[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Riverdale Season 6 finale. Read at your own risk!]
Riverdale has truly outdone itself with its Season 6 finale. If you wondering how they were going to top "alternate universe-powered superheroes fighting an immortal witch who sold his soul to the devil" in the final season, the final minutes of the latest episode offers an answer that no one saw coming, even if it makes all the sense in the world: they're going back in time to the 1950s.
While Percival (Chris O'Shea) was successfully defeated in the last episode, he left one last problem for the town to deal with. He magically made that comet head directly for the town, and put a barrier around the town so that people could enter, but no one could leave. Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) got the scoop from Abigail (also Madelaine Petsch) about how Cheryl could use her powers to destroy the comet, but in exchange for her help, Abigail wanted one last corporeal night with her love, Thomasina Topaz. So for one night, Cheryl and Toni (Vanessa Morgan) allowed their souls to take a break while Abigail and Thomasina had sex in their bodies. Weird, but everyone gave consent so I guess it's fine? Anyway, Abigail explained that Cheryl's phoenix powers could allow her to melt the comet. The catch, however, was that it would use up all the phoenix powers, including the power keeping all her resurrected friends and family alive.
And so everybody in Riverdale (or at least everybody in the know about the comet) prepared to live their last days, just in case. Archie (KJ Apa) hurriedly asked Betty (Lili Reinhart) to marry him, and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and Tabitha (Erinn Westbrook) took an emotional trip through time to experience their entire lives together, from having kids to growing old, all in a booth at Pop's. Veronica (Camila Mendes), meanwhile, shared a moment with her dead dad's painting, even kissing his painted cheek, which then caused the painting to rot. That gave Veronica an epiphany. Basically, her powers could allow her to siphon everybody's powers out of them and give those powers to Cheryl, making her extra super duper powerful when it came time to face the comet. Everyone with superpowers then sliced their hands, held hands, and transferred all the power to Veronica. She then transferred the power to Cheryl with a kiss, and Cheryl was successfully able to stop the comet. However, the comet didn't just fail to hit Riverdale.
Somehow, the lack of comet destruction sent Riverdale back in time to the 1950s, where everyone is back in high school and mourning the death of James Dean, and Jughead is the only one who remembers their real lives. And if you're now going, "What? How? Why?" and maybe, "But how will they handle the fact that the 50s were a bad time?," you're in luck. We got Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to answer all of those questions and more. It's a lengthy, informative interview, so we'll give you a quick TLDR:
Keep reading for the full interview!
I don't even know where to start with this, so can you just tell me where you started with this finale?
Roberto Aguire-Sacasa: I think we always knew that our penultimate episode was going to be our big epic showdown between Percival and the gang. We knew that that was going to be our action episode. And the reason we did that is so that we have, you know, at least by Riverdale standards, a quieter season finale. That's actually something that goes back to Season 1. Greg Berlanti said to me, "Solve the mystery in the penultimate episode so that in the finale, you can re-engage with the characters." So that's where the idea started, [and then] we realized we've been talking about this damn comet since episode 603, so what are we going to do with this comet? We're not going to do Armageddon, where Archie goes to space to destroy the comet. We wanted to use the comet to really zero in on our characters and their emotional lives and have them ask the question, okay, you have 12 hours left or you have a day left. What do you do with that? Who do you spend it with? What do you say to them? What are you feeling? And we thought, oh, this will be great. This will allow us to re-engage with our characters, their romances, what they've been wrestling with thematically all season. And then the 50s is a different thing.
When we got the call from Mark Pedowitz that Season 7 was going to be like last season, we started talking in the writers room. We were ending this super ambitious, mystical Stephen King, supernatural-flavored season, and when we started talking about Season 7, we didn't want to be running on empty, going out on fumes, repeating what we've done. How do we make this last season special and different from what has come before? We started going back to the DNA of Archie Comics and those characters, and it's two things: high school, and when normal people think of Archie comic books, they think of them being set in the 1950s. There's something about the Americana of it, the innocence of it. And there's no denying…I mean, you're a fan. How do you feel whenever you see our characters in their 1950s costumes?
There's definitely an emotional, familiar response.
Aguirre-Sacasa: We feel it the same way, and the actors do as well. So it felt like okay, well, this could be a way to 1) get the kids back in high school without it feeling like we're just repeating Season 1. And 2) it will allow the season to be about nostalgia. The idea of the 1950s and what the 1950s represents is such a turning point for the country and it would allow us to tell familiar stories in a new way, and then also tell new stories. So I think it's the closest we can come to a hard reset without doing a new show, in my mind.
My first thought about the 1950s was that it was not a good time to be anyone other than a straight white man. How will you walk that line of romanticizing the time and being realistic about what it was actually like?
Aguirre-Sacasa: I think that's exactly what the season is going to be about, the deconstruction of that myth that this was the greatest period to be a family and to be in this country. And you said it, not necessarily for queers, not necessarily for people of color, not necessarily for young women. That's exactly what it is. You know, we kind of talked about it and pitched a little bit like Euphoria problems and issues and characters, but in the 1950s and what that would look like, so that's definitely what we're exploring, and I think that's where the tension is going to come out of the season.
You established already that Jughead is the only one who remembers real life. What does that mean for him?
Aguirre-Sacasa: It's a really good question. The writers room starts next week, and that's the first thing we're going to figure out. But in my mind, you know, the question is, is Jughead going to try to accept the reality, or try to fight the reality? That's the first big dramatic question that's hanging over Season 7, and I can see Jughead going both ways. Jughead's always been a nostalgic character, but that said, it's hard to know and remember everything that happened in the first six seasons and not talk about it, so it will be interesting.
The way you're describing this reminds me of the sideways world in Lost, where everyone had to find each other again.
Aguirre-Sacasa: Yeah, I mean, we didn't explicitly talk about that. But yes, absolutely. I mean, I think one of the fun things about this is it does allow us to sort of start a little bit with a clean slate. When we meet everyone, one of the fun things about going back to high school is this idea of first times and first kisses and first pressures and first heartbreaks. I think when we restart and you know, you can quote me on this but don't quote me on this, I think the idea is that no one is in a deep, committed relationship. When we meet everyone, it's a little bit of a reset, and the fun of that will be to see who comes together and how, and some characters that we know and love will come back together quickly, and then hopefully, there'll be some new exciting pairings as well.
Can you talk about Veronica in this episode? While everyone else was spending time with their loved ones, she was sitting alone with her dad's portrait, but she's hinted she's maybe into Archie again, or just turning over a new leaf in her romantic life.
Aguirre-Sacasa: At one point in the season, Reggie accuses Veronica of being co-dependent, and tells her that the truth is she can't be alone. So when we were breaking the end of the season, we didn't want Veronica to fall back into a relationship. And I love what she says to Reggie in the finale, which is "I'm ready for a bit of a reboot, not just career-wise, but in terms of my personal life, I wanna have friendships, I wanna date." For us, Veronica's father died at the beginning of the season, and that cast a little bit of a cloud over the character, and when we go back to the 50s, it's this idea of Veronica being a really fun, fabulous character and not quite so serious and career-focused. [She will] come out of the gate as the 1950s Veronica, fabulous, gorgeous, bombshell.
Is everyone who's dead now also dead in the 50s? Could we see Hiram again, or any of the other departed characters?
Aguirre-Sacasa: That is a really good question. Since this is our last season, our swan song, our victory lap and the season's theme is going to be a little bit about nostalgia, my hope is that we get to see everyone who has been a part of Riverdale come back in a meaningful way. So I can't speak specifically to who's going to be alive or who's going to be dead, but my hope is that we see those people again.
And what about the people who weren't at Riverdale High, like Tabitha? Will she be in the 50s?
Aguirre-Sacasa: That is a very good question, and we will address it. Tabitha wasn't there in [high school], but I love Erinn. We're staying invested in Tabitha, but I cannot say we've seen the last of Tabitha. But that is a very good question.
Can you talk about Choni? Obviously that was Abigail and Thomasina hooking up in this episode, but Heather seemed pretty sure that Cheryl and Toni are soulmates. Does that mean they're meant to be before the end?
Aguirre-Sacasa: I don't think there's any denying the power of Choni and the chemistry between Mads and Vanessa. When we were finishing that story, we knew we were going to reinvest in that relationship no matter what, no matter what other relationships happen. We have to get back to that after keeping them apart the last year or so. And I love that Heather says, "What we have is great Cheryl, it's been fun and we really like each other and maybe I love you, but what you and Toni have is cosmic. It's destiny. It is soulmates. You will find each other no matter what." I think that's a little bit of a hint that even though we're dealing with it in the 50s and you couldn't be in high school and out and proud, somehow, I believe Cheryl and Toni will find each other even in the 1950s.
How are you making sure you're honoring everything everyone has been through and all the relationships we've seen while also making them teenagers in the 1950s?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Yeah, I think the thing we've talked a lot about is that even if people don't remember the events of the last six years, it's important for us to feel like that they have the emotional memory of what they've been through. And you know, I think one of the questions when you do stories like this, you know, or even something like, you know, the amazing Francis Ford Coppola movie Peggy Sue Gets Married, where Peggy Sue, played by Kathleen Turner, goes back to high school. She says, "Man, if I could go back to high school knowing what I know now, what would I do differently?" And I think that's the question that we've been talking about a lot. We don't want it to be a clean break where nothing that they've lived through matters. It is not starting a clean new continuity. It's definitely a continuation of what has come before.
Could we see Sabrina or Josie and the Pussycats again? They had such iconic looks from those original comics.
Aguirre-Sacasa: Listen, I think those ladies know that it is an open door. They have an open opportunity and invitation to come back anytime they want. It all depends on what's going on in their lives and their schedules. But yes, I would love to see them come back.
Do you have the ending fully planned out in your mind?
Aguirre-Sacasa: You know, there is an image that I had when we pitched the show, and I'm not gonna lie, the 1950s is a detour that I was not necessarily anticipating. That said, I think we can still get to the image that was in my mind, though you know, things always change once you get into it. Riverdale has always been about, okay, let's push past that and see what's on the other side. So there is an ending, but I'm also excited about where this bold retro choice takes us.
Does that image have anything to do with milkshakes or the jalopy?
Aguirre-Sacasa: I mean, everyone knows how much I love the jalopy. Everyone knows how much I love milkshakes. That's the DNA of the show. It's gonna be a kind of a celebration of all that iconography, 100 percent.
Finally, how are you feeling? This is your last season finale!
Aguirre-Sacasa: Listen, I'm excited. I'm feeling nostalgic. I'm feeling bittersweet. When we got the news that this was for sure gonna be the last season, we felt a mix of emotions. But I think that the 50s has sort of buoyed us and we're excited to go in and break these stories, and it feels like we're going to go out hopefully on a high, and not on fumes. So I feel excited and grateful and proud of what we've done.
Riverdale returns for new episodes in 2023. Seasons 1-5 are now available on Netflix.