Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for Riverdale ahead
Riverdale has become a huge hit for The CW, spawning a passionate online fandom that are eagerly awaiting the season one finale. Based on the characters from Archie Comics, Riverdale (led by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa) has drawn influence from Twin Peaks, Gossip Girl, and Pretty Little Liars, among others.
At the heart of the show’s first season has been a murder mystery: Who killed Jason Blossom? Jason was initially thought to have drowned in the river when out rowing with his twin sister, Cheryl. However, his corpse was later washed up with a gunshot wound to the head, sparking a man-hunt that has finally been resolved. In the penultimate episode of season 1, it was revealed that Clifford Blossom, Jason’s father, had been the one to pull the trigger. When his daughter, Cheryl found out, Clifford then went and took his own life before the cops could arrive.
The revelation was always going to alter the dynamic of the show, but coupled with Clifford’s suicide and the hint at there being yet more secrets to come, where does Riverdale go from here? During the course of the first season, the central murder mystery storyline has also given rise to a number of other plotlines that could be more fully explored.
Firstly, Hiram Lodge is already set to appear in season 2, and we know he was receiving payments from the Blossom empire right up until he went to jail. When Clifford hanged himself, he kicked over a barrel containing what appears to be packages of drugs. We also know that Jason wasn’t averse to being a drug-runner for the Southside Serpents, in order that F.P. could help him leave town. So, going forward, season two could well decide to take a look at the murky goings on of Riverdale’s drugs baron, Hiram Lodge, and his connection to the Blossoms.
Then there’s the revelation that Betty and Polly are of Blossom blood. It turns out that Great-Grandpappy Cooper was actually the brother of Great-Grandfather Blossom, but the pair fell out and Great-Grandfather Blossom committed fratricide, leading to the Cooper faction of the family renaming themselves. That in turn makes Hal Cooper and the late Clifford second cousins, meaning that Jason and Polly are related by blood. Will those babies be okay?
All this is in addition to the exploration of the regular teenage angst that Riverdale gives us. Jughead in particular is set for a tough time now that his dad is looking at a long time behind bars, and his mom has basically told him he’s not welcome in Toledo. Though he has a home with Archie, he still feels adrift, and it’s going to take a lot for him to feel accepted, and to finally escape the shadow of his father. Another character surely set for struggles is Cheryl. She’s lost her brother, and must now come to terms with the fact that her dad killed him, and then himself. Sacasa says we will see her unravel big time in the season finale, which seems appropriate given all that episode 12 gave her to deal with.
Although there’s a lot for Riverdale to be going on with, the show is still going to need something to keep viewers coming back for more. Take a look at one of the show’s biggest influences, Twin Peaks; David Lynch never wanted to reveal who killed Laura Palmer, but the network pushed him to do so. The result was that viewers switched off once the killer was revealed mid-way through season 2.
With Riverdale, the season 1 finale is going to have to set itself up for a big hook in season 2, in order to make sure people tune in. While essentially the murder mystery in Riverdale could be seen as a MacGuffin, it’s still something that has prompted great discussion, and the show will need something similar if it’s to continue its success.
So what could that be? A supernatural twist is one possibility, based on from the comics in which Jughead is turned into a zombie by his dog, Hotdog. For that to happen, the show would probably require the introduction of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, who lives across the water in Greendale. No word on her appearance has been confirmed, but it’s certainly a popular choice within the Riverdale fandom (though a zombie apocalypse might not be quite what people have in mind).
The mileage is there to have the show introduce some darker, more supernatural elements, in similar vein to Stranger Things, or Twin Peaks season 2. That would give Riverdale an entirely new edge, but one that is not so out of character as to seem entirely unbelievable. Let’s be real here - Riverdale is a weird town, with some weird people.
The introduction of Sabrina could also give licence for Riverdale to move the focus away from the Blossom/ Cooper family disasters, and back onto the central teenagers that the internet has become so fond of. Dark Betty could come back out to play, Jughead can brood some more, and we might finally see Archie do something other than sing and chase girls. As fascinating as the "Where’s Polly?" storyline was, now she's back in Riverdale the character hasn’t been all that inspiring.
Riverdale now has the chance for a change of direction, and Sacasa has hinted at some big things to come. The question is, what path will it choose to take, and why?
Riverdale season 1 concludes with ‘Chapter Thirteen: ‘The Sweet Hereafter’ on Thursday, May 11th on The CW.