Welcome to the beginning of the end. Tonight was the start of final season of Riverdale, a show which I begrudgingly agreed to starting writing recaps. Fun fact: I really didn’t enjoy the first season of Riverdale. I thought it was so bad that I could just start recapping season 2 without having watched the first half of the season Smartly, I didn’t actually do that. I watched all of season 2 before beginning my Riverdale recaps with season 3 here at The Beat.
And I’m glad I did! Season 2 really pulled me in. Season 3, even more so. And now here we are, 118 (!!!) episodes into the show, ready to start the final season.
So let’s catch up, in case you forgot how season 6 of Riverdale ended. The gang was trapped in the parallel universe of Rivervale. Local immortal evil wizard Percival Pickins (Chris O’Shea) used dark magic to summon Bailey’s Comet on a collision course with the town. The comet was diverted by the arcane might of Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) powered by the life forces of her friends in a very the X-Men saving the M’kraan Crystal kind of way. They succeeded! ..well, sort of. They saved Riverdale but the gang found themselves in the Riverdale of the Archie Comics that inspired the show, and in 1955.
That brings us to up to speed with tonight’s season premiere. It’s 1955. The gang are all back in high school. It’s Veronica’s (Camila Mendes) first day of school. She just moved from Bel Air. Her parents, stars and producers of the hit TV show Oh, Mija, didn’t join her. Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and Tabitha Tate (Erinn Westbrook) are not a couple. Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) are a couple. Kevin is definitely not out of the closet. Neither is Cheryl. Oh, and Cheryl’s brother is alive. But it’s not Jason Blossom. It’s Julian Blossom (Nicholas Barasch), played by a completely different actor. Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) and Tabitha just returned from Mississippi, where they watched Emmett Till’s murderers escape courtroom justice. Jughead, and only Jughead, remembers the way things are supposed to be.
The episode mostly revolves around Jughead trying to get his friends to remember when they’re really from. While talking to Archie (KJ Apa), who can’t find his dad’s hammer, Jughead remembers that Archie put that hammer in the time capsule they buried under the football field. Under the cover of darkness, Jughead digs up that time capsule, watched by a person in the shadows. Jughead doesn’t question why the time capsule, which they buried in 2021, exists in Riverdale 1955, but I do. I guess the whole town from 2023 has been displaced to 1955, not just the people, but the buildings as well. Cars and homes look like they’re from 1955, but the contents of the time capsule seemed buried maybe just deep enough to still look they were from the future.
Jughead empties the time capsule to the gang, hoping it will jog (jug?) their memories. It doesn’t. Veronica even comments that she’s seen a lot of really well designed props from her time in Hollywood, and that these are just okay. Jughead makes a note of the fact that the only thing missing from the time capsule is his beanie from the first few seasons of Riverdale. Archie worries about Jughead. He says if Jughead keeps acting like this in front of people, talking about science fiction time travel, he’s going to get himself committed to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy.
Toni writes an article on Emmett Till for the school newspaper, but Principal Featherhead, who looks an awful lot like the comic version of Principal Weatherbee, kills it. Betty tries to intervene on Toni’s behalf, but gets nowhere. So Betty, Toni, Tabitha and Cheryl hatch a plot that involves Tabitha faking an illness outside so that Cheryl can hand over the morning announcement microphone to Toni so that she can read Mississippi 1955 by Langston Hughes. The girls get into trouble after this. Featherhead bans all poetry during the announcements without his prior approval.
Even though she barely knows him now, Jughead tries to connect with Tabitha. He offers to help her in any way that he can, in light of the hard time she’s going through after Emmett Till’s murderers walked away free. She takes him up on the offer later in the episode.
But Jughead is still surprised to see her in his booth at Pop’s. Only it’s not 1955 Tabitha. It’s Riverdale guardian angel Tabitha from 2023. During their conversation, she reminds Jughead of her favorite quote, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Tabitha tells Jughead that they failed in stopping the comet, but she’s working on righting things. She shunted everyone back to the past as a backup plan while she figures out their extinction by comet problem. But she can’t have him trying to make the others remember. She was the one watching him from the shadows as he dug up the time capsule.
Tabith tells Jughead she needs him to forget, and gives him a kiss that makes him forget everything. Jughead races home to write down his memories of the future. But he only manages to type three words, “bend. towards. justice.” He doesn’t know what to make of it, or of the beanie that he doesn’t recognize that just mysteriously appeared on his desk.
I’m kind of bummed that Riverdale moved away from the serial killer of the season to this more science fiction and fantasy overtones that have defined the last two seasons. I was really hoping the series ended up being about the darkening of Betty Cooper. I thought we were heading to a final season saw her finally give into the dark side. Betty as the season’s big bad. But from the looks of things, we’re lining up for Jughead wanting to set things right and Archie wanting to stay in this hazy facsimile of reality. I feel like we’ve been here before.