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I Made Sense of the Riverdale Mid-Season Finale So You Don’t Have To

            Ah, Riverdale—a show that went from being pretty solid in its first season before taking a turn for the worst, getting even more confusing to watch from second-hand embarrassment as the years went on. But even as it’s commonly become the butt of many Twitter memes and Tik Tok jokes over the past couple of years, my friend and I have made a habit of religiously watching the episodes unfold over Zoom this past year, purely for the humorous content being a relief from homework.  

            As we reliably laugh and frown at our screens when every new episode airs on Wednesdays, we’ve tried to come up with our own theory of why the show is such a mess these days. We both agreed a few months ago on what the main problem is, and still holds true to this day, even with the show’s seven-year time jump: there are far too many plot lines in the show that almost never come together, that are devoid of any common logic and are then soon abandoned. When watching the fifth mid-season finale together, released on March 31st, we sat and listed every plotline currently happening in the town with pep, and came up with 21 answers that filled up my notebook page. All of this leads to a new scene in what seems like every 10 seconds, leaving pretty much everyone in their audience not only unable to follow along with the unstable plot lines, but those that kind of make sense soon lose their value as well. 

            So, here’s a breakdown of what’s happened recently for everyone who’s abandoned the sinking Riverdale ship, those who have never seen it, or maybe those who watched the episode along with us and may have an entirely different interpretation of it. Although I counted 44 scenes in its 43 minutes, here are a few of those summarized into pieces that may offer may be a clue of what happened in the most significant stories.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Scene 1: Starting out with a bang (but more like I hit my head and was confused on how I got here), Jughead and Tabitha, the new girl in town working at Pop’s Diner, kiss with absolutely no context while dancing to Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran. And unfortunately, it was all downhill from here.

Scene 6: Jughead and his editor talk on the phone about him submitting an excerpt of his new book to “Pop Culture Weekly,” which isn’t noteworthy for any reason other than that the writers decided to make his editor overly concerned with eating a hot dog in the woods. 

Scene 15: When Tabitha apologizes to Jughead for kissing him, he decides to totally switch gears and says that the last time he needed to write something important for his career, he took a psychedelic trip on “maple mushrooms” that let him access some wild visions that gave him inspiration. He asks Tabitha to watch over him to make sure he doesn’t do anything too crazy while he’s on them again, but she rejects. I can’t make this up. 

Scene 16: Veronica reveals to Archie that after a party at “Marsha’s Vineyard,” she and her husband Chadwick crashed their helicopter and ended up in the hospital, causing her to stay with him out of guilt. I should mention that Veronica’s whole personality revolves about being a married woman this season. She says once she visits Chad one last time, she and Archie can be together forever. The best part about this scene was, once Veronica very clearly explained what happened to them that night that made her wake up in the hospital, Archie asked, “Wait, what? Like, the helicopter crashed?” Classic. 

Scene 18: Cheryl yells at her grandmother, Nana Rose, for selling the maple groves to Hiram Lodge, and rips up the contract then dramatically throws it in the fire. It’s later revealed that Nana Rose doesn’t have the authority to do that, so yet again, Cheryl just used it as an opportunity to be dramatic in high-heeled boots. 

Scene 21: While having a romantic dinner, Betty’s FBI boyfriend, Glenn, reveals that he’s writing his dissertation on her family for his term paper, and she slaps him across the face. Girl power, I guess?

Scene 26: After Jughead’s ex-girlfriend delivers the legendary laced mushrooms to the restaurant (because this is a great message for the show’s younger viewers), Tabitha cooks them into a burger she made for him and decides to leave. This seems morally wrong, but okay.

Scene 28: Hiram apparently had a bomb that blew a hole in his prison, letting every inmate escape, including Cheryl’s mom Penelope, who has the look like she’s a werewolf who finally gets to howl at the full moon. Seems totally logical and legal. He then decides to commit arson and burns Cheryl’s maple trees down. I’m serious, where is the law enforcement in this town, or in the state for that matter? Who is letting this happen? 

Scene 30: While Alice and Betty are preparing for Juniper and Dagwood’s birthday party (don’t even get me started on those names), Alice’s criminal son, Charles, walks in with his prison uniform on, and not only that, but Chic, his partner-in-crime boyfriend from season 2, also skips in cheerfully. In case you’re uninformed, they’ve had a secret relationship in prison, and now they want to be married because Alice apparently has obtained the power to be a minister through the magical powers of the internet. She’s way too excited, even when they pull out weapons. And excuse me, where did they get those? Later on, it gets violent, and this is where I was uncontrollably laughing, not because it was funny, but because I was uncomfortable with the energy that was *literally* created in the studio today.

Scene 32: The other escaped prisoners start to attack Archie in a power outage at the high school, tragically ruining his parent-teacher night, and he naturally overpowers everyone with random objects in hand in an epically choreographed fight scene. The directors decided to add some techno music to the drama to make it even better. All of this force should’ve severely injured Archie, being realistic, but of course, he walks away without a scratch. The parents shrug, as if this happens all the time. 

Scene 37: Penelope waltzes into Cheryl’s house, casually greets her “nightmare child” after not seeing her for seven years, and says everything outside is on fire. They all start to pray for the fire to stop before it burns their house, and apparently, it works, because the fire just eradicates itself with no water. Riverdale has made it to the point where it can defy basic science with no explanation. 

Scene 38: After Veronica casually accuses Chad of crashing their helicopter (because, you know, why not?) he doesn’t sign the divorce papers and instead involves her in his new scheme of debt, making it so that she can’t divorce him or he’ll testify against her in court, but calls her “babe” in the process. We love a healthy relationship!

Scene 42: Hiram applauds himself for committing arson and vandalism as his ploy to take over the town of Riverdale. Disappointing, but not surprising. 

Scene 44: In the last scene, Tabitha goes to bring Jughead another burger (this time not laced with psychedelics), but he’s vanished after he headed toward a bright light at the end of the tunnel of the bunker. No thoughts. Head empty. But honestly, are we surprised?

         Riverdale season 5 is reportedly returning to the CW later this summer on Wednesday, July 7th. Until then, we’ll have to live on a prayer that it hopefully makes more sense this time around. 

Hailey Hummel

Washington '23

Hailey is a current junior at the University of Washington, majoring in Public Health—Global Health and minoring in Law, Societies, and Justice. She loves hiking, traveling around the state of Washington and the world, making art, playing piano, taking pictures, and spending time with her friends.
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