Yes, Everything You're Hearing About 'Riverdale' Is True
Even the superpowers-ghost-possession-alternate-dimension-evil-wizard stuff.
The town of Riverdale, despite its classic, cozy retro aesthetic, is far from perfect, and has seen more than its fair share of messy, embarrassing, and downright insane scandals. The melodrama is exactly what makes the CW's Archie adaptation so much fun to watch, every juicy soap opera twist paving the way for a hundred more soap opera twists that all knot themselves together in a nightmarish spaghetti bolognese of sex, lies, and betrayal. If you've been meaning to catch up on the highlights before the next episode airs, or if you've got a hankering to re-live some of Riverdale's most outrageous moments, or if you've just been reading unbelievable recap headlines and need to know whether they're exaggerating, we're in the trenches (much like Archie was, apparently) keeping this updated log of everything going on in the show that has the most things going on of anything currently on television.
Jason Blossom's real murderer
The show kicks off with the murder of a key character, Cheryl Blossom's twin brother, Jason, who is lost in the Sweetwater River on July 4. Originally believed to have drowned, Jason is discovered days later washed up onshore with a gunshot wound to his head. Cheryl reveals that Jason had been making plans to run away with his flame, Betty Cooper's sister, Polly, and that the story about him drowning in the river was a lie. Jughead Jones' father, FP, at first attempts to take the fall for Jason's murder, but our heroes soon learn that FP is being blackmailed.
The show cycles through every possible suspect and reason for the murder before dropping the bomb: The Blossom patriarch, Clifford, killed his own son to keep him from revealing that the Blossom family’s maple syrup empire was in fact a sticky cover-up for Cliff’s real business: dealing drugs with the help of the Southside Serpents. Once Jason told his father he wanted no part in the real family business, Clifford Blossom did what he had to do. Cold!
Ms. Grundy's underage relationship with Archie
In the Archie comics, Mrs. Grundy is a gray-haired matron of a schoolteacher, but Riverdale remixes her a little bit -- well, a lot. Riverdale Grundy is very different: a slim, mid-30s blonde who has developed a relationship with the underage Archie that the two of them initially try to keep hidden over the course of the Jason Blossom investigation. The beans are spilled after Archie Andrews, ever the conscientious type, tells the sheriff about the gunshot they both heard on the morning of July 4 -- the morning of Jason Blossom's suspected murder -- after spending the night together. Not only was Grundy engaging in a relationship with an underage student, her name isn't even Ms. Grundy -- her real identity is Jennifer Gibson, cello prodigy, who ran away from her abusive ex-husband and changed her name so he could never find her. She leaves town shortly after she and Archie are discovered, leering over a pair of Lolita shades at two young high school boys in the street as she drives off.
At the start of Season 2, Grundy/Gibson has the honor of being the Black Hood's very first victim, strangled with the cello bow Archie gave her as a departure gift.
The fallout from Chuck Clayton's slut-shaming
Chuck Clayton, riding high on his golden-boy-of-the-football-team status, makes the mistake of attempting to spread false rumors about Veronica Lodge, going so far as to slut-shame her, claiming he'd given her a "Sticky Maple" during their date. Not the type to give in to sexual harassment, Veronica teams up with Betty to get the truth out of Chuck, handcuffing him inside a boiling hot tub until he confesses to what really happened between them on video. His confession breaks up the football team’s cabal of serial slut-shamers and gets the whole team suspended. Ever after, Betty is plagued with the knowledge that while she was forcing Chuck's confession to the surface while wearing her scary black wig, despite herself, she might have enjoyed being a little bit bad.
The secret of Polly's pregnancy
Betty Cooper's sister, Polly, is estranged from her family after her parents rejected her relationship with Jason Blossom. When Betty, frustrated with her parents' lies about her sister, goes to visit Polly in her group home at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, Polly reveals that she's pregnant with none other than Jason Blossom's baby, and had plans to run away with him after he faked his own death by drowning. Over the course of the season, Polly bounces from house to house as the respective families of Riverdale try to assert dominance over her. She eventually ends up in the Blossom household, where, she believes, is the best place to figure out who offed her former lover.
After her mother, Alice Cooper, kicks her father, Hal, out of their house when she learns he had tried to forcibly convince Polly to get an abortion, it's revealed in possibly the most soap opera twist of the show that the Cooper family actually shares Blossom blood, which means Polly's baby and past relationship with Jason are a teensy bit incestuous.
The identity of the Black Hood
The mystery that surrounds Season 2 is the identity of the Black Hood: Who is he, why is he murdering people, why does he keep calling Betty on her cell phone, and where will he strike next? He's introduced at the end of Season 1 as a man in a mask who nearly fatally wounds Archie's father in Pop's Chock'lit Shoppe, and in the Season 2 premiere, he strangles the doomed Ms. Grundy with her own cello bow. He sees himself as a cleanse, targeting Riverdale citizens whom he knows have sinned -- adulterers, drug users, those who have sex before marriage. He isolates Betty from her friends after her rousing speech at the 75th Anniversary Jubilee "inspires" him to go on a killing spree, threatening her into doing what he tells her to do and repeatedly telling her the two of them aren't so different from each other.
That makes perfect sense when it's finally revealed that Hal Cooper, Betty's own father, is the Black Hood, after the school janitor was wrongly accused. He tells Betty that her speech about making Riverdale a better place reminded him of his promise to his own mother, wherein he swore that the town of Riverdale must do better.
The scourge of jingle jangle
There's a new drug on the streets of Riverdale: the hilariously named, but highly addictive jingle jangle, whose suppliers, the Ghoulies, nearly kill Jughead in their crusade to run the Southside Serpents off their land. The drug leads to the murders of two students, victims of the Black Hood, who lists drug use as one of his many punishable sins. Jingle jangle was also used as an excuse by Mayor McCoy to shut down Southside High, after she mistakenly learns that it's being supplied to the residents of Riverdale by Southside Serpents.
The identity of the "Sugarman," the maker of the drug, provides one of many of Season 2's subplots, as the five friends attempt to figure out who is making the drug so they can stop him. It turns out to be none other than Jughead's Southside High English teacher Robert Phillips, who inspired him to revitalize the school paper.
Nick St. Clair's entire menacing arc
Riverdale is full of murder, drugs, extortion, and violence, but one of the baddest villains to ever walk its ominous streets is Nick St. Clair, the son of Hiram Lodge's shady business partners. (Seriously, how did it take Veronica so long to discover her dad was a mobster??) At first a debonair newcomer from Veronica's past, Nick swiftly exposes himself as a manipulative would-be sexual assaulter after he attempts to force himself on Veronica during a party and nearly drugs and rapes Cheryl mere days later, his plans foiled by the badass Pussycats. When the Black Hood asks Betty to tell him who to kill next, she gives him Nick's name, but later tells his family to get out of town because they're not safe. Nick pays off Penelope Blossom so she'll drop the charges against him, but as soon as the Lodges learn he tried to assault their daughter, Hiram engineers a convenient car crash that leaves Nick severely injured.
In a bizarre twist, Nick returns to Riverdale months later, still harboring a grudge against the five friends. He kidnaps Archie and tries to use him as collateral to goad Veronica into sleeping with him, but is bested again when Veronica uses his own drugs against him, and she and Archie hold Nick for ransom instead.
"Chic's" identity theft
Polly isn't the only Cooper to have gotten pregnant too young. Before her two daughters, Alice Cooper had also had a child named Charles whom she gave up for adoption after he was born. Feeling guilty over lying to her family for so long and abandoning her child, Alice welcomes the creepy "Chic" back into the Coopers' lives, though Betty's not so happy about it and makes it clear that she doesn't feel safe around her half-brother. When a mysterious guy comes to the house asking for Chic, Chic kills him in a panic, bashing his head with a lamp. Betty and Alice are forced to clean up the mess before anyone can find out about it, and the murder weighs heavily on Betty throughout the season.
Chic, meanwhile, seems to be systematically manipulating the Coopers, cutting them one by one out of the family. Alice exiles Hal from the house after she learns he almost convinced Polly to get an abortion, Polly announces she's moving out of the house to San Francisco, and Chic uses Betty's own paranoia about him to drive a wedge between her and her mother.
Later, the Coopers learn that Chic isn't their long-lost brother after all, but merely an impostor. He'd met and befriended the real Charles out on the streets, tragically killing him after a fight in their apartment got out of hand. Sick of his manipulations, Betty sends Chic out to the Black Hood as bait, and Chic is last seen running for his life.
Cheryl's gay conversion therapy
Halfway through Season 2, Cheryl Blossom goes through a bit of a change. She, seemingly randomly, befriends Josie McCoy, hanging out with her between classes and in the music room. When she learns Josie and Chuck Clayton have a flirtation, Cheryl leaves Josie drawn pictures of her and creepy gifts in order to drive her away from Chuck. A few episodes later, Cheryl befriends Toni Topaz, a displaced Southside Serpent who sees through Cheryl's hard shell. Cheryl confesses to Toni that her mother had broken up the only real relationship she'd ever had with another girl named Heather in middle school.
Meanwhile, convinced her mother and her uncle are plotting to kill her and her grandmother off and steal the Blossom fortune, Cheryl and her efforts to find the truth force her mother to send her to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, where they attempt abusive conversion therapy. With the help of Kevin Keller, Toni, and Veronica, Cheryl escapes, tells her mother she'll no longer stand for her abuse, and, at the end of the season, joins the Southside Serpents.
The Lodges' real estate scheme that ends with Archie in prison
Midway through Season 2, Hiram and Hermione Lodge reveal their secret plan to convert the land they've purchased in Riverdale and the Southside into a housing development for employees of a new prison, constructed in the building that used to be Southside High. Since the first season, Hiram has been quietly buying up properties, like the Twilight Drive-In and Pop's, to make way for his business venture, and plotting with rival gangs to take down the Southside Serpents. His "SoDale" project ignited a protest by the Serpents because it's being planned on Southside land -- sacred land that was stolen from the native Uktena tribe hundreds of years ago by a man who the citizens of Riverdale now celebrate with Pickens Day.
Later in Season 2, unable to break up Archie and Veronica's relationship, Hiram decides to bring Archie into the fold, testing his loyalty while Archie believes he's spying on the Lodges for the FBI. The agent, who keeps appearing to Archie at inconvenient moments and threatening him and his father, is revealed to be a plant by Hermione to test him.
In order to consolidate his hold over Riverdale and the Southside, Hiram attempts to purchase one last property: the Whyte Wyrm, the Serpents' local hangout. But his own daughter Veronica gets there first, saying she'll trade the Wyrm, plus her stake in the family business, for Pop's, because the diner is the last place she and her friends can call home. Hiram agrees to the terms, but at the very end of the finale, in order to break up Veronica and her friends, Hiram has Archie arrested right after he's elected student body president.
Archie joins a prison fight club
After Hiram Lodge frames Archie for killing one of the dudes who broke into the lake house in Season 2, our good boy is sent to jail -- well, juvenile detention -- at the start of Season 3, where he's immediately shanghaied into joining a prison fight club after he singlehandedly starts a riot amongst the inmates. The rich and corrupt bet on the inmates used like gladiators to fuel the crooked warden's bloodlust, and even if you win, you lose. Archie's branded by the warden and stabbed by former Serpent Joaquin, but escapes with the help of his friends as they act out a prison break in a secret bunker in the woods.
Veronica, determined to clear Archie's name as he hides out, finds interview footage on her father's computer that exonerates Archie. All the charges against him are dropped, but out of some weird sense of honor, he leaves town with Jughead, breaking up with Veronica as he does.
The G&G craze takes over Riverdale
Griffons and Gargoyles, an analog of our real-world game Dungeons and Dragons, is the new Thing sweeping Riverdale, taking the town by storm after Xeroxed handbooks appear in everyone's lockers at school. First, Betty and Jughead find out that kids are playing a game that involves drinking from poisoned chalices after two boys die, each babbling about "ascension" and "the Gargoyle King" -- who happens to actually be a cloaked, skull-headed figure stalking the woods. Jughead starts playing the game and gets in deep, figuring out that it's a kind of metaphor for Riverdale itself, the players performing actions in the real world as ascribed by the game. One of the boys who died had symbols carved into his back, which correspond to the same symbol branded onto Archie by the warden. The warden drinks the G&G cyanide himself after he "failed to ascend" when Archie survived and escaped the fight club. Our heroes later catch a resurrected Tall Boy, who never died in the first place, acting as the Gargoyle King in the service of Hiram Lodge, but he turns out not to be the real deal.
Meanwhile, spontaneous seizures are plaguing the town: first Betty, then Ethel Muggs, then Josie, then an entire cheerleading squad. Betty is sent away to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, where she and Ethel, along with the other girls, are drugged with fizzle rocks and forced to accept the Goblin King into their hearts. Betty stages another escape, first locking Ethel in a dark room with the "Goblin King," which actually turns out to be just a stone gargoyle statue that the inmates hallucinate is real. She and Ethel team up to help the other inmates escape the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, giving them refuge in Betty's home.
A flashback indicts the Riverdale parents in some weird shit
As soon as Griffons and Gargoyles rears its ugly head, the parents of our teen heroes decide to do whatever they can to keep the game from taking root in their town again. A Breakfast Club-style flashback episode, called "The Midnight Club," reveals that when the parents were kids and attending Riverdale High, they started playing the game during detention, which resulted in one violent night where Principal Featherhead was murdered. Alice tells Betty that she believes it was one of their club, because they were the only people in the school that night.
Betty and Jughead investigate everyone's parents, and Betty gathers all of them in Veronica's speakeasy in the basement of Pop's, where she questions all of them about what happened that night. Penelope Blossom tells her that Darryl Doiley, father of one of the murdered boys from the beginning of the season, killed Principal Featherhead, later committing suicide out of guilt. Betty later finds out that Darryl died from oleander poisoning, not cyanide, as is used in G&G. The only person who could know about the lethal powers of oleander is Riverdale's own Poison Ivy, Penelope Blossom herself -- who, by the way, is now working as a dominatrix madam at "The Maple Club."
The Farm is a G&G-affiliated cult
At the end of the Season 3 premiere, Betty suffers a seizure after she watches her mother, her sister, and a group of women in white dresses seem to levitate Polly's babies over a fire. It turns out that these women are members of "the Farm," a mysterious organization that Betty immediately suspects is a cult. Betty meets the creepy Evelyn Evernever, daughter of Edgar Evernever, the leader of the Farm, who tries to convince Betty to join. Betty befriends Evelyn in order to get more information about the Farm, and is shocked when Alice tells her that she revealed all of their family secrets -- in Betty's eyes, giving the cult members some primo blackmail material.
When Betty returns from the Sisters of Quiet Mercy with all the inmates, Alice at first houses them in the Coopers' home, before sending them all to the Farm as new recruits. She also informs Betty that she liquidated her college fund to give to the Farm as a donation. Later, Betty interviews a former Farm member, who says she left after her sister died during a "baptism," where new members are nearly drowned in order to reach "ascension" (sound familiar?). Betty saves her mother, who is being held down in a tub of water by Polly, but when Alice wakes up she says she is reborn and will sell the Cooper family house so they can all be together at the Farm.
Will Betty's family escape the Farm's clutches? Who is the Gargoyle King really? Will the town of Riverdale ever be free from this nerdy, deadly fantasy roleplaying game? This season is so cuckoo-bananas already it's impossible to tell what's going to happen next.
Jughead is "murdered"
The first half of Season 4's episodes ended with flash-forwards to a shocking and untimely death: that of Jughead Jones, who appeared to have been murdered, for some reason, by his best friends. Obviously there's more to the story here, and it all began when Jughead accepted an invitation to attend Stonewall Prep, the private school near Riverdale, and entered into the Quill and Skull society, a creepy Secret History-esque clique led by their English teacher Mr. Chipping and a powerful, egotistical fellow student named Bret Weston Wallis (yes, really). After Mr. Chipping kills himself by jumping out of a window, Jughead is apparently "murdered" by Betty during Spring Break, but it was later revealed to be the work of the Quill and Skull members, who thought they were framing Betty for the perfect crime. When Jughead survives, he, Betty, Archie, and Veronica playact their own arrests and hold a fake funeral to smoke out the Quill and Skull society's guilt.
After the Black Hood was revealed to be Betty's father, Betty began to suspect that some of his badness had genetically rubbed off onto her. She discovers that she has the "serial killer gene" MAO-A (a real gene that predicts aggression, but not necessarily serial killing), and starts to believe herself capable of murder. When the Quill and Skull society finds this out, they attempt to frame her for murder, claiming that Betty has a hidden "trigger word" that will unlock her dark side and make her capable of killing, without knowing or remembering what she's doing. Even though she ultimately didn't murder Jughead, the serial killer gene hangs over her into subsequent seasons. She even refers to it as her "Mark of Cain" that dooms her to an eternity of torment and makes her a target for dark forces.
Through the rest of Season 4 and into Season 5, the citizens of Riverdale are plagued by a sinister videographer who keeps leaving surveillance videotapes on their doorsteps as strange threats. Betty, deep into her junior FBI training, is led to a secret snuff film video club, the members of which refer to the videotape bandit as "The Auteur." Their identity is ultimately revealed to be Jellybean, Jughead's little sister, and her friends, who were making the strange videotapes because she was upset that Jughead was about to leave town and go off to college.
The seven-year time jump
No one can stay in high school forever, and Riverdale's finest finally graduate with their senior class, each going their separate ways until they all end up back in their hometown seven years later. Archie joined the army and went "to war," though where exactly this war was we'll never know; Betty joined the FBI and was captured by and then escaped from the Trash Bag Killer, or TBK (a play on the real-life serial killer BTK, of course), an event that still haunts her, Silence of the Lambs-style; Veronica lives in New York City with her controlling husband and owns a jewelry store, riffing in one memorable scene on the Safdie brothers' Uncut Gems; and Jughead is a struggling alcoholic writer living in an apartment with his girlfriend Tabitha and hiding from debt collectors. All of them are summoned back to Riverdale by Archie, who wants them to, once again, save the town from itself.
The Moth Men and the Rat King
The rest of Season 5 is dominated by animal-themed villains in the form of the alien-like Moth Men that keep showing up in the woods and kidnapping people, and Jughead's paranoid visions of the Rat King, which he sees whenever he goes on a particularly bad bender. Jughead realizes that the Rat King is a manifestation of his substance abuse problems and vows to clean up his act, and the Moth Men are eventually revealed to be inbred members of the Blossom clan who have been living in the woods and preying on people traveling down the Lonely Highway—one of their victims turns out to be Betty's older sister Polly, whom she thought was murdered by serial killer truckers.
Hiram Lodge tried to blow up Archie and Betty
Actor Mark Consuelos left the show with a bang, his character Hiram Lodge performing one last act of callousness before going his merry way. At the close of Season 5, Betty and Archie are taking a tumble in Archie's bed, when they discover a bomb hidden underneath rigged to explode right that second. The bomb goes off, and the resulting explosion launched the show into a parallel universe for a few episodes, allowing this alternate world to leak bits of itself into Riverdale proper (see below). For his crimes, Veronica orders a hit on her father and has him killed.
For five episodes, the start of Season 6 welcomed us to "Rivervale," an alternate universe version of Riverdale where the supernatural is all too real. Archie is the victim of a ritual sacrifice, Betty hunts down La Llorona, Sabrina Spellman shows up to tell Cheryl that her body is inhabited by the soul of her witchy ancestor, and the Devil himself turns up to make a few sinister deals with Riverdale's citizens. Rivervale's Jughead realizes there are cracks in the foundation of this parallel universe, and he locks a double of himself in a bunker to continue writing Rivervale's stories on his typewriter, which is the only way for that universe to survive. All is not, however, well, after he manages to interdimensionally call Riverdale-Betty on her phone and warn her and Archie away from the house, saving them from the bomb's blast but allowing supernatural forces to enter their universe.
Everyone has superpowers
After we return to Riverdale, everyone discovers that they basically have superpowers now. Archie is indestructible, Betty can see people's auras, Jughead can read minds and open portals to other universes, Veronica can poison people, Tabitha is an angel time traveler, and Cheryl is a pyrokinetic witch (before this, she was also haunted by the twin she absorbed in the womb, but there's only room for so many entries in this list). Eventually, they discover that their powers are the result of Rivervale bleeding into Riverdale, Rivervale-Jughead's comics in which they're all superheroes having a strange influence over their real lives.
An evil wizard is trying to take over Riverdale
With great power comes great responsibility, and with superpowers comes a supervillain—in this case, in the form of Percival Pickens, a mincing Brit who swans into Riverdale and begins methodically turning it upside-down, reshaping it into his image. He is thwarted at almost every turn by our heroes, but also happens to possess actual magic powers, thanks to a deal he made with the Devil to become immortal at the expense of his soul. He attempts to corral Riverdale's residents by threatening to imprison them for overdue library books and setting Biblical plagues upon the town. It just so happens that Percival himself is from Rivervale, having crossed over accidentally after the bomb blast with a plan to build a "ghost train" to summon an undead army to destroy Riverdale as revenge for the town's settler ancestors trying to kill him in the 1500s.
He ends up killing half of the main characters with the final plague, the death of all the firstborn sons, but they're resurrected with the help of Sabrina, back again, who imbues the Riverdale ladies with actual magic powers and allows them to walk through the realm of the dead. They discover that Riverdale—specifically, Pop's Diner—is built on top of a "Hellmouth," an area of dark magical power that also happens to be the site of what would have been Percival's untimely death, which he is planning to use to bring the realm of the dead into the realm of the living. Classic Riverdale!