There is nothing lazier and more boring than when a long-running show is in the news, and someone says in catty disbelief, “That show’s still on ?!” There is nothing more thrilling, however, than to realize a long-running series is still airing, and that is what they’re doing on it now?!?!
The events of the Season 6 finale of Riverdale, which aired Sunday night, have come across my social-media feeds this morning, and I am in disbelief. I am in awe. I am confused — yet also impressed.
Once upon a time, I used to watch the CW series, which, back then, was a modern, sexified teen drama series inspired by the characters of the Archie comics. It has become, as I’ve recently learned, something else entirely. And Season 6 comes complete with a gorgeously outrageous twist in this finale that makes me feel that we’ve all been sleeping on true brilliance, and what may be the most audacious art of our time.
I struggle with how much to zoom out here, because, I kid you not, I have never felt more alive — more viscerally entertained — than I have this afternoon, reading plot descriptions and recaps of the last few episodes of Riverdale. Is more context valuable in this situation? Or would it be unfair to deprive anyone of the shock of being provided with a two-sentence explanation of what happened in the finale at face value — a startling, yet invigorating experience?
(Warning: Spoilers lie ahead!)
Here is the tweet that sent me on this journey, the source of this seismic shift in my entire existence:
Yes, that is correct: “‘RIVERDALE’ Season 6 ended with the residents slicing their palms with the magic dagger to give Cheryl their superpowers to save Riverdale from a comet,” a tweet from Discussing Film read. “This changed the timeline and ‘RIVERDALE’ Season 7 will be set in a retro 1950s world with the characters now teenagers again.”
I, for one, was unprepared to read the words “superpowers,” “magic dagger,” and “comet” in relation to this series that, last time I watched, had its characters drinking milkshakes at a diner and getting ready for prom. The more information I learned, the more baffled I became. This tweet from the account @lgbtzenin summed up my exact feelings: “If you told me in 2018 that Cheryl was going to save Riverdale by the power of lesbianism and being literally Scarlet Witch I would have laughed in your face.”
If your instinct was to read more about what’s been happening lately on Riverdale in the hope that it might help you make sense of any of this, I can tell you from personal experience that it won’t. I had a blast doing it anyway.
Did you know that an evil magical person named Percival had put a force field around Riverdale, trapping the residents inside to face their deaths, as Bailey’s comet hurdles towards them? Wait, let me back up. Did you know that the former teens of Riverdale all now have magical powers?
Betty can sense people’s auras. Archie is indestructible. Jughead’s girlfriend Tabitha can hop back and forth through time. Cheryl has had the power to bring people back to life, but if she uses her powers di lei to melt the comet, then everyone she’s revived will die. Apparently Veronica’s supernatural gift is that she can absorb other people’s powers. At some point she has the realization that if she magically takes on everyone else’s powers and then transfers them to Cheryl — via a hot lesbian kiss, naturally — it could be enough to save everyone.
I am truly delighted by all of this. I especially love thinking that there are likely hordes of Riverdale fans who never gave up on the show, and so all of these twists don’t seem so ludicrous to them. There are people who will read a recap of this season finale on EW.com, as I did today, stumble upon this passage, and think, “Yep, that makes sense!”: “Cheryl and Toni have to give their bodies over to the spirits of their ancestors and have sex. The quote of the episode goes to Cheryl: ‘Heather will keep our spirits in a jar until the love making ends.’ “
Listen, swing for the fences. Be bold. There are over 500 scripted series on TV. What is the point of being one of them if you don’t ask questions like, “What if a comet exploded and these characters who we’ve been following for six seasons suddenly travel back in time to the 1950s and somehow are also teenagers again ? “
Season 7 will apparently take place in this 1950s reset, which is actually meta in a few ways. It’s, of course, the time period most people associate with the original Archie comics. When Riverdale first premiered, skeptics were confused as to what the point was of using the Archie source material, if the series was going to be set in modern day and have little connection to the classic characters beyond their names and vague physical resemblances.
Well, all those critics needed was to wait six seasons, weather the eyebrow-raising introduction of supernatural powers, and wait for a comet to come racing towards the earth, and the Riverdale they’d always wanted would finally arrive.
I can’t get over it. Just spectacular.