This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 6 Episode 22
“We should all be together for whatever’s coming.”
Why do I still try to predict what will happen on Riverdale? That is the question I found myself repeatedly asking while I sat down to write this review of the show’s sixth season finale. This is not a series that operates by any logistical sense, nor do the words of critics have any impact on the head-scratching journey that it takes its viewers on. It is in many ways a confounding program. It will leave certain plot points dangling for months (the Gargoyle King, TBK, Percival Pickens, etc) only to wrap them up with such breakneck speed that audiences are left with the television equivalent of whiplash.
To be clear: Riverdale is objectively not “good” television. Yet its what-the-fuck nature is so transgressive that the series is, in fact, great. Say what you will about its audacious tendency to suddenly age unimportant characters via time bubble or kill off villains with anti-climactic narrative devices, but the show is never anything less than compelling.
Which brings us to this latest installment. Over the course of 45 minutes we watched as our heroes struggled to save the town that is their everything, making huge sacrifices and decisions that would impact their futures in a massive way. The only thing is that they have no futures. As the episode ends everyone is thrust back to 1955, and they all are in high school again.
Huh? None of this makes a lick of sense and it is perfect.
For what it’s worth, my utterly wrong predictions for the finale’s inevitable twist was that the show would recreate itself as Afterlife with Archie or utilize the ‘Witch War’ storyline that was to have been originally featured in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s never-produced fifth season. Instead, the left field choice was made to completely recreate Riverdale in “a truly innocent time” that replicates the warm fuzzies one gets from reading Archie Comics. (Going so far as to place the character in comics-accurate outfits). Whatever this all means, things won’t be easy going for our pals and gals.
The 1950s were hardly the fun times Happy Days and, for that matter, Archie Comics, would have you believe — and its hard to imagine that Riverdale‘s last season will be nothing more than sock hops and cool cars. For the show’s non-white and LGBTQ+ characters, I fully expect that they will have a difficult time in an era that was cruel to them. Remember, this series was originally pitched as “Archie meets Twin Peaks,” so expect a twisted, more measured view of 1955 that has more in common with part 8 of Twin Peaks: The Return than American Graffiti.
That said, let’s reiterate my opening point by reminding you that trying to predict this show is a fool’s errand. Anyway, in this new timeline, Jughead is the anchor that will connects the ’50s adventures with what has gone before, as he is the only character who has any memory of previous events. Does Cheryl still possess all of her powers? How exactly does having these twentysomethings back in high school work? They aren’t actually going to do the entire season in the 1950s, are they? What about the relationships that are so important to viewers?
All of these questions are hanging in the air right now, and I for one dare not speculate. Instead, let’s just take a beat and truly appreciate what a wild ride this series in. With just 22 episodes left and the creative freedom to get even crazier, anything could happen. And probably will.
• As a lifelong Archie fan, the finale twist that aims to replicate the fun and purity of the comics is fascinating. Will the premiere be devoid of the darkness that Riverdale has made its bread and butter? Again, how will this even work?
• Archie and Betty got engaged in this episode, which is major! Then it was immediately undone by Cheryl’s destruction of the comet. All bets are off for who Archie will be into when the series returns.
• Admittedly, having Veronica absorb her friends powers then transfer them to Cheryl is a super easy and acceptable way for the show to wrap up the Super Teens-inspired plotting.
• Tabitha signing franchise rights to Pop’s is an important move for the character and the series at large, as the Chok’lit Shoppe’s magic can’t be replicated on a big scale. While it seems like this and the rest of the episode’s huge developments are washed away by the 1955 stuff, it all feels too huge to not return to at some point next season.
• Archie finally realizing that he has a hero complex after years of this show is a very Archie thing to have happened.
• The song that the cast performs is “The End of the World,” originally sang by Catherine Wheel’s Rob Dickinson and made popular by Billie Eilish.
• Now that the show has reset and anything can happen, can Jughead finally have his pet canine Hot Dog?
• Cheryl meta calling out of Veronica’s queer-baiting in a show that used to do just that (check out the pilot) shows how far Riverdale has evolved…and how far it still has to go.
• Did anyone else get teary-eyed during Jughead and Tabitha’s future romance montage in Pop’s?
• The use of Hiram’s portrait throughout this episode seems to foreshadow the character’s return in the next season. Whether or not Mark Consuelos (and other actors who have left the series) utilize the finale’s reset to return remains to be seen, but this plot device feels like an excellent opportunity to bring long-gone characters back.
• I absolutely adore this show’s tenacious referencing of the prematurely cancelled Katy Keene, as demonstrated here by the appearance of Alexandra and Veronica mentioning wanting to vacation with Katy.
• Speaking of spin-offs, now that Tom Swift is cancelled, can the CW finally give Ashleigh Murray and company The Pussycats spin-off?
• Jughead claiming to be “more partial to early James Cameron” is totally on-brand. As for him watching Titanic on VHS? Not so much. He’s absolutely a 4K-only guy.
• The stuff with Baby Anthony being aged via Tabitha time bubble is still arguably the goofiest thing this show has done all season. And that is saying a lot.
• This episode takes its name from the fun 1984 sci-fi flick Night of the Comet, which you really owe it to yourself to see if you somehow haven’t.
• Now that Betty is “moving towards the light,” have we seen the last of storylines about her serial killer gene and murderous lineage? One can hope.
• I genuinely have no idea what the seventh and final season has in store for us, but I can’t wait to find out. I look forward to joining you all back here in the fall when Riverdale returns for more insanity.