Did Riverdale Really Just Kill Off One Of Its Main Characters?

Photo: Courtesy of the CW.
Riverdale's season 2 penultimate finale "Chapter Thirty-Four: Judgment Night" gave us a lot to worry about. Who is the other Black Hood? What plans do the Ghoulies have for the town? Can Hiram (Mark Consuelos) ever be brought down? Of course, all of these questions pale in comparison to the one that popped up at the very end of the episode: Is Jughead (Cole Sprouse) alive?
First, some background. Earlier in the episode, Jughead decided to give himself up to the Ghoulies and Penny Peabody (Brit Morgan) in exchange for the Serpents' safety. Except, because the Ghoulies are the literal worst, they beat Jughead to a pulp and make no promises to keep the other Serpents out of it.
At the end of the episode, Jughead's dad F.P. (Skeet Ulrich) goes into the woods to find his son, only to emerge with Jughead's beaten, bloodied body. His Serpent tattoo has been cut out of his arm, just as Jughead previously did to Penny.
Things do not look good for Jughead. For one thing, showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa apparently based this scene on imagery from a Batman comic in which Bruce Wayne carries his sidekick Robin's lifeless body in a very similar fashion.
Personally, I saw the scene as evoking Marissa Cooper's (Mischa Barton) final moment in The O.C., when Ryan (Ben McKenzie) pulled his true love's body from a fatal car accident. Still crying.
Obviously, Aguirre-Sacasa's framing of these moment doesn't mean Jughead is definitely dead. I can't imagine Sprouse leaving the show when it was already renewed for season 3. Jughead is one of the most beloved characters on The CW series, and his relationship with Betty (Lili Reinhart) is a fan favorite. Plus, we're supposed to meet his sister Jellybean!
However, if Jughead is alive, the teaser for next week's episode isn't giving it away: Jughead is not in the promo, and Archie (K.J. Apa), Veronica (Camila Mendes), and Betty all stand over someone's grave.
So... maybe Jughead is faking his own death in order to escape the Ghoulies' wrath? Maybe he's going undercover to find the second Black Hood? Honestly, anything is possible, but I highly doubt he'll be six feet under when the finale picks up.

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