Why Satan Visiting Riverdale Was Anything But Hellish

Old Scratch passing through Rivervale is the latest example of how the series has rediscovered its footing.

Chapter Ninety-Eight: Mr. Cypher
Photo: Kailey Schwerman | The CW

This RIVERDALE review contains spoilers.

Riverdale Season 6 Episode 3

“If Rivervale is the final battleground between good and evil, is anybody’s soul safe?”

With just two more episodes until the “Rivervale” experiment concludes, it is safe to say that the writers have perfectly utilized this break from their, what I will laughingly refer to as “traditional” storytelling, to completely revitalize the series creatively. Three weeks into the show’s sixth season and Riverdale is the most entertaining it has ever been — no small feat given that it accomplished this without its main character or usual narrative structure.

And all it took was taking the show to hell.

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This latest episode was structured around the mysterious Lou Cypher (Oliver Rice), who arrives in Rivervale with a list of souls he instead to claim. He also intends on destroying the symbolic soul of the town by razing Pop Tate’s Chok’lit Shop, which we quickly learn will become the staging area for the ultimate battle between good and evil. By the time the credits roll on this installment, Reggie, Nick St. Clair, and Glen Scott are dead, Jughead and Kevin have sold him their souls, Veronica is forced to collaborate with him for the rest of her life, and Betty is left nearly catatonic by his machinations.

We’ve come a long way from Jingle Jangle and bear attacks.

Why “Rivervale” is so successful thus far is by how it is fully embracing the darkness that has been the show’s undercurrent since it’s debut. As the huge body count to date reinforces, anything can happen here and no one is safe. As viewers we realize that it’s just matter of time before the status quo is restored — there is no way that Archie would remain dead, even if K.J. Apa wasn’t seen back on set — yet there is something exhilarating about this series no longer having to deal with the baggage that comes with Hiram Lodge’s schemes and other plot points that were dragging it down.

The time jump in the fifth season was meant to be a creative jolt, but ultimately it just amplified the series’ weaknesses by illustrating how some characters (Archie and Kevin especially) remain inherently rudderless no matter how much time has passed. Now with Archie out of the picture and Kevin heading off to perform a revival of The Boy from Oz with Hugh Jackman, plus all the rampant supernatural occurrences and a brewing war between heaven and hell, Riverdale‘s huge swing is paying off. Unburdened by the very rules they put down, the writers have a sense of liberation.

Shortly, the “Rivervale” saga will be completed, and then the series goes on hiatus until March. It has already been established that some of the events that occurred in this five-episode experiment will have consequences in the main series. While that doubtlessly will be true, I hope that the true impact of Rivervale is that it has proven that the audience is more than willing to take the journey into weirdness with these characters. In turn, the series can continue to try to tell different types of stories that aren’t tethered to the reality it has created.

Now that truly would be devilish fun.

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Riverdale Rundown

  • This episode was partially inspired by the sixth issue of the Riverdale tie-in comic, which detailed Pop Tate’s original deal with the Devil. (Which played out quite differently on the printed page then in this episode, but we do learn that Satan loves hamburgers).
  • At the beginning of the episode, Narrator Jughead mentions that he is “imagining” the scenario that is about to play out. By doing so, are the producers hiding what is really going on here in plain sight — that Rivervale is just a fiction created by Jughead?
  • Airing Riverdale at 9pm affords the show the ability to get away with a bit more violence, as seen here with Betty’s brutal, blood-drenched murder of FBI superior Glen (whom she thought was the Devil).
  • Given that the Archieverse already has a Satan in the form of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s Luke Cook, it would have been a nice touch to see that actor reprise the role here. (Although Oliver Rice was delightfully smarmy).
  • Even Lou Cypher himself seems shocked by the speed in which Kevin signs over his soul. Hilariously, Kevin never met a bad idea that he didn’t run enthusiastically towards.
  • Farewell Nick St. Clair, I never liked you.
  • “I’m not here to drink or gamble Veronica, I’m here to sniff out evil,” says Alice in the episode’s best line.
  • Now that Betty has murdered and Tell-Tale-Hearted Glen, will she be consumed by the evil she so fears?
  • Both Archie and Toni have been completely forgotten by their friends. Rivervale is a cold place.
  • The town motto continues to change every week, with the latest being that Rivervale is “one helluva town.”
  • The depiction of a town resident on the Rivervale sign resembles a Jack Chick drawing. Does anyone else really want to see Chick tract parodies featuring the Archie characters?
  • Nobody reads contracts in Rivervale.
  • This week’s fake business/brand comes to us via Hal Cooper in hell, who reminisces about taking Betty to Chaz. E Cheddar’s in her youth.
  • Heaven is on the Tate family’s side. Tabitha defeating Cypher by making him ingest the tears that the Virgin Mary cried at the Crucifixion was the episode’s best moment. And again, it’s great how daring this show is now.
  • After achieving fame, Jughead opens his next story with “it was a dark and stormy night,” illustrating that — deal with the devil or not — he is an absolutely terrible writer.
  • Is there any significance to the Associated Press reporter who calls Jughead being named David Fenwick?
  • The song that Veronica performs is Lady Gaga’s “Marry the Night.”
  • Of course the ever-disgusting Nick St. Clair grew up to become a Senator.
  • How fantastic are Erinn Westbrook and Alvin Sanders in this episode? Watching the Tates drive Satan out of Rivervale was thrilling television.
  • While we were deprived any of Cheryl’s witchy antics tonight, they will be the focus of next week’s episode — which also marks Sabrina’s debut on the series!