Five Thoughts on Riverdale‘s “Return to Rivervale”

By | July 18th, 2022
Posted in Television | % Comments

Welcome back all you Riverdale fans! All aboard the Riverdale train! Stopping at Rivervale, WTFville, OHSHITburg, YouGottaBeKiddingMe Village, and the Township of Ludicrous. Make sure you have your first class tickets. You wouldn’t wanna miss the scenery that’s being chewed.

As always, spoilers ahead.

1. (Don’t) Stop This Plot

I was not ready for how much we were going to be thrown this week. I was expecting, you know, the usual level of Riverdale shenanigans. Lots of cuts between plots and a ton going on and we got that but oh boy were those plots jam packed. It’s been a bit since I was fully immersed in the waters of this show, letting it take me from one idea to the next.

For starters, it turns out Percival is an immortal British colonist from Rivervale who tried to summon the devil, was caught, made a deal, and has spent the last 400 years plotting revenge and attempting to renege on his deal. We learn much of this through his interview with Alice, which he gets by whammying her after she balks at him mentioning the execution of Kevin, Reggie and Reggie’s Dad. And yes, he did try to slip that by her like an arbitration clause in the fourth page of a thirty page terms & conditions.

Making of a Warlock (1561)

That’s just the TIP of the nonsense iceberg: Archie is an anarchist, Frank shows why the military doesn’t deserve any of the money we give it, Rivervale seems like a lot of fun now, and Jughead can summon licorice jello. Oh and Alice demonstrates the complicity and corruption of our for-profit, sensationalist news media by finally being won over by Percival’s whammy of “just think of the ratings.”

Did you think things would get LESS wacky after the reveal that Tabitha is actually an angel? Oh you sweet summer child. Welcome to Riverdale. The town with pep and an infinite supply of wacky.

2. Last Jug to Rivervale

Cole Sprouse really gets the chance to let loose this week and I am here for it. After learning that his powers literally let him open portals in space – between dimensions and then just between two places – he decides to jump to Rivervale with Tabitha whereupon they immediately encounter Bunker Jughead, who has seen better days. He’s quite unhinged and immediately you feel he’s a completely different character.

I actually forgot that it was Cole playing both characters or that they had to do camera trickery to show them in the same space. It wasn’t particularly amazing what was done but it was enough to get me to suspend my disbelief. Plus Bunker Jug is just so much fun, even if his main role is to provide enough of an explanation for why Riverdale began to resemble Rivervale more – a distinction that’s really without a difference, other than the supernatural being real.

Then later in the episode we get Comic Artist Jug who has sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for the ability to make comics, but every comic has to be grim. It just reminded me how much I miss narrator Jug and I kinda hope we get him back for even just a little in the finale. Is that too much to ask?

Well, I say that but we got Ethyl back in Rivervale and she kinda sucks? She’s right to be mad, cause of all the dimensional fissures caused by Jug’s call to get the writers out of their killing Archie & Betty cliffhanger; she just doesn’t have to be so cruel to the guy trapped in a bunker writing stories for the rest of his life.

3. Midnight Stroll to Riverdale

I know I talked about Percival already but Chris O’Shea absolutely captivated me this week. All he does is sit in a chair! And talk! There’s nothing more but I was engrossed in him telling his origin story – a very basic story too – and then bragging about his evil plans like a cartoonier Mitch McConnell.

And more British.

Whoever was in charge of cinematography and editing this week knocked it out of the park. I never felt like we were doing the usual 300 short hops through the show, even when we totally were. I also loved the atmosphere of the Devil coming out of the woods scene because it meant MR. CYPHER IS BACK BAYBEEEEEEE.

Continued below

Oh how I have been awaiting this moment. At first I couldn’t believe it was really him. He was all decked out in 16th century clothes and mist and darkness. Sure we got his signature terrifying cutaway face but Percival had that once too. But then we got a chess match between Rafael and Mr. Cypher in Rivervale and there he is! In all his red haired, suited glory. He even gives Jug & Tabitha some info, partially as a taunt and partially because he wants Percival’s soul.

What a good, bad egg.

4. Girl on a Guilt Trip


Betty’s whole plot frustrated and angered me in ways I’ve documented so many times I can’t even link to one or three specific past reviews. Any time the writers trot out “the darkness” I throw my hands in the air and go WHY. Yes that shot of Harlot!Betty was eerie and I kinda wish they did more with it but why is she still on this? Why can’t they just let it go after the 1000th time of “solving” it? It’s lazy and dull and I am sick and tired of it.

Well maybe whoever wrote this episode is too because Polly – who’s back from the dead, remember – is literally a saint because it seems she absolves Betty of her writers-induced guilt and then washes her feet to symbolically, and maybe literally, wash away her “original sin.” It reads to me as a bunch of bullshit but I’m not Christian so what do I know.

It’s effective and apparently works and now Betty is free. Let’s see if it sticks.

5. Escape in Vain

There was no way Kevin, Reggie & Mr. Mantle were going to be killed. The question was how would they escape. Would Reggie’s knife plan work? Would Veronica swoop in with some grand plan? Would there be a major heist? Would there be a countdown as Archie waited by the tracks to blow up the train tracks, ratcheting up the tension, wondering if he’d be found out before he could do anything? NOPE! Jughead portals in and saves them, allowing Archie to have his cool action moment. All good, right?

Well, first we should go back to a prior scene. A deeply troubling scene. One where Frank is absolutely ready to murder Mr. Keller to prevent Reggie from escaping. One where Mr. Keller looks gleeful as he doesnt’ give a shit about Percival deciding they’re going to GUILLOTINE HIS SON.

What the fuck dude?!

Sometimes I appreciate Riverdale for what it is. Sometimes I wish it would try to sit with genuine emotions and explore them. I know it has had a pretty poor track record of that, with a few, notable, exceptions. This, however, is one of those moments I wish we had sat with Kevin. Sat with him realizing what just happened. Sat with him coming to terms with what he was willing to do just before this, with Baby Anthony, and reckoning with it all. What a powerful scene that could have been.

We don’t get it though and the episode isn’t any the worse for it’s exclusion; neither is it any better. Perhaps we’ll get it next week because, unless they’re lying as they always do with these cliffhangers, Alice, Mr. Keller, and Frank are now all dead, executed in the trio’s place.

I am gobsmacked. If this sticks – and remember we still have yet to see a body, even if Jug’s narrator voice confirmed their deaths – I will have nothing but praise and shock. I say sticks because even if they’re dead we’ve got Phoenix Cheryl and her blue fire of wonders.

Still. Wow. What a way to end the third to last episode of the season. These were Percival’s most loyal soldiers, bought in 100% to his silver lies and easy promises, susceptible to his appeals to something dark and cruel within them. He’s desperate to inflict a blow and he’s only going to get more desperate from here on out.

Look out Riverdale. The wolves are at your door and they’ve already killed all your chickens.

That about does it for now! I am surprised by how much I enjoyed “Return to Rivervale.” Were you? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you all in a week for the penultimate episode of season 6. Until then, be careful of floating licorice goop Riverdale.

Best Line of the Night:

Jughead: “Yeah. Just like how you thought you were a time traveler but you’re actually an angel.”

//TAGS | Riverdale

Elias Rosner

Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. Co-host of Make Mine Multiversity, a Marvel podcast, after winning the no-prize from the former hosts, co-editor of The Webcomics Weekly, and writer of the Worthy column, he can be found on Twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and has finally updated his profile photo again.


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