By some strange internet voodoo that's inexplicable, Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) has become the center of The CW's Riverdale. But could the self-professed town weirdo be more than just the show's teenaged narrator? Is it possible that he's actually the show's version of Gossip Girl — if Gossip Girl was a sociopath manipulating people into murder for selfish gain?
Before you throw things at us for daring to suggest such a thing about a guy who hates his own birthday, just think about it.
Even a casual observer of The CW teen soap knows the once idyllic town at the heart of the series is now plagued by an incessant darkness that threatens to destroy everything it touches. We know this because Jason Blossom was murdered. We know this because Clifford Blossom was using the family's sweet and wholesome maple syrup business as a cover for drug running. And we know this because there's now a potential serial killer with mysterious motives on the loose. But we also know this because Jughead has told it to us, via the show's voiceover, which is pulled from the novel he started writing after Jason's murder.
And this got us thinking: What if he's not just telling the story of Riverdale's downfall? What if he has ulterior motives and is telling his own story but misleading the audience about his role within the narrative? Might he be actively manipulating events for his own amusement and personal gain?
Honestly, it's insane. We know this. But in the interest of super extra theories — which is what Riverdale's all about — it's also not much of a leap to believe someone within the town is pulling the strings. From secret pregnancies and secret drug running to secret relationships and secret agreements, the secrets of Riverdale's residents could power the entire town if an enterprising person could only figure out how to convert them to energy. It was only a matter of time before the dam keeping the secrets at bay started to leak, so it wouldn't be terribly surprising to find out someone was aiding in the process.
But why would that person be Jughead? Well, he's the most obvious choice — he's the only person smart enough to pull it off — but let's also consider his role within the narrative. He is an outsider operating on the fringes of society. He wasn't born into a wealthy family. His circumstances, including a father who leads a gang known as the Southside Serpents, led him to live a life on the outside looking in. Perhaps he was simply tired of the struggle and decided the best course of action was to knock everyone in town off their high horses, including his best friend Archie (KJ Apa).
It's certainly a compelling theory, but you can also argue that Jughead is an outsider by choice. After all, despite his family's issues — FP (Skeet Ulrich) lost his job working with Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) and started drinking heavily, eventually tearing the family apart — it wasn't until the summer Archie started sleeping with his teacher (Sarah Habel) and Jason died that Jughead and Archie's relationship completely fractured. To make things more confusing, last season Jughead appeared to take pride in being labeled as an outsider or a weirdo, as if it is his defining trait, but this season will realize he's not the weirdo he's pretended to be.
A sane person would assess the situation and determine this change is because Jughead has realized he's once again best friends with Archie and is dating Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart). Although he's attending a new high school straight out of a '90s after school special, he's still moving within certain social circles. In other words, despite appearances, he's part of Riverdale's inner circle.
But a sane person engaged in insane internet theorizing might also look at the same situation and draw the conclusion that Jughead is manipulating the narrative once more. Painting himself in a new light in the wake of certain developments could be a strategic move to draw suspicion away from himself as the man behind the curtain, just as his interest in uncovering the truth behind Jason's murder last season could be explained as an attempt to continue to control the narrative.
But none of this really explains why Jughead would be driven to manipulate events in order to bring darkness to Riverdale. Maybe he was bored — Riverdale isn't the most exciting town. Maybe he has a god complex and thinks he's better than everyone else — that doesn't really feel like much of a stretch at times. Or maybe there is no answer — you can't apply logic to insanity and make it make sense. And maybe that's really the lesson we're supposed to take away from Riverdale: nothing really makes sense, so we might as well make up a theory that one of the show's leading men is a sociopath manipulating events for his own amusement.
What has Riverdale done to us?
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)