Riverdale Season 3 Ending Explained

We break down the twists of the Riverdale Season 3 finale...and speculate on what happens next.

Riverdale Season 3 Ending Explained

This Riverdale article contains spoilers.

To say that the season finale of Riverdale was eventful is an exercise in understatement. Not only did we get a resolution of the Black Hood and Gargoyle King storylines, Penelope Blossom established herself as the show’s primary antagonist, Alice’s true intentions with The Farm were revealed, Hiram began a quest of vengeance against his family, Betty lost a father and gained a step-brother, Cheryl was reunited with Jason (well, sorta) and, most importantly, a Lost-esque flash-forward illustrated how brutal the future will be for Archie, Veronica, Betty, and Jughead.

It was all a bit epic, and a more-than-satisfying conclusion to Riverdale‘s uneven third season. But with so much happening in the episode, it’s understandable if you missed something. Drawing from evidence that the show has already given us, let’s take a look at where the finale left all the main characters and speculate upon what the future may hold for them next season.

Archie

After a season spent narrowly averting death, the finale saw Archie experiencing the closest thing he has had to peace since the show began. He and Veronica have declared their love again, fulfilling the desires of Varchie shippers worldwide. There will doubtlessly be more obstacles thrown in their path in the episodes to come, for now though they feel more “endgame” than ever.

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Another factor in Archie’s newfound contentment is being able to legally take ownership of the El Royale. After getting cleared of his murder rap, he really found himself in the boxing ring…ironic seeing how he was initially forced into fighting by Warden Norton while imprisoned. He envisions the gym as a combination halfway house/community center that he will run with Mad Dog. Riverdale is a town with more of its share of troubled kids — look at Ricky, the Gryphons & Gargoyles-obsessed middle schooler who caused endless trouble for Jughead this season. If that tyke is representative of the youth of Riverdale (and he almost certainly is), Archie is going to have his hands full as a tries to transform the El Royale into a place for all.

The flash-forward had Archie, Betty, and Veronica burning their clothes and covered in blood. Exactly what caused them to reach this point is anyone’s guess. (Most likely as a result of something Hiram, Penelope, or Edgar did). As the end credits rolled, Archie remains oblivious to the dark clouds on the horizon. On brand as always, our Red Paladin.

Unfortunately, a real world tragedy impacted the production of Riverdale.  Luke Perry’s death in March left a crater in the series that can not be fully filled. The last couple of episodes had Perry’s Fred Andrews character away on business. The most pragmatic way to deal with this situation is to have Fred pass away off screen, with Molly Ringwald coming on to the series full-time as Mary Andrews. She would fill the role of confidant for Archie, and help keep him grounded as the character faces whatever the writers throw at him next. Which hopefully won’t include more bear attacks.

Betty

Being Riverdale‘s most-skilled actor has its perks. Which is why the past season put Lili Reinhart’s Betty Cooper character through the ringer. (Refresher: The Farm took her home and college fund, she found out she has serial killer genes, lost her mother and sister to a cult, had to shoot her father then subsequently watch his execution, and so on). Discovering that her half-brother Charles is alive and working with her mom to bring down The Farm is a brief respite from the hellstorm that is her life though, so it’s not all bad. Just mostly. Next season, Betty and Charles will probably work together to try to locate Alice and bring the Evernevers to justice once and for all.

The finale had Betty urged by her father to embrace her dark side and murder him in cold blood. Her refusal to do so was proof that, alleged predisposition to evil or not, Betty will remain a ray of light in Riverdale. She will never become a murdering maniac like the Black Hood. Which doesn’t mean that the writers won’t enjoy coming up with new ways to throw Betty into chaos. We’ve already glimpsed this in the flash-forward, as Betty is the one with the plan to handle whatever bloody business she, Archie, and Veronica get into by the time spring break of their senior year rolls around.

Jughead

Ominously, Jughead was nowhere to be found in the finale’s flash-forward. Betty forces a reluctant Archie to throw her boyfriend’s trademark hat into the flames. Could it be that Jughead will, gasp, die in Riverdale‘s fourth season?

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Yeah, I don’t think so either. A more likely scenario is that Jughead’s friends have to make it look like he’s dead because Penny Peabody, Gladys Jones, or any other of the series’ ever-increasing number of villains want him that way. Their ruse will keep him alive, thus Betty’s declaration that they must keep their secret and go their separate ways after high school. We’ve seen how well such a cover-up worked for the Midnight Club, so don’t count on this pact being upheld.

Back in the show’s present, Jug’s next exploits will be helping he and Betty’s shared half-brother Charles in their investigation of The Farm. As the show loves to constantly remind us, Jughead is the CW equivalent of Sherlock Holmes. Now that he’s lending his sleuthing skills to the Feds, he’ll be solving mysteries nearly as much as he’ll be filling his stomach next season. (Law enforcement techniques in Riverdale continue to confound).

On the homefront, look for Jug to grow closer to Jellybean. The pair haven’t had much screentime together due to the G&G saga. With this plot seemingly drawn to a close, Jughead and J.B. should get some sibling bonding time in. At least before Jughead dies/fakes his death once spring break rolls around.

Veronica

The Lodge family drama ramped up in the finale. Who knew such a thing was even possible? When we next see Veronica, she’ll be trying to clear Hermione’s name. I guess? I mean, this one is anyone’s call seeing how, you know, Hermione absolutely did try to have Hiram killed. Either way, having two imprisoned parents will weigh on her.

With Hermione’s legal struggles just beginning, Ronnie also will be dealing with whatever Hiram is plotting for her. Will he go after her business? Her friends? Even in jail, Hiram is a very dangerous man who Veronica should not underestimate.

While fighting for their lives in the woods, Veronica and Archie declared their love for each other. In the tribulations that lie ahead,  the pair will continue to turn to each other for strength and guidance. They are endgame after all.

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Seeing all the major life-or-death stuff Veronica is contending with, it seems trite to mention that she will also have business dealings to attend to. Yet here we are. With Josie now out of Riverdale and heading to Katy Keene in New York City, Veronica will need a new headliner at La Bonne Nuit. Think she’ll hire herself? That’s one way to keep costs low…

The Core Four

All of our teen leads should theoretically be concerned with things like finding the perfect college and figuring out what they want to do after graduation. Knowing this series as I do, I fully expect these issues will be paid lip service for an episode or two before the gang becomes embroiled in their next ultra-mature problem cycle. SATs will always take a back seat to murder and intrigue.

Cheryl Blossom

When we last saw Cheryl, she was doing her best Norman Bates impersonation by chatting with her brother’s corpse. Having never properly dealt with the PTSD that resulted from having her father murder her twin, Cheryl is teetering on the brink of madness. She has Toni’s unconditional love, but is that enough to help her deal with her past?

Cheryl may love to project her HBIC attitude, but she’s hurting now. This will be exacerbated by whatever sinister actions Penelope gets up to next. More than any other family in Riverdale, the Blossoms are surrounded by tragedy. Cheryl will rise like a phoenix through her current crises, but to do so she’ll have to hit rock bottom.

Alice Cooper

The most contrived twist in the finale is that Alice has been working with the FBI to help bring down The Farm. This raises a lot of questions, not the least of which is why she gave Betty’s college fund to the group. Alice and The Farm are presumably on their way to grift another town. Next season, look for Alice desperate to save Polly and reunite with Betty. In all likelihood it will be a journey fraught with heartbreak, especially if Edgar finds out that she is just pretending to be loyal to The Farm while reporting back to her first born child.

Kevin Keller

Kevin was left behind by The Farm for unknown reasons. Already heartbroken over a string of failed relationships (and by Fangs having “ascended”), Kevin might resume self-destructive behavior like we saw in the second season. Alternately, he may snap to his senses and become determined to help Betty and Jughead bring down The Farm for good.

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Hiram Lodge

As Archie so eloquently put it, Hiram sucks. Even in prison he hasn’t lost his power, as we witnessed when he got Hermione arrested for his own attempted murder. Being the most one-note character on the show, he’ll continue to try to get revenge against anyone who wronged him and give grandiose speeches about the importance of family while being the most awful father and husband on television. He’s just about the worst, and I don’t see that changing.

Hermione Lodge

Since Hermione actually did try to have Hiram killed, I’m unsure what she is going to do in the aftermath of the arrest. Then again, F.P. Jones is the sheriff and can probably pull some strings to assist her…maybe even growing close to her in the process.

Veronica will be by her side as usual. Though it’s easy to envision part of Hiram’s revenge plot will have something to do with getting Veronica and Hermione at loggerheads.

Also, who will be Riverdale’s mayor with Hermione in jail?

Penelope Blossom

The season finale established Penelope as Riverdale’s greatest, most demented criminal mind. She’s currently MIA, but will be back to wreak more havoc as certain as Cheryl will continue to make memorable entrances.

The Evernevers

Now that the Riverdale chapter of The Farm has “ascended” (which I predict involves some smoke and mirrors that has Kevin convinced they’re all dead when really they probably just skipped town), what will Edgar and Evelyn do next? The smart money says that they’ll bring their long con to another community and discover a serpent in their midst in the form of Alice Cooper. Something tells me we’ll see Polly and Alice in a fight to the death before next season ends…

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These are my theories about where the series will go next. What are yours? Sound off with your Riverdale predictions in the comments!

Chris Cummins is a Philadelphia-based writer, producer, and comics historian. Read more of his work here. You can find him on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion