SPOILER ALERT! This post contains details from the series finale of The CW’s Riverdale.
After seven seasons that included multiple serial killers, at least one human sacrifice, lots of drug trafficking, an organ harvesting cult, a parallel universe, and time travel in the name of saving the town from an impending comet…the eclectic series has come to an end.
The CW series bid farewell to its characters during a heartfelt episode on Wednesday which saw Betty (Lili Reinhart) at the end of her life. She’s just learned that Jughead (Cole Sprouse) has died, meaning she’s the last of the original crew still alive. As she expresses to her granddaughter that she’d like to visit Riverdale one last time, she’s visited by a younger version of Jughead, who offers her one last chance to spend a day in high school with her friends.
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She jumps at the opportunity and is once again transported back to the 1950s (the penultimate episode established that Tabitha wouldn’t be able to bring all of them back to present day, although she did allow them to finally learn of their past — or future? — lives). It’s yearbook-signing day, which Betty had originally missed because she was sick, so Betty of the future is able to seamlessly head to school without putting any wrinkles in the timeline.
Betty spends the day soaking up those last remaining moments with her friends while also learning from Jughead how most of her best friends lived out the rest of their lives.
Executive producer Sarah Schechter reflected on the past seven seasons of Riverdale with Deadline and spoke about how the idea for the nostalgic finale came about. Read the interview below.
DEADLINE: Can you tell me more about developing the idea for these last few episodes, not just having a resolution to the current story, but also reflecting on all seven seasons?
SARAH SCHECHTER: I think first of all, one of the things about Riverdale is there’s been continuity of care and voices throughout in a way that we’re really lucky to have experienced. So we have a lot of writers that have been with the show for years and years and obviously this has been Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa’s] baby forever. So the ending, to me, felt so natural, given how much love everyone involved has for these characters, and that’s what I really felt with the finale. Riverdale can be really kind of crazy and fun and really earnest and emotional, and I’m just really happy that the ending honored. Obviously, Roberto grew up loving Our Town. He comes from a theatre background. I feel like the finale was just brilliant in terms of honoring these characters and this world.
DEADLINE: The actual finale does feel very nostalgic, with Betty taking the time to really appreciate all of her friends and spend this last moment honoring all of them. As opposed to having to wrap up any plot in that final episode.
SCHECHTER: Look, I’ve worked on a bunch of shows where the finale was unintentional. The show just didn’t get picked up. And so it was a rare privilege to be able to plan an ending in television, especially nowadays…It was really brilliant, because it did allow us to honor the experience and the characters, which goes beyond any of the wild plot lines. I think that there was just an opportunity to think about it and tell the story of the season, but then also to honor the show. To make a show for seven seasons — I and we wrapped with The Flash this year and that was nine seasons — I don’t know how many more opportunities… I hope many… but I don’t know how many more opportunities to do that I personally will have. Wrapping up the season and then the finale being able to honor the show and the characters, I’m so proud of that. I’m so proud of everything Roberto did in the finale. It’s his first directing job, and he really knocked it out of the park. But I think what you see in the finale is how much love there was for this cast and these characters and, honestly, the town. The show was named after the town, it wasn’t named Archie, and I think the finale really honored that.
DEADLINE: It really is becoming rare for a show to run for this long. What do you think was the key to longevity with Riverdale?
SCHECHTER: I think it was a combination of things. Peter Roth, who always believed in the show, at Warner Bros. Television. Mark Pedowitz at the CW. Greg Berlanti’s deep belief in it. Those three people had an enormous part in that. I think the other part was obviously Roberto and, really, the casting. I just think that what we…were able to do to assemble this incredible cast from day one just gave the show a raison d’etre for a really long time. By the finale, there’s over 700 characters that have come in and out of Riverdale. The writers did such a brilliant job of continuing to expand the lens and tell fresh stories. And I think that also really helps give the show a longevity. And, these actors could carry really complicated, intense storylines and are just so talented. I think that was inspiring to the writers and the directors and the crew and everyone.
DEADLINE: Do you remember the last scene before you wrapped production?
SCHECHTER: It went on a couple of extra days, but I was up there for, it wasn’t the last scene, but the scene when Betty walks into the diner….The thing about Riverdale is that everyone has storylines, so a lot of the actors aren’t always in the same scenes. So to see that filmed and to see everyone be together in the same space, in Pop’s, that was really just wonderful to witness.
DEADLINE: This last season of Riverdale feels a lot more grounded than some of the previous seasons. I wonder what you think of the decision not only to take the characters to the 1950s, but also eliminate a lot of those fantastical elements?
SCHECHTER: Well, it was Roberto’s choice but I was so grateful for it as a fan of the show. I still love Season 1 so much. Roberto and I were talking about what our favorite episodes of the show were, and some of my favorites he was saying were the same as his, because it was like a really emotional ones. They were all a bit more earnest. [One of them] was the episode when the characters process Luke Perry’s death, which was really profound for all of us and an enormous loss. I think that when it comes time to honoring these characters as crazy as the storylines got, it was always really about the characters. Everyone had a deep love for the characters. So I think when it came time to honor saying goodbye, it felt very natural to go back to that more grounded [place]. Also, we were really fortunate because we knew this was the last season. Since everyone knew, they’re really able to live in that knowledge and create from that place. I think that just leads to people being a little bit more reflective…I think that’s what we’re good at doing now in a really beautiful way.
DEADLINE: Betty seems like the most natural character to have facilitate this last episode, but I’m curious if there was any discussion about why she would be the one doing the reminiscing?
SCHECHTER: Roberto can probably answer that question better, but I think seeing the episode through Betty’s eyes — she was in the center of everything…Betty really goes through it, but she was in Riverdale from the beginning. She grew up there. She’s such a unique perspective. You don’t even want to catalogue all the things that Betty went through in seven seasons. It would get comical. But she, in a lot of ways, was the heart and soul of the show. All the characters were. I mean, truthfully, you could have done it through anyone’s eyes and had the same experience. I think what was beautiful about it was that Betty’s character was the girl next door, right? She’s all of us. I think that was a really incredible choice. But then the conversation she has with Jughead allows Jughead to share his perspective, and obviously when Archie reads the poem. So all the characters got a chance to tell their perspective on the experience that they went through on the show.
DEADLINE: I have to say, Betty finding out she, Jughead, Archie and Veronica had been in a quad all year certainly threw me for a loop. Although, it felt very Riverdale. What is the key to the combination that the show does so well of being heartfelt but also, at times, going a bit off the rails?
SCHECHTER: I think that magic trick is a combination of the writers and the actors. The way the actors perform all this stuff gives it like an authenticity and a heart. I think that keeps it from being too outlandish. They both go for it and they keep it anchored. The show is always taking chances with sexuality, like going back to the pilot while Archie was having an affair with his teacher…I think the magic trick of the show is that, emotionally, there’s always some truth even in the craziest moments. I think that the finale really proves that and lands the plane in that way. In all the shows that Greg and I do, we really try to acknowledge the various ways that people live. I don’t think universally heteronormative representation is accurate or fair, and therefore, why would you do that?
DEADLINE: Do you have a favorite moment from this season?
SCHECHTER: God. from this season? It really is the finale. I really think it’s so strong. I’m so proud of it. I’m a fan of television, so I definitely have a lot of thoughts about the finales of all my favorite shows over the decades. And I feel like the Riverdale finale is up there with the best of them. I would defend it against any, and I think it’s really sophisticated and smart in a way that the show always is but sometimes people don’t recognize. It’s truly one of my top five favorite episodes of the show over all seven seasons. I think it’s so strong and emotional and it has so much to say about life and love and growing up and I’m really proud of that. I’m so proud of what Roberto pulled off as the writer and director of that episode.
DEADLINE: I thought it was interesting to actually hear and see how their lives continued up until their deaths, because usually we don’t get that kind of closure on TV. Their lives just end wherever the show leaves them, and the rest is up to imagination.
SCHECHTER: Roberto has loved these characters since he was a child, and he’s thought about them a lot — especially going to the past and how do you get back to the present and what are their endings? How do you say goodbye? The finality of of knowing this was the ending was really helpful, I think, and being able to think about that. These characters are bigger, because they are so iconically played by these actors, but these characters have been around for a really long time. I think to honor the Riverdale version of these characters was to give them proper endings.
DEADLINE: What would you say you’re most proud of when you reflect on Riverdale?
SCHECHTER: To be like, ‘Oh, we want to turn Archie Comics into a teen drama’ — to pull that off, just in the most basic, broadest way, I’m really proud of. Probably the thing that I’m most proud of is this cast. I mean, it’s so well cast and they’re all so talented. It’s been such an honor and a privilege to just watch them all grow up. They’re all going to have these incredible careers and I’ll always be really proud of them…I’m so grateful to Jon Goldwater and Archie Comics for allowing the show to evolve way, way, way past a love triangle with two girls and a guy.
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