The CW series Riverdale is back for Season 3, with Archie (KJ Apa) on trial for murder, Betty (Lili Reinhart) being forced to deal with her problems head-on, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) leading the Serpents, and Veronica (Camila Mendes) having to turn to her father to step in and help. As these four best friends will have to rely on each other now more than ever and with a new mystery on the horizon in need of solving, there’s no telling what might happen next in Riverdale. The only thing we know for sure is that Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) will have the best fashion while doing it.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa talked about the unexpected journey the series has taken since he first conceived of it, the evolution to where they are now, the big changes that are coming for Archie, focusing on the parents for a flashback episode, how the popularity of the relationship between Alice (Mädchen Amick ) and FP (Skeet Ulrich) has taken on a life of its own, the Betty-Jughead dynamic, and what being a Serpent will mean for Cheryl. He also talked about finding his Sabrina Spellman, for the upcoming Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the possibility of more TV series, and the challenge of juggling everything.
Collider: How much does Season 3 of Riverdale look like what you thought it might when you set up the series?
ROBERTO AGUIRRE-SACASA: When I originally pitched Riverdale, it was a much more earnest, traditional coming of age show. It was a teen drama that was about first kisses and first jobs. It was a slice of life drama, a little bit like My So-Called Life and a little bit like my boss Greg Berlanti’s show, Everwood. When I first started talking about it with Greg, he was the first person who said, “TV has changed so much since My So-Called Life, and it’s changed so much since Everwood, that you really need a genre hook.” Ryan Murphy took a high school show and made it a musical, and that was what was new about it. So, I thought, what can we do to this high school show to differentiate it, or to give it that genre element? Through the development process, it became this crime, noir, pulpy show. So, could I have predicted anything from Season 3? No. I remember when we were introducing the Southside Serpents in Season 1, Episode 4, with the closing of the drive-in, everyone was like, “Wait, we’re doing gangs?” But we were tapping into the iconography of the Greasers, the Socs and the Outsiders, and Grease. It was very different from Sons of Anarchy, which was real, realistic and gritty. So, it’s completely different and wonderful. When I first started thinking about this show, I admit that I didn’t give myself permission to go to those places, and to make it sexier, more violent and more genre. I originally thought it was gonna be about a kid who wants to play guitar and be on the football team. Now, Archie is fighting for his innocence, on trial for murder, and he was in the Mafia for awhile. It’s bonkers, but I love it.
For Season 3, Archie is in jail, Betty’s dad is a serial killer, and Cheryl is in a biker gang that Jughead is the leader of.
AGUIRRE-SACASA: I know! It all feels organic, doesn’t it? We have this conversation in the writers’ room, all the time. As we talk about story, the one thing that I really believe in is that it’s hard to go back. Now that we have started exploring these genres and we’ve put these characters in this situation, it’s hard to go back and tell stories like, “Oh, my gosh, I have to stay up all night and cram for my mid-term.” What we’re trying to do a little bit in Season 3 is tell those stories juxtaposed with the darker crime and noir because people still do like those high school universal stories, they just have to somehow find the balance and live together.
What’s next for Archie?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: Big changes are coming in Archie’s life. The most fundamental way is probably the least shocking. The trial, and being arrested at the end of last season, has made Archie really examine all of his actions during Season 2, a lot of which were borderline reprehensible. He more than flirted with the dark side. He aligned with the dark side. When we find him in Season 3, it’s that time where you stop and take stock of your life and what you’ve done, and we all go through that. You either take responsibility for what you’ve done and you try to fix it, or you just say I’m not going to be that person. That’s where we find Archie. That’s really what this season is about for him. He’s trying to own his mistakes and reconcile his life with what he’s done. There can be good ways to do that and bad ways to do that, and Archie is going to do both.
Over the last season, these four friends really split apart, in a lot of ways. Will all of this bring them back together?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: The feuds between the Lodges and the Joneses, and the Coopers and the Lodges, led to a lot of cracks that happened. Hiram came to town and he shook things up, and things really splintered. It was like the splintering of King Arthur’s roundtable, which was good. It was a good story. It shook things up. But, I’m happy that the kids are more aligned in Season 3. They still have their own stories and their own demons, but when push comes to shove, they’re there for each other.