|“||Our story is about a town, a small town, and the people who live in the town. From a distance, it presents itself like so many other small towns all over the world; safe, decent, innocent. Get closer, though, and you start seeing the shadows underneath. The name of our town is Riverdale.||”|
|— Jughead Jones|
SERIES PREMIERE — As a new school year begins, the town of Riverdale is reeling from the tragic death of high school golden boy Jason Blossom. Archie Andrews is still the all-American teen, but the summer’s events made him realize that he wants to pursue a career in music — not follow in his dad, Fred’s, footsteps — despite his forbidden relationship with Riverdale’s young music teacher, Ms. Grundy. With the weight of the world on his shoulders, Archie must look for a new music mentor and turns to Josie McCoy but she is focused solely on her band, Josie and the Pussycats. Weighing heavily on his mind is also his fractured friendship with budding writer Jughead Jones. Meanwhile, girl-next-door Betty Cooper is anxious to see her crush Archie after being away all summer on a writing internship, but she’s not quite ready to reveal her true feelings to him. And Betty’s nerves, which are hardly soothed by her overbearing mother Alice, aren’t the only thing holding her back. When a new student, Veronica Lodge, arrives in town from New York with her mother Hermione, there’s an undeniable spark between her and Archie, but Veronica doesn’t want to risk her new friendship with Betty. And then there’s Cheryl Blossom, Riverdale’s Queen Bee, who is happy to stir up trouble amongst the others even though she’s keeping a few secrets of her own.
The episode unfolds with a narration by Jughead Jones, describing the hidden shadows beneath Riverdale's idyllic exterior. He recounts the tragic events of the past summer, the fateful morning of July 4th, in which a boating trip was undertaken by the Blossom twins, Cheryl and Jason Blossom mysteriously led to the latter's death, believed to be caused by drowning. As the original story went, just after dawn, on the 4th of July, Jason Blossom and his twin sister Cheryl drove out to Sweetwater River for an early morning boat ride. However, the trip ended disastrously, with Jason supposedly drowning as he attempted to retrieve Cheryl's glove that had fallen into the water. Cheryl was found by Dilton Doiley and his scouts, soaking wet, crying her eyes out by the shore. The body was never found. A few people gathered, Hal and Alice Cooper among them, as the local authorities brought Penelope and Cliff Blossom to the shores of Sweetwater River to retrieve their daughter Cheryl, just after the mysterious drowning of Jason Blossom.Several months have passed since then, and the teenagers of Riverdale are preparing to start a new school year. Best friends Archie and Betty meet at Pop's Chock'lit Shoppe after a summer apart, and Archie tells her about his newfound desire to pursue music as a career. Betty, who harbors more than just platonic feelings for Archie, is on the brink of confessing her love for him when they are distracted by the arrival of a new girl in town — Veronica Lodge. Veronica and her mother Hermione Lodge have come to Riverdale from New York to escape the scandal of her father's arrest for fraud and embezzlement. Archie is immediately intrigued by this new arrival, who will be starting at Riverdale High School the next day, and Betty, noticing this, stays silent about her feelings.
At school the next day, Betty shows Veronica around and introduces her to Kevin Keller. When she expresses an interest in Archie, they explain to her that Betty has feelings for him, and she encourages her to ask him to the back-to-school dance. Betty is unable to muster the courage, however, and asks him to accompany her and Veronica as friends. He accepts. Unbeknownst to them, Archie is distracted by his music teacher, Ms. Grundy, with whom he secretly had an affair over the summer. During one of their early morning rendezvous, they were interrupted by the sound of a gunshot firing and later learned that Jason Blossom had mysteriously died. They did not share what they heard with anyone as they were concerned about their relationship being discovered. Despite their relationship now being broken up, Archie attempts to persuade Ms. Grundy to tutor him in music, having already approached (and been rejected by) Josie and the Pussycats. She is reluctant and tries to put distance between them.
Veronica's arrival at Riverdale High does not generate as much interest as she had expected due to the lingering shadow cast by Jason's death, which Cheryl ensures nobody forgets. Betty and Veronica try out for cheerleading together, and though Cheryl allows Veronica on the River Vixens, she refuses to let Betty in, bringing up her sister's disastrous relationship with Jason. Veronica stands up for her and declares she will not join without Betty, even kissing her to make an impact. Cheryl is forced to relent. When Betty asks why she is being so kind to her, Veronica reveals that she used to be like Cheryl and is trying to change her ways.
Meanwhile, at football tryouts, Archie is given Jason's old spot on the varsity squad, Riverdale Bulldogs, but is reluctant to take it, telling Coach Clayton his father wants him to work at his construction company. When Archie returns home, however, he discovers that his coach had called his father, who is dismayed that Archie had lied about having to work at the company. Archie confesses that he really wants study music, and Fred tells him to be sure what he wants.
Archie, Betty and Veronica attend the dance together, and Veronica attempts to set up an opportunity for Betty to declare her love. Veronica leaves Betty and Archie to their own devices as she dances with Kevin nearby, encouraging Betty to make a move. Archie leaves Betty for a second, when he sees Grundy, and walks over to a Grundy sitting alone by the food stand. He begs Ms. Grundy to tutor him once more, and when he reiterates his promise to stay silent about the gunshot, she eventually relents. Cheryl takes the stage in her expensive red dress, as she silences the crowd of students. As honorary chair-person, she introduces the evening's main entertainment, Josie and the Pussycats.
As Archie joins Betty once again, they go onto the dance floor, swaying to the song, "All through the Night", a cover by the pussycats. As Betty looks across the dance floor, she notices Kevin and Veronica nudging her to tell Archie about her feelings. Just then, Betty finally works the courage to confess her feelings to Archie. Unfortunately for Betty, Archie seems unenthusiastic at the confession of her feelings toward him and can not see such a future for them.
At the after-party, hosted by Cheryl, the same night, Cheryl conspires to worsen the situation. She uses a game of Spin the Bottle to force Archie and Veronica to play Seven Minutes in Heaven together, knowing it will upset Betty. Though they try to fight their attraction for each other out of respect for Betty, they end up kissing. When they return to the party, Cheryl gleefully informs them that Betty has fled, and Archie goes after her.Veronica goes home and finds her mother perched on the sofa sipping on white wine while surfing the internet. She lays her head on her mother's lap as she tells her she is super tired. Archie sets out to find Betty, stopping by Pop's. He sees Jughead on his laptop in one of the booths and asks to sit down. Curious, Archie asks what Jughead is working on, to which Jughead just replies that he is working on his novel about that summer and Jason Blossom. After an awkward encounter with his former friend Jughead at Pop Tate's, he finds Betty at her house. She walks down the narrow path toward him in tears as she asks him if he loves her. Archie explains that he of course he does, but he can't offer what she wants as he isn't good enough for her.
Not everyone leaves the party in a state of despair. Kevin heads to the river for a liaison with closeted jock, Moose Mason, but their revelry grinds to halt when they stumble upon a horrifying sight: Jason Blossom's washed up corpse, complete with a bullet hole in his head. The next morning, the town gather at the Sweetwater River to witness as they drag Jason's body off the shore. A police investigation opens up as the mystery of who killed Jason Blossom begins.
- Kevin: "Oh my God!"
- Betty: "What?"
- Kevin: "Game changer - Archie got hot! He's got abs now. Six more reasons for you to take that ginger bull by the horns tonight."
- ―Kevin and Betty discuss Archie's physical transformation
- Veronica: "I'm filled with dread."
- Archie: "Why's that?"
- Veronica: "Are you familiar with the works of Truman Capote? I'm "Breakfast at Tiffany's" but this place is strictly "In Cold Blood.""
- ―Veronica arrives in Riverdale
- Kevin: "Is it true what they say about your dad?"
- Veronica: "That he's the devil incarnate? I stand by my father. Does everyone here know?" [awkward silence] "Wonderful! Ten minutes in and I'm already the "Blue Jasmine" of Riverdale High."
- ―Veronica starts at Riverdale High
- Cheryl: "I'm senior captain of the River Vixens."
- Kevin: "Is cheerleading still a thing?"
- Cheryl: "Is being the gay best friend still a thing?"
- ―Cheryl introduces herself
- Betty: "I'd love to be a cheerleader, it would look great on my college applications, but last year when I tried out, Cheryl said I was too fat."
- Kevin: "Too Season 5 Betty Draper, it was a great line."
- ―Betty considers trying out for cheerleading
- Cheryl: "Veronica, welcome to the River Vixens. Betty, better luck next time."
- Veronica: "Wait, what? Why? Because you couldn't bully Betty into being a bitch?"
- Cheryl: "I need girls with fire on my squad."
- Veronica: "I know what you need, Cheryl, because I know who you are. You would rather people fear than like you, so you traffic in terror and intimidation. You're rich, so you've never been held accountable, but I'm living proof. That certainty, that entitlement you wear on your head like a crown? It won't last. Eventually, there will be a reckoning. Or... maybe that reckoning is now. And maybe, that reckoning... is me. Betty and I come as a matching set. You want one, you take us both. You wanted fire? Sorry, 'CherylBombshell', my specialty's ice."
- ―Betty and Veronica try out for the River Vixens
- Moose: "For the record, I'm not gay."
- Kevin: "Obviously not, Moose. You're on the football team. But if you were gay, what would you like to do?"
- Moose: "Everything but kiss."
- Kevin: "I love a good closet case."
- ―Kevin and Moose sneak away together
|“||By morning, everyone would be talking, texting, and posting about it. We'd all be feeling it. But the world around us had changed. Maybe forever. The Riverdale wasn't the same town as before. That is was a town of shadows and secrets now. On Monday, the autopsy on Jason's body would take place. And on Tuesday, halfway through fifth period, the first arrest would be made.||”|
|— Jughead in narration|
- This is the first episode of the series.
- Hiram Lodge is mentioned for the first time.
- The episode concludes with a dedication to producer JB Moranville, who died three months prior to the premiere.
- "The River's Edge" is named after the 1957 film.
- This episode marks the first kisses Betty and Veronica as well as Archie and Veronica.
- In the episode, Veronica references "Blue Jasmine" which is a 2013 film directed by Woody Allen. In the film, Cate Blanchett portrays the character Jasmine, a wealthy Manhattan socialite that falls on hard times and has to move in with her working class sister. Notably, Jasmine's husband is arrested for fraud as well.
- "In Cold Blood" is a journalistic novel by Truman Capote detailing the murder of a farmer's family in Kansas.
- Ansel Elgort is an American Actor best known for his part as Augustus Waters in "The Fault in our Stars". He also has a music career under the name Ansolo, his most notable hit being the single "Thief".