How did Jason Blossom die? That was the original mystery surrounding the small town of Riverdale. It was a fairly small town where not much happened until Jason's unexpected and tragic death. Throughout the first season, discussing the teenager's death was the central question that Betty and Jughead were trying to solve. When it eventually turned out to be a murder, more questions rose to the surface, such as who killed Jason and why. Meanwhile, Archie's biggest struggles surrounded the uncertainty of choosing between music or football. For the most part, Riverdale was a teen drama like most others, tackling high school, financial troubles, uncertain futures, and the aftermath of a golden boy's death. But, it did not stay that way for long. Instead, as season two began, Riverdale started unraveling on a drastically different path.
Update August 11, 2023: With the final episode of Riverdale just around the corner, this article has been updated to show exactly how much more the series has changed before the curtain sets on this popular series.
Rather than more relatable journeys, Riverdale began giving its high school student characters full-time companies to be in charge of, in addition to their homework or holding the leadership of gang activity. Small-town murder grew into deathly board games, cults, potential aliens, and actual supernatural events, including the Multiverse. Now that the series has reached its final season, we are awaiting a final showdown, as the series will conclude on August 23, 2023. It has been a long strange journey for the series since it began on January 26, 2017. Much has changed in the real world as well as the world in Riverdale. Here is how Riverdale has changed since it began.
It Started as a Simple Small Town Mystery
If there was any way to show the difference between the first season of Riverdale and everything that came after, it was in the simplicity of the original storyline. In its first season, Riverdale was just about a group of teenagers in the aftermath of Jason Blossom's death. However, the discovery that Jason was murdered brought out Betty and Jughead's detective sides, especially considering Jason's connection to Polly. Uncovering the truth about murder while simultaneously developing its lead characters as musicians or portraying Veronica's wish to re-invent herself apart from who she had been in New York after her father's arrest was more significant plot points and far simpler than what the series eventually became.
Addressing the Problematic Archie/Grundy Plot
Archie and Grundy's inappropriate and illegal relationship gets some acknowledgment when others find out in season one. However, season two shows Grundy dying at the hands of the Black Hood for statutory sexual assault of a minor. In season six, Archie and Betty discuss the ramifications of Archie's relationship with Grundy years later and even reference that Grundy had groomed Archie. However, given how Archie had multiple love interests in season one, the aftermath of Archie's dynamic with Grundy is mainly skipped over once it ends to focus on other things.
In the seventh season in the 1955 timeline, Mrs. Grundy comes back to Riverdale and Archie does fall for her again. But in the 17th episode of the series, we see that when Archie performs a poem about Mrs. Grundy, she rejects him. There are still three episodes waitiing to be aired in August, and we can see then if the storyline reaches a conclusion.
Dipping Into the Supernatural
After Archie's house explodes, Archie and Betty find there is something different about them. They have gained supernatural abilities in the aftermath of the bomb, with Archie being invulnerable and Betty gaining the ability to see auras. As the season continues, Cheryl becomes a Phoenix, Jughead gains mind-reading and portal-jumping abilities, and Tabitha, Riverdale's guardian angel, can jump through time. Riverdale even delivers a Chilling Adventures of Sabrina crossover by introducing a resurrected Sabrina Spellman and a temporarily revived in Jughead's body, Nicholas Scratch, to help Betty, Veronica, Tabitha, and Cheryl restore their friends.
Even though the students all gained their power due to the arrival of Percival Pickens from an alternate universe town called Rivervale, the powers stay with the students until the end of season 6. In season 7, we see that they were unable to veer the course of the meteor even after transferring all their power to Cheryl. With her cryokinetic powers, Tabitha transfers everyone to a 1955 Riverdale timeline, where the 7th season takes place. Hopefully, in the last three episodes, the students can all go back to their timeline, and we will get a satisfying ending to the series.
Veronica's Family Issues
At first, Veronica's family problems are more in the past. Hiram is in jail for his actions, and Veronica and Hermione have moved to Riverdale to escape the aftermath in New York. Veronica's primary concern in season one is personal growth and separation from Hiram's actions. She is going to work at being a good friend to Betty and not being the same person she had been beforehand. But, once Hiram got to town, Veronica's family problems got far worse, especially as Hiram overstayed his welcome for far too many seasons too long.
Most of Veronica's storylines surrounded her back-and-forth dance with her father as Hiram strove to take over the town, and Veronica wished to stop him. Unfortunately, Veronica and Hiram were locked in a dangerous game, from Hiram trying to use Archie to fighting over land and territory. It had reached such a dangerous level that Veronica, along with her friends, had eventually forced Hiram out of town, and Veronica had even put a hit on him.
RiverVale's five-episode event introduced a different type of Riverdale. Although it picks up similarly to where season five had left off, the beginning of season six is a series of events playing around with the supernatural and alternate versions of well-known characters. As a result, it does not initially seem like RiverVale is going anywhere, especially as Riverdale's events do not directly acknowledge them. However, as the season continues, RiverVale's stories become more extensive on the show. The group finds themselves feeling deja vu, and when Jughead breaks through the barrier between worlds and discovers the Multiverse is real, it also plays a massive role in understanding who Percival Pickens is and where he came from.
Tabitha's supernatural powers also save everyone and transfers them to a 1955 Riverdale where everyone but Jughead has forgotten everything. By the end of the first episode, Tabitha comes clean about manipulating the timeline and makes him forget everything. She is also currently looking through different timelines to find out how she can stop these events from happening altogether.
Aging Out of High School
For the first four seasons, Archie and his friends are high school students, and this does not change until the time jump brings them seven years into the future. Season five and onward present a reality in which they are now adults. Granted, they all ended up returning to their high school as teachers. However, even after spending two seasons away from being students, Riverdale could not help but bring in the nostalgia for its final season as the final moments of season six tease a de-aged set of main characters as they return to their roles as students in the 1950s. The high school life in 1955 is obviously very different from the present-day high school of Riverdale and is in keeping with the original Archie comics that Riverdale is based on.
The Parents' Reduced Role
The teenagers were not the only ones playing essential roles in Riverdale. Most of their parents also played critical parts in the Jason Blossom mystery or other events of the show's first season. Alice and Hal used to play a more significant role in why Polly was kept at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. Alice also had a more prominent role in her disapproval of Archie and Veronica. Hermione was trying to re-invent her life in Riverdale. Fred played a sturdy role as one of the most supportive parents. Jughead's estranged relationship with his father led to questioning if FP was responsible for Jason's death. Discovering that Cheryl and Jason's father had killed Jason gave greater importance to Cheryl's parents being so involved in the story and setting up how awful they treat Cheryl.
But, over time, the parents became less and less critical. Hiram, as the central villain, remained a key figure. But, otherwise, most parents faded into the background, only to be relevant every once in a while. This coincided with the tragic passing of Luke Perry, who played Archie's father Fred. Riverdale made a fitting tribute to Perry in the season 4 premiere and, in many ways, marked a shift for the series. With the time jump, most of the parents had been written out, with them only playing a role occasionally.
Introducing Other Important Characters
While the original central characters were introduced in the first season, some others were not brought into the show until season two or after. Toni enters the series in season two as a Southside Serpent who shows Jughead what the gang is about. Hiram becomes one of the biggest villains of the show the same year. Tabitha, who has become one of the most significant additions to the series, was not introduced until after the time jump in season five.
Although they had mostly played supporting roles, they still ended up being critical to the series and the show's original set of central characters. In the 7th season, we also see a new character called Clay Walker who is a romantic interest for Kevin and also plays an important role in the unfolding of various events.
Kevin's Reduced Role
Kevin initially seemed to be a much more key member of the group. He was one of Betty's best friends, had romances occurring, and tended to play an essential role in the friend group. But, over time, Kevin's role downgraded to maybe having a love interest if he was not preoccupied with the season's cult. Kevin became affiliated with nearly any brainwashing thing occurring in Riverdale, and that was if he had a storyline.
There are plenty of episodes where Kevin's most significant involvement is maybe one line of dialogue or being seated somewhere in a crowd without substantial involvement. His overall significance to the plot has greatly diminished, which is unfortunate given the amount of potential Kevin had to play a more prominent role in the show's events.
A Larger Universe
When Riverdale premiered, it was a clear adaptation of the Archie comics. Yet as the series became more popular, the chance to expand the franchise emerged. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, an adaptation of the Sabrina the Teenage Witch comics, premiered on Netflix. After the series ended, Sabrina Spellman made multiple guest apperances on Riverdale. Kathy Keane was a one-season spin-off of Riverdale, which saw characters from Riverdale appear on it and vice-versa.
Riverdale has had an impressive run, and with only two episodes left until it concludes, it will be interesting to see how the series finally comes to a close. No idea seemed like a bad idea in the Riverdale writer's room, allowing for a unique series that certainly grew far beyond what it originally started out as.