[Warning: The following contains spoilers ahead for the spring premiere of Riverdale Season 6. Read at your own risk!]
Riverdale is at it again with its annual musical episode, and this season's installment might be its most unhinged yet. Basically, Betty (Lili Reinhart) was desperate to finally catch her nemesis TBK (Trash Bag Killer, in case you forgot), so Veronica (Camila Mendes) set up a serial killer convention as a trap for him. And obviously, a serial killer convention needs a serial killer musical as its main event, which is where Kevin (Casey Cott) comes in to play everybody's favorite serial killer Patrick Bateman in a production of American Psycho: The Musical. Kevin performs a couple of numbers on stage, but refuses to continue after Betty mistakes his acting for him actually being murdered, and the musical expands into the rest of Riverdale.
Toni's (Vanessa Morgan) bachelorette party features a song about designer clothes. Archie (KJ Apa) and Tabitha (Erinn Westbrook) use their singing voices to lure the construction workers away from Percival Pickens (Chris O'Shea). Betty sings a sultry tune that might be about Archie and also might be about TBK (and could also be about Agent Jillian Drake (Sophia Tatum), who greatly confused her by admitting some romantic feelings) as a last-ditch attempt to get the killer out of hiding. It doesn't work as she hopes, but all is not lost. Later, Betty spots TBK in the Cooper home, and once and for all she takes him down. TBK is now dead, and Betty seems to have finally accepted that regardless of any serial killer genes, she herself is not a serial killer. In fact, Veronica has killed more people than Betty has, which is a weird fact for Veronica to use to comfort a friend, but she's not wrong.
Elsewhere, Percival Pickens is planning on upping the ante, Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and Kevin tried a spell that went awry, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) is still hiding in the bunker, and the show is officially headed towards its series finale in Season 7. Below, Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre Sacasa, who also wrote American Psycho: The Musical, takes TV Guide through the creation of this musical episode and what it all means for what comes next.
How did you figure out how to incorporate a musical this season? Is it harder now that the show is out of high school?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: Yeah, to be honest with you, this one was touch-and-go. Given the fact that our kids are no longer in high school and doing musicals, and given that this season has been more supernatural and horror, we thought, "God, maybe this year we take a break from musicals." Next to Normal had been so knitted into the fabric of last season, so it felt like let's take the burden off of ourselves of trying to fit it in. And then of course we started talking about resolving Betty's ongoing storyline with TBK and we landed on the conceit of doing a serial killer fan convention. And then the question was well, what does that look like? Are we just watching people mill around on the casino floor? And well, usually at conventions, there's special events and screenings and there is some performance aspect to it. And then we said well, what if we look at a serial killer musical, so it kind of snuck up on us a little bit. The stars aligned a little bit about it.
American Psycho is very fun, but when Charles mentioned Sweeney Todd I have to say I got excited.
Aguirre-Sacasa: Well, we didn't end up doing Sweeney Todd, [but] in an episode or two, there is a Sondheim number that's kind of spectacular.
So tell me about wrapping up this story with Betty and TBK, because she's been dealing with this guy for years at this point.
Aguirre-Sacasa: Yeah, he was a sort of seminal piece of Betty's backstory when we did the seven-year time jump, and he was sort of at the core of her most recent trauma when she was trapped in the well. But more than that, TBK became the personification of a lot of Betty's trauma and anxiety and fear that she's had from when she was a child. A lot of this season has been about unpacking those chapters of her while she was being groomed by her father, and unpacking some gaslighting that Alice did. She's always been wrestling with that aspect of her psychology and her emotionality and those darker currents. I think TBK has sort of been an avatar for that, and it has changed Betty's relationships with people, especially her romantic relationships. So in a way, this episode is sort of a love triangle episode between Betty, TBK and Archie, and sort of a love story, which is always good for musical episodes.
How did you pick the songs?
Aguirre-Sacasa: I think we really started with Betty's song. That was sort of the emotional….that's probably the reason we chose American Psycho, because it's such a beautiful, haunting, conflicted love song. So we started there. We knew we wanted Casey to embody and play the role of Patrick Bateman, so we picked our two favorite Patrick Bateman songs, especially "Killing Spree." Sort of very late in the game, my favorite song from the musical is "You Are What You Wear," and when we realized this was also going to be Toni's bachelorette party, it was sort of like we have to do this number. It exists solely to be a fabulous number showcasing our fabulous ladies, and you know what? I'm good with that. I'm like truly good with that.
Is this closing the door on the TBK story for Betty? She seemed pretty sure of herself after she killed him, so is this a new leaf turning over for her?
Aguirre-Sacasa: I think it's definitely a turning point, and I definitely think she and Archie are in a new place by the end of the episode. Lily and KJ, their last scene is so beautiful and emotional. But is this the end of Betty's season story? It's a turning point and we are close to the end, but we are not quite there yet. There's still a few things to unpack, and I think Betty has to kind of deal with Alice still. And though she and Archie are in a good place, I think there's still one aspect of herself that she has to reckon with, which is coming very, very soon. But it is a turning point absolutely.
Does that upcoming story have anything to do with Agent Drake?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Very good question. Yes, Drake is involved in that, yes. I can say yes.
Why did you want to explore Betty's potential romantic feelings for a woman in this episode, on top of this triangle she was already in with Archie and TBK?
Aguirre-Sacasa: You're right that Betty is kind of caught between TBK and Archie. It's hard to think that there's a universe in which Betty will end up with TBK, though Clarise I think does end up with Hannibal Lector in some way in one of those movies. But we thought, well, what if there were a viable love interest? And there's been sparks between Betty and Agent Drake, weirdly. So it felt like oh, maybe that's an added element to this stew. And you know, I feel like any time our couples can get tested and come out stronger, I think that's always great.
Can you talk about the Kevin and Cheryl situation, where they tried to break up Toni and Fangs with a spell and realized that was a big mistake.
Aguirre-Sacasa: Yeah, I think that was a little bit of an emotional wake-up call for Kevin and Cheryl. I think for both of them— especially Cheryl —it was sort of a moment of like, I can't be this person. I can't be jealous, I can't be petty, I can't be chaos-inducing in this moment. I've got to deal with s–t, and I gotta be honest with myself as opposed to reactive. It was a sort of bucket of cold water that made them reflect in a really good way.
I also noticed very little Jughead here. Can you talk about when he's going to come back into the fray?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Yes, he's in the bunker. Big big big Jughead story starts next episode. Huge, huge Jughead story.
Percival claimed he's going to be ramping things up there at the end of the episode. What is he up to?
Aguirre-Sacasa: It is a huge ramp-up. He is becoming much less subtle, and much less behind the scenes and kind of becoming a little bit unhinged, and get ready, because he is launching huge attacks starting next episode.
It was recently announced that the show is ending next season. How are you feeling about that? Are you starting to plant things for the end now, or are you saving that for Season 7?
Aguirre-Sacasa: We're excited. It's a bittersweet moment for the show, but I think we're really excited to get to have the runway to finish the story. I'm not gonna lie, when we got the news, we were still working on the finale and it definitely affected how we shaped the finale and we take a really big swing to set up season 7. We probably would have done it anyway, but we definitely decided to go for it when we got word.
Have you had a plan for the ending? I imagine it would be hard to end a show based on decades of comics.
Aguirre-Sacasa: Yeah, I think there's always been some images and scenes in mind. And I'll tell you, I think we're really honoring the animating spirit of the show, which has always been to take big swings, and we're not exiting on fumes. I'll say that much, for sure.
Anything else you want to share about what may be one of your last musical episodes?
Aguirre-Sacasa: It's funny. I was working on the Broadway production of American Psycho at the same time as we were filming the pilot of Riverdale. So it's truly a bizarre, full-circle moment.
Riverdale airs Sundays at 8/7c on The CW.