When Riverdale returns for its third season tonight on the CW, everything that viewers love about the sudsy teen drama based on Archie Comics has been amplified. From over-the-top character entrances (hello Cheryl Blossom) to deeply involving mysteries (this time around focusing on the Farm cult as well as a shadowy new antagonist known as the Gargoyle King) to, of course, shirtless Archie, the series balances fan service with subverting expectations.
Now that the show is a firmly established success, its creative team—led by showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who holds the same role on Netflix’s sister series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)—are not afraid to take Riverdale into strange places in its junior year.
For viewers, this is very good news indeed.
We met up with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, as well as stars KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Luke Perry, and Mädchen Amick at this past weekend’s New York Comic Con, where they all provided clues as to what exciting developments will take place in “the town with pep” this season.
The biggest concern is whether Archie will in fact go to jail after Hiram Lodge set him up for the murder of Cassidy Bullock during the season finale. Anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of narrative storytelling can guess where this plot will go, but if you want to remain completely unspoiled, come back and read this after viewing tonight’s premiere.
Okay, you’ve been warned: Yes, it seems that Archie will in fact be doing some time. And his imprisonment will not only separate him from his friends and loved ones, but remove the glue that holds the entire town together. More importantly, it will further complicate the already fractured relationship between Archie and his father, Fred.
“Archie deserting his dad for Hiram caused a little bit of tension between him and his old man,” Apa told us. “Archie realizes it was a mistake to do that, and I think it’s something that he’s trying to redeem himself this season.”
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Even though it seems that Archie and Fred won’t have too much screen time together in the coming weeks, Apa explained how their father/son relationship evolved.
“I think you can see in the few scenes that they have together that their relationship has changed a lot — very much so from the first season. I remember the pilot, where him and his dad were having a conversation about the football thing and the music thing, and I feel like the stakes are a lot higher this season. Archie is becoming a man, and when you grow up, and even I’m experiencing this now, your relationship with your father changes as you get older. It’s an interesting thing to play with, for sure.”
While the Archie/Fred dynamic isn’t exactly in “Cats in the Cradle” territory, it does deeply impact Fred Andrews, as well as the actor who portrays him, Luke Perry. Since Fred is a character whose storyline has been so fully tethered to Archie, where will we see him go this year now that that line has been cut? More simply put, how will Fred endure without his beloved son? Perry broke it down thusly:
“It’s just going to be a matter of him trying to keep his life on the rails without the thing that’s been the biggest balancing factor in his life and the biggest focus, and that of course is Archie. He is the love of my life. And in the absence of that, not just him not being there, but me knowing where he is and it not being a great place, it’s really hard, and I’m not entirely proud of all the choices that Fred makes to get through it. But it’s about survival for him at this point, and it just kind of snuck up on him that way.”
A character who is much more used to inner turmoil is Betty Cooper, brought vividly to life by the soulful acting of Lili Reinhart. With both her father and Archie locked up, and Alice and Polly immersed in a cult, Betty must rely on herself and her love for Jughead more than ever. But although her life is utter turmoil, we asked Reinhart if, at the very least, things were stable when it came to Bughead and her other friendships.
“All of the core four are dealing with their own shit, basically. They’re each dealing with something so intense on their own, so it does test them when they each have something so intense going on in their lives. Obviously that is going to cause some distress. But as of right now, Betty and Jughead are still on the same side. They still love each other, they’re still together. But there are definitely challenges ahead, especially if Gladys, Jughead’s mom, were to move back to Riverdale, I think that would cause a shift…”
It remains to be seen how the arrival of Gladys (played by Showgirls‘ Gina Gershon) will complicate the lives of Bughead…and their devoted fanbase. A more pressing issue right now for Betty however is getting her mom away from The Farm. A task that will be no small feat, given how Alice will perhaps be scouring the town for new recruits.
When asked about how much The Farm would impact life in Riverdale, Mädchen Amick gave us some tantalizing clues. “I am hearing that there is going to be quite an infiltration of the Farm and I think Alice is involved in it,” she told us. “I don’t know how that is going to flesh out, but I’m hearing inklings of something that it’s going to weave it’s web into the entire town.”
Since Riverdale already exists in a heightened sense of reality, we asked Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa about the show’s tendency to genre-jump, and whether or not he was worried about alienating the show’s fans by making things a bit too weird.
“We did a murder mystery in season one, a serial killer in season two, a Godfather-like story in season two. You don’t want to repeat yourself, but the show kind of needs a strong genre – crime or pulp or noir – element. It’s always figuring what what is that element and how is it different from earlier iterations. As for how do we know when we’ve gone too far, if it’s just too weird and gonzo? We just trust our guts. We’re always pushing forward though and when there’s the safe choice or the risky choice we almost always go for the risky choice. And I think people really respond to that. Once you start down that path it’s hard to go back and just tell stories about Archie wanting to write a song.”
True, though we are dying to hear Archie belt out a tune about the Gargoyle King. Seeing how Riverdale has already included Jingle Jangle and gangs straight out of The Warriors in its plots, we are more than cool with how the show continues to surprise us. And with a new season just getting under way, we can’t wait to see the jaw-dropping mayhem Archie and company get involved with in the 22 episodes ahead.