It’s almost here! Riverdale, the most batshit crazy show on network TV is about to come back for its fourth and sure to be craziest season! “But I’ve never watched Riverdale, you say!” Well, you could deep dive into Netflix. But that’s 57 episodes before jumping into tonight’s premiere. Or you could read my recaps, but that will only help you from season three onward. What’s the Riverdale newbie to do? Thankfully, The Beat and yours truly, have this season by season Riverdale Primer to help you catch up!

WARNING: Major spoilers of the first three seasons of Riverdale follow ahead. If you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read further!

RIVERDALE SEASON ONE

Riverdale Primer

Riverdale starts off with a murder, immediately letting you know that this isn’t your usual happy go lucky Anytown, USA Archie Comics story. Not only that, but the kids are most definitely not alright. Jughead is homeless and his dad may beat him. Archie is annoying, like really annoying. Throughout this season, you’ll cringe every time he laments “But my music…” And speaking of music, Archie isn’t involved with either Betty or Veronica. He’s involved with Miss Grundy, his music teacher. Don’t picture geriatric Miss Grundy from the comics. This Miss Grundy is most certainly not her. Oh, and Archie has abs. Lots of abs. And you’ll see them every episode, because he can’t seem to keep his shirt on for a full day. He also has hair that is the most garish shade of orange you’ll ever see. To possibly show how down is up and up is down in this version of the Archie Comics universe, Veronica is the most likeable character on the show.

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But back to the throughpoint of the season. Someone has killed Jason Blossom, Cheryl’s twin brother. But who? In what will be a recurring theme throughout the series, “a parent did it.” Seriously, sometimes I wonder if the show is written by teenagers, because the parents on this show are often the worst. After a few fakeouts, it’s revealed that Jason Blossom was killed by none other than his own father!

Other things that happen in season one: Before he died, Jason impregnated Betty’s sister, Polly. Jughead and Betty couple up, as do Archie and Veronica. Miss Grundy leaves town, but not before eyeing up other young conquests. Cheryl Blossom may have been in love with her dead brother. They’re a weird family, but they’re all weird families.

RIVERDALE SEASON TWO

Riverdale Primer

Me: “This season can’t possibly get crazier than last season.”

Riverdale: “Hold my beer.”

There’s a new killer in town, and he’s based on the Archie Comics Red Circle line of superhero comics character, the Black Hood. Who is the Black Hood? That’s the new mystery of the season. The Black Hood is no superhero, or even antihero. He’s a straight up psychotic slasher in the vein of Jason Voorhees and Michael Meyers. He definitely learned his code of ethics from Scream, going after anyone who isn’t pure. To show that no one in Riverdale is safe, Miss Grundy and Ethel Muggs, mainstays of the comics, are two of his victims. Miss Grundy was sleeping with minors, and Ethel was just sleeping around. If you’re a sinner, you’re on the Black Hood’s list.

There were many suspects as to who could be the Black Hood, including Betty’s given-up-for-adoption brother Charles, who recently re-entered his family’s life after living on the streets. Charles turned out to be his own brand of trouble. Charles wasn’t actually Charles, but rather a guy named Chic who knew the real Charles and assumed his identity. Chic was willing to blackmail the Cooper family after Betty disposed of the body of the dude that Chic killed, another transient that was visiting Chic at the Cooper house. Betty and Jughead disposed of the body, and Chic threatened to hold that over them. Thankfully for Betty and Jughead, Chic is seemingly offed of by the Black Hood. Chic is not even the worst member of the Cooper house, as the Black Hood’s identity was revealed to be none other than Hal Cooper, Betty’s dad. Remember kids, don’t trust your parents!

But wait, you say, what about Archie in all this? I’m glad you asked! See, Hiram Lodge, Veronica’s father, comes to town and does not like Archie. In an attempt to win over his girlfriend’s dad, Archie pretty much goes full Ray Liotta in Goodfellas and basically says “From as far back as I can remember (or the start of season two), I always wanted to be a gangster.” Archie comes perilously close to making his bones aka killing someone for Mr. Lodge. He can’t though, but that doesn’t stop Mr. Lodge from framing him for murder.

Converging these two storylines, Fred Andrews, Archie’s dad, was almost one of the Black Hood’s victims, but he lived thanks to his son’s intervention. Why Fred? Adultery. Before Hiram came to town, Fred was sleeping with Hiram’s wife, Hermione. Seeing his dad almost die caused Archie to form the Red Circle, a kind of Guardian Angels-like group that wears red hoods. They take back the streets of Riverdale from the Black Hood. Between his dad getting shot, forming the Red Circle and working as a junior mafia enforcer for Hiram, Archie’s having a hell of a season and is brought mentally to the breaking point. Thankfully, Archie turns it all around and is elected student body President, just in time to be framed for murder by Hiram and be led away in handcuffs to finish off the season.

Wait, Archie is framed for murder? That’s right! Earlier in the season, Archie, Veronica, Betty and Jughead escape the craziness of Riverdale for a weekend away at the Lodge lodge up in Shadow Lake. Some townies break in to the lodge, but Mr. Lodge’s associate, Andre, handles it, killing one of the townies, Cassidy, in the process. It’s this death that Archie takes the fall for in the finale.

Other things that happen in season two: Toni Topaz joins the cast, and after a brief tease as being a love interest for Jughead, pairs up with Cheryl. A new actor plays Reggie (you can find OG Reggie in 13 Reason Why). Josie and Archie briefly date. Jughead takes over the Serpents. Hiram builds a jail (and it looks like Archie will be its first resident). Penelope Blossom opens up a whorehouse in town. Kids get hooked on fizzle rocks, a new street drug that looks suspiciously like Pop Rocks. Polly introduces her mom to a friend from The Farm, a cult that will play a big part in season 3.

RIVERDALE SEASON 3

Riverdale Primer

We’ve hit peak craziness, right? Not even close!

Archie loses his court case and goes to prison. There, he’s embroiled in a Prison Break meets Fight Club underground illegal boxing circuit, which if we’re being honest is just more excuses for the producers to keep Archie shirtless.

A new drug, Jingle Jangle, which looks suspiciously like Pixie Stix, hits the streets. Also, everyone is playing the Dungeons & Dragons knockoff, Gryphons & Gargoyles. The same people playing the game are getting hooked on Jingle Jangle and it’s leading to some freaky stuff happening around town, including brandings and ritualistic murder-suicides. Resident survivalist and conspiracy theory nut Dilton Doiley is one of the first victims of G&G and its mystical and mythical leader, the Gargoyle King.

Veronica, now the owner of Pops, opens a speakeasy, La Bon Nui, in the basement. It is surprisingly never busted for serving minors until needed late in the season to take down Hiram Lodge.

The Warden of Archie’s prison is mixed up in G&G, as are all of the kids’ on Riverdale’s parents. G&G was introduced 30 years ago in a The Breakfast Club-like detention episode that saw all of the Riverdale kid actors portraying their parents. And if you watch one past episode of Riverdale, it should be this one.

On the other side of town, Alice Cooper went in deep with The Farm, a local cult. She sold her house and wanted to move her whole family to The Farm. Betty isn’t down with any of this and investigates. The Farm hooks in other townsfolk, including Kevin Keller and Cheryl Blossom, who is convinced The Farm can help her communicate with her dead brother. Betty finds that The Farm’s quasi-religious group was a front for harvesting organs. And Alice, it turns out, was working undercover for the FBI, going in deep. At the end of the season, a bunch of Farm-folk apparently ascend, leaving behind their clothes as they move onto the next plane of existence, though honestly, we know it’s going to turn out to be smoke and mirrors sometime in season four. But Alice and Polly are gone with them.

Hal Cooper fakes his own death in a prison bus crash by cutting off his own hand and leaving it at the scene. He returns to being the Black Hood. It turns out he didn’t kill Chic last season, but instead enlisted him. Chic has been the one running around in the Gargoyle King outfit.

There are many guesses as to the identity of the real Gargoyle King, including a wrong guess by yours truly. I was on the right track in saying it would be a parent. But I picked the wrong one. This season’s evil mastermind was none other than Penelope Blossom, Cheryl’s mom. That’s right, both of Cheryl’s parents were villains of the season on the show. Hal and Chic were both working for her, terrorizing the town. She was found out, but escaped before she could be arrested.

Archie and the gang manage to both clear his his name and send Hiram to prison.

In the final scene of the season, we flash forward many months to see Archie, Veronica and Betty mostly naked in front of a fire burning Jughead’s clothes. Uh-oh.

Other things that happen in season 3: Veronica and Cheryl stage a prison break to free Archie. Archie and Jughead hit the road and flee town. Jughead’s mother and sister, JB, are introduced; both are trouble. Toni and Cheryl form an all-girl gang, the Pretty Poisons. The Serpents recruit some Ghoulies, a rival gang, and it doesn’t go well. Archie and friends spend a lot of time in an underground bunker.

SEASON FOUR

Starts tonight on the CW. See you in crazy town, I mean Riverdale.

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