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‘Riverdale’ Showrunner On Time Travel, Final Season, Endgame Couples

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Are you ready to back in time? After a season that saw the town of Riverdale face down an immortal sorcerer, the cast all get superpowers, and a climactic, musical showdown with a comet (really), the biggest twist was saved for last. Spoilers for Riverdale Season 6, Episode 22 “Chapter One Hundred And Seventeen: Night Of The Comet” past this point. Thanks in part to Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) absorbing everyone else’s powers, and blasting the comet, the town of Riverdale has been sent back to 1955. Specifically, October 1, 1955, the day after James Dean died — and the only person who remembers the “real” Riverdale is Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse).

Don’t worry, though… When Riverdale picks up in 2023 for its seventh and final season, the show you know and love still matters.

“It is not a hard, complete break with what has come before,” showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa told Decider. “Jughead remembers everything that happened. And I think our characters, whether they’re conscious or not, have an emotional memory of what they’ve been through… It is still in continuity.”

The time twist was far from the only huge event on the episode, so if you missed it, strap if for a wild ride. Knowing that they may only have a few hours left to live, everyone reacted to the news in different ways. Cheryl made a deal with her ancestor Abigail (also Petsch) to let the latter inhabit her body, and Abigail’s lover Thomasina (Vanessa Morgan) to inhabit the body of Toni Topaz (also Morgan) for a night of passionate love-making. And thanks to this bizarre body-switch, fan-favorite couple Choni (aka Cheryl and Toni) may have been resparked, as well.

Meanwhile, Jughead and Tabitha Tate (Erinn Westbrook) spent their last precious hours on Earth watching Titanic, followed by an emotionally charged date at Pop’s that — thanks to Tabitha’s time-travel powers — allowed them to live out their entire lives in a single moment. Veronica (Camila Mendes) reconnected with Reggie Mantle (Charles Melton), but only as friends, before figuring out how to save everyone by using her poison sucking powers to pass everyone else’s powers to Cheryl. And Fangs (Drew Ray Tanner) and Toni hung out with their son, who is now very large.

And in a moment — two, actually — that fans have been waiting for since the first episode of the show, Archie (KJ Apa) proposed to Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart). She initially said no, and told him to wait until they survived the comet; but after realizing she wanted to go towards the figurative light with a happy ending, relented and asked Archie to marry her, right back. He agreed, though when we see them next Archie is in high school, and Betty is living across the street sobbing over Dean. Safe to say, that particular engagement is on hold.

It’s a lot to process, as is usual with Riverdale. And while the writers won’t return to start breaking the story for Season 7 until this week (Editor’s Note: this interview was conducted last week), here’s a look back at some of the bigger moments from the finale, as well as how the show’s trip back to 1955 will impact the final season.

Decider: Looking back on the season, this was a big swing even for Riverdale. What was it like playing around in this supernatural/superhero world?

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: Obviously I love the genre And I love comic books. I’ve always loved Archie Comics, weirder titles. I’ve always loved the Super-Teens. So it was great, basically. It was a big swing. As we were getting into the later seasons, we really talked about not wanting to repeat ourselves and really doing something ambitious. And when we did our “Rivervale” mini-series, the first five episodes, we all loved doing that and wanted to continue it, and it was worth trying to figure how we could do that. We were supported by the studio, we were supported by the network and we just went for it. I feel like in those last three or four episodes, it really answers the promise of the season. It really does feel like The Stand or The Talisman or one of the big Stephen King mythic, epic stories. It was a big swing, but I’m really proud of it. I think fans have responded to it. So no, I’m feeling good about it.

Earlier on this year you said there was another, quieter idea on the table before you found out that season seven was going to be the last one, and you decided to take this big swing, what we now know is this time travel twist. Are you able to say what that quieter idea was, or is that still potentially in play?

The story ended with Cheryl stopping the comet, and everyone losing their powers, and then most of the characters survived. A couple didn’t survive. I think that Frank was maybe going to not survive, and maybe Dagwood wasn’t going to survive in the end. But it was basically just going to remain in the present, whatever that present is in Riverdale. I’m not even sure what the date is, and be a little bit more of an elegy kind of ending. And then we were thinking about what those stories would be, following our characters more and more into adulthood. And we thought, well, we have one more go out there. What would we really like to do? And that’s how we ended up where we ended up.

Photo: Michael Courtney/THE CW

I’ll admit, my hunch based on Sabrina a couple of episodes back saying that there might be something wrong with the people Cheryl resurrected was that we were heading towards Afterlife With Archie…Was that on the table at all at any point?

It’s funny. I feel like we’ve been talking about Afterlife With Archie since the show premiered. And listen, it’s so near and dear to my heart. It’s so near and dear to John Goldwater’s heart. It’s something we would 100 percent, absolutely love to do. But the real DNA, when we were really talking about it, the DNA of Archie… When we first pitched the show, everyone, when they think of Archie, they think of the ’50s for whatever reason. They always think of Archie as frozen in time, and every time we do an episode that features the kids — I still call them kids — in their ’50s costumes, everyone is delighted by that. And it felt like that really spoke to the DNA of the Archie Comics, and the IP and all that. It’s the Americana, the innocence of it. So it felt like that just felt more right than Afterlife With Archie. We’ve just done a huge supernatural season. It just somehow felt a little bit more right to do the 1950s.

How much of a hard reset is this? Meaning, how much of what previously went on with these characters over the past six seasons matters for the upcoming story?

I will say, we’re not starting in the [writer’s] room until next week. But it is not a hard, complete break with what has come before. Jughead remembers everything that happened. And I think our characters, whether they’re conscious or not, have an emotional memory of what they’ve been through. So it is again, and I tried to say this after the “Rivervale” event, Rivervale is in continuity. It is not five episodes that exists outside of continuity. And I think everyone saw that it really was so wedded to Riverdale, and it was so wedded to Season 6. So Season 7, in my mind, is not the start of a new continuity. It is still in continuity.

We get a lot of focus in the finale on Jabitha, Barchie and Choni; as well as Veronica and Reggie as friends. Should fans assume this time twist throws all of those couples in flux? Or is this potentially about them slowly working back to each other? Or since you haven’t quite started writing yet: TBD?

How should I say this? Some of the couples that are spotlighted in the finale will continue. Some will evolve into new things, and there will be new… There will also be new pairings, for sure.

Photo: Michael Courtney/THE CW

Let’s talk about some of this stuff in this episode then. How difficult was it to figure out a way to essentially restart Cheryl and Toni’s relationship, without technically having them cheat?

[Laughs] That was definitely a challenge. Absolutely, it was definitely a challenge. And I mean, listen, there’s no denying the power of Choni. And there’s no denying the chemistry between Mads and Vanessa, and those characters. But that said, we have invested in Cheryl and Heather as well. So weirdly, the trip was sort of like, “Ooh, how do we do that?” And what we kind of landed on in the writer’s room is the idea that Cheryl and Heather relate, they have a lot in common. But that somehow cosmically, Cheryl and Toni are soulmates. And I can tell you… I can tease that we will be seeing more of Choni in Season 7 for sure. 100 percent.

I loved the Tabitha and Jughead date montage, where they lived out their whole lives — sort of like those first five minutes of Up. What went into making that sequence?

Jughead and Tabitha… They have kind of been a big romance this season. And as we were figuring out the stories for the finale, we really wanted Jughead and Tabitha’s to be romantic. I mean, we never tell stories like, “hey, let’s watch Titanic together and go on a date.” It’s so rare for us to do that, but it felt really right, since they were a romance that we really, really invested in. I get kind of choked up at the end of that date. It’s such a simple, but powerful idea. Our director [Gabriel Correa] shot it so beautifully, and the end with Cole [Sprouse] and Erinn [Westbrook] tearing up and kissing… It’s so beautiful and simple. It’s powerful. We wanted an epic, romantic moment for them.

Speaking of epic, romantic moments, you also get Archie proposing to Betty — then Betty proposes to Archie. This has obviously been a long time coming; six whole seasons. So what was it like getting to this point?

We have definitely been teasing it. We obviously know in the past that a young Archie proposed to a young Betty, and Betty said “ask me again when we’re 18,” and now they’re in their twenties. And we’ve been circling, or moving towards that all season long. The fun thing for us… We have a little bit of a rule on Riverdale, that whatever drama is happening, we never want the guys to save the girls. Like, if Betty’s in trouble, we don’t want Archie to save her. Veronica is in trouble, we don’t want Archie to save her. And when we were getting to the proposal, obviously we knew Archie was going to propose to Betty, but somehow that didn’t kind of feel 100 percent right. Obviously, Archie has been pursuing this all season long, which is why we wanted Betty to be the one to propose to Archie, and then Archie to accept it as well. So, we did talk a lot about, what is that moment like, and we wanted Betty to get to a place where she is the one who’s ready for this ,and “I’m not just ready for you to ask me Archie, I’m ready to ask you to do this.” That’s what felt most right to us as we were breaking that story.

Photo: Michael Courtney/THE CW

You already addressed this a little bit, but I’ll ask anyway just to be explicit about it. For fans of Varchie and Bughead, is that it at this point? Or does the time travel twist throw everything in flux? Is there potential in Season 7 to see those romances spark back up in any way?

Ooh! That’s a good question. I think I have to say, stay tuned for Season 7. Stay tuned for Season 7.

Fair enough! Moving on, Kevin has had a consistent thing with Moose in the second half of the season, which has been lovely to see. Should we expect more of that, or does throwing it back to 1955 complicate things for the LGBTQ+ characters in the cast?

When we were talking about the ’50s, one of the things that we talked a lot about was: oh, wow, all of our queer characters, they’re going to… It’s going to be very different in the ’50s. They’re going to be closeted. They’re going to have to be finding different ways to connect with each other. So, that’s actually one of the exciting stories for us is, how do our characters who we got to know in the quasi-present day, how do we go back and deal with Euphoria problems in the 1950s, or Euphoria realities? That’s one of the most exciting things. And we talked a lot about Choni. We talked a lot about Kevin and Moose. What do their lives look like in the ’50s, when you couldn’t be out and proud, necessarily? So, we will definitely be playing that next season.

And just logistically, are you planning on being in the ’50s all season long, or potentially, will there be some type of time-skipping going on? Or do you not know yet?

Again, we’re starting next week. We haven’t ironed it out. I will say, on the last day of shooting, I was chatting with Lili [Reinhart] and she was saying, “Oh, it’s so exciting to be in the fifties.” And I’m like, “Yes, settle in.” And she was like, “We’re gonna be here for long?” And I’m like, “Yep, we’re gonna be here for a while.” So, I will say it’s not going to be one and done, that’s for sure.

I know some of these news items are probably TBD, but I was wondering if there are any cast changes coming? Is everybody coming back for next season? Will we see Big baby Anthony coming back and going to high school with his parents? What can we expect?

You know, my hope for Season 7 is that we see some faces that we haven’t seen for a while in Riverdale come back. That’s my hope. My hope is that Season 7, which is our swan song, we see people we haven’t seen return to Riverdale in good, juicy story arcs. That’s kind of what my hope is, that it’s a celebration and a reunion for everyone that’s been a part of Riverdale, and worked so hard to make the show as special as it was. You know, again, a million things to figure out, but that’s my hope, is that people we haven’t seen come back, more than anything.

My one request that I’ll put out there is, I’m hoping FP comes back for Alice towards the end of the season. 

Listen, I would love, love, love, love, love to have Skeet [Ulrich] back. I would, and I know everyone would, so my hope is that we can make that happen this season.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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