As Riverdale ends its first season, speculation now turns to what can be expected from the upcoming season two, which is set to premiere this Fall. Despite Jason Blossom’s murderer having been revealed an episode earlier, the season finale still managed to provide a few surprises that set up some major plotlines for the next season. One notable absence among the ever-evolving melodramas, however, is the lack of any mention of fan-favourite Sabrina the Teenage Witch or her hometown Greendale, which is located right across the Sweetwater river from Riverdale.
Towards the end of this season, fans on Twitter had begun voicing that they would like to see Sabrina in the modern Archie comics re-imagining, with Dove Cameron at the top of many of their lists to play the teenage witch. Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has spoken to Sabrina joining the series on a couple of occasions, repeating his openness to the possibility, with his main concern being introducing genuine supernatural elements to such an otherwise earthly show. And say what you want about how unrealistic some aspects of Riverdale‘s first season were, the characters’ practically mutant abilities to avoid pimples and body fat is very different to the introduction of an entire mythology of witchcraft and sophomore satanism.
But just because Sabrina herself comes with a supernatural side, it doesn’t mean the show has to completely change its make-up. Visually the show has already become comfortable with bizarre, horrifying imagery and classic horror tropes. The finale contained a zombified Jason Blossom, reaching out to Cheryl as she almost drowns in the frozen Sweetwater river, and Betty’s locker was vandalized with pig’s blood and a voodoo doll in a scene with heavy connotations toward Stephen King’s Carrie. The former is played off to be a hallucination and the latter a harmless prank, but they set the scene for the series to incorporate more direct and visceral supernatural elements without contradicting the existing visual language.
With the over-arcing season-to-seasons narratives being mysteries, the introduction of magic kept appropriately in check could simply become part of the tight-knit uncertainty. The first season of HBO’s True Detective leaned very closely into having mystic elements, stopping right on the brink between occultism and outright mysticism. True Detective writer Nic Pizzolatto made it work by maintaining that the crime was still committed by regular people in a way still covered by criminal law and thus prosecutable. Anything strange and unexplainable can become its own subplot – a Scooby-Doo version of The X-Files within the Scooby-Doo version of Twin Peaks – with the main story still about something very earthed and tangible.
This would suit Sabrina in an ensemble anyway as her main angle is, as her moniker indicates, that she’s a teenage witch who mainly just wants to live a normal life. Almost every single one of the main cast of teenage characters in Riverdale has struggled, in some way, with the life their parents want for them versus the life they wish to choose for themselves. From Betty trying to save herself and Polly from her parents’ resentment to Veronica reckoning with her parents’ lives as criminals, a troubled home life is pretty much a necessity to be a resident of Riverdale. Sabrina resisting the urge to use magic and struggling to keep her magical lineage a secret could easily produce the same beats and dramatic tension. It could even be why she’s appearing in Riverdale at all, a previous and peculiar incident in Greendale meaning she has to switch schools or live elsewhere for a brief period. Her self-titled ’90s sitcom was all about how being magical didn’t make a family immune to dysfunction anyway, and if there was enough mileage to get seven seasons out of it then, it can definitely find a place in Riverdale’s 13-episode arcs (and it wouldn’t be the worst decision to borrow that show’s ultra-snarky cat, Salem, either).
Beyond the Spellman family, having a latent magical side opens up Riverdale for specials that can explore “what if” stories. Aguirre-Sacasa himself launched Afterlife With Archie a couple of years ago, a zombie apocalypse ongoing involving the gang trying to survive the living dead tearing up Andrews’ quiet little American town. It’d be preposterous to do it in the main series, but planting seeds that it could happen and then doing it for a Halloween one-off, a non-canon equivalent to a Doctor Who Christmas special? That’d be a fun way to break up the season’s melodrama that’d work for all the audiences Riverdale is aimed at, and it would be on the right side of fan-service with actually bad characters dying horribly and previously under-utilised cast members (Josie and the Pussycats) getting kickass moments in the spotlight (also: zombie Jughead).
Of all the members of the Archie-verse, Sabrina is arguably the most widely known on an international level, thanks to her previously successful comedy. She’s currently the only major character not to have a place in Riverdale and her absence is being noted. Riverdale has set up a really strong cast of characters and set of motifs with its first season, and Sabrina’s addition would be a fascinating way to expand outward, geographically, narratively and characteristically. Judging from fans online, if she isn’t involved in the second season Aguirre-Sacasa and the rest of the show’s creators may find themselves victim to some fan voodoo of their own.