After seven seasons of mysteries, love triangles, cult initiations, murder, and a little bit of incest, one of the most iconic TV series of the past decade has finally ended. And no, we aren’t talking about Game of Thrones. We’re talking about Riverdale. For those uninitiated, Riverdale began in 2016 as a gritty teen drama series, putting a dark twist on the twee Archie comics that follow the clean-cut lives of teens Archie, Veronica, Betty, and Jughead.
Imagine the Beano and Pretty Little Liars had a baby and you’re about halfway there. Wait, did Dennis and Gnasher ever get embroiled in a multiversal clash? Maybe about a quarter, then.
As the seasons went on, the thriller series became more brazen with its craziness — but despite Riverdale making bear fights against a teenager and chilling with your dead twin’s corpse the norm, people are forgetting one key thing. Riverdale is more of a comedy series than anything else. It’s fundamentally tongue-in-cheek and a brilliant work of satire. It always has been, and nobody can convince me otherwise.
Everyone likes to say that season 1 of Riverdale was normal, and that the Netflix series became more unhinged as time went on. But I think that Riverdale has set the bar for insanity so high, we’re forgetting how offbeat season 1 actually was. Either that, or the collective trauma of seven years of this show has caused us all to have some kind of Mandela Effect or memory lapse.
Literally, nothing about season 1 was normal. Remember ‘Dark Betty’ with her Edna Mode wig? The fact her sister shagged her first cousin? How about Jughead’s infamous “I’m weird” monologue? Or, my personal favorite, when the murder reveal they’d been leading up to all season was delivered by Cheryl Blossom saying, “You did a bad thing, Daddy.” Think about it for a second. Sure, there were slightly more normal storylines like Archie struggling to choose between music and basketball, but Riverdale has been off its rocker since day dot.
It’s true that each season of Riverdale went further away from the source material — with musical episodes, time-travel, witchcraft, and an impending comet all becoming part of the show’s lore. But if you sit down to watch something like Riverdale with the expectation of it making sense, you’re completely missing the point.
The reason Riverdale became more and more outrageous each season is twofold. First of all, they wanted to see how far they could push their audience under the guise of ‘teen drama’ (pretty far, as it turns out). And secondly, the show is a love letter to the very serious, very melodramatic teen dramas we all grew up with.
Scenarios like dogs eating would-be heart transplants, or your friend group being stalked by your evil, identical British twin wouldn’t feel out of place on Riverdale. But these are very real, very genuine storylines that have been done in earnest on shows like One Tree Hill and Pretty Little Liars.
If you slap the ‘teen drama’ label on a TV series, you can get away with a lot of absurd plot lines that just wouldn’t fly anywhere else. Because the rules of logic don’t apply to the genre, writers love playing in the teen drama sandbox. But what sets Riverdale apart from other dramas is the fact that the writers are aware of this — and don’t mind letting the audience know that, either.
This is because, all in all, Riverdale is unbothered. It’s unbothered about being seen as ‘low-brow,’ unbothered about what its audience expects of it, and unbothered about conforming to logic and convention. From the very start, Riverdale made it clear that it was here for a good time, not a long time. It was pure vibes and confusion for seven years, but was also a masterclass in how to push a genre to its limits.
So, here’s to Ronnie. And Archie. And Betty. And… Jughead.
If you’re still trying to wrap your head around the finale, here’s our Riverdale ending explained. When you’re done with that, be sure to check out our guide to the best TV series of all time, along with our listicles rounding up the best teen movies, best rom-coms, and best romance movies.
Or, if you need something to fill that Riverdale void, read up on other upcoming teen dramas with our explainers on the Ginny and Georgia season 3 release date, Euphoria season 3 release date, Heartstopper season 3 release date, and XO Kitty season 2 release date.