The lead character in Riverdale, Archie Andrews, first appeared in a 1941 edition of Pep Comics. As the teenage everyman's story continued over the ensuing decades, the publisher made a succession of tweaks and changes to the characters to appeal to each new crop of young readers. Beginning in 2010, the Archie Comics introduced its first gay character and tackled more adult topics like marriage, financial problems, and gun control.
The series took an even more unexpected spin when Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla created Afterlife with Archie, a horror series that found Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead facing a zombie apocalypse in Riverdale. Since Aguirre-Sacasa is now showrunner for Riverdale, fans have understandably been wondering if there's room for zombies in the noir mystery setting the TV series has established.
In an interview for EW, Aguirre-Sacasa reveals that a zombie storyline was one of the original pitches to the network for Riverdale and said there's a seismic tonal shake-up coming:
"Obviously I can’t confirm or deny anything, but I will tell you that Afterlife or not, there definitely will be a big genre element to season 2. It won’t suddenly just be a coming-of-age drama. There will definitely be a very strong, bold genre statement. If season 1 is a murder mystery, it won’t necessarily be another murder mystery. We’re telling, for us, kind of the best version of a murder mystery: Who killed Jason Blossom? So whatever twist in genre element that we add in season 2, it’s going to be different from that and probably, I think, it’s going to make people go, 'They’re not really doing that, are they?'"
The showrunner acknowledges that there have already been some Afterlife easter eggs in Riverdale, including Cheryl's vision of a zombie version of her murdered brother Jason. There's also the fact that Jason crossed the river into Greendale, where an as-yet-unseen Archie Comics character resides: Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Aguirre-Sacasa has said that Sabrina, who was ultimately responsible for starting the zombie apocalypse in Afterlife with Archie, could make an appearance this season.
When the show was recently renewed for Season 2, there was some question of whether the murder mystery would be solved in one year or be carried over into the next one. The Jason-as-zombie theory could be a way to answer the question of who murdered the Blossom brother as well as introduce that new genre element for the second year. A full-blown zombie apocalypse doesn't really seem the right way to continue Riverdale long-term, however, so it may remain more of a one-time element that introduces witchcraft - and Sabrina herself - to the eerie small town.
Aguirre-Sacasa also noted that this season's finale was not the one they originally had in mind, and it "fundamentally changes what kind of town Riverdale is again." Whether that's witches, werewolves, another murder, or a zombie apocalypse, it's clear that Archie and the gang will continue to have a lot more than the usual teen melodrama to deal with.
Riverdale continues with “Chapter Eight: The Outsiders” on Thursday, March 30 at 9pm on The CW.
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