Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Explains How ‘Riverdale’ Is Embracing Its Supernatural Side
[Warning: The below contains spoilers for Season 6, Episode 6 of Riverdale, “Chapter One Hundred and One: UNBELIEVABLE.” If you don’t want to be spoiled, go stare into Nana Blossom’s milky eye until the candles are blown out by a mysterious wind.]
Riverdale returned tonight from its mini-hiatus following the five-part “Rivervale” event and a new night and time slot wasn’t the only thing it brought with it. Picking up hours after the bomb Hiram (Mark Consuelos) had planted under Archie’s (KJ Apa) bed went off, we learned that he and Betty (Lili Reinhart) had survived the blast, as did Jughead (Cole Sprouse), who was in the garage at the time. Mercifully, Bingo the dog made it out, too, albeit with four (rapidly healing) broken legs.
As the gang began to piece together the crime, several things became evident: Hiram needed to pay; Betty, Jug, and Archie had each been left with slowly emerging abilities; and the Curse of Abigail Blossom may be the cause. By the hour’s end, Archie was like, 35 lbs heavier and seemingly invincible, Betty was seeing auras around potential threats, and Jug, well, he had ringing in his ears. Over at Thornhill, Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) was attempting a spell that backfired big time, while Veronica (Camila Mendes) was dealing with a hitman who was a little too good at his job. Oh, Mija…#RIPDADDY.
Since it seems like the vibe of the occult-tinged “Rivervale” arc is here to stay, it also seemed like the perfect time to talk to showrunner Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa about the former teen soap’s overhaul and what we should expect now that the otherworldly has made its home in the Town with Pep.
So first off: Riverdale is now a full-blown supernatural show?
Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa: So it seems, right? So it seems. Taking such a big swing on a show is always risky and changing genres is always risky. That said, we are in Season Six and we have, over the years, shifted genres. Almost every season we’ve done something. And what was great about the “Rivervale” event, which was a very dramatic genre shift to horror and the supernatural, was how everyone saw that the show could support it. That the canvas of the show was wide enough. I think that did embolden all of us into saying, “Hey, this is something.”
We’ve flirted with this genre and we’ve been careful about it, but we now feel like we can sustain it. And I have to give full props to all of our executives at WB and at the CW…everyone really embraced this and went with it. And it’s been creatively really, really fun. I think the cast, when they first got the script, were like “Oh my God, what next?!” But we are trying to keep it grounded—in our way, as grounded as Riverdale is—and sort of imagining what it would be like if M. Night Shyamalan or Stephen King were in the, in the writer’s room and how we could let some of the bigger story pieces from ‘Rivervale” seep into Riverdale.
And helping that, I feel, is the introduction of Percival Pickens (Chris O’Shea). We’ve heard this last name before, he’s a descendant of the town’s founding fathers and your Big Bad…and it feels like his interest in Archie, the Andrews property and really, the whole town gives him a bit of a supernatural root?
Definitely. Mark Consuelos as Hiam was such an incredible Big Bad, but he did traffic in the mob and gangsters and crime…things like that. So when we were talking about this season, we did want a villain that was someone who sort of lurked on the fringes of the supernatural, someone who was a little bit more like Randall Flagg from “The Stand.”
I was thinking Leland Gaunt from “Needful Things.”
Yes, exactly, exactly, exactly. A more malevolent, mysterious, and enigmatic stranger with ties to the other events and the town’s dark history. So definitely he is our Big Bad. It’s hard to beat Mark as a mafia-boss crime lord, so we did want to do something a little bit different. That’s definitely a conscious choice.
Now, what can you tell me about the abilities Archie is developing. There are shades of Unbreakable, but this new strength could also become almost like an addiction for him.
Absolutely. And listen, we love Unbreakable, for sure. And over the years, we have joked that Archie is sort of unkillable. He always bounces back to survive—quite iconically—bear attacks and all these other things. [Laughs] So when we started talking about what gift or curse or ability Archie might manifest, we wanted something that spoke to who he was. And for me, the best versions of these stories where people are granted abilities beyond those of normal humans, is when they’re blessings and curses. Do you know what I mean? What seems like a gift will manifest as a curse later. And that’s true of Betty as well. We’ll see that a little further down the line.
Between Jughead, Betty and Archie, you’ve basically covered sound site and touch.
But I still can’t figure out what Jug’s power is. Like, is he going deaf? Is he gonna be able to hear things?
It’s funny. Jughead definitely feels like he got the short straw as usual. [Laughs] I feel like that’s what would happen to me. Like, everyone else would get these cool superpowers and I’d be like “I hear ringing?”But his journey is just beginning as well, and it will not unfold in a traditional, straightforward, earnest way. Lots of crazy curves will start happening with Jughead very soon.
You also bring in a new leader of the
Right. And you’ve got a new leader of the Ghoulies and reignite their war with the Serpents. But if Percival wants to reboot the town, he can’t be happy about a gang war erupting.
Yes, definitely. And that does feature in future episodes. It’s also hard when one of your town council members is also Queen of the Serpents. There’s a dissonance there that Percival may exploit. That’s what I’ll say about that. [Laughs]
Now, Ronnie (Camila Mendes). The sins of the father aren’t so much being visited upon the daughter as they are being revisited by her. She had her dad killed!
I know. We kind of realized that when Hiram was vanquished at the end of Season Five, it was a great exit for Hiam and for Mark. The entire town was there. But it didn’t feel like there was a personal, intimate ending between Hiram and Veronica. It felt like that was something that we still needed to do, which is kind of what led to this decision. And what I love about it is how complicated their relationship is, that the second Veronica puts a hit out on her father, she immediately wants to take it back. And to me, that felt so true because of how tricky that relationship was.
I’m assuming the video she saw on her phone was his dead body and now she’s got this guilt to live with. Is this going to spin her into remorse or a darker spot?
Hiram was a Titanic presence in Veronica’s life and it’s impossible to know how that loss will impact Veronica. I will say, [an upcoming] episode is kind of about Veronica trying to figure out, “Am I happy about this? Am I sad? He did so many horrible things to me and my friends.” Like what does she want and how does she feel? That is absolutely where we find Veronica coming out of 606.
And how will Hermosa (Mishel Prada) handle this? Will we see Ronnie’s half-sister again?
I love that character. And I love Mishel…she is on another show [The Continental], but I would not say that we have seen the last of her. That is absolutely true. We have not seen the last of her.
Finally, since you’re leaning into the supernatural and Cheryl is possessed now, will we see anyone from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina again? Even if it’s not Sabrina, there is a deep bench of characters we loved who could visit from Greendale.
I hear you. I hear you. I hear you 100 percent. Um…I feel that, yes, the short version of it is yes. That is definitely a possibility and keep your eyes peeled. 100%.
Riverdale, Sundays, 8/7c, The CW