It’s the beginning of the end on Riverdale, and this week’s penultimate episode gave Archie and the gang a glimpse of a brighter future ahead.
As Wednesday’s episode opens, Jughead senses a great “reshuffling” happening in town, with Principal Featherhead resigning in light of his involvement in the Blossoms’ Soviet spy games. The gang worries that Dr. Werthers will replace him, but he’s off to Washington, D.C. to crack down on juvenile delinquency. So after Toni tells Alice about all the great Black educators who were cast aside when the local schools integrated, Alice helps bring in… Principal Weatherbee! He makes a stirring speech where he promises to be open to new ideas and challenges the students to be better, earning a standing ovation. Yes we can!
Everyone is inspired: Archie reads Kerouac’s On the Road and decides to ride the rails this summer and write about it, and Cheryl takes back the River Vixens from Evelyn — and goes public with her relationship with Toni. But Jughead’s dreams are dashed when Werthers rejects his latest comic book about a Black man and a white woman falling in love as a comet hits Earth. (A comet, you say? Hmmm.) Plus, Kevin goes to check on his dad at the motel… and finds Archie’s Uncle Frank in his room wearing nothing but a towel?!
Jughead’s comic book boss pushes ahead with publishing the comet story anyway, as Pep Comics’ swan song, and Veronica recruits Clay to write and direct a movie version. Reggie is bound for basketball camp, but he’s crushed when he learns it’s held at the same time as the corn harvest on his family farm. He’s resigned to not going — until Archie volunteers to take his place. (He can write about harvesting corn, too.) Betty convinces Alice to read her book, and it opens up a world of self-revelation for her mom, who used to dream of being a stewardess. Hey, it’s never too late to fly the friendly skies.
The big twist, though, comes when Jughead finds Tabitha waiting for him at home. Except she’s not wearing her glasses, because she’s the Tabitha from the future, the guardian angel Tabitha. She brought a TV set with her, and she shows Jughead a vision of the future on it in living color. Jughead is reduced to tears: “I remember everything.” Tabitha tells him the social progress they’re making is helping the multiverse heal, and she’s incorporated all the other timelines into this one to stabilize it — but that means she can’t send them back to the present day. But she can still show the others their future, and when Jughead presents this opportunity to his pals, Archie is the first to volunteer.
He’s stunned by what he sees (Archie’s been through a lot!), but he’s glad he got to spend more time with his dad. Betty and Veronica want to see it, too, and soon, they all get a dose of the harsh truth. (Kevin says no because Clay isn’t in it, though.) Tabitha offers to help them forget what they’ve seen, and when Veronica asks if they can just forget the bad stuff, Tabitha says she can hit a “reset” button, leaving with just the good memories. Well, that’s nice!
The gang heads to Veronica’s movie theater to watch the best bits — aw, this is a nice farewell for the cast, too — and Jughead catches Tabitha sneaking out. He questions whether what they had was even real, and she answers: “Of course it was real. Just like this was real. It was all real. It all happened.” But in this timeline, they have to move forward… without each other. At least they get to share a bittersweet kiss goodbye. In the end, Jughead opts to remember it all, the good and the bad — and Betty does, too.
Got thoughts on tonight’s episode? Predictions for next week’s finale? Grab a booth in the comments to share your thoughts.