Remember Riverdale? It used to be on TV, like a hundred years ago. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but five months is a long time for a mid-season hiatus. Especially when they ended in the midst of so much action, including a prison break orchestrated by Hiram (Mark Consuelos), a high-school battle involving Archie (KJ Apa), a bunch of escaped convicts and a machete, the Alice Cooper-officiated marriage of terrible twosome Chic and Charles, and the disappearance of a drugged-out Jughead (Cole Sprouse). It was, as the kids say, a whole vibe.
And then nothing. We have been waiting for new episodes since the end of March! An entire Olympics have happened since then. New York changed governors! Rihanna became a billionaire (without even dropping a new album). But now, Riverdale is back with the second half of Season 5. And we can confirm that time away has not tempered the show’s insane ability to reside somewhere over the top while also completely sucking us in.
Tonight, “Chapter Eighty-Seven: Strange Bedfellows” picks up the morning after the chaos and instantly gets after it. Mama Blossom has been granted parole and found God. A cash-strapped Ronnie falls prey to jewel thieves. Two unexpected allies find a trippy way of figuring out where Jug may have gone (check out our exclusive video peek below!) and Archie..well, how about we just let showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa spill the details on the gang? After all, he’s had a lot of time to sit with this second half of the season and has some insight into what we can expect to see. (Also, if you’re the praying type, send up a few for the safe return of his father, ok?)
Riverdale has been gone for so long! Did you know that you were going to have such a long break?
Roberto: No, we didn’t. We got word about it and everyone acted as though that had always been the case. Maybe it had and I just didn’t know, but we were all, I think, a little bit surprised. It was weird finishing the episodes and then having them sit on the shelf for so long and I do think that this batch of nine episodes, they are some of the best we’ve done. So I’m really psyched about people getting to see them.
Good. OK, so it picks up literally very shortly after the prison break and everyone is still dealing with the wreckage of everything that happened in that last night. How does this reset the table for the second half?
It’s funny. When we wrote this episode, we weren’t thinking, “Oh, there’s going to be a six-month gap between episode 10 and 11.” One thing we did for this episode that we had stopped doing for Riverdale is we included a “Previously On.” Yeah, it’s a little bit piecing through the wreckage of our mid-season finale, and then it’s starting some new stories. For instance, one big story that starts quietly in this episode, is Betty’s friendship with Tabitha, which is something that we follow through the second half of the season. It’s almost the gift of this episode. It’s really wonderful to see Erinn Westbrook and Lili Reinhart in those scenes. I love them together. Then the other thing is, Veronica (Camila Mendes) and Archie aren’t immediately reunited. Archie says, “I don’t think we should come together until you’re officially divorced.” That little decision is something we’ll track the rest of the season as well. You’re right. It’s both the immediate aftermath of 10, but it does sort of sneakily start some pretty big stories.
So by putting Betty and Tabitha together, which I loved, you start to realize oh, there are complications here, because two women, one Jughead.
[Laughs] Yeah, yeah. Well, listen. I will say that by the end of the season, there is a clear resolution to both Betty’s relationship to Jughead and Tabitha’s relationship to Jughead. I’m loathe to call it a love triangle though, because we’re not really pitting Betty against Tabitha, but I will say that both women go on their own journeys regarding their relationships with Jughead. I think it surprised us in the writer’s room, so I hope that it will surprise fans too.
Now Archie…a lot of people still want to see him with Betty.
Yeah. [Laughs] I hear that and I’ve gotten called-out a little bit because I said we’re really going to explore that and then they broke up. They tabled their “friends with benefits” relationship. I will say, though, especially towards the end of Season 5, we do see more Betty and Archie, and we do see their friendship evolve into something else.
Something that the fans are going to love, or are they going to put you up on a wooden cross?
I can’t say any more, but probably a little bit of both.
And let’s talk Kevin (Casey Cott). There’s so much going on with Kevin.
I know, Kevin, he’s been a little bit of a lost lamb. In the rest of this season, we do see him team up with Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch). Actually, their episodes together in the second half of the season are really, really fun. We do bring Kevin to a pretty definitive place by the end of the season, but Kevin, he’s just been a little bit unlucky in love, a little bit lost. Of all our characters, his seven intervening years were probably the least fulfilling of anyone. Probably less traumatic than some of the other characters, but I think he feels he didn’t really get to go out in the world and explore stuff.
He’s still showing so many signs of being self-destructive, ya just want to hug him!
Yeah. [Laughs] No, I know. Things do start improving, though. Casey’s Kevin is so adorable, I hear you. Well, hang in there, because Kevin does get his life back on track.
Thank god. And then my girls are coming back, Josie and the Pussycats.
Yes, yes, yes! Obviously, that is one of our strongest episodes this season. It’s all about them. It’s a really terrific episode where we’re doing something fun with Josie (Ashleigh Murray) that we didn’t do on Riverdale, that we didn’t do even on Katy Keene. And boy, it was pretty magical to have all of the girls reunited on our set and so meaningful that Robin Givens directed that episode. It means that fans are not just getting one musical, but two musicals in the back half of the season. For those people that love musicals, they’re going to be thrilled. For those that always say our musicals are cringey, I guess it’s going to be twice the cringe factor. [Laughs]
And you’re bringing Katy Keene‘s Camille Hyde back as Alexandra Cabot, right?
Yeah. We love her.
She’s so good.
I’m so happy for her that she’s in the All-American spinoff, but truthfully, I was so desperate to get her on Riverdale. We did so much to work out the schedule, but she’s great. She’s in a Pussycat episode. She’s great. She sings the song with Erinn’s Tabitha, and Vanessa Morgan‘s Toni. It’s pretty spectacular.
Oh, wow. And speaking of Toni…what is going on with Toni and Cheryl? You’ve got this insane Blossom Ministry happening.
Yeah. I would say stay tuned for more stuff with Cheryl and Toni. That relationship does evolve, but probably in a way not many people are expecting, let me say that. That’s all I’ll say about that.
Yikes. In this return episode, you have this great musical number, “Walking in Space,” although I’m betting much of the Riverdale audience doesn’t even know “Hair” or just how strange of a song it is.
I know! [Laughs] That number, which is a musical number from “Hair,” intercuts from Betty and Tabitha in Dilton’s bunker tripping, to Cheryl and Penelope (Nathalie Boltt) starting a religion, to Archie and his squad—the bounty hunters—rappelling into save a hostage situation. It’s one of our weirdest few minutes that we’ve actually ever done on Riverdale. I’m so happy you’re identifying it as a high-water mark of surreal absurdity, because it is!
Well, in the movie “Hair,” it’s also so surreal and so off-putting, because it’s this huge acid trip and the visuals are so unsettling. I saw it as a kid and did not feel good about it.
I know, I’m with you. [Laughs] When I saw the movie “Hair” when I was kid, it was wildly traumatizing, honestly, yeah.
Is that a hint as to what your musical this season is?
No, and it’s funny. I think we’re going to announce it in a little bit, so I can’t spoil it, but there are musical numbers coming outside of the musical. I love “Hair” and I’ve always loved that number. It felt like this is the moment to do it. Why not?
OK, we can wait. Should we be worried about anyone in the cast that we love, that we know, with the Trash-Bag Killer still out there?
You should be. You should be worried. Yeah. There’s a lot more to come on that storyline, absolutely. There are actually a couple of killers still on the loose, so yes, pray for our favorite cast members. It gets worse for everyone before it gets better.
Riverdale, Season 5 Midseason Premiere, Wednesday, August 11, 8/7c, The CW