Whoa, tonight’s Riverdale packed more twists and turns into its season one finale than perhaps any other teen drama. (We’re warning you now—if you haven’t seen tonight’s finale, then stop reading.) Let’s get right to it.
As the episode begins, we learn the Blossom’s maple syrup business is actually a cover-up for Clifford’s real moneymaker: heroin. He transported the drug on his trucks from Montreal, which Jason Blossom figured out prior to his murder. Jason vowed to expose his father, but he was abducted by the serpent Mustang, who was later murdered by Cliff. (Cliff masked Mustang’s death as an overdose.) Cliff tried to implicate Hiram Lodge as the mastermind of the entire operation, but that plan pretty much went up in flames (as did Thornhill, but more on that in a minute).
Veronica and Archie come clean to Betty that they’re now an item, but Betty doesn’t seem to mind because she’s happily involved with Jughead. Of course, Archie secretly longs for Betty, but he convinces himself he can be just as happy with Veronica. Meanwhile, Jughead and Betty declare their love for each other (topped off with a hot and heavy make-out sesh against the wall). They almost sleep together until the Southside Serpents knock on Jughead’s door (naturally). They extend an offer to Jughead to make him one of them now, as Betty—completely troubled by what’s happening—looks on. Things aren’t as complicated over at the Lodge mansion, where Archie and Veronica go all the way, but stop short of saying “I love you.”
Cheryl Blossom struggles to make sense of her life now that she knows her father murdered her brother and then committed suicide in the family’s barn. Penelope Blossom only makes things worse for her daughter by saying the family has always been cursed. “Who will the Grim Reaper take next? You? Me? Maybe your father had the right idea [to kill himself].” This woman is worse than Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest.
Understandably, Cheryl feels the only option is to end her life, so she goes to Sweetwater River and prepares to drown herself in the icy waters. Luckily, Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead arrive just in time, and Archie saves Cheryl from the unthinkable.
But Cheryl’s not the only one struggling mentally (she also sets Thornhill on fire). Betty is also having a hard time coping with the crumbling of her beloved Riverdale and resorts to digging her nails into her hands until they bleed. It’s not the first time we’ve seen her self-harm, but the problem is only getting worse. This isn’t helped by the fact that someone at school writes “Go to Hell Serpent Slut” in pig’s blood on Betty’s locker. (I guess Riverdale High isn’t the kind of school with guards on duty, is it?) Betty also learns her parents gave a son up for adoption back when they were in high school; no doubt she’ll put her sleuthing skills to work in season two to find him.
Hermione Lodge wants Veronica to convince Archie to tell his dad to sell his construction company, but Veronica balks at the idea. Hermione later warns Fred it’s in his best interest to get out of the company before Hiram comes to town, but Fred isn’t budging. Later, Archie meets his dad at Pop’s, but while Archie is in the restroom washing up, he hears chaos outside and sees Pop Tate struggling with a gunman. Archie emerges, and Fred gives him a look as if to say don’t interfere, but it’s too late. Fred gets up, and Archie lunges in front of his dad as the gunman fires shots. The next thing we see, the gunman flees, and Fred is shot and bleeding out on the ground. Jughead narrates the final moment and says, “People will look back at this moment in time as when Riverdale’s innocence finally died and darkness won, marked by an act of violence that was anything but random.”
Whew. Got all that? Well, with more questions than ever, we went straight to Riverdale‘s creator and executive producer—Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa—to get the lowdown on everything that happened. Hold on to your beanies, you guys, because season two is about to get wild.
Glamour: Well, the episode started with a cliffhanger—literally!—and ended with one, too.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: That was the challenge we had because [when] we ended the murder mystery, we knew we had to take this one to the next level and really justify that choice. Hopefully, we did.
Glamour: How soon into season two will we find out who shot Fred Andrews?
RAS: I think it’s going to absolutely be a big mystery. Much like Jason’s murder, it’s going to open the door to a lot of other mysteries and become a much bigger story. But out of the gate, the big central question is: Who shot Fred Andrews? And why? That is what launches us. As for the exact episode when that information is revealed, to be honest, I’m not sure.
Glamour: Is Luke Perry (Fred Andrews) returning next season as a series regular?
RAS: That’s a really good question! [Laughs] All I can say is we love Luke, and he is definitely going to be in the season premiere.
Glamour: He can’t die, Roberto!
RAS: I mean, listen, you know…I agree with you! Sometimes things happen that even I don’t agree with, but they sort of take on an inevitability. Archie is the hero of Riverdale, but in season one he wasn’t tested the way heroes often are. He becomes a true hero when he saves Cheryl Blossom, and he was the only person that could have done that. She would have died if not for Archie. But in terms of the mythic heroes journey, what happens at the end of the finale is sort of like the equivalent of Bruce Wayne seeing his parents gunned down and he vows to become a bat to fight crime. Even more than that, when Peter Parker learns that his beloved uncle Ben who is sort of a Fred Andrews-like character, when he learns that he was shot by a burglar, Peter Parker says, “I have to do something. I have to become a hero.” For Archie, he needs to go through something really unpleasant and life-changing, and I think his journey will be both of those things. I think it will be a journey of darkness and of heroism. But it’s a new character; it’s not the happy-go-lucky character of “Now I’m dating Valerie! Now I’m dating Veronica! Now I’m dating this girl! And now I have a crush on Betty! And now I’m playing football, and now I’m playing music!” All that stuff is sort of the end of innocence and the end of childhood for Archie, and it galvanizes him for season two.
Glamour: The whole episode set it up as if Hermione or Hiram is behind Fred’s shooting. After all, Hermione said to Fred: “I told you it was in your best interest to get out before Hiram comes back.” Then in Jughead’s narration at the end, he says Fred’s shooting was marked by an act of violence that was anything but random. Is it supposed to be assumed that the Lodges were behind Fred’s shooting?
RAS: Yeah, you know, I think that the most logical suspect right there in front of us is that, and the person who heard Hermione—other than Fred—say that was Veronica, when she said, “Talk to Archie. Your father does not want to be in business with Fred Andrews. Try to convince Archie to convince Fred.” So yet again, Veronica is thrust into the cauldron, but it’s a different question. It’s not “Is Hiram responsible?” but “Is Hermione responsible? Are Hiram and Hermione both responsible?” I think that’s a big, big question that’s on Veronica’s mind, at least at the beginning of the season, as it is for our other characters as well.
Glamour: There was some interesting foreshadowing in the scene where Archie, Veronica, Betty, and Jughead are at Pop’s having milkshakes. Jughead—via his narration—says: “Here at least in this booth, we were safe.”
RAS: Correct, yeah. If Riverdale was a town that we thought was wholesome and good and decent and people cared about each other, we thought the heart of Riverdale has always been Pop’s. So the idea that this darkness has been spreading its tentacles around the fringes of the town, or on the Southside, the idea for that to take over the town to drive a stake through the heart of Riverdale felt like the ultimate expression of the show’s theme, which was that there’s darkness in Riverdale. Jughead says that in his narration, and Betty says that to Archie in the second episode that the place she feels most safe is in that booth with him. It’s something that’s echoed throughout the season, and it’s absolutely why there was a terrible inevitability to what happens at the end of the finale, but it’s an answer to a bigger kind of story that we’re telling.
Glamour: Last week, you spoke to us about the lack of sex on the show, and boy did things change this episode. Archie and Veronica go all the way, and Jughead and Betty would have if they weren’t interrupted. What made you decide to have Archie and Veronica take that step?
RAS: Ironically, we were kind of building to those dual scenes. Originally, we were going to have it be the opposite, and it was going to be Jughead and Betty who went all the way, and Archie and Veronica who were sort of like, “We like each other, but let’s slow things down and really get to know each other before that happens.” But again, in the writing [room] things change. It’s a pretty big deal for Jughead and Betty—particularly for Jughead—when he says, “I love you.” That sort of is a huge moment for him, so even though it’s not a sexual consummation, it’s a huge step for Jughead. But yeah, we were like, “Wow, it seems like they’re going to have sex unless the serpents arrive and knock on the door!” So once again, we had an idea, but the writing in the story took us in another direction.
Glamour: It’s obvious Archie longs for Betty and that appears like it would be endgame, but if viewers gravitate towards Jughead/Betty, could you see the course of that changing if fans become obsessed with a certain couple?
RAS: Yeah, you know, I kind of approach this and come to Archie first and foremost as a lifelong fanatic. I love comic book movie and comic book TV adaptations, and I’m one of those people that is like, “No, this is different from the comic book! How could you do this? It was perfect!” I really love the passion. I really love that people feel passionately about Jughead and Betty, and Archie and Veronica. There are people that want Archie with Betty, there are people that want Betty with Veronica, there are people that want all the different ‘ships…I kind of suspected that people would really respond to Jughead and Betty, but I didn’t know it was going to capture people’s imaginations the way it did. As for would I ever change stuff based on fan response and things like that? The thing is always changing, do you know what I mean? The person who I thought killed Jason Blossom at the end of the season is not the person who ended up killing Jason Blossom at the end of the season. The couple that I thought…
Glamour: Hold up! Who did you have killing Jason Blossom originally? I can’t let you skip over that one! [Laughs]
RAS: [Laughs] I think at one point it was Hiram. At one point it was Hal Cooper. Again, the story guides you, and the characters speak to you a little bit and things change. I, too, always thought that Archie and Betty were always endgame, but hopefully, we’re going to have a long journey with these characters. I think the stories will tell us who endgame is with. But I do hear from fans. I hear notes from the executives [too], and Greg [Berlanti] and I have discussions. Sarah Schechter, another EP—and I—discuss things. John Goldwater, the head of Archie, and I discuss things. So there’s always a dialogue happening, and that helps us figure out what the most dramatic or satisfying direction is. I always thought Archie and Betty were endgame, but I don’t know, maybe not.
Glamour: Meanwhile, we find out Betty has a long-lost brother who is now in his 20s that her parents gave up for adoption. Have we met her brother yet and just didn’t know it?
RAS: Very good question! I cannot answer that question. [Laughs] But we will meet him in season two, hopefully. We will meet him in season two.
Glamour: The scene at Sweetwater River with K.J. [Apa] and Madelaine [Petsch] when Archie rescues Cheryl was incredible. What was it like shooting that scene?
RAS: That was our biggest set piece. The guy who directed our pilot is a guy named Lee Toland Krieger, and we brought him in to do the finale, specifically because we started the journey with him. He’s such a wonderful, visual director, so we wanted him to do that. [The scene was originally written for] Cheryl to try to drown herself. She would go out in the boat and throw herself in the water and do what they said Jason did. Of course, we’re in the middle of winter [in Vancouver], so the river is frozen. But I remember one of my favorite childhood movies was the Damien: Omen II, and there’s a great scene where Damien is with all his classmates playing ice-hockey, and a guy falls through the ice and it’s just horrific. So it became that. When Lee read that, he was like, “This is going to be huge. It’s going to be the best sequence.” We actually added two days of shooting. The two days were all about the river and to get that right. The other thing is, and some people don’t know this, but K.J. broke his hand shooting that scene.
Glamour: I was on set doing an interview with him, and he had it in a cast. He told me something happened during shooting but couldn’t talk about it yet.
RAS: We had scripted that he was going to have his hand in a cast after that scene to make it seem like his hand was broken, but his hand was actually broken. [The problem was that we] still had scenes to shoot that took place before the river sequence, so in certain scenes, like when Betty goes to Archie in the Blue and the Gold, you’ll notice his jacket is draped over his hand. When Archie goes to see F.P. in jail, you’ll also notice that his hand is in his pocket. That’s because we were hiding a cast.
Glamour: Did you freak out? I mean, this is your lead actor!
RAS: Yeah, well, you know, it’s funny because when we were talking about it, I remember saying to everyone on the phone call, “You guys, K.J. is so committed and he’s such a physical actor, you know he’s going to give you 190% when he’s punching that ice, so please God make sure he doesn’t hurt his hand.” So the day of the shoot, I was in L.A. and not up [in Vancouver], but I saw that my phone was getting a bunch of messages and texts, and I said to the writers, “I bet you they’re calling to tell me K.J. broke his hand.” And I was like, “K.J. broke his hand, right?” and they’re like, “Yeah.” I was like, “Ugh!” But he’s such a trooper. By the way, he kept shooting after he broke his hand. The scene of him carrying Cheryl Blossom…he shot that with a broken hand. That was a big deal! But it’s my favorite sequence of the series.
Glamour: By the way, please tell me Cheryl is going to get help for her mental health. We have to get her into therapy.
RAS: Yeah, you know, the logical thing would be Cheryl goes into therapy. I agree with you. We know Cheryl doesn’t always do the most logical thing, but she does come out of that episode baptized in ice and walking through the fire of Thornhill, so she does come out changed. She’s sort of like Charlize Theron in the Mad Max movies…sort of Imperator Furiosa. Madelaine [Petsch; Cheryl] is so wonderful and has such depth and layers, so it will be fun to see. She has nothing to lose now. She’s burned everything away, and I’ll be curious to see what that means for her in season two.
Glamour: Last question: I totally thought we’d see the return of Ms. Grundy at some point. Will we see her come back?
RAS: That’s a good question. I love the actor who plays Ms. Grundy. I would say never say never, but right now we don’t have plans.
Here’s what happened when we visited the set during the final week and had Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl Blossom) give us a tour of Pop’s: