Will Riverdale’s surprisingly strong season finale carry into season five?

The CW teen drama’s promising five-year time jump could give the show the fresh start it needs

The fourth season of the hit show ended on a particularly strong note.
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Riverdale’s writing, acting, and musical choices in its most recent season have turned even its most dedicated viewers away. But with change on the horizon in the world of Riverdale, it’s possible the show may be able to save itself from more self-inflicted embarrassment in season five. 

Following in the footsteps of its past three seasons, season four of the CW’s Riverdale had more diverging plotlines than a single season of television should ever need. 

Archie, Betty, Jughead, and Veronica took down an organ-harvesting cult, inner-city gangs, mean principals, and a private school secret society—all while navigating their senior year. Of course, some of these storylines were executed better than others. Jughead faking his own death with the help of his friends was a lot more engaging than Veronica and Cheryl starting a maple rum business. 

It’s the nature of the show that few plots are well-written or without glaring mistakes. After enduring yet another rollercoaster of a season, I was left with a nagging question: why, even after four seasons of absurdity, do so many viewers like myself still choose to tune in to Riverdale every week? I found a clear answer in the season four finale. 

Although “Chapter Seventy-Six: Killing Mr. Honey” wasn’t originally intended to be the season four finale, it earned the spot. Directed by Madchen Amick, who plays Alice Cooper, the episode delivered a refreshingly well-paced plot and performance.  “Killing Mr. Honey” follows two parallel stories—one real, one imagined—where the gang seeks revenge on Mr. Honey, the Riverdale High principal, for cancelling prom and ‘ruining’ their senior year. While the teens succeed in running Mr. Honey out of Riverdale High, the episode leaves them with the realization that their stuffy principal was never their true enemy, and the real danger of their senior year is still looming. 

The biggest mysteries of the season may have been left unanswered due to Riverdale’s filming being shut down in mid-March, but “Killing Mr. Honey” still managed to shine as one of the season’s strongest moments. The episode was a reminder that Riverdale is at its best when it’s following a tight, focused plot that gets all of its leads in the same room. 

While the characters were off on their own storylines for most of season four, “Killing Mr. Honey” proved that the chemistry between Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead—along with their friends Cheryl, Reggie, and Kevin—is Riverdale’s saving grace. 

As the show moves into season five—which is confirmed to start with an approximate five-year time jump that skips past the gang’s college years—it’s important Riverdale’s writers have a plan if they’re looking to save the show from future ridicule. 

It’s hard to know what the time jump will mean for the direction of the show, except that it’ll inevitably bring lots of change with it. But change might be exactly what Riverdale needs to win back some of its old audience. 

Skipping ahead five years could give the show an opportunity for a fresh start: the cast will be playing characters much closer to their real ages, and the writers will no longer have to juggle the perils of high school along with the main plots. It could mean a return to focused storylines that don’t leave audiences scrambling to remember what happened in the last episode. 

However, if the writers decide that the gang will emerge from the five-year time jump with estranged relationships, Riverdale’s already-thin silver lining may be diminished. 

The remaining three episodes of season four are set to be filmed when production opens back up again and will include a graduation and senior prom. Hopefully these episodes will also give a satisfying conclusion to the season’s main storyline of snuff films and stalker videotapes, laying out a promising transition into season five. 

I won’t set my expectations too high, though. After all, it’s still Riverdale.

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