot. Looks like the Serpents are thriving.
A new to Archie and new to us waitress offers him a seat at the counter if he wants some coffee, or head downstairs if he wants something stronger. Looks like Pop kept La Bon Nui going. Except La Bon Nui is now the reborn Whyte Wurm. Toni (Vanessa Morgan) fronts a serpent-themed band that includes two women dancing with large pythons. Wait a second, is that Sweet Pea on bass? And is that Fangs with Bono glasses and a goatee on guitar? I’m guessing yes since Kevin (Casey Cott), now sporting a black leather jacket, watches from the crowd. We’ve missed out on a lot in 7 years. I had Sweet Pea and Fangs pegged at perpetual townies, but I’m surprised Toni and Kevin are townies too.
Archie and Toni reunite after her set ends. Toni is pregnant, but the dad remains a secret. The Serpents bought out La Bon Nui from Hiram Lodge. Archie laments that everything felt weird about the town since coming back. Archie, you’ve literally been to two places so far: the bus stop and Pop’s. Archie asks after Pop Tate, and Toni’s non-answer makes it sound we’re going to be attending Pop’s funeral later this episode. Uh-oh, not Pop Tate!
Down in Quantico, VA, Betty (Lili Reinhart) runs through some Warrior Dash style obstacle course. Gotta stay fit to become the eventual final season of Riverdale’s serial killer, am I right? Wait a second, she’s wearing a FBI sweatshirt with her name on the back. Okay, Betty either followed in the footsteps of her serial killer half-brother Charles and joined the FBI, or she likes wearing her serial killer, former FBI agent, half-brother Charles’s old sweatshirt. I’m honestly not sure which is weirder.
Judging by what comes out at her therapy session after the obstacle course, she did join the FBI. She’s just a trainee but has already seen something bad enough that they have her talking to someone about it. Betty brushes off the therapist’s concern, pointing out that she caught serial killers in high school. But the therapist responds that none of them were like the Trash Bag Killer. Oooh.
Later, Betty reenacts that Charlie Day conspiracy board meme while walking her partner, Glen, through their latest case. But remember, they’re just trainees. But also remember, she did more law enforcement than law enforcement did while she was in high school. The killer they’re after likes to travel. Betty has a hunch. I also have a hunch, that this killer of hers is on the road to Riverdale. Ooh, Glen and Betty are more than just colleagues, they’re trainees-with-privileges. She turns down his advance today though in order to comb through some files in front of the TV at home. Privileges revoked, Glen!
We get flashbacks of Bety stuck in a pit, I’m guessing at the hands of the Trash Bag Killer (What did those poor trash bags do to him??). Betty has a nightmare about the Trash bBag Killer, who I kid you not, is dressed in trash bags.
In therapy, Betty gets a call from Archie. It must be about Pops. Glen gets a long kiss goodbye on her way out of town. Privileges reinstated!
Veronica (Camila Mendes) now lives on the Upper East Side and is married (!!!) to a Chuck Bass stand in named Chadwick (Chadwick = Chuck, right??). He’s got the Chuck look down: fancy suit, pocket square, swarminess. Apparently, Veronica used to work on the trading floor, that’s where they met. She says they used to call her “The She-Wolf of Wall St.” Based on how many times we hear that phrase this episode, she loves to tell people that.
Veronica now works at a jewelry store frequented by rappers and high rent mafioso. Uh oh, this jewelry store isn’t Lacy’s, where her husband thought she worked. Apparently she works at a different store now, and didn’t bother to tell him. It becomes a whole thing. Hiding your place of employment from your husband is just weird, Veronica.
But, also! Veronica says it’s 2021! That means season 4 took place in 2014, and season one took place in 2011. I kind of wish she just didn’t say what year it was.
Why did Veronica leave working on Wall St? Because of the accident! Wait, what accident?
Hey, Hermione is still on Riverdale for now! She reunites with her daughter while filming a Real Housewives episode. Veronica doesn’t want to be a mom at 25, and wants to become “The She-Wolf of Wall St.” Don’t rush into kids with Chuckwick, Veronica.
Chuckwick tries making things right by giving Ronnie many dozens of roses and a bag of jewelry from Lacy’s. Hey, Chuckwick, they’re the competition! As she’s opening it, he tells her, “A new one comes out every year, so you can start collecting them,” and I immediately thought he got her one of those mom charm bracelets from Zales. It’s a glamerge egg, which she immediately resells to someone at her shop the next day. That’s when Veronica gets a call from Archie.
The previously mentioned accident was a helicopter crash on the way to Marsha’s Vineyard. I don’t know why I like it so much whenever Riverdale changes the name of real things for no reason, but it makes me both giggle and roll my eyes.
Jughead, in a bathrobe, types away on a manual typewriter in his Alphabet City apartment. Jughead’s soon to be ex girlfriend is a writer too. Jughead has writer’s block, acts crappy to his not-for-much-longer girlfriend and heads out to meet up with his agent. Jughead had a hit first book (yay!), but he’s stuck on his second (awww). He’s a regular Dan Humphrey! I can’t promise I won’t stop with the Gossip Girl references. Jughead returns home to find an eviction notice on his door and his now ex girlfriend heading out the door.
Later that night, a NYU grad student recognizes Jughead from his author photo and tells him he wrote a very sexy book. Jughead’s been single for all of 12 hours tops before he’s bringing that grad student to his apartment (Cue Ross yelling “We were on a break!”)
Jughead just got laid and he’s already mopey. Classic Jughead. The grad student admits to basically being a stalker. She wants Jughead to read her 342 page novel. Cora Carter is her name. Sleeping with mopey writers is her game. In exchange for her telling some debt collectors who stop by that he’s out of town, he agrees to read her book. Just as he turns to the first page of Cora’s novel, Jughead gets a call from Archie.
Back in Riverdale, Toni is now a guidance counselor at Riverdale High. She lives with Kevin and Fangs, who are still together. Kevin also works at the high school, as the drama teacher. Toni is now the Serpent Queen. Archie asks about Cheryl and the guys try to shake him off like pitchers who don’t want to throw the curveball.
But Toni catches Archie up on Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) through two flashbacks. The first is shortly after college. Toni visited Cheryl, who gave her the brush off pretty quickly.
The next Cheryl flashback is more recent. Toni walks in on Cheryl meeting with Hiram (Mark Consuelos)…and Reggie (Charles Melton), who now apparently works for Hiram. Hiram wants to buy out Cheryl’s maple groves. Cheryl declines. After Hiram leaves, the two former lovers catch up, though Cheryl is distant. She wants to paint Toni. Apparently, Cheryl is a hermit now who never goes into town. What happened to rebuilding the Blossom Maple business? Toni wants to get back together with Cheryl, but Cheryl turns her down, believing that she and all the other Blossoms are cursed. She compares the Blossom to the Winchesters and the Winchester House. Cheryl’s gone full oddball, but at least Toni got a painting out of it.
While alone with Cheryl, Nana Rose examines the painting and says, “it’s exactly like the original, and then asks if Cheryl could replicate the work of a master, like Rembrandt. Cheryl Blossom, art counterfeiter? Oh, and I get it. She kept a copy of the painting for herself, because she still cares. Awww.
Archie gets a tour of the town courtesy of Toni. They check out his old gym, which is a mess. The fire department burned down, the sheriff’s department is just Mr. Keller. Pickins Park has creepy dolls littered about. Sketch Alley is now Super Sketch Alley aka Skid Row. The bus stop that Archie left town on last week (7 years ago) is half burned down like the town sign. What’s going on here? Toni says Hiram is letting Riverdale go to pot so that people will move to Sodale, his new development.
Oh man, the worst piece of news comes when Archie finds out that the Ghoulies moved into Archie’s childhood house. Oof.
At Pop’s, Pop is alive and well. Phew. He’s just retiring. Hey, Veronica, Jughead and Betty showed up this time! Well, Jughead was there last time too.
Tabitha, the waitress from before, and Squeaky are new characters. Tabitha is Pops’s granddaughter, I’m guessing. Squeaky says she’s leaving Riverdale, though Tabitha tries and fails to get her to stay. Squeaky hitchhikes out of town. She gets a ride from a trucker with a skeleton lashed to the front of his truck. Pro tip: never take rides from someone with a skeleton lashed across the front of their truck.