riverdale series finale, varchie, veronica lodge, archie andrews

‘Riverdale’ series finale review: Every minute counts

The Riverdale series finale revealed the fates of all our favorite characters.

7 seasons, 137 episodes, 2 timelines, hundreds of kisses, more than a handful of murders, and countless “wtf” moments, all culminated in the Riverdale series finale. After pushing a hard reset on the character’s narratives in the final season, the show had its work cut out for it for this ending. Did they pull it off?

The episode began, like so many before it, with the narration of Jughead Jones. Surprisingly, he informs us that 67 years have passed since the last episode, and we’re now back in the present day! The first face we see is an aged Elizabeth Cooper (just hearing this name started the water works for me), reading the obituary of one Forsythe P. Jones III.

This is a series finale tactic I’ve seen a few times before, fast forwarding to the end of at least one character’s life, and I think it was a good choice for Riverdale after this final season. The mix of mortality and nostalgia packs a practically guaranteed gut punch while providing allowance for painting character arcs with broad strokes, rather than dexterously tying up loose ends and crafting meaningful endings to intricate storylines.

The episode went on to show Betty travel back to the final day of high school, which she had missed due to mumps, with a version of Jughead. Bughead has been one of the most iconic relationships in the Riverdale series, and they’ve been completely neglected in the final season. It was nice to have them featured so prominently in the Riverdale series finale, one last time.

Betty excitedly greets her confused friends and family as if she hasn’t seen them for decades because, of course, she hasn’t! At a glance, and with a little help from Jughead where her absence or fading memories fail her, we discover where each character is a year after the previous episode, and what course their life took.

Some of the most exciting things we learn are that Alice became a stewardess, remarried, and saw the world. Toni and Cheryl stayed together and had fabulous lives, as did Kevin and Clay. Reggie played basketball for the LA Lakers before returning to coach his own sons at Riverdale High. Mary Andrews found Brooke once again and they lived happily ever after. Veronica became a big time studio executive in Hollywood, and Archie settled out west with a family and worked construction while keeping up with his poetry.

Then there’s the tragic news. Fangs finally hit it big with a single and Midge’s parents were ready to give their blessing to their marriage, but unfortunately he perished in a crash four weeks into his tour. Archie’s uncle Frank and Tom Keller were sadly murdered by Chic, because what would the Riverdale series finale be without at least a little murder? Julian remained a lost soul and died in Vietnam at the age of 28. They also proved that we’re actually in the darkest timeline now since Pop Tate died before the characters graduated high school.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Riverdale if there weren’t also some complete and utter surprises. One that I probably shouldn’t have been surprised about is the fact that Nana Rose was continuously reincarnated, because if she made it through the entire series, it makes perfect sense that she just be immortal. The other big surprise was that Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica spent their senior year in a quad relationship.

This twist honestly makes complete sense for the sexually curious characters that we met in Riverdale season 7. In some ways, the repression of the 50s actually helped liberate them from every box people were trying to keep them in, so they found their own arrangement that worked perfectly for them.

At the same time, this was a frustrating move for people who shipped any of these characters, who were hoping a choice would be made one way or another. The Varchie, Bughead, and Barchie shippers have been with this show since the beginning, and were desperately hoping for some deeper validation. The show just kind of leaned into the fact that they all love each other deeply, which is nice, but from what we saw they reduced any romantic component to something purely sexual, which was less gratifying. I would have liked to see some actual romance for these characters in the Riverdale series finale.

Some of the most interesting lives belonged to Betty and Jughead. They both went on to become writers in their own way, with Betty starting her own feminist publication and Jughead starting a lasting legacy in “Jughead’s Madhouse Comics,” which led to a nice tribute to the Archie comics source material from these two characters. Neither of them married, although Betty adopted a daughter who eventually gave her her granddaughter, Alice, who we meet.

What I didn’t like about the Riverdale series finale is how removed it was from the plot of the first six seasons. Everyone’s ending made sense for who they became in season 7, but very few connected in any way to their previous narrative. Any connection they tried to make to the previous timeline, like Archie’s poem, fell really flat for me and the reactions of each character actually just highlighted how irrelevant all of that was to what’s happening now.

That being said, there was a lot about the Riverdale series finale that I did like. All in all, I thought it was a really well crafted episode. It was beautifully written, shot, directed, and acted, and told its own story very well. The episode was full of what were obviously very real tears from the cast as they said goodbye to the characters and the world they’ve inhabited, and the show paid homage to its legacy in amazing ways.

I loved that while there was certainly a lot of emotion and meaning to mine from the character moments in the episode, there was just as much poignancy in the general sentiment of the finale. The theme of getting older, losing touch, being nostalgic for the good old days, and even looking back on a body you used to hated with wiser and kinder eyes are all but universal. Everyone can find meaning in “saying hello, walking alongside someone for a while, and saying goodbye,” and the episode packed a way bigger punch because of that.

The Riverdale series finale served the show’s tone much better than its characters. The show has always been made of small but powerful moments, friendship, jaw-dropping reveals, and finding the beauty in tragedy. In all of those regards, the series finale encompassed the show perfectly.

After seven insane seasons, we fittingly left our Riverdale characters at the big Pop’s in the sky. There, they get to spend eternity being 17, drinking milkshakes and anxiously anticipating the next awesome thing to happen. Like them, we’ll never actually get to see that next awesome thing, but we will hold onto all of the memories of what we will always affectionately know as Riverdale, the town with pep!