[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Wednesday's episode of Riverdale. Read at your own risk!]
Time has not done any favors for the town of Riverdale. In Wednesday's episode, we not only caught up with Archie (KJ Apa) and his friends to see how they've turned out since graduation (some arguably much better than others), but we found out that Riverdale itself has become a crime-ridden ghost town thanks to the unrelenting control of Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos).
The gang returned to town for Pop Tate's retirement party, but once Archie saw how run-down Riverdale had become -- thanks to a quick town tour led by a pregnant Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) -- he implored his friends to stay for a while and help him rebuild Riverdale to its former glory. Staying in town might sound good to Jughead (Cole Sprouse), who is trying to outrun debt collectors and find motivation for his second novel, but Betty (Lili Reinhart) is in the middle of her FBI training and Veronica (Camila Mendes) is trying to reclaim her title as "The She-Wolf of Wall Street."
Toni, Kevin (Casey Cott), and Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) have already found their way back to town (or in Cheryl's case, never left), and each of them has their own motivations for wanting to see the town back on its feet. Can the group come together to stop Hiram once and for all, especially with a new serial killer rolling into town just as they arrive?
Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa helped TV Guide break down the time jump, figure out who we need to be worried about, and tease what dark adventures are ahead for our beloved, intrepid, crew.
Archie was really haunted by the memory of Fred before he left for the Army. Is coming back and fixing Riverdale going to help heal some of those wounds?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: In Season 2, Fred wanted to become mayor of Riverdale to save the town. In the graduation episode, one of the reasons Archie goes into the military is because he wants to learn to be a better man, a man of honor, a man like his father -- and then bring that to Riverdale to be able to serve the town and his friends better. One of the things we've said is that Archie will feel the loss of his father probably for the rest of his life. We don't want to just play the tragedy of that, but we felt like it was a good way to focus Archie's energy in a way that did honor Fred and did drive the main story of the season for him.
Hiram Lodge was willing to frame Archie for murder even though he was a teenager. How is that rivalry going to escalate now that they are both adults?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Hiram is still the worst, for sure, and causing trouble. When [Archie and Hiram] first met, I think Hiram could manipulate Archie and Archie was also sort of dating Hiram's daughter, so they were inextricably linked. Archie is a man now. I think he isn't going to be manipulated by Hiram and Archie has done something that Hiram never did -- Archie joined the military and went to war. You come back changed from that. Archie knows how to fight Hiram better, and knows what's really important. Getting into some kind of crazy grudge match with Hiram isn't necessarily the important thing.
Will it make a difference that Reggie is now Hiram's No. 2?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Towards the end of Season 2, we saw glimmers of Hiram losing control of Archie and we saw him trying to sink his claws into Reggie -- and that's what has happened in the time jump. That adversarial relationship between Reggie and Archie is definitely a thing. We are truly playing them as frenemies, or not even frenemies but enemies at the beginning of the season. One of the stories running throughout [Season 5] is has Reggie truly gone over to the dark side? Is he redeemable? That is a nexus where Archie and Hiram have conflict.
There's a new serial killer in Riverdale introduced at the end of the episode. How is this one different from killers we've seen in the past?
Aguirre-Sacasa: The first way is hopefully this isn't one of Betty's relatives. I will say that in the next episode the threat of this serial killer becomes very personal for one of our characters when something potentially really tragic happens to a cast member that we've known since Season 1. It's a little more tragic and a little less sensational than The Black Hood, but very creepy, and very disturbing, and tied to the fact that Riverdale is a ghost town. It is a different kind of serial killer story. Also, Betty is now an unofficial FBI agent, so that plays a little bit differently than it did during The Black Hood [saga].
Is the killer we see at the end of the episode also The Trash Bag Killer that kidnapped Betty?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Well, I don't want to spoil that, but Riverdale loves having two villains so I can't conclusively say anything -- but I wouldn't be surprised either way.
Moving on to Toni. Have we met the father of her baby yet?
Aguirre-Sacasa: I cannot answer that question yet because that's a big story point for Episode 8.
How worried should we be about Cheryl all alone up at Thornhill?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Listen, Cheryl's always a gothic heroine and she's definitely going full Mrs. Winchester up there living alone, thinking she's cursed. Toni is definitely worried about her friend Cheryl. What I can say though is Cheryl loves drama. She loves causing drama. There's a limited amount of drama Cheryl can cause from the halls of Thornhill. We call her Queen Elsa, [but] the way Queen Elsa must come down from our ice palace, Cheryl must come down from Thornhill and be amidst the rest of our cast causing chaos. We see a lot of sort of first season Cheryl [going forward].
Speaking of chaos, we met several new significant others in this episode. When can we expect them to start showing up in town and causing trouble?
Good question. [They show up] almost immediately.
Riverdale continues Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.