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The 18 Most Ridiculous Things That Happened in Riverdale, an Insane Show

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When Riverdale premiered back in 2017, it quickly distanced itself from its source text, the wholesome Archie comics. The CW spin on the comic series recasts its beloved characters — golden boy Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), sardonic weirdo Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), girl-next-door Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), and heiress with a heart of gold Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) — as modern, horny teens who hope to solve a murder mystery.

From the start, Riverdale unabashedly paid homage to a wide variety of stylistic influences, from Twin Peaks’ off-kilter noir to Gossip Girl’s soapiness to Glee’s campy musical numbers. But, perhaps unexpectedly, the show evolved into a genre of its own because it stopped adhering to the rules of reality very early on. At its best, Riverdale was a borderline Dadaist experiment in absurdity, a writing exercise in suspending disbelief. Truly anything could happen in a single episode: an evil Dungeons & Dragons–like roleplaying game, a tickle-fetish racket, an alien preserved in a barrel of maple syrup, etc. It’s a testament to the tenacity of the show’s cast and writing staff that all of this insanity felt relatively plausible within its universe (and eventually, multiverses). In honor of Riverdale’s final season, — which premieres today, March 29, at 9 p.m. ET —we have gathered together the show’s most ridiculous moments. (Well, the most ridiculous moments so far — there’s still one season to go and things will assuredly get buck wild.)

Meet Dark Betty (Season One, Episode Three)

Veronica goes on a date with star football player Chuck Clayton who later spreads a rumor that he gave her a “sticky maple.” After learning that Chuck and his friends have used this highly-local slut-shamming tactic on many women, including Betty’s older sister Polly, Betty and Veronica take matters into their own hands. They make a plan to lure Chuck into a threesome and get him to confess the truth on camera but things get weird fast when Betty emerges wearing a black bob wig: “Betty couldn’t make it so she sent me instead.” She drugs Chuck with a “truth serum,” handcuffs him inside a boiling jacuzzi, and nearly drowns him while dissociating. This was episode three.

The Red Circle (Season Two, Episode Three)

After his father is shot by a masked gunman, a guilt-ridden Archie becomes obsessed with protecting his town from the killer, who becomes known as the Black Hood. Inspired by a comic book called The Red Circle that he sees while retrieving a gun, Archie gathers his fellow football players and forms a “watchdog” patrol. Any teen vigilante group worth its salt needs a threatening promo video, so Archie gathers his bros in a garage and films a Tom of Finland ad as imagined by ISIS. “See, there’s only one of you. But we are legion,” Archie says as a crew of shirtless, masked beefcakes pulse their pectorals in the background. “We’re called the Red Circle and we’re coming for you. We will find you, we will hunt you, and we will end you.” Of all the times for Archie to keep his top on?!

It’s a Very, Very Mad World (Season Two, Episode Eight)

Betty feels distant from Jughead who is a little preoccupied playing head honcho of his gang, the Southside Serpents. She seeks advice from Toni (Vanessa Morgan) on how to become “Serpent adjacent” but is interrupted by the chuckles of a grizzled old Serpent dame: “Sorry Sweet Valley High — you want to join the club, you gotta do the dance. The Serpent dance.” Toni rolls her eyes at the “outdated, sexist Serpent tradition” but Betty is, of course, immediately all in. This gives us one of the cringiest moments in the show as Betty does a striptease while singing the Donnie Darko version of “Mad World” at, of all places, her boyfriend’s father’s retirement party.

Sacrificial Babes (Season Three, Episode One)

It’s tough to say when exactly Riverdale truly went off the rails because that would require it to have been on them in the first place. But the season three premiere feels like some sort of rubicon. Jughead catches wind of an RPG called “Griffins and Gargoyles” that inspires local dweebs to carve runes into their backs and sacrifice themselves! Meanwhile, Betty’s mother and sister have fallen under the spell of the Farm, a “Heaven’s Gate commune for pregnant runaways and wives of serial killers!” The episode concludes with Polly’s twin babies getting casually tossed into a bonfire. But wait, these babies levitate in midair above the flames, no worries there.

The Epic Highs and Lows of High School Football (Season Three, Episode Two)

Archie pleads guilty to manslaughter (long story) and is detained at the Leopold and Loeb Juvenile Detention Center, a jail named after real-life teens who committed murder in the ‘20s just to know what it was like. Sweet, innocent Archie is distraught to discover the cruelty of incarceration and takes it upon himself to remind his fellow inmates of their humanity the only way he knows how: by introducing them to “The triumphs and defeats, the epic highs and lows, of high school football.” Veronica and the Vixens cheerleading squad roll up and perform a rendition of Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock” that drives the boys bananas. After they’re done humping a chain link fence, they bring that passion to the field and play a good ‘ol game of ball. The USO could never!

Archie Fights a Bear (Season Three, Episode Nine)

While living in exile deep in the Canadian wilderness, Archie is attacked by a grizzly bear. Archie unfortunately survives the offscreen attack but not before hallucinating a vision quest that concludes when he bashes in another version of himself with a baseball bat. Now that his demons have been faced, Archie can return to the Riverdale High locker room with a fresh set of scars to show off.

Edgar Evernever Knievel (Season Four, Episode Three)

Farm leader Edgar Evernever (Chad Michael Murray) is hiding out in an abandoned hotel with his brainwashed followers. His grand doomsday plan deserves to be quoted in full because it is insane: “Evelyn is going to drive the bus full of Farmies off of a cliff as a distraction while he…takes off in his rocket.” My guy built a rocket while running an organ harvesting scheme?! Incredible. Oh, and he plans to tie Betty and her mom to the front of the bus as human shields. Cut to a rooftop standoff where Edgar is now rocking a red-white-and-blue Evel Knievel jumpsuit. Take notes, future cult leaders!

Cheryl Blossom’s Weekend at Bernie’s (Season Four, Episode Four)

A maple syrup heiress with a fucked up family, Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) is undeniably Riverdale’s most tragic figure. So who can blame her for hanging out with her dead brother’s corpse once in a while! Toni stumbles upon Cheryl repairing Jason’s rat-infested remains and instead of running away shrieking she lets Cheryl play Weekend at Bernie’s a bit longer. After they (finally) rebury Jason, a creepy redhead doll starts popping up around the house. Nana Rose believes that it might be possessed by the spirit of Julian, Cheryl’s secret triplet who was potentially eaten in the womb. The whole ordeal finally gets Cheryl sent to a therapist.

Academia Self-Defenestration (Season Four, Episode Six)

Riverdale borrows most of its fourth season’s plot from Donna Tartt’s The Secret History because the show definitely needs more teen Bacchanalia. Jughead gets a scholarship to a boarding school called Stonewall Prep and while competing against his classmates — Donna Sweet and Brett Weston Wallis, get it? — in a mystery writing contest, he uncovers an authorship scandal. He reports it to his teacher, Mr. Chipping, who seems to be the only sane adult around. The next day in class, Mr. Chipping offers a vague apology to Jughead and then dives out his window to his death.

Tickle Time (Season 4, Episode 18)

In one of the show’s most chaotic subplots, an eternally gullible Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) is seduced by a guy named Terry who directs tickle fetish films (an actual thing). Kevin recruits his friends into his lucrative hustle and soon enough, Reggie Mantle (Charles Melton) convinces his fellow tickle teens to start an independent, paywalled website. (“This is gonna pay for our community college education!”) But Tickle Terry is expectedly pissed and has his goons threaten to break Kevin’s fingers, warning him that he will “never tickle anyone again.” That sounds like a terrible life! The whole saga ends when Principle Honey calls Kevin and co. out on copyright violation because these dumbasses wore their school uniforms in their softcore pornos.

Maple Syrup Mothman (Season Five, Episode Seven)

Season five jumps ahead seven years into the future and the gang return to Riverdale to celebrate Pop Tate’s retirement. While researching his next book, Jughead learns about the Mothmen, rumored aliens who are supposedly responsible for a number of local abductions. It turns out that Cheryl Blossom’s Nana Rose witnessed one such extraterrestrial event and conveniently had the foresight to preserve a dead Mothman in a barrel of maple syrup, as one does.

Archie’s A-Team (Season Five, Episode 11)

The best Riverdale episodes are the ones with plots that are kinda embarrassing to explain to anyone who doesn’t watch. Here, Veronica is on some Uncut Gems shit trying to track down an Ethiopian opal stolen from her by a pair of convicts who conveniently escaped when her father blew up his own prison? Archie cosplays as a bounty hunter. Jughead is hanging out in a homeless encampment after eating a psychedelic hamburger in an attempt to fix his writer’s block. Meanwhile, Cheryl and her prison escapee mother Penelope, start a ministry called Our Lady of Perpetual Maple. They worship Christ himself, Cheryl’s dead brother Jason, whose extremely well-preserved corpse has inexplicably reappeared after being buried at sea in the previous season. There’s also a musical number from Hair because why not!

Bingo the Dog (Season Five, Episode 13)

During the time jump, Archie joins the military because of course he does. A spinoff series about Army Archie sounds amazing but instead we’re given very few details of his time at war other than that he rescued an injured soldier named Eric. In the present day, the pair live together and are dealing with PTSD so their third housemate, Archie’s Uncle Frank, brings home a dog to help. They name him Bingo after late Army buddy, which is appropriate because the poor pup has baggage of his own: he recently escaped from a local dog fighting ring. Archie channels his inner John Wick and runs off to beat up (maybe kill?!) the ringleader, giving him the opportunity to deliver one of his iconic one-liners: “You and me, we’re gonna have ourselves a real dog fight.”

Cheryl, the First-Ever Living Saint (Season Five, Episode 16)

Penelope Blossom is pissed that Cheryl and Kevin have introduced musical theater to the ministry. Cheryl wants to prove her absolute authority so she does the only logical thing and performs three miracles thus qualifying for sainthood. First, she changes water into maple syrup. Hell yeah. Next, she manifests the congregation’s collective pain into stigmatas on her palms. Finally, she sticks her hands into a tank of angry bees and emerges unscathed. Penelope calls bullshit but Cheryl, now clutching handfuls of honeycomb and calling herself as the Queen of the Bees, threatens to smite her mother. Cheryl later confides in Kevin that she wasn’t faking any of the miracles. “I’m not saying I’m the first-ever living saint,” she says. “But what if I am?” Oh boy.

The Gang Gets Superpowers (Season Six, Episode Five)

Every episode in the five-part Rivervale arc deserves its own entry on this list but the conclusion is spectacularly brain-melting. Some background context: Hiram Lodge plants a bomb under Archie’s bed, which explodes and sends the gang into an alternate reality called Rivervale. Archie, Betty, Jughead, and Bingo the dog all get superpowers from the blast. A lot of supernatural stuff happens. Rivervale Jughead discovers the existence of Riverdale by finding a comic book with the same name. In order to prevent the conjoined parallel universes from imploding, Rivervale Jughead has to sit in a bunker and write comics for the rest of eternity.

Tabitha Tate Finds the Holy Grail (Season Six, Episode 11)

Tabitha Tate, Jughead’s exceptionally patient girlfriend, is trying to figure out how to save her family diner from the evil real-estate developer Percival Pickens. Suddenly, she gets shot and… time travels back to 1944. Long story short, with the help of a guardian angel, Tabitha jumps through time searching for a talisman to help control her abilities and gets into various hijinks along the way, like blackmailing J. Edgar Hoover. The totem she’s searching for turns out to be the Holy Grail, which has conveniently been sitting in Percival’s pawn shop along with the Spear of Longinus. Tabitha returns to the present day by drinking a chocolate milkshake out of the literal Holy Grail.

Sabrina and Cheryl Reanimate the Dead (Season Six, Episode 19)

After the dastardly Percival Pickens unleashes the literal plagues on Riverdale, it’s up to teen witch Sabrina Spellman to help reanimate all the dead first borns. No one is too eager to leave the afterlife, aka the Sweet Hereafter, probably because they aren’t dealing with serial killers and gang warfare for the first time in ages. In the end, it falls on Cheryl to resurrect her friends because she apparently has “the power of the Phoenix.” (Oh yeah, Cheryl is pyrokinetic now.)

Cheryl’s Superpowers Stop a Comet (Season Six, Episode 22)

The gang have won their war against Percival Pickens by doing some extremely confusing trickery with the multiverses. Hooray! But Percival gets the last laugh by casting a spell that redirects Bailey’s comet right towards Riverdale, which is now separated from the rest of the world by an invisible barrier. Luckily, Veronica’s superpower is to be a human dialysis machine so she absorbs her friends’ abilities and gives them to Cheryl, who uses her Phoenix powers to defeat that dang comet! But Cheryl’s Marvel-esque efforts somehow send everyone back to high school… in 1955. Only Jughead remembers life pre-comet. Mama Mia!

The 18 Most Ridiculous Things That Happened in Riverdale