For about a season, Riverdale had felt like a different show. Long gone are the days of milkshakes at Pop’s and planning for prom. Since the 7-year time jump, Betty, Veronica, Archie, and Jughead could not be farther apart from each other. Archie tangentially hooks up with both Veronica and Betty – as is his way – but the core four’s trauma has created an emotional chasm between the characters in season 5.
Season 6 starts with an even bigger jump. For a five-episode arc, Riverdale turned into Rivervale, a supernatural variation on “the town with pep.” Riverdale proper will be returning in March for the rest of season 6. But it will be hard to forget the strangest things viewers witnessed in the Rivervale arc.
Archie Gets Sacrificed
Riverdale often takes inspiration from other properties and the first episode of the Rivervale arc was no exception. The episode cements itself in the horror genre, taking visual aesthetics from Ari Aster’s horror film Midsommar, which was full of scary moments. And just like in Midsommar, characters wear flower crowns while boyfriends are sacrificed.
In a bid to get the town to produce maple from the trees, a sacrifice is required. Even though Betty wants Archie’s baby, she hands over her boyfriend to Cheryl who rips out his heart in a blood sacrifice. Archie is absent for many of the episodes because of Rivervale’s odd choice to sacrifice its main character.
Betty’s Sudden Desire To Have Archie’s Baby
Betty has spent most of Riverdale being a part of one of the best ships with Jughead. But when she gets together with Archie hastily at the end of season 5, Rivervale’s version of Betty wants nothing more than to start a family with him. This is the main reason that Betty is not concerned when Archie is sacrificed.
His sacrifice allows Betty to have his love child. But this plotline disappears almost as quickly as it arrived, making it even more off-putting. Betty loses the baby due to a curse and it is never heard from again. It’s almost as if Betty’s desire was just a plot device to begin with.
Toni Turns Into La Llorona
Riverdale takes not only from Midsommar but another horror franchise as well. La Llorona is a famous folk legend that was turned into a spin-off of The Conjuring films called The Curse of La Llorona. La Llorona arrives in Rivervale and dispatches an already underutilized character – Toni Topaz. Toni has been a mainstay since season 2 but is often sidelined for the core four characters.
Rivervale is no different. After killing a kid in a gang fight, Toni begins to feel the effects of La Llorona’s legend. Toni is being targeted and her son Baby Anthony is the presumed victim. The only way for Toni to save him is to offer herself to La Llorona and take her place as the spirit of Sweetwater River. Once again Toni is sacrificed to save everyone else and her baby is given to Betty to take care of.
Pop’s Is The Battleground Between Good And Evil
The devil arrives at Rivervale and he has a plan. Choosing the moniker “Lou Cypher,” the devil not attempting to be subtle. He aims to collect the souls of the townspeople who start bartering left and right. Veronica sells Reggie’s soul while Kevin sells his own so he can succeed in musical theater.
But the strangest aspect of the plotline was Tabitha’s battle with the devil. To get rid of the devil, an angel Rafael appears to Tabitha. They warn her that a war between good and evil is coming and of course, Pop’s is at the center of it. Because Pop’s is protected by divine intervention, Tabitha can kick the devil out of her diner. It is unclear if this plotline will ever resurface.
Abigail Possesses Cheryl
One of the largest connections to the real Riverdale is Cheryl’s family. At the end of season 5, it is revealed that Cheryl’s ancestor Abigail Blossom was burnt at the stake by Betty, Jughead, and Archie’s ancestors for being a witch. Because of this, Abigail cursed their family lines which is why the town has become so sordid. This aspect returns in Rivervale.
But instead of a curse, Abigail is an immortal being that keeps cropping up in the Blossom line. Her fate of being executed is not mentioned. Instead, it appears that Cheryl was never Cheryl. She was always Abigail. Abigail is finally put at rest but then Nana Rose’s spirit is transferred into Cheryl’s body. Cheryl being erased as a character is a travesty. Riverdale without Cheryl is not Riverdale at all.
Sabrina Was Barely In It
After the devastating cancellation of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix, Kiernan Shipka had to reprise her character of Sabrina Spellman somehow. The arc of Rivervale was largely marketed around Sabrina’s arrival as she is one of the most powerful witches on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Sadly, Sabrina only appears once to help Cheryl with a spell.
Sabrina’s sacrifice at the end of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is not mentioned or explained in Rivervale. Neither is Sabrina’s miraculous recovery. Sabrina does not recur in this timeline sadly and audiences must endure another show where she has vanished.
Archie Is Evil
Throughout 5 seasons on Riverdale, Archie made everything worse by doing incredibly stupid things. He admits to a murder that he never committed. He invites his mercenary uncle into his house. Time and time again, he has challenged adult crime boss Hiram Lodge. But he always has good intentions. This changes in the last episode of Rivervale where it turns out Archie has become a serial killer.
In the 100th episode of the series, Archie has discovered that the dead come back to life. He hopes that his father Fred will be one of the deceased to return to the living. Fred was portrayed by Luke Perry who tragically died during the 3rd season. Because Jughead plans to destroy Rivervale, Archie cannot handle it and tries to kill Jughead. This elaborate storyline is posed to make Archie who is usually a beacon of good turn bad.
Rivervale Is A Parallel Universe
There were many questions about what Rivervale was. Was it an alternate canon that existed separately from Riverdale? Did it matter at all? The 100th episode reveals that Rivervale is a parallel universe to Riverdale that came to be after a series of convoluted incidents. Though this explains the entire Rivervale arc and how so many contradictory things could happen, it doesn’t explain what will happen next.
Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has claimed that elements of Rivervale will echo into the Riverdale timeline when it returns in March. Only time will tell how this will present itself.
Vughead Is Canon – Almost
It wouldn’t be Riverdale – or Rivervale – if all the main cast members did not couple up at one point. The interchanging couples rarely involve Jughead and Veronica. The only time they have kissed was in season 2 when they find out Betty and Archie kissed when they were all broken up from each other.
Jughead desperately wants to bring the parallel timelines back to how they should be and this means that he and Veronica will have to kiss. This idea has been trodden before and even though Veronica says that Vughead is finally canon, the audience is spared from seeing it. Jughead kisses Betty instead and all’s right with the world.
Jughead Is Doomed To The Bunker Forever
The only way to make the universes right with each other is essentially sacrificing Jughead. This seems incredibly unfair as Jughead is always the one to solve the mystery. But in any case, Jughead must save the world by continually churning out content for the rest of his life in isolation.
Loneliness seems to be Jughead’s primary trait as he has watched his best friend and his ex continue to find each other. The last episode ends with Riverdale Betty getting a strange call warning her about the bomb from season 5 while Jughead avoids a bomb going off. Jughead gets no catharsis as the episode ends on a cliffhanger.