SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Riverdale Season 2 finale
As tonight’s Riverdale Season 2 finale revealed, the not-so-sleepy town has a new mayor — and it isn’t Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) — and Riverdale High might have a new student president, but it won’t be Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) because he just got hauled off to jail
Jughead (Cole Spouse) is alive and made a heartfelt teen proposal of sorts to Betty (Lili Reinhart), but a council of villains led by Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) now is really running things in the series based on the long-running redhead-led comics. Which finds the Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa EP’d show pulling up stakes on its latest cycle with plenty of twists to whip things around in a season of nothing but head spins.
Full of sizable servings of suspense, serial killers, Serpents and subterfuge plus conversion therapy, Carrie the musical, abductions, returning twins, hot tub kisses, the Black Hood and deadly Dads, this second year of the already renewed soapy and sometimes surreal CW series from Berlanti Productions and WBTV threw it all out there and then some.
In that context, EP and Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Aguirre-Sacasa pulled away from the just-reopened writers room to chat with me about tonight’s finale, schmuck-baiting, what’s in store for Season 3 and who the real star of Riverdale is.
DEADLINE: So, let’s start where it ends. Archie is arrested for the murder of Cassidy at the very of the end of the finale — why did you decided to go out like that?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: All season long Archie’s been rising in the ranks under Hiram Lodge’s criminal tutelage, and he’s done some pretty dark things, you know. He essentially became Hiram’s capo. He turned from the forces of good — his father, his friends — kind of on his quest for revenge for the Black Hood and he was attracted to Hiram’s power. He was attracted to the way Hiram did business and he was looking for an answer, but he was tangling with a mob boss, and it felt like that there needed to be consequences to that.
DEADLINE: Poor guy just can’t catch a break for long, can he?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: Well, he made a big threat to Hiram and it felt like, short of killing Archie, the next best thing Hiram could do is get him out of Riverdale — away from Veronica, away from his friends — and send him to a place where a really bad accident might happen to Archie, some place like jail. So yeah, that felt like the organic way to end Archie’s flirtation with the dark criminal underbelly of Riverdale.
DEADLINE: I have to say after the big tease of the penultimate episode, where it looked like Jughead really might be dead, it was a real contrast to the end of Season 1 after a pretty anxiety-inducing season that was bordering on David Lynch territory…
AGUIRRE-SACASA: You know, we didn’t want to end the season on a cliffhanger of “is one of our main characters going to live or die” because we’d done that with Fred the year before. And honestly, since people could guess that that one of our big stars on the show wasn’t going to die, we didn’t want it to be a summer-long cliffhanger. What we really wanted to ask was to put Jughead’s money where his mouth is and say, “Are you willing to die for the Serpents?”
DEADLINE: His mouth that never seems to stop eating…
AGUIRRE-SACASA: I know. Exactly. Exactly. And so we wanted it to be able to play that and of course have that shocking moment, but we didn’t want to schmuck-bait the audience into something that was all summer long. We wanted to end on a cliffhanger that we could actually play, which is what led us to shift back to Archie.
DEADLINE: But you also leave us with an emotional cliffhanger with Betty and Jughead, where it seems that he has just asked Betty to marry him. Has he?
AGUIRRE SACASA: Look, we have to be really careful about that because they’re high school students. But their relationship is one of the hearts of the show and you know as messed up as Betty’s family is and as messed up as Jughead’s home life is with FP and the Serpents and all that stuff, arguably the reason the two of them had such a rough season in Season 2 is partly because they were separated from each other.
So I do understand the desire to kind of hold on to each other and things are in such a state of flux in Riverdale that they want to cling to the steady, the thing that’s steady in their lives, which is their love for each other. So Jughead says, “Will you be my Serpent queen,” and she says, “Are you asking me to join the Serpents?” On one level it is that. It does also feel like there’s an emotional commitment that Jughead is making with Betty, but we didn’t want it to go all the way there and be a traditional marriage proposal but emotionally it is a commitment. You’re right, Dominic.
— Riverdale (@CW_Riverdale) May 17, 2018
DEADLINE: With the arrest, the election that Hermione (Marisol Nichols) barely wins, the crime league and the proposal of sorts, how much soapier can Riverdale go in Season 3?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: Well, look, Season 1 was a murder mystery and Season 2 had elements of a serial killer in a small town and The Godfather in a small town. So, we’ll always draw from pulp fiction and noir movies and stuff, so the idea’s that there’ll always be some kind of criminal or mystery element to the show.
But in Season 3 there’s going to be kind of a new genre as well and we’re going to examine different kinds of pulp and noir. So if it feels like Riverdale is a place where people are getting killed all the time, maybe we find out that that’s not a coincidence. Maybe in Season 3, that’s actually part of a bigger pattern and a bigger unspoken history of Riverdale
AGUIRRE-SACASA: (laughs) Look, in Season 3 we are going to have the gonzo, crazy, heightened story and plot twists and turns that people appreciate about Riverdale, sure. But I’ll tell you we’re also really going to keep our eye on the prize, which is the friendships and the romances.
DEADLINE: Which was where you had the heart of the Season 2 ender in many ways, wasn’t it?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: Yeah. You know, one of the things that my boss Greg Berlanti suggested very early during Season 1 was to wrap up all of the genre elements, the murder mystery of who killed Jason Blossom, in the penultimate episode so that in the finale the show could get back to its heart. And as you said, that heart is the characters, the friendships and the relationships. We did a similar thing this season. In my opinion, our biggest episode was actually the penultimate episode, which was the riot night in Riverdale.
DEADLINE: What’s the shift to Season 3 looking like so far?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: First of all, we are keeping our group together as much as possible, even though potentially Archie is going to go to the slammer for a bit.
But also, if the idea is that Hiram Lodge has taken possession of Riverdale and then Riverdale has become something like Sin City. So, like the movie and the comic book that Frank Miller wrote that were comprised of short stories that kind of came together to tell one big story about Sin City.
So, one idea is that we might shift the focus around on different characters, some of our supporting players as well to kind of tell a tapestry of what life is like when Riverdale is on the verge of becoming Sin City. So keep an eye out on the supporting players like Cheryl and Tony and Kevin and Josie. They’re going to carry more story than they have in Season 1 and Season 2.
DEADLINE: Are we going to see some new characters? Will Molly Ringwald be back more as Archie’s mom?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: There’s an open-door policy for Molly. Any time Molly wants to come to Riverdale, she can come to Riverdale if we can work out the schedule with all of her other commitments and stuff. She’s always welcome. And one imagines that she’ll be back to help Archie if he’s facing a trial or facing a sentencing because he’s been accused of murder.
As for new characters, I think it was really great to add Hiram Lodge to the mix in Season 2. He really shook up the Lodge family and that crime franchise. So characters we’ve been teasing since Season 1 are Gladys Jones, FP’s wife and Jughead’s mom, and Jellybean Jones, who’s Jughead’s sister. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came to Riverdale bringing bad tidings for Jughead and Betty and FP and Alice.
DEADLINE: Now that is how to tease…
AGUIRRE-SACASA: (laughs) Well, Riverdale is a messed-up town where terrible things happen every day. But there’s still that aspirational element of “I wish I could be friends with Betty, Archie and Veronica and Jughead and Kevin and Josie and all those characters,” and we want to grow that with some additions.
DEADLINE: To that, with KJ’s Archie, Lili’s Betty, Camilia Mendes’ Veronica and Cole’s Jughead plus Madelaine Petsch’s Cheryl Blossom and Casey Cott’s Kevin Keller — both of who had a greatly expanded presence this year — who’s really the lead in Riverdale to you?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: Listen, any of them could carry a show. Any one of them could be the lead of their show. You know, KJ could be the lead, Lili can be the lead, Cole obviously has been the lead, Camilla, Casey — all of them could be that.
In my mind, it really is a true ensemble, however, and that’s the reason the show is called Riverdale and not Archie or Betty and Veronica. The truth is we were really blessed. We have 10 stars or 12 stars who guide the show. So it may sound like a cop out, but I really believe it’s an ensemble and that that’s what people tune in for, for this group of people living in this town.
DEADLINE: Having ratcheted it up even more this season over last year, where do you want to see Riverdale go next?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: I think when I originally imagined Riverdale, it was a more traditional coming-of-age show like Dawson’s Creek or My So-Called Life, and during Season 1 with the murder-mystery element, the show kind of started to live in that. Now, the show is a genre show like many shows on the CW and its genre is pulp and noir.
It’s taking the squeaky-clean Archie characters and putting them into anything but squeaky-clean stories. I love that juxtaposition and I love that tension and I love the noir and crime elements. So even though it’s not the show I imagined it to be, it feels like it’s graduated and become the show it was always meant to be. That’s the show you’re going to get more of in Season 3.