Nothing is what it seems in Riverdale Season 6, which takes the town you know and moves it to the eerily similar town of RiverVALE for a five episode event that kicked off tonight. But given the cliffhanger that ended tonight’s Season 6 premiere, “Chapter Ninety-Six: Welcome to Rivervale”, is — and spoilers past this point — Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) really dead? Again?
“At the end of 6×01, Archie is dead,” Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa told Decider. “It’s taken five and a half years, or over five years to finally kill Archie, but it has happened.”
We’ll excuse your skepticism (and keep reading to see Aguirre-Sacasa reiterate over and over that yes, Archie is dead), but to give a little bit of recap:
After a bomb left as a parting gift by Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) in the Season 5 finale saw both Archie and Betty Cooper’s (Lili Reinhart) lives in jeopardy, the Riverdale Season 6 premiere seemingly opened weeks later, with the duo not only alive, but talking about getting married (they’re not going to) and having a baby (they’re actively trying). Unfortunately, due to whatever weirdness is happening in Rivervale, Betty and other young women are turning up barren — so it’s up to Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) to perform a fertility ritual to heal Betty, the other women, and the whole town.
How Cheryl does that is by setting up a Maple Festival, making deals with every other member of the town to solve their problems, and then cutting Archie’s heart out while he’s trussed up on an altar with antlers on his dead. So, RIP, Archie Andrews? Really? For real?
There’s lots more to unpack about the episode, including what’s next as we take this trip through a Twilight Zone version of Riverdale, what’s coming up on the show’s hundredth episode, which couples to keep your eyes on, and a little about how Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) fits into all of this.
Decider: So, since Archie has died twice in two episodes, is he the new South Park Kenny, and are we going to watch him die every episode from here on out?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: That is really funny. I hadn’t thought of him as Kenny, but you are right, and I would love if Rivervale or Riverdale suddenly became a show where Archie died every episode in different ways. But I will say, at the end of 6×01, Archie is dead. It’s taken five and a half years, or over five years to finally kill Archie, but it has happened.
Was this decision made at least in part to give KJ paternity leave?
I’ll be very honest with you, we had landed on this story before KJ had called to tell me he was going to be a Dad. So bizarrely, no! We’d been planning for the five episode arc for a while, I think we were breaking Rivervale a month or two before KJ called to tell me.
We’ve seen some shots of him filming for Episode 100… As a character, whatever else is happening, is Archie going to be off-screen until then?
Yes, Archie will be off-screen until the one hundredth episode. Let me reiterate: he’s dead. So he will be off-screen.
Given this almost gets into an anthology format — you have a ghost story next episode, the devil comes to town in episode three, then the Sabrina episode, followed by episode one-hundred — is there a hard reset in the next episode? Or are we going to pick up next week with everyone aware that they got together and killed Archie?
No, there’s no hard reset between episodes, which means that in episode two, Archie is dead, Betty is pregnant with Archie’s baby, and Cheryl and Nana Blossom are toasting the sacrifice Archie made, which allowed their maple trees to resume producing maple syrup. It’s completely serialized, and I’ll stress again, it’s serialized into the rest of season six.
This gets into the overall mystery of Rivervale, but there’s a little confusion in terms of, Lili Reinhart and Vanessa Morgan both said this is an alternate universe, but you’ve said it’s “in-canon.” So are you able, at this point, to talk about how that works at all?
I think that’s the fun of the episode, and as you said, that’s the mystery of the episode. So, no. [Laughs] I will say though, every year on Riverdale, we set ourselves this impossible challenge. We tell crazy, bonkers stories that don’t seem to tie in at all. For instance, last season it was aliens, and it was Polly’s abduction, and all of those threads started coming together. So when we were talking about this five episode event, we were kind of like, “how fun would it be if we really took a big swing with the five episodes, but we did them in canon.” Meaning, it was an imaginary story that you could enjoy separately. But once we get back into Riverdale, you’ll need to have seen Rivervale to understand what’s happening in Riverdale. People might say, “well, you don’t always tie things in together successfully,” but we like to think we do, or at least we like to try to do.
Are Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Riverdale, and Rivervale all three separate universes? Or is there crossover there?
That’s a very good question. I haven’t ever thought about that, in those terms. I would say, no they’re not in separate universes. Truly.
Photo: Kailey Schwerman/The CW
Jumping into the episode a little further, we got to see Barchie together for one episode before having them taken away, again. Assuming Archie somehow survives getting his heart ripped out, is there going to be more Betty and Archie as a couple over the rest of the season? Or is that it for Betty and Archie at this point?
We have danced around Barchie for five years, since the pilot, more than five years. We would be very cruel people if we teased Barchie once again and then blew them up right as they were coming together. So I can say that there will definitely be more Barchie… In a way.
Let’s talk about Kevin. He ended Season 5 saying he was going to head off and pursue a Broadway career, and when we pick up here, he’s back in a support capacity, mostly making phone calls. Over the course of these five episodes, or Season 6, are we going to see him find more of a place for himself?
Definitely will in Rivervale, and definitely in Riverdale when we segue back to Riverdale.
Can I throw out my pet theory to you, based on barely anything from one episode? Kevin is the one somehow in control of Rivervale.
Interesting, interesting. I can’t comment on that!
Alright, fair enough. Let’s talk about Veronica and Reggie then. Are they going to be moving into a more solid place in their relationship now that Veronica has killed Archie?
You know, you would think that the answer is yes. And they are going to go deeper in their relationship. But let’s say that we discover after 6×01 that if Veronica and Reggie have a problem, it’s not Archie.
Photo: Kailey Schwerman/The CW
Jughead and Tabitha seem really solid in this episode, but metaphorically and physically there seems to be an issue with their living situation that looks to be getting worse over the course of the episodes. What will you be exploring there?
It’s two things: one is, there’s the reality of a new relationship, and the fears that come along, the normal fears that come along, and moving in with someone is always kind of a little bit scary; and two, we wanted to test how strong Jughead and Tabitha were, right out of the gate. So in Rivervale, they find themselves being tested separately and as a couple. And do a nod to The Shining, Jughead as Jack Nicholson and Tabitha as Shelley Duvall. But they do seem very solid, and I’m really rooting for those two, so hopefully that bodes well for them.
I think you as the showrunner rooting for them bodes well for them, I’d say. Moving over to Cheryl and Toni, people are going to be pretty excited to see them reconnecting near the stump with Baby Anthony. And they seem to be holding a seance in one of the future episodes. Is this the beginnings of romance for them? Friendship? Both?
They are going to interact more than they had been in Riverdale. Fans of Choni will be very happy with episode 6×04. There’s is a big story for the rest of Season 6, as well. Their friendship, their relationship, however you’d like to describe it.
Alice and Frank’s storyline is fun, almost plays out as a counterpoint like a rom-com. What are we going to see with them as they slowly build a relationship over the next couple of episodes?
They’re both, as we saw in 6×01, been through a lot of life, those two. And we’re going to see them slowly, even for people who have been through as much as them, their more wary than some of our younger characters, who have also been through the wringer, but they don’t have the life experiences that Alice and Frank have. They’re definitely something that we’re going to slow burn. But you see them interacting, and yeah, I ship Frank and Alice as well.
We got a fun Chuck Clayton shout-out on the cover of the magazine Archie was reading, are we going to potentially see other old friends over the course of the next few episodes — other than Sabrina, of course.
Yes, we will be seeing other familiar faces, 100%.
At the end of the episode, Jughead is giving his closing narration and the Rivervale sign changes… Will that be changing every episode?
Very astute observation, good close viewing. Yes. Keep your eyes on the sign, there will be lots of clues in those.
Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW
Broadly speaking, it almost feels like Rivervale has sucked everyone into Cheryl’s gothic, horror, heightened storylines… Is that something you were talking about at all in the writer’s room? And is that maybe why Cheryl feels more comfortable in Rivervale than anyone else?
We did talk about that, pretty consciously and unconsciously. When we said, “let’s do a miniseries that leans into the horror, and goes supernatural,” it did feel like the one character who sort of has always been on the edge, in terms of her gothicism, and even what we doing at the end of Season 5 with Cheryl, so she did seem like a natural focal point for the miniseries. Though again, it continues in the rest of Season 6, as well.
I’m curious about the visual flavor of the episodes going forward. One of the nice things about this one was that it had that brightness from Midsommar… Are we going to see you playing with different tones and looks for the rest of the event?
Each one has a very distinct visual feel. So for instance, as you said, the Maple Festival is very bright. In episode 2, it’s raining throughout the entire episode for various reasons. Cheryl’s episode, which is 6×04, which is our witchiest episode for reasons that are both already out there, and which will be revealed… Almost looks like an episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, lit very golden, very sepia. They all do have their own visual vocabulary.
Last thing, before I let you go: is Episode 100 part of the Rivervale event? Or is it its own, unique thing?
It’s funny, I was talking to a friend about how Riverdale always has back luck in terms of timings, and when we premiere, and pandemic hits, when everything happens… This is one of those truly rare instances of things actually worked out beautifully, where the hundredth episode coincided with the end of our five episode event. And it’s great because the hundredth episode wouldn’t work unless it was both things. If it wasn’t the hundredth episode, we would have told a very different story in 6×05. For that, I have to say, finally, scheduling karma actually worked out. So even the pandemic, if we hadn’t had the pandemic, we would have been thrown off by two episodes, so it would have been our hundred and second episode. So that worked out well for a change, which is great.
Riverdale airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.
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