riverdale season 5, episode 19

‘Riverdale’ season 5 finale review: Literally everything is up in flames

Riverdale closed a huge chapter with its season 5 finale. Here’s our review of the action-packed episode.

After seasons of every form of villainy, Hiram Lodge finally took it a step too far. I mean, when you think about it, his previous sins weren’t actually that bad. You might argue that “he committed actual murder.” Well, that’s child’s play in this town. “But…he got Archie put in jail,” you might rebut. Water under the bridge, honestly. “Okay, but he slowly infected the town like a virus for years and committed countless crimes to do so!” Nothing a Pop’s milkshake can’t fix.

But when Hiram Lodge had the audacity to come for Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe, the heart and soul of Riverdale, that was the last straw. The townspeople had suffered their last tantrum from this insufferable man-child. You can take their freedom, you can take their economy, and you can take their loved ones. Heck, you can even take their dignity. But you will never, under any circumstances, take their milkshakes.

Sarcasm aside, I did really like that Hiram’s downfall was in destroying the most pure, most iconic Riverdale property in the season 5 finale. Pop’s was the last vestige of the town’s former glory, and it makes a lot of sense that defending its honor would be the thing to call everyone to action.

riverdale season 5 finale, tabitha tate

The idea of saving the town was what brought everyone back at the beginning of season 5, so finally reincorporating in the Riverdale season 5 finale was the perfect conclusion for the initial premise. That being said, I do feel like the season as a whole did a pretty sloppy job of telling this story.

While the idea of saving Riverdale has always been lurking in the background this season, it hasn’t been at the forefront for quite a while. Yes, cleaning up the Lonely Highway was a big part of reviving Riverdale, but that story became much more centered on the Coopers, the mothmen, and the strange reject Blossom clan that they turned out to be. In the finale, the “save the town” plot line felt a lot like Betty’s TBK phone call. More like a callback than a continuation.

In many ways, the Riverdale season 5 finale felt like a jolt into season 6 rather than a logical conclusion to an arc, and the back half of season 5 more closely resembled a scatterplot, with stories jumping about at random, than any sort of curve.

While this isn’t entirely new for Riverdale, the show is at its best when there is at least some semblance of a throughline, whether it’s offered by the season’s mystery, the development of characters, or the relationships. Every character and each mystery had some excellent smaller arcs in season 5, but they all made a few too many chasmic leaps for me to feel like any story was completely satisfying.

Of course, I’ll take any leap that gets Hiram far away from Riverdale, and it seems like that’s actually going to be the case. TVLine reported that Mark Consuelos, who plays Hiram Lodge, will be leaving Riverdale after season 5! Hooray! Hallelujah! It’s about time. I’m so glad Veronica got to make her last stand against Hiram, but the show needs a serious villain reboot, and it was never going to happen with Hiram around. Although honestly, I wouldn’t put it past them to have Hiram pulling the strings on a new villain in season 6, but I’ll complain about that when we get there.

riverdale season 5 finale

Now, let’s get into some specifics of the episode.

If you thought Jughead and Tabitha made a big jump forward in the Riverdale season 5 musical episode, that was nothing compared to what they had in store for us in the finale. In a shocking turn of events, Jabitha could be the first post-high school couple to officially cohabitate for more than a minute. Sure, things got pretty hot (in more ways than one) after they set fire to the Lodge Ledger, but are they ready for that kind of commitment?

Tabitha seems like a very smart girl (other than not paying her insurance premiums), so I’m inclined to trust her judgement, but being smart in life doesn’t always mean you’re smart in love. The fact that this is moving so quickly makes me think that Jabitha is doomed to fail. But on the bright side for both characters, Pop Tate is coming back to work alongside his granddaughter, and Jughead will be heading up the Blue and Gold “Riverdale Choice!”

Toni and Fangs returned to their Serpent ways in the Riverdale season 5 finale, which is something I do hope continues moving forward. I would love to see a group of Serpents as imagined and curated by the characters we love, and I hope, as Toni said, they’re an essential part of the newly incorporated town.

Betty has somehow officially graduated from Quantico and is looking refreshingly “darkness”-free following the death of her sister. She’s even feeling light enough to climb back on top of Archie immediately after he broke up with Veronica. I know they’re adults now, but I hate that there’s absolutely no regard for Betty and Veronica’s friendship in this. Even though the breakup was Veronica’s choice, I’m sure she would be hurt by whatever Archie and Betty were doing “later.” Of course, Riverdale season 5 completely ignored that Betty and Veronica were ever friends, so I guess it makes sense.

I also hate that Veronica’s empowerment was unceremoniously interrupted in the Riverdale season 5 finale. She overcame her oppressors and chose her own growth only to have her dreams dashed in an instant by being dubbed the “black widow of Wall Street.” Obviously I’m thrilled that she’s staying in Riverdale, but her casino with Reggie now seems like a consolation prize.

riverdale season 5 finale, frank, alice cooper

Admittedly, it seems like Veronica, Reggie, Betty and Archie are just fine with the prizes they’ve been given at the end of the Riverdale season 5 finale. Veronica and Reggie are thriving in their new business and relationship, and Betty and Archie are giving it another try. Naturally, Hiram had to make one last move in his insane vendetta to kill Archie, so his bang interrupted the other bang that was about to occur. See what I did there?

We all know there’s no way Archie and Betty are dead, but last time we checked, Archie wasn’t the only one living in that house. Jughead could be out with Tabitha by now, but Frank or any of Archie’s war buddies that might be in town could be at risk.

Alternatively, some fans are speculating that Cheryl’s curse set the town reeling into some sort of alternate reality, which is supported by the fact that the first five episodes of season 6 will be set around “Rivervale.” These episodes will be “firmly in the horror genre,” the Riverdale showrunner teased to TVLine, and they will have their “own arc.”

This is an intriguing possibility, but I’m definitely dubious of a season starting off with five episodes where we have to wonder if anything really matters or not. But again, I’ll discuss that when we get there.

riverdale season 5 finale, cheryl blossom

What I am excited about is this new storyline for Cheryl. A school for girls set at Thornhill does kind of seem like a horror movie waiting to happen, and I can’t wait to see what direction this connection to Abigail Blossom pushes Cheryl in, and how it affects the season’s mystery.

How will her curse affect the descendants of Archibald Andrews, Beatrice Cooper, and Jedidiah Jones, and where the heck does everybody else fall into this? After a season with many ups and downs, I can still truly say I’m excited to see where Riverdale is going after the season 5 finale.

Luckily, we don’t have to wait that long, since Riverdale season 6 premieres on Tuesday, November 16. See you all there!