|“||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, initially 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, and crying her eyes out by the river's edge. Law enforcement dragged the river for Jason's body, but it was never recovered. By the river's shore Hal and Alice Cooper stands among others. Alice expresses joy in Jason's demise, "may he burn in hell", she said. Meanwhile, the local authorities bring Penelope and Clifford Blossom back to the shores of Sweetwater River upon retrieving their daughter Cheryl, just after the mysterious drowning of their son, Jason. One week later, the Blossom family buried an empty casket, and Jason's death was ruled an accident.
On the last day of summer vacation, Veronica, and Hermione Lodge arrive in Riverdale, pulling up just outside the Pembrooke. They briefly gaze upon the building though judging by their reactions, it doesn't seem to compare to the life of luxury they are accustomed to. Hermione reminded her daughter that while it may be small, the apartment is of top quality. Not to mention that its the only piece of property in her name, and not her husband's. Upon entering the building, they are greeted by the doorman, Smithers, who welcomes Hermione back home as they exchange pleasantries. With a constant craving for one of Pop Tate's cheeseburgers, she and Veronica head down to the shoppe soon thereafter.
At the Cooper house, Betty gets dressed for an evening out at Pop's Chock'lit Shoppe with her best friend, Archie, after being apart for the entire summer. She is both nervous and excited. Kevin reminds Betty that while nerves are acceptable, she must follow through on revealing her true feelings towards Archie. Kevin knows that Betty likes Archie, and he suspects that Archie has the same feelings toward her as well, however, according to Kevin, Archie has to be told what he wants, like most millennial straight guys. Kevin looks out Betty's window to the sight of Archie getting dressed in his room, just one house over. Apparently, Archie matured over the summer, growing more attractive and muscular since the last time they've seen each other. This is by all accounts a game changer, providing Betty with even more incentive to purse Archie, and to grab the "ginger bull by its horns".
Archie and Betty meet up at Pop's, where she breaks down the highlight of her internship, telling him about the Toni Morrison book release party, and the advice she received from her aforementioned literary hero. While Betty was having the time of her life, Archie was stuck in Riverdale, pouring concrete for his father's company all summer though this was not without benefit. Archie informs Betty of his newfound desire to pursue a music career. Working on his music offers Archie a new perspective on life, and what he should be trying to do with it. Betty is excited for him, and she would like to hear his songs. 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. Archie is immediately intrigued by this new arrival from New York, who will be starting at Riverdale High School the next day, and Betty, noticing this, stays silent about her feelings. Veronica then exits the Shoppe after exchanging pleasantries with Archie and Betty as her mother was just outside waiting for her.
The following morning, before heading out, Fred asks Archie to stop by the work site after school. They needed to get Archie situated in the office, so that next summer he wouldn't have to work alongside the crew. Unfortunately, Archie has football try-outs, meaning the family business will have to take a back seat for the time being. Meanwhile, at the Cooper house, Alice preps Betty for her first day of sophomore year. The 10th grade would be very critical for colleges; grades, extracurricular, and athletics will all play a major role. But most importantly, she must maintain a decent character. With Betty accomplishing so much already, Alice doesn't want her to end up like her eldest daughter, Polly, whose trouble began after she started a relationship with Jason Blossom. Much like Betty, Polly also had a bright future ahead of her. Betty reminds her mother that she's her own person, and that Polly's decisions should not be projected onto her. Betty admits to being with Archie the previous night, who also has red hair, but is nothing like Jason. But Alice begs to differ, saying that all boys are the same as far as she is concerned. Alice claims to only want the best for her daughter, but for that to happen, Betty must remain focused. She then hands Betty her prescription of Adderall before exiting the room.
Reggie joins Archie by his locker as he secretly reads over his handwritten song lyrics. He immediately notices Archie sudden increase in stature and build, suspecting that he may be taking performance-enhancing drugs, but as Archie explains, he worked on his father's construction site the entire summer. They are then joined by Moose, who offers little in conversation, but appears to show interest in Reggie's line of questioning, mainly if Archie had sex with any older women while working on private homes. Archie retorts that sex with older woman sounds closer to a fantasy of Reggie's.
Betty shows Veronica around the school, during which time she introduces her to Kevin Keller, who immediately is found as gay to Veronica. By the words of Veronica, "thank God". Ffter informing Veronica of the social scene in Riverdale, he acquires about her father, who had been arrested for fraud and embezzlement. School had just started yet she's already the "Blue Jasmine of Riverdale High", Veronica remarks.
Archie interrupts Josie and the Pussycats (Valerie Brown and Melody Valentine) as they rehearse for an upcoming performance. He is hoping to talk to Josie about a couple of songs he has written, though she is quick to stop him in his tracks. She first addresses the fact that he's rudely staring at their costume shop, pussycat ears, then explaining how she and the Pussycats are building a brand, creating a signature look, and telling a story while doing so. Last year, they won Rockland County's Battle of the Bands, and Josie wishes to build on that success by continuing to tell their story with songs they write. In other words, Archie is wasting his time by coming to them as the Pussycats only seek to perform their own music.
As the tour continues, Veronica catches sight of Archie, and expresses an interest in him. However, Kevin explains that Betty has feelings for him. Having said that, Veronica encourages Betty to ask him to the back-to-school dance, though Betty is unable to muster the courage. Not to mention the increasing likelihood of the dance being canceled due to Jason's tragic death. They would come learn more at the assembly, whilst Cheryl speaks to the entire school. Many of them were lucky enough to know Jason personally, and each and every one of them meant the world to him. Cheryl loves her brother. He was and always will be her soulmate. Cheryl speaks with the confidence only a twin can have in saying that Jason wouldn't want them to spend the year mourning his death. He'd much rather they move on with their lives, which is why she asked the school-board not to cancel the back-to-school semi-formal, but rather allow them to use it to heal collectively, and celebrate Jason's short life.
During the assembly, Archie briefly makes eye contact with the music teacher, Ms. Grundy, with whom he secretly had an affair with over the summer, where an offer to drive him home ended in hot, steamy and heavy sex in the back of her car. This led to a passionate romantic relationship between the two, that lasted throughout the summer. After the assembly, he calls out to Ms. Grundy several times in the hallway, but she does not respond. She only chooses to acknowledge him once he calls out to her by her first name; Geraldine. He is seeking her help in music, and so she agrees to see him, but only if he makes an appointment during her official office hours, as she is trying to create boundaries, because the sexual relationship between them both is forbidden, as that would be considered statutory rape.
Hermione wastes little time in seeking out employment, starting with Fred Andrews at Andrews Construction. She noticed on his website that he is in need of a seasonal hire with his usual guy on a paternity leave. Fred is surprised to see her back in town. Hermione mentions that her daughter is attending school with his son. Then, they briefly discuss their complicated past, where she left him for the rich kid. Now, a reversal of fortune considering that she is seeking employment from him. Hermione asks about Mary, completely unaware that she and Fred had separated a while back, and that Mary had moved to Chicago, but they remain civil. Fred is more interested in how Hermione is holding up after Hiram's arrest. She has a little money saved up, but she's hoping that Fred is willing to hire her. Fred explains that if it was up to him, he would hire Hermione. However, it isn't that simple, he can't have the wife of Hiram Lodge, who is currently on trial for fraud and embezzlement, balancing his books.
Veronica joins Archie, Betty, and Kevin at lunch as Archie plays a voice recording of his singing. Kevin thought they were going to have to pretend to like it, but he is quite impressed, as are Veronica and Betty. 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. Cheryl introduces herself before urging Veronica to try out for the River Vixens, Riverdale High's cheerleading team, which Cheryl was senior captain of. Kevin questions the relevance of cheerleading in today's society, leaving Cheryl to wonder the relevance of the stereotypical gay best friend, a role that Kevin was so clearly filling, as Kevin shares Betty a deathly glance. Some people say cheerleading is retro, but Cheryl believes its eternal and iconic. At Spence, Veronica sat at the top of the Elites' pyramid, meaning that she is more than qualified to make the squad. Before leaving, Cheryl tells Veronica towards following her on Twitter @CherylBombshell. Veronica encourages Betty to try out with as well by throwing compliments to her appearance and intelligence, offering to assist her in preparing should she agree, which she does.
After doing exactly what she asked of him, and scheduling an appointment during official school hours, Archie attempts to persuade Ms. Grundy into tutoring him in music, having already approached, and been rejected by Josie and the Pussycats. She notes his songs as being real and personal though she can't envision a scenario where the two of them being alone together would be a good thing. She is reluctant and tries to put distance between them, but with Ms. Grundy's experienced background in music, she is the only person in Riverdale in which he truly stands to gain help from. However, Ms. Grundy can't help but wonder if this is Archie's attempt at rekindling a romance that never should have existed, to begin with. He assures her that his only reason for being there is his passion for music and the fact that he needed to talk to someone about what they heard; on the 4th of July, during one of their early morning rendezvous at Sweetwater River, Archie and Geraldine's romance was interrupted by the sound of a gunshot firing. She claims that the sound they heard was in fact fireworks, but Archie is smart enough to know the difference. Although, if they did report the gunshot, how would they explain why they were together at Sweetwater River at 6:00 AM? Keeping quiet is the only thing that ensures their safety. They were both going to have to live with that choice. Geraldine thinks that he should pursue his music, but not with her.
As planned, Betty and Veronica try out for the cheerleading squad together, but Cheryl shows little interest, finding their routine to be dull and boring, this prompts Veronica to kiss Betty in an attempt to save their routine though Cheryl is still ultimately unimpressed. Faux lesbian kissing hasn't been taboo since 1994. Moving onto the interview portion of the audition, Cheryl brings up Betty's sister, Polly, and her disastrous relationship with Jason, which led to Polly's breakdown, and her placement in a group home. What does Betty have to say about this, Cheryl wonders. With a white-hot rage building up inside, Betty is just moments away from exploding, clinching her first so forcefully that her nails dig into her palms, leaving bloody scars. Fortunately, Betty maintains her composure, unclenching her first, and giving her condolences to Cheryl and her family over their recent loss. With that in mind, Cheryl welcomes Veronica to the River Vixens, but tells Betty better luck next time, which Veronica refuses to accept. She stands up for Betty, and tells Cheryl that she use to be just like her in many ways, trafficking in terror, and behaving like an overprivileged brat, but there is always a reckoning, Veronica says, and it may even be her. And with that, Cheryl is forced to relent.
At football tryouts, Coach Clayton hands Archie Jason's old jersey, offering him Jason's old spot on the varsity squad. Usually, sophomores only play JV, but with Jason's death, they had an open spot, and from what Archie's been displaying on the field, Coach believes that he's in the position to fill it. However, Archie is reluctant to take it, telling Coach Clayton that his father wants him to work at his construction company. It was their family business, and he was being counted on to help after school, despite previously telling his father that he would be focusing his time in football.
Meanwhile, in the girls' locker room, Betty asks Veronica why she is being so kind to her. Betty is aware of the crowd Veronica use to hang within New York, and they were nothing like the girl standing before her. Veronica reveals that she was once a mean girl, much like Cheryl, and that she was trying to turn over a new leaf. When her father got arrested, they received letters and e-mails, saying terrible things about them; that her dad was a thief, her mom was a clueless socialite, and that she was the spoiled rich-bitch ice princess. And what hurts the most about it was that everything they were saying was true. So, when her mother said they were moving to Riverdale, she made a pact with herself to use this as an opportunity to become a better version of herself. Betty sees this as good of an opportunity as any to further elaborate on the falling out between Polly and Jason. Their relationship meant everything to Polly, but nothing to Jason. It became intense and toxic, which led to their mother turning on Polly. Alice said that Polly wasn't her daughter anymore, among other awful things. Jason may have hurt Polly, but it was their mother that broke her. Veronica then spots Archie on the field, she calls him over in an attempt to force Betty's hand in slaying her dragons, one by one, starting with asking Archie to the dance, but as he approaches, Betty's courage and confidence fails her. Out of fear of rejection, she invites him to go with both her and Veronica as friends to the dance, which he accepts.
The next day, with Archie agreeing to take her (and Veronica) to the back-to-school semi-formal, Betty joyfully dances around her room in her new cheer uniform. However, her celebratory dance is brought to an abrupt end as Alice enters the room to express her disappointment in Betty's decision to join Cheryl's cheer squad. After all, Jason had done to Polly, Alice will not allow Betty to have any affiliation with the Blossom family due to the on-going feud between her family and their's. Tired of maintaining the stressful image of being the perfect daughter, sister, and student, Betty informs her mother that not only will she remain a Vixen, but that she's attending the dance with Archie and Veronica, the daughter of Hermione Lodge, who Alice appears to hold a personal grudge against.
Hermione enters the Pembrooke that morning to discover a black duffel bag awaiting her return. A spot of good news, Smithers said. The car service found Hermione's so-called missing bag, and dropped it off at the apartment. However, Hermione never reported a missing bag. Inside the duffel bag is a large sum of money. Hermione immediately realizes that this is Hiram's doing.
After receiving a call from Coach Clayton, who was under the impression that Archie couldn't play football because he was being forced to work for Andrews Construction, Fred confronts Archie on the oddity of this claim because of Archie's previous statement that he couldn't work for the company due to the fact that he would be playing football, leaving Fred to wonder who was being lied to, him or Coach Clayton. Both, Archie says. He reveals that he no longer shares his father's desire to work for the company, and take over the family business. He wants to study and write music. Archie goes on to speak on how this past summer has changed him, however, Archie is visibly holding back. Noticing Archie's hesitance to be truthful with him, Fred grows aggravated. While he respects Archie's decision to pursue his passion in music, Fred is upset that Archie wasn't being honest about his latest change in plans, as Archie's decisions have consequences, they will go on to form the man he is and the man he will become. He wants Archie to know that whatever path he took, he should be confident enough in it that he doesn't have to lie about it.
The night of the semi-formal has finally arrived, and as previously agreed upon, Archie, Betty, and Veronica attend the event together. However, with Veronica off getting punch and Archie talking with Ms. Grundy, Betty makes conversation with Kevin, who had just been propositioned in the men's restroom by Moose. Meanwhile, Archie walks over to Ms. Grundy, as she sits alone by the food stand. She thought they had an understanding, but Archie corrects her by saying they have a secret, multiple secrets in fact. He reflects on the morning of July 4th, when they heard the gunshot; maybe they could've done something to save Jason, or maybe they couldn't, but regardless of that unfortunate incident, he needs Ms. Grundy's help, pleading with her to tutor him once more. The only thing that kept him sane during the summer was his music. He proposes an independent study with Grundy, as many mornings a week as she can spare, with him promising that's all it will be. Should she agree, he promises to tell no one about July 4th. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 7:30 AM, she says. She'll set it up, and look into getting him credit.
As Reggie and Moose spike the drinks, Cheryl takes center stage as honorary chairperson and de facto queen, where she introduces the night's main entertainment, Josie and the Pussycats. To know them is to be obsessed with them, and though they usually only perform their own material, they're making an exception and debuting a cover of the song that Cheryl's parents claim they were listening to the night she and Jason were conceived. This one's for you JJ, Cheryl states.
Archie joins Betty once again, and they go onto the dance floor, swaying to the song, "All Through the Night". With Veronica's plan to set the perfect opportunity for Betty to make her move on Archie in motion, she leaves the two of them to their own devices as she dances with Kevin nearby. Archie explains to Betty that everything is falling into place; he'll study with Ms. Grundy before school, football practice will be after school, and he'll work with his father on the weekends. With some encouragement from Veronica and Kevin to take the next step, Betty finally works up the courage to confess her feelings to Archie, in which she imagines the two of them together as a power couple. Unfortunately for Betty, Archie seems unenthusiastic at the confession of her feelings toward him. While this takes place, Cheryl observes from afar, telling Tina and Ginger to ensure Archie, Veronica, and Betty's attendance at her after-party. She is in the mood for chaos.
At the after-party, hosted by Cheryl, she conspires to worsen the situation. It was game time at Chez Blossom. Cheryl uses the party game often referred to as "Seven Minutes in Heaven" to force Archie and Veronica into the closet together, all the while knowing it will upset Betty. Veronica initially refuses to enter the closet, but should that happen, the alternative will be Archie in the closet with Cheryl, as the house rules decree that the host gets to take the turn. In order to keep Cheryl away from Archie, Veronica joins him in the closet. She acknowledges the fact that Cheryl's brother died, but this does little to take away from the fact that they view her as the anti-Christ. They try to fight their attraction for each other out of respect for Betty, engaging in small talk to pass the time. They take turns asking soul probing questions, such as Archie's affections towards Betty. She is his best friend, but he never felt for her what she clearly feels for him. Despite their effort to spare Betty of anymore heartache, Archie and Veronica end up kissing. When they return to the party, Cheryl gleefully informs them that Betty has fled, and so the two of them go looking for 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. As this takes place, Archie sets out to find Betty, stopping by Pop's to see if she's been around. 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. Seventeen years old, and how will Jason be remembered? Archie wonders if he was doing everything he wanted to do or if he even knew what that was. Coach Clayton stopped by the shoppe earlier that day to talk with Pops. From him, Jughead learned that Archie made Varsity, making him Mr. Popular football god, though Archie couldn't care less about any of accolades. He is more concerned with the fact that he may have lost his best friend. Jughead instructs Archie to just talk to Betty, as it will go a long way, it would've gone a long way with Jughead.
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 with no intentions on asking him what he did in the closet with Veronica. Betty only wants to know if he loves her. Archie explains that he of course he does, but he can't offer the answer that she wants. She is perfect, and he isn't good enough for her, and he never will be. As the tears continue to roll down her face, Betty turns away, and walks back into her house. Unfortunately, Jughead's advice proves to be ineffective in this particular instance. Defeated, Archie walks away.
Not everyone leaves the party in a state of despair. Kevin heads to Sweetwater 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 as a corpse, complete with a bullet hole in his head. Soon, everyone would be talking, texting, posting about Jason's murder. The world around them has changed, maybe forever. Riverdale is no longer the same town it was before. It was now a town of shadows and secrets. That morning, the town gathers 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. On Monday, an autopsy of Jason's body will take place, and on Tuesday, halfway through the 5th period, the first arrest will be made.
- 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 of the series as a whole: 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".