Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Season 3 finale of Riverdale. Read at your own risk!
All the answers were revealed in the Season 3 finale of Riverdale, but a lot more questions were raised. It turns out that Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt) was the mastermind behind the deadly town game of Gryphons and Gargoyles, recruiting Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro) and the Gargoyle King, aka Chic (Hart Denton), to carry out her agenda against Riverdale sinners.
Her final act of vengeance was forcing the core four — Jughead (Cole Sprouse), Archie (KJ Apa), Veronica (Camila Mendes), and Betty (Lili Reinhart), whom Penelope saved from The Farm — to spend a night running through the woods, overcoming their worst fears in hope of surviving her wrath. They manage to make it out alive (and Veronica and Archie even found time to romantically reconnect) thanks to some last-minute help from the Serpents and the Poisons. Hal was killed in the proceedings, Chic was shipped off to jail, and Penelope disappeared into the night, surely to return at the most inopportune moment next season.
Meanwhile, everyone left at The Farm "ascended," leaving Kevin (Casey Cott) behind to tell their story. That means that Alice (Madchen Amick) is in the wind, but we did find out that she was never actually part of the cult. She reconnected with the real Charles, who is actually an FBI agent whom Alice was helping take down Edgar (Chad Michael Murray). So Betty is kind of an orphan, but she has an older brother in town! She can talk that out with Ronnie, who is also living an orphan life after Hiram (Mark Consuelos) got Hermione (Marisol Nichols) arrested for conspiracy to commit murder.
The good news is that Gryphons and Gargoyles is officially dead in Riverdale, but it seems like we have an even more sinister threat on our hands. A flash-forward scene to spring break of the four's senior year showed Archie, Veronica, and Betty standing around a fire in the woods, burning their clothes. Betty warns that they have to burn everything, including Jughead's beanie, and make it through the rest of the school year before going their separate ways and never talking to each other again. "That's the only way we don't get caught," she warned.
Jughead's absence has us extremely worried, so TV Guide talked to Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa about that ominous flash-forward, the finale's loose threads, and how the show plans to honor Luke Perry when it returns next season.
I have to ask: Did you kill Jughead?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: You have to stay tuned through [the] Season 4 midseason finale to answer that question.
What was Cole Sprouse's reaction when he found about this flash-forward and what you were hinting at?
Aguirre-Sacasa: I wasn't on set, but I know that he and the writer on set talked about it, and Cole kind of thought about it and said, "Okay let's do it."
Will you be filling in the story with flash-forwards as we're going forward, or is this scene something you just want people to keep in the back of their minds as we work up to the moment?
Aguirre-Sacasa: For the first half of the season, we're going to be building to that flash-forward, and then for the second half of the season, we're going to be dealing with the repercussions from that flash-forward.
How should we feel about this new Charles, who we can only suppose is the real Charles, and is this FBI informant a person we can actually trust?
Aguirre-Sacasa: In the actual Archie comic books, Betty's brother is an FBI agent, strangely, so it felt like it was sort of low-hanging fruit and we have to do it. You know whether or not [he's an agent], we can trust Charles, we already kind of played imposter brother with Chic. I'm not sure that we can do that again. That said, everyone in Riverdale has a secret...Everyone's got a skeleton in the closet, so I wouldn't be too surprised if Charles had something in his past.
Speaking of Chic, he's gone to jail. Hiram is also in jail. What are the possibilities that Chic pairs up with another wayward Riverdale dad?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Oh, I think there's a very good chance that Chic and Hiram are going to be sharing the prison yard at Hiram Lodge State Penitentiary.
You give Cheryl a full Psycho moment in this finale. What was the inspiration behind having her keep Jason's body?
Aguirre-Sacasa: You know, I think it was two-fold. One is, I kind of wanted to return to the role of gothic heroine that she played in Season 1 — the death of her beloved brother, in mourning, the funeral, the dreamy memory of what happened over July Fourth. We kind of moved away from that, so I wanted to do that. The other thing is that it really feels like Cheryl is a character who is defined by the loss of her brother, and that's why she gets indoctrinated in The Farm, right? Edgar Evernever says, "I'll give you back your beloved brother." So we thought that when she got a hold of him again. She'd already said goodbye to him a few times. It's sad that she might not immediately say goodbye to him, so I think that's what led to that moment.
Can you tease how Toni is going to react to there being a corpse at Thornhill now?
Aguirre-Sacasa: We had very impassioned discussions about that, and what people handed in is that Cheryl is definitely keeping it a secret from Toni. ... There are many different ways that Toni might react, and we're not quite sure what it'll be. It'll probably be a mix of things.
What kind of embalming fluid are they using in Riverdale that the corpse still looks as good as it does after close to two years of Jason being dead?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Very good question. One thing that we talked about in the room, but you don't see on screen, is that in addition to using amazing embalming fluid, in addition to being buried in a high-end, top-end coffin that doesn't rot for a while, we talked about perhaps there's even a universe where Jason was taxidermied.
Archie beating the crap out of this bear felt very much like the dreams he was having after he was attacked, of killing his former self. Was there specific symbolism you were going for when you had him fight this grizzly man?
Aguirre-Sacasa: All of the challenges are sort of speaking to the journeys that the characters have been on. We got a lot of flack for the episode where he was attacked by the bear. That really was Archie versus nature and Archie versus himself. ... A lot of people thought, "Archie's now being attacked by a bear, really?" So in a weird way, it was kind of to own it a little bit, own it in our tongue-in-cheek way. The bear man combined all of Archie's boxing with his journey being alone, with his sort of descent into madness. It felt like that guy could kind of capture all of those elements.
At the end of this episode, Betty and Veronica are both kind of orphans at this point. How do see that affecting them in Season 4?
Aguirre-Sacasa: That's what we've been talking about in the room a lot as well. We don't know how long we'll be without Hermione and/or Alice. I think the girls are going to be there for each other as friends and sisters throughout these difficult times at the top of the season.
What can you say about Kevin and how he'll adjust to post Farm life? Because he seems very devastated that they left without him.
Aguirre-Sacasa: Kevin is going to have to go through some serious deprogramming to unravel what The Farm did to him. ... He's sort of always been looking for connection. He's been drawn to bad boys. I think we are going to have to see him, you know, he's had terrible luck with the musical, with the two musicals. And he has to rehabilitate himself a little bit. He did some pretty crazy things, like he and Fangs attacked Betty. So I think he's going to have to go through a serious deprogramming for sure.
You've said that you purposely didn't want to address Fred's absence at the end of the season because you didn't have time to do it correctly. Looking forward to Season 4, what is important for you to accomplish when you finally address why Fred isn't there anymore?
Aguirre-Sacasa: We have to really honor Luke, who was such an important part of the show and such an important part of our family. Then I think we [have] got to address what happens to Fred in a believable, emotional, grounded way...Whatever we decide, I don't think it's going to be one of our crazy gonzo plots. I think it's going to be something hopefully more simple and more profound.
Have you talked about how it might change Archie's arc? He went off the rails a little bit when Fred was shot. The idea of losing Fred might actually derail this kid.
Aguirre-Sacasa: Absolutely. I think every year, when the room starts up, we start talking about characters' arcs. I think when something like this happens in a young person's life, it absolutely changes them and their relationship to their friends and their relationship to the world. So yeah, definitely. It's going to affect KJ's arc, Archie's arc.
Are you ready to tease what the possible genre theme for Season 4 is going to be?
Aguirre-Sacasa: We always do some kind of crime or pulp or noir convention... I love the Donna Tartt novel, The Secret History, which is about a murder that happens amongst a group of friends who've sort of lost touch with reality and become their own kind of [incestuous] band of students...like in a lot of YA novels, like Christopher Pike and Lois Duncan, Killing Mr. Griffin, I Know What You Did Last Summer. We kind of are telling a story in that vein. The same way that [Season 3] nodded to Dungeons and Dragons, we'll honor it and came up with our own version. We're going to come up with our own version of young adults books that the kids are reading.
Riverdale returns next season on The CW.
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