Riverdale season 3 will be inspired by the first season of HBO’s True Detective according to series co-creator and showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Since its very first episode, Riverdale has worn its pop culture inspirations on its letterman jacket sleeve. Riverdale might be based on and include the characters from Archie Comics, but it has more in common with murder mysteries than Archie and the Gang.
Season 3 will open with the main character Archie Andrews accused of a murder he did not commit. Although Archie is being framed for murder by his girlfriend Veronica's father, Hiram Lodge, that’s par for the soapy course on Riverdale. Evidently, though, Archie’s murder trial will give way to a much creepier unseen occult side of the series.
During Screen Rant’s roundtable interview with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa at New York Comic Con, the writer and producer addressed what inspired the overall plot of season 3. Launching into an explanation of the previous seasons first, Aquirre-Sacasa said:
We do a lot of crime and pulp and noir stuff on the show - which I really love - and it felt like season 1, we did a murder mystery, kind of a more traditional murder mystery. ‘Who killed Jason Blossom?’ In season 2, it felt like we did Zodiac in a small town. One of my favorite shows recently - this is like now five or six years ago - was the first season of True Detective. I really loved [that] it was sort of an occult murder. It felt like a ritualist murder. It wasn’t a supernatural story, but it had the trappings of [it], and around the edges it felt creepy and perverse and lurid. I would say that that’s kind of the vibe that this year’s villain and murder mystery has. And I love the idea of our teen detectives becoming True Detectives this season.
The hints of the occult reaching Riverdale have already been seen in promotional material for season 3. While the bulk of the teasers and trailers have been on Archie’s legal predicament, as it was the cliffhanger of season 2, the more mystical vibe has snuck in. The first full-length Riverdale season 3 trailer ended with the reveal of a cult and Aquirre-Sacasa has previously revealed the villain is a monstrous looking figure named the Gargoyle King.
It is encouraging, though, that the occult and magic will be grounded in reality - or at least as much reality as Riverdale normally employs. If Aguirre-Sacasa is telling the truth, Riverdale won’t go full supernatural in season 3 but merely hit on the same type of beats and tones of that genre. Riverdale’s appeal has always been in its outrageousness, but adding magic would be a step too far. There’s enough to explore in the noir genre without jumping the occult shark.
However Riverdale’s future might be more mystical than not. Aguirre-Sacasa is also running Netflix’s upcoming Sabrina reboot, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which will definitely have serious magic involved. The original plan was for Sabrina and Riverdale to exist in the same universe. Sabrina was the first antagonist of Riverdale season 2 and Aguirre-Sacasa still hopes that one day they could crossover. Riverdale dealing with a magical cult and ritual sacrifice would be the best way to incorporate Sabrina, but it won’t be the best move for Riverdale as a series, unless the existence of magic is more implied than outright shown during season 3.
Riverdale season 3 premieres October 10 on The CW.