By Abandoning Reality, Riverdale Finally Embraces Its Full Potential

The Archie Comics CW series has become, at long last, must-see genre television.

Riverdale season 6 episode 6 - Unbelievable
Photo: The CW

This Riverdale review contains spoilers.

Riverdale Season 6 Episode 6

“Do we now believe in magic and curses?”

Since I began reviewing Riverdale back in 2017 I have yearned for one thing: For the series to become as unpredictably strange as the comics that inspired the series.

Friends, I am here to tell you that dreams can come true!

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I have previously discussed ad nauseam on this site how Archie stories are constantly subverting expectations, and it is a pattern that the CW drama has back-and-forthed on a frustrating amount. Too often the series has knocked on the door of insanity then ran away that I became jaded and felt that as bizarre as the show got it times, it never quite went far enough. Or if it did, the craziness was given a humdrum explanation that took all the air out of its narrative tires.

But then came Rivervale. The alternate universe miniseries that made up the first five episodes of this season submerged our characters into situations that bulldozed the show’s reality, which is saying a lot given the typical scenarios that are showcased here. In hindsight, the Rivervale saga was a doorway that the writers were pushing the characters (and viewers) through. Anything is on the table now, no matter how ridiculous/amazing.

So where does that leave us? With a series that is a sci-fi/superhero/horror/musical/comedy/procedural. It’s Kitchen Sink television time, and whoo boy is it wild. The writers of this show realize that it leaves viewers with whiplash due to all the genre-jumping it does, so at time point they seemingly made the conscious decision to be every type of TV series all at once.

Has any other program in TV history had the sheer nerve to attempt to such a feat? Or to pull it off with such aplomb. In roughly 45 minutes, tonight’s installment — hilariously called “Unbelievable” in a bit of meta-awareness and as a tip of a hat to its thematic inspiration, Unbreakable — literally blows up the status quo and puts all of our characters in entirely new places. It’s not so much moving chess pieces around as it is throwing lighter fluid on the board, torching it, then the house it resided it, then nuking the entire city, just to be certain nothing survived.

This is a gutsy move, one that will bring irksome shark-jumping fears to the surface. Let me quell any of those right now by saying that by making such a bold move this late in the series’ run isn’t so much a decision born out of desperation, but inspiration. I will definitely agree that Riverdale has been dragging its feet for awhile, but even its at worst there were enough oddball moments of insanity that made it a standout pleasure.

Now the entire series is one gigantic WTF moment, and I’m desperately trying my hardest to not just have this review read OH MY GOD WHAT? I had no idea what to expect from this show post-hiatus, but I can guarantee that a subplot featuring a dog with superpowers wouldn’t even have been in my top 500 guesses as to what may occur.

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So friends, a bold new Riverdale awaits us all. The show no longer cares if you are in or out. Its focus is instead on delivering truly unexpected storytelling. For the first time since maybe the first season it feels like anything can happen next, and that may be the greatest accomplishment here.

Riverdale Rundown

• Tonight’s (frankly excellent) episode was written and directed By Riverdale vet James DeWille, who is also a producer on the series.

• With so much happening in this episode, it would be easy to overlook the arrival of another fake brand in the Riverdale universe: The Wall Beat Journal.

• It’s a safe assumption that more otherworldly happenings will bleed over from Rivervale into the show’s present reality, but to recap superpowers and witchcraft are now very much in play.

• In the comics, Archie and his pals and gals were granted heroic abilities in the “Superteens” stories. (We caught a glimpse of Archie in his Pureheart the Powerful guise previously on Riverdale).

• When it was revealed that Bingo had an advanced healing ability, I couldn’t stop laughing for a good five minutes.

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• To recap: Archie is becoming invulnerable, Betty can detect evil intent, Bingo is able to heal himself and Jughead’s deafness will likely yield an as-yet-unseen ability. Some weirdo Fantastic Four vibes here.

• Interestingly enough, Jughead was originally conceived as being deaf in this series.

• So is Cheryl’s consciousness trapped in Abigail somewhere a la Being John Malkovich?

• Does anyone believe, even for a millisecond, that Hiram Lodge is truly dead?

• The new leader of the Goolies is Tywla Twist, not to be confused with Archieverse comic (and Katy Keene TV show) character Trula Twist.

• I’m not sure what exactly the deal with the obviously evil Percival Pickens is yet, nor why he wants the Andrews house, but in the comics the Pickens family were among the founders of Riverdale.

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• I really wish that Riverdale utilized Molly Ringwald more.

• Cheryl’s little voodoo dolls of Archie and the gang were super cute, weren’t they?

• I’m crossing my fingers that all the witchy Blossom stuff means that we will get another, hopefully substantive, appearance by Sabrina.

• Will Kevin Keller ever succeed on Broadway? More importantly, will the character ever get anything of note to do?

• The best dialogue exchange in this gift of an episode was when Betty assured Archie that, yep, things will definitely get weirder.

• Finally, with Ashleigh Murray joining the Nancy Drew spin-off Tom Swift, it seems as if hopes for The Pussycats spinoff are dead. Damn.

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