News

Riverdale Season 4 Is 'As Crazy As We've Gotten,' Says Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

After a super-emotional tribute to Luke Perry, the series revisits its organ-harvesting cult, features one character communicating with a corpse, and offers answers about that bloody cliffhanger.

by | October 9, 2019 | Comments

Riverdale’s fourth season opens with an uncharacteristically straightforward, emotional episode. It’s a tribute to the beloved star Luke Perry, who died earlier this year following a massive stroke, and it’s also a tribute to the actor’s similarly adored character Fred Andrews, father to Archie (KJ Apa) and all-around good guy.

Perry passed just weeks before the third season was scheduled to wrap, so had filmed most of his scenes already. Rather than shoehorn in a plot to write out the character then, creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa said he and his writers wanted some time to think about how to properly honor their fallen friend.

“We didn’t want to rush it. We didn’t want to sandwich it in between all the other plot lines. And we just wanted to take our time and think about it,” he told Rotten Tomatoes and a small group of reporters after a screening of the season premiere. Taking time, he said, “allowed us to absorb what had happened and really think about what kind of story we wanted to tell. That that’s how we started — by not thinking about it for a while.”

But although the tragedy turns into a beautiful tribute in the standalone episode that starts off the season, business in Riverdale is just as nutty as usual. Archie will be grieving his father throughout the season, but he’ll also have to contend with plenty of deranged criminals and other figures who involve high school students in their shady business dealings way more than adults should. Put simply, Riverdale’s insane storylines are not going away.

Here’s what else to expect from season 4 of the often-mental series.


1. Archie Andrews Hits Major Milestones

Riverdale -- "Chapter Fifty-Three: Jawbreaker" -- Image Number: RVD318a_0216.jpg -- Pictured: KJ Apa as Archie -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW
(Photo by Diyah Pera/The CW)

The Riverdale writers hadn’t really begun to brainstorm what would happen in season 4 before Perry’s death, so there’s no alternate path the character could’ve taken. Instead, the season will see the redhead figure out what life looks like without his role model and main parental figure.

“When this happened, it did suggest a path for Archie, which is about growing up a little more quickly than he would have and giving senior year this almost melancholy feel,” Aguirre-Sacasa said.

While the season premiere takes place over the July 4 Independence Day holiday, the second episode picks up a few months later, in September. That time gap allows the characters time to have grieved off-screen, but they will have in no way moved on from Fred’s death.

“The shadow Fred’s death cast is on episode two. And honestly, we’re about 10 episodes into the season and we’re still feeling that. The truth is something like that, Archie will be wrestling with that for the rest of his life, other characters less so,” he said. “I think one of the things that’s been interesting is when a tragedy like that happens, everyone grieves and then people move on at different points. But for the person who’s at the core of it, they live with it every day. So we don’t pretend it didn’t happen. It’s still very much permeating Archie’s story.”


2. Riverdale Kids Go Back to School in Season 4

Riverdale -- "Chapter Fifty-Nine: Fast Times at Riverdale High" -- Image Number: RVD402a_0053.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Camila Mendes as Veronica, Lili Reinhart as Betty and Cole Sprouse as Jughead -- Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW
(Photo by Colin Bentley/The CW)

Though the season opener is front-to-back emotional — watch with tissues handy or risk soaking your shirt with tears — episode 2 opens on “a little bit of a lighter note.” The main gang is back in high school, and storylines this season are going to focus (at least a little bit) on their adventures as normal high school students — well, normal for Riverdale at least.

As Aguirre-Sacasa said on the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel back in July, “This year, the kids are seniors. They’ve always been too busy hunting serial killers. We haven’t dug deep into the high school world. We’re really playing the senior year.”


3. Molly Ringwald Returns to Riverdale

Riverdale -- "Chapter Fifty-Eight: In Memoriam" -- Image Number: RVD401b_0311.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Molly Ringwald as Mary Andrews and KJ Apa as Archie -- Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW
(Photo by Robert Falconer/The CW)

Former guest star Molly Ringwald returns “more or less” full time, as Aguirre-Sacasa announced at Comic-Con, as Archie’s mother, Mary. Coming from Chicago, she’s “not quite aware of what a rough town Riverdale is so we’re having some fun with that,” the creator said last week.

“I think that it’s really great that Archie has Mary there for him, and I think Mary loves being able to be there for her son. I do still think there’s no replacing his dad, but Mary’s doing great, and I’d really be worried for Archie if not for Mary,” he said.

Mary will of course be supporting Archie first and foremost, but she’ll get her own storylines too. Aguirre-Sacasa is particularly proud of the season’s Thanksgiving episode that “reminds us that this is Archie’s first Thanksgiving without his father. It’s kind of Mary and Archie shoulder to shoulder. There’s typical craziness that happens, but I think there’s a real, true emotional core there as well.”

Other guest stars include Perry’s real-life friend and former costar Shannen Doherty in a role in the tribute episode, and Dawson’s Creek star Kerr Smith as new principal Mr. Honey.


4. Riverdale’s High-Wire Act

Riverdale -- "Chapter Fifty-Eight: In Memoriam" -- Image Number: RVD401b_0344.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Molly Ringwald as Mary Andrews, Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl, Vanessa Morgan as Toni, Lili Reinhart as Betty, Cole Sprouse as Jughead, KJ Apa as Archie, Camila Mendes as Veronica, Casey Cott as Kevin, Ashleigh Murray as Josie and Charles Melton as Reggie -- Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW
(Photo by Robert Falconer/The CW)

Balancing the craziness of the series with its more grounded plots has always been the “high-wire act” Aguirre-Sacasa and his writing team contended with, and in the past two seasons the crazy maybe has overwhelmed the grounded. But in season 4, the balance will be a little more even.

“A lot of people said, ‘Oh, season 1 was much more grounded’ and all that stuff. So we’ve used season 1 a little bit as a template. We definitely still have crazy stories. But instead of let’s say four crazy stories per episode, we have two crazy stories per episode two that are a little more emotional or psychological or real,” he said. “In episode two, we have this great story with Archie and Reggie, and it’s about Reggie’s father, and therefore it’s about the memory of Fred as well, but it feels like a very straightforward coming-of-age friendship story. So I think we’re finding our way back to some of the stuff in season 1. You know, the truth is you can never go back, but there were things that I know the fans missed and that we missed and are trying to write to.”


5. Did We Mention Crazy?

Riverdale cast. (Marc Hom/The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network)
(Photo by Marc Hom/The CW )

Still, that trademark Riverdale insanity remains. Episode three, in particular, will bring a particular brand of nuts to the series.

“That’s the resolution of the of the Farm storyline, and I remember when we turned it in the network was like, yep good to know that’s still in there. That’s kind of a crazy one,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “We have a really fun Halloween episode that is both grounded and heightened, I would say. And the Blossoms can always be counted on for some craziness. There are some really great mysteries in there, they’re just a little less — I mean, we had, like, two serial killers running around and the killer cult and bear attacks. By the way, all stuff I stand by and loved. It’s still out there. It’s still out there for sure. Episode 3, it’s as crazy as we’ve gotten.”


6. Speaking of the Blossoms…

Riverdale -- "Chapter Fifty-Nine: Fast Times at Riverdale High" -- Image Number: RVD402a_0166.jpg -- Pictured: Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl -- Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW
(Photo by Colin Bentley/The CW)

Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) is bringing the wacky in a storyline that’s both touching and completely mental as she continues to keep her dead twin brother’s corpse around to communicate with.

“As heightened and weird and macabre as it is to have Jason in the crypt, I think the truth of that story is she loved her brother dearly,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “She never got a chance to say goodbye to him and she doesn’t want to. In a weird way her arc over the first movement of episodes is learning how to finally say goodbye to Jason and it’s quite moving.”


7. The Rest of the Gang’s Here, Too

Riverdale -- "Chapter Fifty-Seven: Survive the Night" -- Image Number: RVD322a_0293.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Lili Reinhart as Betty, Camila Mendes as Veronica and Cole Sprouse as Jughead -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW
(Photo by Dean Buscher/The CW)

The rest of the core gang — Veronica (Camila Mendes), Betty (Lili Reinhart), and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) — will keep busy with their own plot twists.

First up for Betty is the fallout of her friendship with Kevin (Casey Cott) over his Farm ties. Aguirre-Sacasa also noted that Betty will also have to deal with her and Jughead’s half-brother Charles Smith (Wyatt Nash), who was the undercover FBI agent at the Farm and is the offspring of Betty’s mom, Alice (Mädchen Amick), and Jughead’s dad, FP (Skeet Ulrich). (Got that?)

“Kevin was a big part of the Farm. He dragged her by her ankles into the lobotomy room or whatever, so we kind of try to pick up the pieces of their friendship,” Aguirre-Sacasa said, adding that “Charles is very much a part of the first chunk of the season.”

Veronica will deal with the knowledge that maybe her father Hiram (Mark Consuelos)  isn’t completely evil thanks to his kind gesture paying for Fred’s funeral.

“[That’s] a gesture that mafiosos do,” the creator said. “Even amongst mobsters, there’s a sense of honor. I think that’s a hint that Hiram isn’t all bad. He’s a villain, but underneath that he’s also a human being and her father. I think Veronica and her father, they’ll always be in conflict. But I do believe that underneath all that stuff there is a bond and a love there and that’s a hint to that.”

And Jughead’s main storyline will involve his new school, a fancy Gossip Girl–esque private school that, as Sprouse revealed on the Comic-Con panel, will provide the backdrop for the flash-forward from the season 3 finale that saw Archie, Betty, and Veronica covered in blood and burning their clothes.

Said Aguirre-Sacasa on that panel, “That’s one of our big mysteries, obviously, what happened to Jughead and the kids that night, and we are building up [to] it. Our midseason finale is going to be that night depicted in the flash-forward. And in episodes leading up to it we’re going to flash forward to other events from that night and immediately after that night, so you’ll start to piece it together, I think.”

Riverdale season 4 premieres on Wednesday, October 9 at 8 p.m. on The CW.


Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

vampires comics book comic 71st Emmy Awards First Reviews The Purge TIFF Quiz finale Rocky singing competition composers 20th Century Fox Super Bowl cancelled TV shows Spectrum Originals foreign rotten movies we love political drama Epix Disney Channel TV renewals Sneak Peek Disney streaming service Creative Arts Emmys PaleyFest Tarantino Extras Captain marvel 45 fresh revenge Adult Swim Fox News war nbcuniversal Ellie Kemper disaster GIFs halloween indiana jones 2019 Freeform cooking 2015 Avengers blaxploitation worst stoner Pop TV nature canceled historical drama based on movie DC streaming service DirecTV Teen Comics on TV police drama documentary medical drama Premiere Dates Trophy Talk RT History miniseries 21st Century Fox superhero Spring TV boxing Video Games FOX Turner 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards richard e. Grant Mary poppins Marvel Television Pirates Pop facebook Turner Classic Movies Hallmark Christmas movies discovery natural history TV One green book Funimation japanese versus See It Skip It Vudu Ghostbusters Comedy Film classics a nightmare on elm street Country spinoff The Arrangement Columbia Pictures game show zero dark thirty Amazon Prime spider-man dramedy Martial Arts witnail comiccon LGBTQ 99% Cartoon Network french Awards Biopics Stephen King The Walt Disney Company cats CBS CBS All Access scary movies slashers Pride Month breaking bad Kids & Family Thanksgiving Tubi HBO Go Academy Awards Emmys Photos football name the review Anna Paquin mission: impossible video First Look Crunchyroll cars Box Office festivals unscripted space Black History Month Britbox crime drama dc transformers YA Lifetime Marvel Studios cops Elton John golden globes Summer Polls and Games CMT APB dark Red Carpet Sony Pictures movies period drama Oscars The CW 2017 critics Trivia Valentine's Day hollywood E! PlayStation venice diversity die hard FXX 2020 blockbuster TV Land biography news Baby Yoda E3 Arrowverse australia sag awards Endgame black DC Universe Opinion Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt teaser Toys toy story IFC aliens Christmas criterion science fiction toronto IFC Films Disney+ Disney Plus History DGA The Academy animated Travel Channel james bond Nominations Holiday Sci-Fi Hallmark Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Watching Series Emmy Nominations rom-coms Amazon Studios Lucasfilm ghosts italian casting romantic comedy supernatural sports Countdown Nat Geo Hulu VH1 Apple TV Plus Writers Guild of America Warner Bros. AMC HBO series latino reboot Winter TV spanish language crossover Starz cults CW Seed TCM stop motion renewed TV shows worst movies BBC One Esquire Apple tv talk travel TruTV halloween tv Masterpiece ABC Family television dceu canceled TV shows concert films ABC Signature directors Shondaland laika Reality Competition reviews ratings MCU independent NYCC Netflix Christmas movies Black Mirror Podcast TV Sundance Now fast and furious Amazon Prime Video 72 Emmy Awards deadpool psychological thriller BBC America comic books chucky Marvel Reality Drama PBS Lionsgate talk show twilight Interview spanish Musical ITV TCA Winter 2020 all-time Marathons ViacomCBS dogs franchise satire Rock Women's History Month anime comedies Comic Book X-Men Certified Fresh Song of Ice and Fire Fox Searchlight hispanic Awards Tour screen actors guild south america boxoffice asian-american Brie Larson cinemax BET Grammys spy thriller 2018 crime thriller Best and Worst Sundance child's play Horror TCA 2017 RT21 Binge Guide SDCC streaming DC Comics screenings pirates of the caribbean New York Comic Con psycho American Society of Cinematographers Hear Us Out what to watch TBS docudrama zombies cartoon Television Academy trailers ESPN binge CNN BAFTA Schedule sitcom technology universal monsters Fantasy spain true crime A24 A&E Syfy Crackle Mudbound mutant nfl scorecard mockumentary Mary Tyler Moore Election remakes TLC TNT Nickelodeon Star Wars festival Netflix justice league cancelled TV series doctor who theme song romance batman elevated horror Rom-Com Year in Review MTV indie TCA kids Pixar Music Universal Winners Alien NBC Acorn TV 007 USA YouTube Red Dark Horse Comics ABC Western National Geographic Discovery Channel VOD Spike Disney Plus 2016 Cannes ID Cosplay 4/20 Family 24 frames jamie lee curtis free movies serial killer HBO Max Logo FX Musicals Paramount Network Mystery El Rey GLAAD hist Holidays Film Festival Trailer Sundance TV GoT Character Guide Tomatazos Lifetime Christmas movies FX on Hulu Superheroe thriller adaptation archives werewolf Comedy Central BBC Chernobyl San Diego Comic-Con harry potter sequels Disney President VICE crime WarnerMedia rotten Food Network golden globe awards Apple TV+ Star Trek Television Critics Association Calendar Superheroes Bravo women obituary sequel children's TV Shudder Mary Poppins Returns adventure dragons quibi The Witch stand-up comedy SXSW Pet Sematary Walt Disney Pictures LGBT cancelled jurassic park MSNBC Showtime video on demand Infographic Action TCA Awards BET Awards Paramount strong female leads SundanceTV Tumblr rt archives YouTube Premium movie social media YouTube award winner cancelled television parents emmy awards Amazon documentaries The Walking Dead USA Network best christmas movies Classic Film WGN Mindy Kaling anthology Rocketman Ovation game of thrones Set visit zombie politics Animation Peacock robots OneApp Heroines Fall TV joker OWN Paramount Plus