The celebratory sounds of clinking milkshake glasses coming from Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe are because Riverdale has been renewed for a second season by The CW. This is welcome news for everyone now deeply immersed in the compelling, gothic mysteries of The CW’s Twin Peaks-like adaptation of Archie Comics. A second season also raises the possibility that Riverdale is poised to move beyond the current whodunit of its first season – the murder of Jason Blossom – into something wholly new. Meanwhile, the plot about Jason only thickens as the web of lies and complicity entangles more and more of Riverdale’s townsfolk.
But before looking ahead to the second season, numerous questions remain about the weeks that preceded the season premiere of Riverdale. What else happened in Riverdale during that fateful summer, and what were Archie and the gang up to?
Last week, Archie Comics released Riverdale One-Shot, set in the official canon of the television series. Plotted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the creator of Riverdale and Chief Creative Officer of Archie Comics, Riverdale One-Shot features four vignettes, detailing the exploits of Riverdale‘s four main characters – Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead – from the end of the previous school year right up to the pilot episode.
Though Jason and Cheryl Blossom don’t have stories of their own and are only mentioned, their presence is most definitely felt across all four stories. Let’s dive into Riverdale One-Shot and that all-important summer to uncover what clues about Jason Blossom might be found and, more importantly, how that summer irrevocably changed the lives of Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead before we met them in the pilot episode.
Archie Andrews’ summer involves endings and beginnings. Facing long weeks without Betty, who was heading to LA for a summer internship, Archie threw himself into all-new activities. Working at his father Fred’s construction company rather quickly transformed him from a “scrawny beanpole” into the buff Archie that Kevin Keller gushed over from Betty’s bedroom window in the pilot. (The comic depicts a montage where Archie got ripped before the Fourth of July – he must have incredible genetics). Fred also gifted Archie with his old Stratocaster guitar Fred found in their basement. (It’s made mention that Archie’s absent mother started a new job in Chicago).
Then one day, while he was walking home, a blue Volkswagen Beetle pulled up beside him, and Archie’s tryst with Miss Grundy began. We know how that went, and ultimately who Miss Grundy turned out to be. What we didn’t know is how Archie and Jughead became estranged friends over the summer – and how Miss Grundy is to blame. The boys made plans to take a bus trip together to Centerville and watch the Fourth of July fireworks. Miss Grundy instead propositioned Archie to camp overnight with her at Sweetwater River. Archie’s hormones took over, he accepted, and he blew off Jughead. From there, Archie and Miss Grundy heard a gunshot, and she swore him to secrecy about the entire affair. Jughead and Archie’s friendship took a hit, and Archie discovered song writing as a means to channel the tumult of feelings he was experiencing.
Archie’s tale further exonerates him from any involvement in Jason’s murder. Archie had absolutely no contact or anything to do with the Blossoms leading up to July 4th or in the weeks before the new school year began. Archie’s story is like Archie himself – doleful, earnest, and a little bland.
Betty Cooper had the most exciting summer of all: She jetted off to Los Angeles for a summer internship at Hello Giggles. Staying with her Aunt Gertrude, Betty had the archetypical LA experience: days at the beach, hikes up to the Hollywood sign, Umami Burger (Jughead would have been envious), shopping at the Grove, dining at Mel’s Drive-In (“It’s like Pop Tate’s!”) and even a chaste little fling with a dude named Rad Brad. Betty’s internship involved her working on a book signing for author Toni Morrison. (“She even signed my book!”)
What Betty left behind was her domineering mother Alice (her father Hal Cooper is not mentioned in the story) and her sister Polly, who was still living at home and still dating Jason, to Alice’s chagrin. Of course, we now know that Polly was already pregnant with Jason’s baby and they were plotting to escape Riverdale together. Polly’s last words to Betty on the phone were “Don’t worry about us.” On July 5th, Betty called home to learn that Jason had “drowned” and that Polly was gone (“She not herself right now,” Alice claims). Betty remained in LA for the rest of the summer.
Betty’s story completely exonerates her from Jason’s murder – she was on the other side of the country on July 4th when Jason supposedly drowned, and a week later when Jason was shot in the head. Betty returned home to Riverdale to find Polly’s room empty. Alice offered no real explanation as to what happened. But, as we now know, Betty found those answers for herself.
No one (well, besides Jason Blossom) fell further and faster from grace than Veronica Lodge did that summer. When the season began, Veronica was happily entrenched in her life as a billionaire heiress. She and her father Hiram adored each other. Like Betty, Veronica also had a summer job, but hers was at Vogue. In Veronica’s blissful life of attending Adele concerts (with her best friend Camila – a sly namedrop at Camila Mendes, who portrays Veronica), dining at Le Cirque, and yachting at the Hamptons, she was totally unaware of her father’s illegal activities – though the clues were in front of her face all along.
Veronica’s Fourth of July didn’t involve a drowning, but she saw her worst nightmare happen right in front of her eyes: federal agents stormed the Lodge home during their swanky party and arrested Hiram on site. Veronica and her mother Hermione were left reeling; as the summer progressed, Ronnie’s friends closed their doors to her, she was “no longer needed” at Vogue, and her golden ticket across New York City society disappeared.
With their resources depleted, Hermione opted to move them to the town where she and Hiram grew up together; also, it’s the one place where Hermione had property under her name and not Hiram’s – Riverdale. Veronica described Riverdale as “that weird town off the Metro North.” When the Lodge women traveled to Riverdale, they do so along the Hudson River, establishing the town’s location in New York State between Manhattan and Poughkeepsie.
Continuing the trend, Riverdale One-Shot proves that Veronica was 100% not involved in Jason Blossom’s murder. While it’s unclear if her parents ever brought her to Riverdale at any point in her childhood, she had no knowledge of anyone in the town. She’d never even heard of Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe.
Riverdale’s brooding would-be novelist Jughead Jones was having trouble putting pen to paper when the summer began. Unlike on the show thus far, however, Jughead’s appetite for double cheeseburgers is in full effect (even at breakfast). With Betty in LA and Archie unreliable (he even mentions Reggie spent the summer playing golf at the country club), Jughead fills his time working at the Starlight Drive-In (where we recently learned he also lived) and struggling with writer’s block. The Southside Serpents were regularly at the Drive-In to keep Jughead company, though even his father was unwelcome company.
Jughead was lamenting how close he and Archie were growing up and what little time they now spent together when Archie arrived at Pop’s and announced he was also becoming a writer – of songs. The two made plans to go to Centerville on July 4th to watch the fireworks, but on the morning of, Archie ghosted him. When he heard Jason Blossom had “drowned,” Jughead made his way to Sweetwater River and began investigating, learning about Dilton Doiley and his Adventure Scouts coming upon a distraught Cheryl Blossom on the riverbank.
Jughead’s first suspect was actually Archie, who was nowhere to be found, until Archie arrived at Pop’s with his father and was kind of a jerk about blowing Jughead off. (“Something came up… [they’re just] stupid fireworks, it’s not that big of a deal!”) Jughead may not have believed Archie was a murderer, but he held onto the belief that Archie was a bad friend. But then and there, Jughead found the subject of his novel, the story only he could write – Who Killed Jason Blossom?
While a fun and at times enlightening primer on Riverdale‘s core foursome of characters (Betty and Veronica’s stories are, unsurprisingly, the most engaging of the bunch), Riverdale One-Shot is a bit of a letdown in that it seems to work overtime to specifically absolve Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead of involvement in season one’s central mystery. Riverdale One-Shot effectively eliminates many juicy possibilities, like Betty’s Adderall prescription making her a Manchurian candidate for her mother. Ideas like those are fan-fic theories, but concocting such theories is part of the fun of watching Riverdale‘s first season.
Riverdale One-Shot shifts the blame for Jason Blossom’s murder completely away from Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead – preserving their status as shiny and admirable (if troubled) All-American icons. While it’s comforting to be assured that the four most beloved main Archie characters aren’t capable of cold-blooded murder, it’s also rather pat and a bit disappointing that all of their hands are so squeaky clean (from the Blossom death, at least).
Armed with a greater understanding of what occurred during that fateful summer, however, we can now focus on Riverdale’s ever-growing cavalcade of clues and revelations and really start to look at the more guilty-seeming people in town, like the rest of the Coopers and the elder Blossoms. That long-standing family feud seems to have wreaked havoc on the lives of their teenage scions Polly and Jason. Whatever the final answers to the mystery of who killed Jason Blossom are revealed to be, they aren’t to be found in the past summer days of Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead. They’re simply caught up in the swirl of madness of their town – just like we viewers are.