Riverdale’s major death proves that the show can lean into its wild absurdity in season 6 instead of dialing in the weirdness and silly twists.
Episode 1 of Riverdale’s special six-episode event killed off series star Archie Andrews and this death could save the show—even though it is bound to be retconned. Riverdale has had an unusual trajectory since its 2017 debut. Although the show started as a small-town teen drama with some mystery elements, in season 2 Riverdale became increasingly bizarre and ridiculous.
By the time Riverdale season 4 arrived, the show was beginning to rival The Originals spinoff Legacies in terms of its crowded plotting and wild twists. There were organ-harvesting cults, secret FBI agents, long-lost siblings, serial killers, as well as a life-or-death game spoofing Dungeons and Dragons, and Riverdale was soon at risk of collapsing under its own silliness. Fortunately, season 5 of Riverdale doubled down on this goofy tone rather than pulling back, and now the show’s six-episode season 6 event is proving this approach worked.
Riverdale’s six-episode season 6 event opened oddly, with the characters brushing off season 5’s cliffhanger ending and the titular town being referred to as “Rivervale” throughout the outing. However, by the end of the episode, series star Archie was having his heart cut out in front of the entire town by cult leader Cheryl Blossom in a bizarre spin on Stephen King’s Children of the Corn. The sacrifice left the protagonist of the series now definitively dead in the world of Riverdale and, as such, few viewers were paying much attention to the town’s new name and the odd atmosphere. However, fans should have remained eagle-eyed, since the fact that the episode took place in “Rivervale” means Riverdale is already seeding the ground for the revelation that this dramatic 6 episode event is all a dream/hallucination/alternate timeline.
Leaning into this sort of silliness rather than trying to rationalize Riverdale’s wild twists has been the source of the show’s campiest and most enjoyable plots, and the death of Archie proves there are no limits to the show’s self-reflexive absurdity. The “it was all a dream” twist is usually only seen in comedies like The Simpsons iconic ‘Treehouse of Horror V’ ever since Dallas infamously used the revelation to retcon a major character death in the ‘80s. However, the fact that Riverdale is no longer even pretending to be “Twin Peaks meets Dawson’s Creek”, means the show is now free to be even wilder and less self-serious than ever before.
This is a boon to the series and means Riverdale can embrace its over-the-top tone by pulling off wild stunts like killing Archie. Earlier seasons attempted to broach this territory but always pulled their punches, such as the infamous season 4 tease that Jughead would be killed turning out to be a shameless fake-out. However, like its sister series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s final episodes took a daring dive into meta-fiction, Riverdale can now also embrace its absurdity wholesale if it keeps pulling off unhinged twists like Archie’s death.