- "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, 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 opens with a narration by Jughead, describing the hidden shadows beneath Riverdale's idyllic exterior. He recounts the tragic events of the past summer, in which a boating trip undertaken by Cheryl and Jason Blossom mysteriously led to the latter's death, believed to be cause by drowning. The body was never found. Several months have passed since then, and the teenagers of Riverdale are preparing to start a new year at school. 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 harbours 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 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 go with 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 squad, 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, 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. Archie begs Ms. Grundy to tutor him once more, and when he reiterates his promise to stay silent about the gunshot, she eventually relents. Betty then finally works the courage to confess her feelings to Archie, but he does not return them. Cheryl conspires to worsen the situation at her after-party later that night. 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. After an awkward encounter with his former friend Jughead at Pop Tate's, he finds Betty at her house, where she asks him if he loves her. Archie explains that he does, but he can't give her 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 bullet hole in his head. A police investigation opens up as the mystery of who killed Jason Blossom begins.
- KJ Apa as Archie Andrews
- Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper
- Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge
- Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones
- Marisol Nichols as Hermione Lodge
- Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom
- Ashleigh Murray as Josie McCoy
- Mädchen Amick as Alice Cooper
- Luke Perry as Fred Andrews
- Ross Butler as Reggie Mantle
- Casey Cott as Kevin Keller
- Sarah Habel as Geraldine Grundy
- Lochlyn Munro as Hal Cooper
- Asha Bromfield as Melody Valentine
- Hayley Law as Valerie Brown
- Nathalie Boltt as Penelope Blossom
- Daniel Desveaux as Detective
- Barclay Hope as Cliff Blossom
- Cody Kearsley as Moose Mason
- Colin Lawrence as Coach Clayton
- Tom McBeath as Smithers
- Caitlin Mitchell-Markovitch as Ginger Lopez
- Sean Queen as Boy Scout
- Olivia Ryan Stern as Tina Patel
- Alvin Sanders as Pop Tate
- Trevor Stines as Jason Blossom
- Daniel Yang as Dilton Doiley
- 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
- 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 has Betty and Veronica's first kiss.
- This episode has Veronica and Archie's first kiss.