You can tell how absolutely, delightfully off the rails Riverdale has become based on its season finales. Season 1 wrapped with the shooting of Fred Andrews (Luke Perry, RIP), beloved father of Archie Andrews (KJ Apa). An intense turn, but an understandable one. Season 2 closed with Archie being sent to jail in an elaborate Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) scheme. It was strange and a little unnecessary. Now, season 3 finale “Survive the Night” ends with a couple meeting their shared half sibling, a very naked flash-forward suggesting a murder, and Cheryl Blossom (Madaeline Petsch) planning to inter her now-100% confirmed dead twin brother’s corpse in her mansion of horrors. Also, two of the three Cooper women may have been raptured.
Riverdale is Not Okay in the best way possible — and it all needs explaining. So, let’s get down to the most bonkers moments of the episode and try to unravel them. They’re in no particular order, because Riverdale excels in the chaos.
Riverdale season 4’s no good, very bad spring break
If there’s anything fans will be talking about after “Survive the Night,” it’s the finale’s episode-ending flashforward. In present time, we see Archie, Betty (Lili Reinhart), Jughead (Cole Sprouse), and Veronica (Camila Mendes) sipping milkshakes and toasting to a senior year without the weirdness of the past three seasons. Death cults, murder mysteries, and gremlins, as Archie swears, are off the table.
Then the flash-forward to their senior year spring break comes. Archie, Veronica, and Betty are standing around a large fire in the woods in their skimpiest, most personality-appropriate underwear. Everyone is covered in blood. Jughead is nowhere to be seen. The three pledge to finish their senior year as if nothing happened, and then they will go their separate ways. Friendship terminated. “That is the only way we won’t get caught,” apparent ringleader Betty says, ordering Archie to throw something into the fire. Archie obliges — it’s Jughead’s beanie.
Fade back to the Core Four’s happy milkshake hang at Pop’s. Is Jughead dead? Is Jughead covering up someone else’s murder (hence the need to burn his possibly evidence-laden hat)? I would say we’ll find out during this fall’s season 4 premiere — but this major mystery probably won’t be solved until the 2019-2020 midseason finale, at best.
Strap in friends, it’s going to be a long, bumpy ride.
Riverdale’s season 3 reign of terror, explained
Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Bolt) is the Gargoyle King. Or, at least, she owns the Gargoyle King. She basically owns every nefarious individual in Riverdale other than Hiram Lodge and Edgar Everner (Chad Michael Murray). This is Penelope’s Rogue’s Gallery, and their purpose in her plans.
— “Sister” Woodhouse: A not-real nun at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy and Penelope’s “mentor” in the poisonous arts. She poisoned all the SOQM earlier this season.
— Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro): The Black Hood. Penelope cultivated Hal’s “murderous impulses” during their season 2 affair, all in the hopes of taking revenge against Riverdale.
— Chic “Cooper” (Hart Denton), back from “the dead:” The Gargoyle King. Penelope dyed his hair red so he looked more like her late son, Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines), and then called him Jason. When Hal supposedly “killed” Chic last season, he actually recruited him to the Black Hood's cause of ruining Riverdale. Following Hal’s arrest, Penelope deployed his disciple, Chic, to destroy the town using G&G as a mental poison. Chic is the one who got the G&G ruins tattoo — not Edgar.
Penelope’s grand scheme was born of two tragedies. First, Riverdale allowed Penelope to be sold as a child bride to the Blossoms. When she told the Midnight Club about that trauma as a teen, they did nothing to save her. Then, Penelope’s actual son Jason (Trevor Stines) was murdered. Again, her Midnight Club friends failed her, supposedly never even calling to share their condolences.
The mystery of Jason’s missing grave is solved by Cheryl’s screams
On the subject of Jason, Cheryl’s Farm meetings with her brother now make sense. No, he didn’t escape the grave to be a Farm Mastermind-Gargoyle King combo, as everyone suspected. Instead, Edgar dug Jason up, hypnotized Cheryl, and has had her talking to her brother’s dead body for weeks. Yikes.
Unfortunately, as Cheryl’s last scene of the finale suggests, she now plans to bring that corpse to Thornhill to hang out with it forever. Welcome home, JJ!
Archie fights a bear(-like man)
Back to Penelope. There’s a reason she has bought Betty from Edgar's organ-stealing clutches, kidnapped the rest of the Core Four, and told them her evil plan: She has one last torture afoot. Penelope has forced the Riverteens into one finale G&G game. They must survive the night through a series of challenges, settling once and for all whether the spiritual disease that is Riverdale has infected their souls. Just go with it. So, Archie must fight a beastly man who looks an awful lot like a bear. Like the one he fought a few weeks ago, as he reminds Ronnie.
For once, Archie wins. So this time, it’s Archie who attacked a bear.
Betty & Veronica both drink poison!
Penelope really loves her poison. At least this “character challenge” pushes Varchie together. During the group’s death-tinged walk through the woods, Archie tells V he wants to be with her no matter what’s going on with Reggie Mantle (Charles Melton). Remember, last week, he stumbled into Veggie’s romantic evening. Apparently, Ronnie sent Reggie the moment Archie showed up at the Pembrook. After half a season apart, this is good news.
Mary Andrews (Molly Ringwald), Riverdale’s No. 1 Varchie shipper, must be doing cartwheels somewhere.
Betty shoots her dad’s hand off
Betty is supposed to shoot her dad for her challenge, which would turn her into a killer like him forever. Instead, she shoots his good hand off. It’s hilarious. Penelople is less amused and drops the truest words Hal has ever heard: “You were a terrible serial killer and you still are to date.”
Then she shoots him in the head. While we don’t see the body, the Core Four’s horrified expressions suggest this time, the Black Hood really is dead. I’m inclined to believe them.
Ascension. Whatever that is. Happened.
Edger and his not-daughter/wife Evelyn (Zoé De Grand Maison) spend “Survive” rushing to prepare for “ascension.” We’re all meant to believe that’s a euphamism for a horrific mass suicide in the style of Jones Town. Yet, when the Riverteens break into Farm headquarters, they find all the Farmies clothing arranged in a style that suggests everyone was raptured. Each outfit is posed as if the body that was wearing it suddenly vanished.
The only person left is Kevin (Casey Cott), who was forced to remain as a witness. Let’s assume to true story of what happened will be unraveled in season 4.
Charles Smith (Wyatt Nash, aka DWP’s Kurt Fletcher) lives — surprise, surprise. At the end of the finale, an FBI agent rolls up to the Jones home to tell Betty and Jughead that Alice was a federal informant for the Farm. That means she in the thrall of a cult, she was simply trying to bring Edgar Evernever down. Sure. Congrats on the retcon, show.
At least this twist gives Riverdale the chance to let the FBI agent announce he’s the real Charles Cooper, son of Alice and F.P (Skeet Ulrich). That means Charles sent his biological mother into an organ harvesting cult and now she has disappeared. Would you expect any better decision making skills from the very first Midnight Club kid? Of course not. Just like you wouldn’t expect him to be any less symmetrical than an actor who has had the honor of playing “Hot Naked Guy” and “Hot Doctor” on two different respective ABC series.
Well, thanks for sticking around for a season of all that lovable mess. I raise a glass of maple syrup in your honor.