Riverdale has gone full meta. (And not in the Facebook way.)
The many worlds of Archie Comics collided into an action-packed chapter on Riverdale Season 6 Episode 5. Cameos, Riverdale references, and milkshakes were just some of the treats to end off "Rivervale's" five-part event series.
This chapter also marked a milestone for the series by hitting its 100th episode. But did the landmark hour live up to the hype?
This 100th chapter felt like a love letter to fans.
"Chapter One Hundred: The Jughead Paradox" was a treasure trove of callbacks and cameos. For any longstanding fan of Riverdale, you could pinpoint the many references to past plots that will bring on all the nostalgia.
And if you're an Archie Comics fan, we were finally treated to the '50's aesthetic again. We hadn't seen this set-up surprise since Riverdale Season 1 Episode 7; it was sorely missed and long overdue.
Riverdale acknowledged its craziness and dove in head-first to give us even more outlandish plots. And this time, Riverdale felt like it was in on the joke, playing off of all the shipping, the soap opera plots, and its darker crime noir style.
We were all allowed to unpack the series, laugh, and think, "Oh yeah, that did happen."
The biggest hurdle with a meta-inspired episode is the layers involved. The story should be easy to explain and have all the elements make sense to the viewer.
The more scientific approach was taken from The Twilight Zone, so there were a lot of parallel universe conversations going on. (Think the multiverses from DC and Marvel.)
Veronica: Alright, let’s do it. Let’s makeout and save the universe. One thing: can we make it during the wedding? I’m not really in the mood.
Jughead: Yeah, I hear that. Same.
[Veronica drinks a glass]
Veronica: Here’s to “Vughead” becoming canon.
Riverdale did an alright job of explaining the high-level issue that was going on, but the dialogue could've used some work when it got into the anomalies and how they could save Riverdale/Rivervale. The many layers were confusing at times, and if I didn't have an understanding of multiverses, I would've gotten lost.
And the explanations for the bleeding loops and breaking Riverdale from Rivervale didn't help the confusion. A bit more finessing of the dialogue could've smoothened out these bumps.
Though, the visual references were top-notch!
Whenever a point needed to be made about the time loop, a fun surprise or callback would show us that something bad was going on. They could be big scene-changers or subtle easter eggs to the past.
Jughead: Wedding? Who’s getting married?
Archie: Jug, Betty and I are getting married this weekend. You’re my best man.
I loved references because Riverdale said so much without uttering a word.
Some of the best callbacks included Jughead entering Rivervale High to relive Riverdale Season 1 Episode 1 in the hallways or whenever someone read from the comics to discuss a storyline from a past chapter. The nods were so referential and aware of their own backstory.
Plus, the nods hit all the right funny and emotional notes. (My heart hurt seeing Fred Andrews/Luke Perry return as a flashback. He will always be missed.)
The cleverest nod was the return of the original Reggie (played by Ross Butler). That twist was a chef's kiss moment and peak comedy!
Both Reggies might've been different in certain areas, but they were the same in their hotheadedness and ego.
If only they had talked things out, they would've spared themselves dying in a dual. Veronica fully wanted to be in a relationship with both of them; it could've worked out to their advantage, like deciding what they wanted for their future.
At this point, I side with Charles Melton as "Reggie Prime." Ross' version was only in a few chapters during Riverdale Season 1, so the winning version goes to the majority factor.
The paradox answer was an interesting way to tie Rivervale into Riverdale and answer a long-burning question about the series. For instance, since Jughead has been narrating the series, were these episodes essentially chapters in his book?
Having the paradox clarify that he is the writer and the narrator shines a new light on everything that happened before.
These are just stories that Jughead is creating to push the plot further. He is narrating the events to come because he wrote them himself.
It's a clever twist on what we would've expected. It only worked because of Rivervale, but it's an answer nonetheless.
And the same goes for the anomalies that changed up the universes. Like the multiverses, the smallest differences had the biggest impacts on how things were run.
I liked the descent into chaos as more anomalies popped up.
Jughead: Ben? You’re Ben Button?
Ben: Of course, I am. Who else would I be?
Jughead: Ben, you died! You jumped out of a window when you sacrificed yourself to the Gargoyle King.
Ben: No, you’re thinking of that dude from Stonewall Prep.
Jughead: Mr. Chipping, yeah. No, no! You did it first.
Ben: Maybe you hallucinated it?
Through all the chaos, all the new changes added to the feeling of not knowing what was going on. However, this approach helped in a good way. The tone wanted us not to know what we believed.
Things like Jason Blossom being alive and dead made us question the true reality in Rivervale. And as more paradoxes happened, it raised the threat level of needing to solve the problem. It felt like a serious threat that wasn't completely clear.
Dilton Doily and Archie were both unexpected and made a lot of sense as the main villains.
We didn't know much about Dilton during his time on Riverdale; he always played a minor background character before he died. But, this academic Dilton in Rivervale seemed more inclined to do whatever it took to get what he wanted. He wanted that research discovery bad!
How did he not realize a "collapsing universe" would lead to his death?
If the theory proved right, he would die. No one would ever learn about his discovery in the first place. His evil plan had a lot of flaws.
In Archie's case, let's call this the return of "Reckless Archie."
Don't get me wrong, I understand and sympathize with him for hoping the death theory would be right.
Though, killing people to silence them wasn't the answer, especially since he proved that anyone he killed would return from the dead anyway.
Archie: I’m not a villain, Jug. No one stays dead here. Cheryl and Ronnie will be back. All the people we’ve lost. Everyone comes back to life in this universe.
Jughead: Everyone comes back. Is this about your dad?
Archie: Don’t you get it? He’s coming home. He has to. He would never miss my wedding, especially not to Betty. He loved Betty.
I was shocked when he killed the Jughead clone and Cheryl. However, that feeling went away fast once it became clear everyone would resurrect again. We only learned deep down inside of him that Archie has the ability to kill people.
Also, that he's cleverer than he lets on. He deduced everything about the paradoxes and how to work them to his advantage without anyone's help. We might be sleeping on Archie; his bad decisions have clouded our judgments.
Last Thoughts From Sweetwater River:
I didn't like the first four Rivervale chapters' retconning being a dream. It seemed sloppy, like the writers wanted to wash away the story to start fresh.
If Rivervale Jughead is the writer creating the story, why would he have Riverdale Jughead lose his hearing in the explosion? It felt cruel to do that to yourself, even a parallel universe version of you.
Ben Button must have magical powers at this point. He always seems to know something we don't.
- Jason Blossom finally spoke!
Now, over to you, Riverdale fans.
What did you think of "Chapter One Hundred: The Jughead Paradox"?
Who was your favorite cameo? Will we ever hear about Rivervale again? Is Jughead's hearing completely gone?
If you missed the latest episode of Riverdale, you can watch Riverdale online via TV Fanatic. Come back here and share your thoughts in the comments below.
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.