Riverdale or Rivervale … tonight is an episode out of the “Twilight Zone.” I’m not sure where the executive producers and Archie Comics are headed but it does look interesting and scary. Spoilers have shown that Rivervale will have a surprise visitor in this short series of five episodes before the mid-season January break — Sabrina Spellman (“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”). Which leads to the question: Who does witchcraft? I think it’s obvious from the finale of season five but there could there be others than Cheryl (Betty and Veronica come to mind).
When I first heard that Riverdale was visiting horror, I had hoped that it would be a send-up of the “Blossom 666” series. It would have been fun to see Cheryl try to win the title of Satan. But, alas, we lost the real Jason during season one and she would need to fight him for the position (along with a third sibling which has never been mentioned on the show). (Oh, and Roberto. While I’m talking shows, please put Josie and the Pussycats into development. I want to see what Josie finds in New Orleans!) But I digress! Let’s get back to the once town of Riverdale and find out why we are in Rivervale (yeah, right – not tonight).
Tonight, no subtitles just as the story develops. It’s confusing enough as it is. Jughead opens the show playing a role similar to Rod Sterling’s narrator on the Twilight Zone and introduces the setup. Rivervale is not the Riverdale we know. Fangs and Toni are raising a baby who doesn’t stop crying. Tabitha is at a restored Pop’s Chocolate Shop arranging for an apartment for herself and Jughead. Reggie and Veronica, the “power couple,” are planning on opening their casino. Alice is having kitchen problems but always calls Frank for help. Meanwhile, Betty and Archie have survived the Riverdale “bomb” but it is a recurring dream with Archie in the town of Riverdale. (And Jug does mention Betty as his former girlfriend). So we get the setup for the show. My question: How will this translate to the second half of the season?
Kevin hasn’t left for New York and jogs through the forest/grove. He finds a sacrificed deer and calls Betty who brings Archie along. As the investigation starts, Cheryl shows up with her archery students (I knew that would play into the show) and tells Betty to leave. The grove isn’t part of Rivervale and she has no jurisdiction. Isn’t it nice Cheryl teaches her students archery and not martial arts? Later as Archie makes plans to plant a tree in all yards so Cheryl won’t control the maple syrup (what gives with the syrup anyway), Cheryl tries to scare them away with staked dolls (think New Orleans voodoo here). When Archie, in front of the council later accuses her of this, she denies, denies, denies (of course she did but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt).
The Doctor’s office is busy on this first episode of Rivervale (yes, they changed the card before commercials). First, is Toni trying to stop the baby Tony from crying? The cure isn’t great and Toni doesn’t want it. Fangs’ grandmother's cure of leaving the baby alone in the forest is tried only to be interrupted by Cheryl who solves the colic problem but gains a promise from Toni. (Just feed the baby some soft drink and make it burp. That what my granddad did.) Betty finds out she (and five other women) have been diagnosed as barren but there is a cure that Betty doesn’t want to try. Instead, she suggests later to Archie to adopt so their lives will move forward. By the way, Mary Andrews really wants a grandchild. (Hey that breaks the curse on the Coopers and Andrews family.)
Veronica calls for backing for the casino and Cameron, from New York, thinks it is a strategy to get back to New York. Reggie calls her on returning to New York but she says she wants to stay in Rivervale and all things happen for a reason (a worn-out cliche). She and Reggie make love on a bed of money but later Reggie gets mad because Veronica hasn’t planned for an office for him in the Casino. Reggie has accepted that Veronica doesn’t want to return to New York but is worried that she still loves Archie. (Just wait for the conclusion).
Jughead kills a spider and Tabitha is afraid that he’s cursed them in their new apartment. The next morning, he gets a bowl of bugs for breakfast, and later both get bug bites from the night in bed. Cheryl goes to Pop’s to get dinner and sees the bites. She has a cure but Tabitha must provide Jughead with something special. (Wait for it.)
Cheryl teaches her students the trees have withered away because they have lost the old ways. They must return and follow the traditions of their ancestors (per Granny Blossom). Talk about a witch! (Well she did give Cheryl the curse so she cursed the town.). And what is the obsession with maple sap/syrup? It seems that the dolls have shown up in the grove before associated with another murder. Betty found a cold case about it. As Jughead (as the narrator tells us) Rivervale residents are more interested in maple syrup than anything else in town.
So far, Toni and Tabitha have made promises to Cheryl to solve their problem. Cheryl makes a special concoction to be used at the Maple Syrup Festival. The only one left who doesn’t owe Cheryl is Veronica. Veronica is upset with Reggie’s lack of trust but Cheryl promises to solve the problem. All will be revealed later at/after the Festival.
Cheryl starts her Maple Syrup Festival and has contests. While Archie competes, Betty plans to explore. Somehow I don’t think she does (I’m betting the devil, Cheryl, talked to her about the child issue). Archie wins the pancake eating (over Jughead), the wood sawing (over Reggie), but loses the ax throw to Betty who is crowned queen on the festival. Later at home, Archie and Betty show why the show was moved to 9:00 (what a love scene) after eating the pie that Archie wins. After they fall asleep, Archie gets a call from Kevin that they have taken Betty which sets up the final scene in tonight’s “Twilight Zone” episode — Archie’s sacrifice (and a return to the cult angle).
Archie arrives at the grove only for Betty to tell him she knows she has conceived that night. Cheryl had planned all along for Archie to win the first two competitions. Betty is shown as Mother Earth, wearing a crown (Gargoyle Queen lives). When Archie points out he’s not a virgin, Cheryl tells him he has always protected the town and has a pure heart. (Did they borrow that line from “Once Upon a Time?”) Archie’s blood will make the trees grow and the town flourish. As Archie stands there in stunned silence, Veronica hits him in the head. (Surprised that worked as we all think he doesn’t have a brain.) When he wakes, he is tied to a stake and Cheryl makes the sacrifice by stabbing him and showing his heart to all those assembled who start to celebrate. Wait! Am I watching season six of “Riverdale” or “Once Upon a Time” because a similar thing happened over there to the true believer, Henry.
Jughead appears again as the Rod Sterling narrator and tells us that this is Archie’s story. Archie died in Rivervale (so did it also happen in Riverdale also). Jughead tells us to stick around. It’s just getting started.
Next week: No sign of Archie and it looks like Jug is the target. Who knows as this is a really crazy story (and I don’t think it is due to my Novocain from the dentist’s visit today.
Now some notes: I know Archie’s portrayer, K. J. Apa, just had a son and got married. He may have needed time off but let’s remember this show is based on the Archie comics. While they’re capable of killing off the franchise (Archie) and have, I don’t think they would do it like this. Somehow the visit from the surprise guest later in the season will play a role. And if we get zombies for the second half, they’ll revisit the Afterlife series of Archie comics.