We’re officially not in Riverdale any longer! “Chapter Ninety-Six: Welcome to Rivervale” introduces fans to a whole new universe, one that is definitely a lot darker than we are used to. The series stars KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Madelaine Petsch, Mӓdchen Amick, Casey Cott, Charles Melton, Vanessa Morgan, Erinn Westbrook, and Drew Ray Tanner. For the remainder of this recap, we will be getting into heavy spoilers; so only continue reading if you’ve seen episode 6×01.
WELCOME TO RIVERVALE — Following the explosion that ended Season Five, a new day dawns in the town of RiverVALE, where everything is as it should be. Veronica (Camila Mendes) and Reggie (Charles Melton) are now the town’s power couple, while Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and Tabitha (Erinn Westbrook) move in together. But with Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) demanding a return to the “old ways,” this serenity will surely not last. And how could Archie (KJ Apa) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) possibly have survived?
So let’s start off with the obvious: Rivervale is an alternate universe. How do we know this? Well, there’s many different signs but the opening monologue by Jughead pretty much spells it out for us. He tells us how this is a place of nightmares and dreamscapes, a place where folklore and myth carry the weight of fact and truth, a place where superstitious and their laws overshadow the laws of science, and a place where old traditions die hard, if they die at all. He also promises that while this town might seem familiar, it is not that same town. Plus, the “where everything is as it should be” in the summary backs all of this 100%. This means that the five episode event can all still be “canon,” but it is not actually Riverdale or the characters we know and love. This happened in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s final season and explains how Sabrina is still alive in this universe. At certain points of the episode, Jughead also breaks the fourth wall, talking to audiences and transitioning scenes for us.
Toni and Fangs are struggling with baby Anthony, who is crying constantly. Jughead does inform us that they are still a couple. Dr. Curdle reveals that Tony has colic though they reject his treatment choice. Fangs tells Toni about how his grandmother offered her own solution to the problem: leave baby Anthony on a tree stump in Fox Forest overnight. Apparently, Serpent mothers, including Fangs,’ did this and it worked. Toni seems unsure, but she does go through with it. She runs into Cheryl in the woods and the second the redhead holds the baby, he finally stops crying. Cheryl says it must be her perfume and offers to help Toni by mixing some for her, but says she needs Toni’s help in return.
Jughead and Tabitha seem to still be going strong, getting ready to move in together. While this makes sense from what we last saw, what isn’t expected is that Archie and Betty are the ones helping them get settled in their new place. Considering the history, its strange to see the interactions, though is extremely nice to see Archie and Jughead doing something as normal as discussing boxes of comic books. We know that history definitely exists because Tabitha and Betty discuss it as well as their new relationships. Betty claims that she finally has a definitive answer to if she will end up with Archie or Jughead.
Their first night together, Tabitha sees a spider and Jughead immediately kills it, which upsets Tabitha who is nervous about bad luck. She admits that she just doesn’t want anything to jinx them but Jughead assures her that they’ll be fine. He jokes about how it’s not like they’re cursed now, but audiences know that’s exactly what Cheryl did back in Riverdale. We clearly see that those superstitions should have been feared as Jughead pours out bugs instead of cereal for breakfast. The next night, Tabitha wakes up screaming, saying something is biting her. Jughead doesn’t see anything, but comforts her as best as he can. However, they wake up in the morning with bites covering their skin. Tabitha says they need to call an exterminator. While the storyline is definitely a weird one, both characters are at least written in character.
Veronica and Reggie are Rivervale’s power couple, as expected, still working on their new casino. Veronica’s past actions are also being acknowledged as we are reminded that she can’t go back to New York for the time being. Reggie overhears and Veronica uses the chance to say she is all in on both the casino and Rivervale. Reggie questions it, obviously feeling insecure, but Veronica reassures him. The quote “everything that’s meant to be, finally is” is another indication that this is not the reality we are used to. Veronica, still trying with Reggie, surprises him with a bed full of money to show her appreciation for him both as a partner and boyfriend.
Though, that surprise doesn’t go far when Reggie sees the finalized blueprints for the casino, which is missing an office for him. He’s clearly hurt that Veronica seemingly doesn’t see him as an equal partner. Veronica says she will call and they’ll redraw the plans, but the damage is done.
Alice and Frank are clearly flirting, but Frank seems to be making excuses to stop it from going further. Alice confronts him about it, putting all her cards of the table, and he tells her that he can’t go there. Alice makes a reference to how she falls for the “strong, silent type” every time, which is clearly a reference to FP. Frank later reveals to Alice how he was married when he was a mercenary and had a daughter. Both were killed and he’s not ready to open up to those feelings again. Alice understands, suggesting that instead they go to the maple festival together.
Surprisingly, Jughead reveals how Archie and Betty are living together. This informs the audience that something is off immediately since Jughead never found out about their decision to try a real relationship or even their former friends with benefits arrangement. He does add how they are “all good friends,” which also seemed forced. Upstairs, we hear the tick of the bomb that was under the couple’s bed in the season five finale, but instead of picking up there, we see Archie shooting up in bed from a nightmare. He tells Betty about it and she has no recollection of the fact that this actually happened. To prove the fact that they are in an alternate universe even more, Archie reveals that they were in a town called Riverdale in the dream, which amuses Betty. We do get to see the pair acting as a normal couple, but its clearly already established rather than two people who just got together.
Another piece of evidence that this is the case is when Archie tells Betty about how his mother is asking about a grandchild, which she asked about “last time she was here.” They both seem to want a baby, but Betty doesn’t want to rush. We also find out Betty and Archie decided marriage wasn’t for them. A small detail in this scene to notice is that Betty seemingly just came back from walking Vegas, who had died in Riverdale. Though their plans do not seem possible when we find out that Betty actually can’t have children, but Dr. Curdle also reveals that she is the fifth young and healthy woman that has come to see him with this result.
Betty doesn’t tell Archie what happened, instead saying maybe they should adopt a baby. Archie says how his father told him the most fulfilling thing he ever did was become a father and that he wants to do that with her, every step of the process. We then get that line from the promo that sent everyone into a spiral as she tells him that there is nothing more that she wans than to have his baby. Luckily, with the actual context behind the words, it makes sense for this universe. She also tells him that she loves him, which is the first time we hear these words from the couple. It isn’t some big moment, it’s sweet and has clearly been said before in Rivervale. He assures her that it’ll happen.
Kevin calls the pair into the woods to show them a deer who looks like it was sacrificed. Whoever did it also took the deer’s heart. Cheryl shows up to inform them that they are trespassing and that Cheryl will be taking possession of the body. At a town hall meeting, we find out that Cheryl declared Thornhill a sovereign state so the town’s maple syrup supply and revenue is gone. Archie proposes maple saplings be planted to try to solve the issue.
Cheryl tells her girls and Nana Rose that she believes their maple trees have become dry and lifeless because they have forgotten the old ways. She talks about “she who walks amongst the trees,” who provided for them. She says the Maple Maiden is now punishing them for forgetting her, so Cheryl says they must return to the old ways and pay tribute to her. The female is definitely not happy when she confronts Archie about his maple plan and it’s clear these two are going to be going head to head for the rest of the episode. Cheryl also brings up what his ancestors did, which is another hint that canon is still valid.
She and her girls make poppets to honor the Maple Maiden, which will serve as a warning to Archie and his crew as well. They still go through with the saplings, though the crew was clearly spooked. Betty ends up borrowing the doll, wanting to compare it to something she saw in old FBI evidence. Those saplings ends up being destroyed and Archie blames Cheryl, though she denies she had any involvement. Toni backs her up and Cheryl announces her olive branch, inviting the town to a maple festival. The council have accepted the invitation and Toni says everyone will be going. Betty is able to match the doll to another one, which has Rose Blossom’s initials on it. She approaches Cheryl, accusing her of killing the deer in the woods. Cheryl, of course, denies it and dismisses the blonde.
Cheryl visits Tabitha to get pancakes for her maple festival eating contest, allowing us to see a dynamic that we didn’t usually see in Riverdale. The redhead notices the bites and Tabitha shares what’s going on at the apartment as well as her concerns. Cheryl says she can help with a cleansing formula, but again, it comes with a price. She requests her and Jughead’s full participation in the festival’s events. We then see Cheryl making a pie that will contain the sins of the entire town and needs to be consumed by someone chosen.
Archie and Betty fill each other in on everything regarding Cheryl, Betty commenting how something evil is happening at Thornhill. With Cheryl clearly planning something, Betty says they need to go so that she can find out what’s going on. With that, the time has finally come for the maple festival, though things seem off from the very first interaction that Archie and Betty have with Toni and Fangs. Before they part ways, Toni is sure to wish Archie good luck, which naturally confuses the redhead.
Cheryl and Veronica discuss how Reggie’s old insecurities are starting up again and Veronica comments about how soon enough, he’ll be comparing himself to Archie. This is proof that Veronica and Archie’s history is also in play here. Cheryl offers Veronica an idea to solve that, which is now the third deal she’s made. Jughead gets Archie to be his opponent in the pancake eating competition and shockingly, the redhead wins. Again, such a red flag that something is off because there is no way Jughead would lose. This does lead to a really sweet moment with Jughead telling Archie how he’s like a brother to him and that he loves him. Though the delivery and context is not ideal, the dialogue makes it a moment we did not get nearly enough of in Riverdale, so it’s hard not to appreciate it when we’ve been begging for more of the pair’s friendship.
Cheryl manages to make another deal, this time with Alice and Fred so that they can move forward together just in time for the next challenge, which has Archie and Reggie going head to head. Archie wins again, which Reggie is annoyed about and Veronica attempts to reassure her boyfriend that he was supposed to lose, which again doesn’t make sense. Going even further, she tells Reggie that after tonight, he won’t have to worry about being second to Archie ever again. At this point, we know something sinister is happening and that the target is Archie.
They do try to throw us off however, because Archie loses the final challenge to Betty, who is then crowned the maple queen. Archie wins a pie as his prize, which is the same pie Cheryl made earlier in the episode. Betty shares how she found the poppets, which are actually fertility dolls, in Thornhill. While that should be alarming and concerning, Betty suggests they put it under their mattress tonight and try to make a baby. But first, she insists Archie eat his pie despite his desire to skip it. We realize Betty is not actually herself as she feeds him the pie and calls him her maple king, not taking a bite herself for obvious reasons. Archie has the pie and the two make love on the table, the fertility doll still right there.
That night, Archie hears the ticking in his sleep again, but is woken up by a call from Kevin telling him that Cheryl and the others have Betty. He runs to rescue her but in reality, it was all a trap set up by Cheryl. Everyone seems to be under Cheryl’s influence or something darker, those deals all adding up. She declares the right kind of sacrifice has to be made and he tells her that he won’t let her sacrifice Betty. His girlfriend however, is standing beside Cheryl, announcing that she’s pregnant with a son. The news clearly takes Archie off guard and we can see the emotions he’s feeling, but Betty then informs him that in 25 years, their son will be crowned the maple king.
The true plan is then revealed to Archie, he is going to be sacrificed. Archie calls out to Jughead and his uncle for help, shocked that they are part of this too, and then Veronica delivers the final blow by hitting him over the head with a rock to knock him out. This action is used to prove to Reggie where her true feelings lie. When he wakes up, he is tied up with a crown on and symbols written in blood on his skin. Betty tells Cheryl that he’s awake and she then rips his heart out. Holding it up, everyone rejoices and Jughead then returns to confirm Archie’s death. He does add how Archie was born in Riverdale and confirms that Rivervale, where Archie died, is its shadow town. To end it, he tells us that we’re not going anywhere and that they’re just getting started.
New episodes of Riverdale’s special five episode event will continue to air Tuesdays at 9 PM on The CW.