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This Week's 'Riverdale' is Blathering Incoherent Lunacy and Also Brilliant?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 16, 2021 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 16, 2021 |


The thing about these occasional Riverdale recaps is that they are fully intended for readers who don’t watch the show but want to find out just how off the rails it has gotten since they stopped watching (for most, that’s sometime soon after the first season, if not sooner). This week’s episode — the 100th of Riverdale’s run and the culmination of the “Rivervale” run — is lunacy. It’s the strangest, weirdest, most incoherent episode of the entire series. I kind of loved it, but also: There’s no way to properly explain what happened because I’m not even sure the writers know what happened. A lot of what happened also included callbacks to earlier moments and characters in the series that would take another 1,000 words to explain. But also, nothing except that final scene even matters as far as the series’ canon goes. Everything else is basically an episode of What If?.

Before I started Pajiba, I translated legalese in Supreme Court and Appellate Court decisions into plain English for teachers, union leaders, and cops. That was easier than trying to describe this episode, and if you don’t watch Riverdale this will sound to you like James’ Wheel of Time recaps sound to me.

Let’s see: The previous four Rivervale episodes, where Archie was killed, Toni became the Lady in the Lake, and Nana Rose’s soul was transferred into Cheryl’s body (don’t ask) were all a dream. Everyone in Rivervale, however, had the same dream. When Jughead wakes up from the dream and goes to Rivervale High to teach, he finds that people we all thought were dead are actually still alive. Also, Betty and Veronica are set to marry, and Jughead is going to be the best man. As Betty is explaining this to Jughead, she gets a call from Dr. Curdle, who tells her that Jughead is dead, which is bizarre because Jughead is standing right next to her. Jughead goes to the morgue, however, and discovers his own dead body.

Following along?

Among the possessions of Dead Jughead is a stack of comics. Living Jughead reads them and sees that the comics are all about him and his friends, but the pages go blank when he gets to the part where he’s reading Dead Jughead’s comics. Living Jughead surmises that he lives in a parallel universe, a “warped” version of Riverdale. This parallel universe was triggered by the explosion of a bomb under Archie’s bed planted by Hiram Lodge.

Most of this “Warped Riverdale” is like Teen Beat David Lynch. For instance, the guy who played Reggie in the first season appears along with the guy who played Reggie in the last four seasons, and they fight over Veronica, who seems to be into the idea of a threesome. Original Reggie and New Reggie don’t want to share and eventually kill each other. Also, in this parallel universe, Clifford Blossom — and not Betty’s father — is the Black Hood, and Jason Blossom is alive (but is abducted by the Black Hood). There is also another killer who murders Cheryl and then Veronica, and we eventually find out that this serial killer is Archie, who is killed by his fiancée Betty while Archie is trying to strangle Jughead.

Living Jughead wants to destroy this parallel universe (which means he and everyone else in it will cease to exist), but Archie is killing everyone because he doesn’t want to end this pocket universe. In this parallel universe, everyone who dies returns (like Ethel Muggs and Dilton), and Archie wants his father to return from the dead to attend his wedding.

Are you still following? Because it gets weirder. Living Jughead encounters Dead Jughead. Dead-now-alive Parallel Jughead says that when he died, he woke up in yet another version of Riverdale in the 1950s where Pops was still alive. While he was in ’50s Riverdale, he found a comic that explains how that pocket universe was created by Hiram’s bomb, and in order to save the real Riverdale, he has to recreate the Hiram’s bomb scene and that will save both universes. However, Real Jughead will have to spend his life writing the life of the Rivervale characters, which I guess means they only exist in his imagination?

Archie — back from the dead — tries to stop Jughead and Betty from recreating the bomb scene, but before he can, the bomb hits zero. Nothing happens, and no one remembers anything, so we assume it worked. The dual universes are saved!

BUT, in the real Riverdale, where Jughead is writing in a bunker to keep Rivervale alive(?), Betty and Archie are in the bed where the bomb goes off. Betty gets a phone call warning her about the bomb, and then it cuts to Jughead, who hears the bomb go off. Did Betty and Archie die? We will find out when Riverdale returns in March. (Also, obviously, Betty and Archie do not die).