Riverdale Season 4 Ending Explained

We explore the ending of the Riverdale season 4 finale with some insights from episode director Mädchen Amick.

Riverdale Ending Explained
Photo: Kailey Schwerman/The CW

The following contains spoilers for RIVERDALE season 4 episode 19.

There were supposed to be three more episodes in this season of Riverdale before the Covid-19 crisis shut production down in March. Making the best of the situation, the series went out with a bang tonight — well, a stabbing really — in an installment that works as a satisfying conclusion on its own considerable merits.

Helming this hour was Alice Cooper herself, Mädchen Amick (making her episodic television directing debut). If this episode seems more surreal than usual, that’s no surprise given the fact that Amick worked closely with director David Lynch throughout all three seasons of Twin Peaks.

“He sent me a really beautiful email the night before my first day directing because he knew that it was coming up,” she told us. “It was a really sweet, simple email that said ‘there’s going to be a lot of stuff going on around you, just make sure that you put every single thing that you want on every frame but have fun with it. That’s the whole point.'”

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In a touch of Lynchian magic Amick mentioned that this kind message also included the on brand advice to “keep your eye on the donut, not the hole.”

With there still being plenty of mysteries to solve in Riverdale whenever the show resumes production, let’s take a look at the finale and the implications for stories yet to come…

How did working with David Lynch prepare Mädchen Amick for this episode?

During our recent interview with Amick, we asked her how her experiences working with David Lynch impacted this episode, specifically in staging some of the violence. “Obviously we’re on The CW and we have to be careful,” she told us. “We can’t go too far. I was worried about when Honey gets beat up a bit how far would they let us go with that.”

That question is answered through the shocking violence that ends this episode, something the director seems pleased with. “I think we walked that good fine line where we pushed the envelope enough but it was still acceptable to the network and our audience.” And what was the ultimate lesson that she learned from her time with Lynch? “He really taught me to have no boundaries.”

Who is making the video tapes?

The obvious answer is Mr. Honey, but remember, Riverdale loves its red herrings. We saw an example of that when Ethel was suspected of being the auteur, and there’s reason to believe that while Honey has the technological knowledge of how to operate a camera and he also has been shown to frequent the Blue Velvet, this doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the one terrorizing the town.

So if it’s not Mr. Honey, who is it?

My guess? Charles Smith and Chic, with the possible help of leftover Farmies. We know that Charles and Chic have an axe to grind with the Cooper family, but it’s conceivable that they have an issue with the entire town. And we already know that Chic and Evelyn Evernever have a connection, so they could be putting Charles in touch with other Farmies to help star in these videos.

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What is the purpose of these videos?

This question has a clear answer: To further a sense of ease and terror in a town where no one gets a moment of rest. And bravo to the filmmaker, because that is exactly what they have accomplished so far. Everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop…and dreading what will happen next.

Will the violence on the tapes escalate to real life bloodshed?

This is Riverdale. What do you think?

What would have happened in the remaining three episodes before Covid-19 shut down production?

We learned earlier this year that both Skeet Ulrich and Marisol Nichols were planning to depart Riverdale at the end of this season, but we don’t know how. This remains up in the air, and will most likely be resolved in the first three episodes of season five — which will almost certainly be holdovers from this season, no doubt with some slight revisions. The fates of their characters along with the resolution of the videotape terrorist would have been revealed.

And we probably would have seen the gang attend the prom and graduate. (More on this below).

Riverdale is famous for having the central mystery of the season solved in the finale before introducing a new one right before the credits. There’s no reason to believe that had production not been halted that would have been the case here.

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Wait, if Skeet Ulrich is leaving the show, what does that mean for Falice?

“I don’t know but I just feel sorry for poor Alice,” Mädchen Amick says, “she’s probably not going to take it well.” Nor will legions of fans who have made Falice their favorite ship on the series.

When did Mädchen Amick learn that her episode would be the finale?

Here’s the answer to this one from Amick herself: “We were three days into the four-day edit when everything got shut down and we were sent home. So I had to do my fourth day remotely, just over phone calls and sharing links with the editor. But then I also wondered does this mean that our episode might be the finale? I think that it just coincidentally ended up being a nice cliffhanger. It’s interesting because I think Roberto (Aguirre-Sacasa) had the prom and graduation planned and that’s going to clearly alter next season a bit, but he’s super talented and everyone in that writers room is great. They’re going to come up with a really great revised version for when we come back in season five, hopefully sooner than later.”

With all of the characters headed to different states for college, how will the show conspire to keep them all in Riverdale?

This is arguably the biggest question looming over the series at this point, as our characters are set to study at Yale, the University of Iowa, in the Naval Academy, etc. Unless the producers plan on setting the rest of the series after graduation and before they leave for college, something narratively drastic is going to have to occur to keep them in the Town with Pep.

By leaving Riverdale High behind, the show’s focus will be shifting somewhat anyhow. And after four seasons of mysteries and murder, maybe rebooting the basic formula is in order. So might I suggest a zombie apocalypse? The fifth season would be the perfect time for the series to completely blow itself up and do a reboot to become Afterlife with Archie.

There’s almost no chance of this happening, but man, it would be great.