SPOILERALERT: This story contains spoilers from the series finale of “Riverdale,” which aired Wednesday, August 23 on The CW.
‘Riverdale’ has come to an end – after seven seasons of milkshake drinking, love triangles, crime solving and one incredible bear attack. The CW’s teen drama turned supernatural finally came to an end Wednesday night, but not before throwing in a few more major twists.
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The finale, titled “Goodbye, Riverdale,” jumped ahead 67 years. Betty (Lili Reinhart) is in her eighties and is the last surviving member of the Riverdale crew. The night before she dies, she is visited by the ghost of Jughead (Cole Sprouse), who takes her to a day when she missed school, revisits all of her friends, and finds out what happened to them after high school. For a complete breakdown of where everyone ended up and how they all died (!), read our full recap.
Sarah Schechter, as president of Berlanti Productions, has worked on “Riverdale” from the start and is one of the executive producers. With showrunner and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa not wanting to do any interviews during the ongoing writers’ strike, Schechter shed light on the way the drama ended, the love triangle going square, that surprise cameo — and much more.
The love triangle/square has been a focus since the beginning of the series, and in the finale it is revealed that the four main characters had a quad relationship. But I was very surprised that none of them ended up together after high school. Was that always the plan?
I think anyone who tells you there was always a plan is lying. From the beginning, we had so many conversations about not wanting this to be retro in the wrong way, and not wanting to be reductive in the wrong way. There’s a core of Archie Comics about family, city, growing up and everything universal, but Archie was always choosing between two girls. I think we made a very conscious effort to move away from that during the pilot, and we maintained that throughout. So I think it was modern and appropriate. Each of these characters has such great lives that they actually had to live – I think it was such a brave and interesting choice. That they don’t end up together in a way is fairer. It also helps you remember that each of these relationships is equally important at the time. If someone ended up with someone, somehow it would say that it is more powerful.
There’s a maturity to it that I love so much. A person’s life is not the life he ends up with: it is deeper and more meaningful than that. Roberto is such a theater buff, and you really feel ‘Our Town’ in it – with a quad bike. It’s still “Riverdale”! I thought it was a great choice, and they all end up in the afterlife together. This allows people to root forever.
The show was so excellent and represented LGBTQ couples. However, when the quad is revealed, all the couples – including Betty and Veronica (Camila Mendes) – are shown paired together, except for Archie (KJ Apa) and Jughead. Was there a reason that was not listed?
I mean, that’s too hot for TV. I don’t think there was a reason for that. I think there’s a fantastic, fantastic amount of LGBTQ representation on the show.
Not only was I shocked to hear Veronica talk about her “good friend” Peter Roth, the former CEO of Warner Bros. Television, but also when I saw him! How did that cameo happen?
That was all Roberto, and it’s my favorite thing of all time. Roberto even sent me the speech Peter gave since I wasn’t on set. “Riverdale” exists thanks to a few people: “Riverdale” exists thanks to Roberto; “Riverdale” exists because Archie Comics’ Jon Goldwater was willing to play and be open and modern; it exists because Greg Berlanti really fought to get it on the air, and [former CW chairman] Mark Pedowitz listened. And no one puts a show on the air quite like Peter Roth.
Now that he is retired and loving his retired life it was so great. He’s always been a part of the show and part of this show’s DNA. That he would actually be in ‘Riverdale’, it just felt perfect.
There were some familiar faces in the final. Was there someone else you hoped to get back that you couldn’t?
Yes, if Roberto had his way, everyone who’s ever been on the show would be in every episode. It was great to see so many people again. I mean, the person I wanted to be around more than anyone else was Luke Perry. I wish he was still here.
The show’s tone shifted very markedly over the seasons, moving from teen drama to full-fledged supernatural series — and sometimes a murder mystery. Remember those conversations about changing the vision?
I think the amazing thing about “Riverdale” is that it existed at a time when you could make 24 more episodes, or whatever – we had to make that many episodes.
This show is a testament to the variety of Roberto’s passions. Roberto is very similar to today’s audiences who like horror movies, comedies and action. The idea that people like only one kind of thing is not true. I think there’s a modernity to it that’s very interesting, and will be interesting to look back on.
I also think the number of episodes we had to make – to make them at a time when we had a really strong, experienced writers’ room who were on set, produced episodes, got to know the actors – says what the show is like. evolved, changed and grew. Making so many episodes allows you to play. You can have fun.
Well, they had fun in the finale too – Archie’s poem nods to some of the more notable storylines.
I think this was the writers’ room joke. I was happy that there was that recognition, a nice Easter egg. We’re really lucky. So many writers have been on the show for years and years and years, and it speaks to the kind of atmosphere that Roberto created.
Speaking of some of those crazy storylines, I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the wildest things “Riverdale” has been through, starting with the secret brother/Chic/Charles twist.
That was something, wasn’t it? That was actually quite early – that wasn’t even that wild! That was like a traditional soap opera. There really was a lot going on with the Coopers.
The fact that it wasn’t even really wild by comparison is something! There were multiple storylines to talk about in Season 3, but the Gargoyle King and Archie fighting a bear are two that stand out.
I completely followed the Gargoyle King! I had no problem with that. The bear was – it was near ‘The Revenant’. Bears are good storytellers. But yeah, I think that was mostly a surprise to KJ.
Speaking of which, the cast has talked about how silly some of the storylines can be. Did you have any conversations with the actors when that shift started about how the show changed?
I wish you could talk to the cast! The joy and immense privilege of doing a show for seven years has been watching this cast grow up. I think they’ve been through it all [differently.] I think in Season 2, Cole thought, “But why?” In Season 6, everyone was like, “Yeah, okay!” Everyone got on board. Even Camila, I told her something at one point, and she just shrugged and said, “Yeah, it’s ‘Riverdale!'”
Okay, another strange storyline moment – Edgar, played by Chad Michael Murray, dressed as Evel Knievel, led a cult and then tried to escape in a homemade missile.
Yes, that was something. I don’t even know where that came from.
How about Tabitha is an angel who helped murder Martin Luther King Jr.? tries to stop?
See, it was – yes. Maybe I’m not going to comment on that.
Okay then! Is there a favorite storyline that some people laugh at but that you really liked?
The idea that there was a nightclub under Pops! We all got used to it, but when that idea first came up, it was really big! It was like putting the Peach Pit After Dark under the Peach Pit. I mean, during the pilot, Archie had an affair with his teacher.
The other one for me, since I love Madelaine Petsch, she’s an incredible actress and an incredible human being – she and Lili had the most of this. She had an entire season talking to the dead Jason! And the Maple Syrup mafia! A lot has happened to her.
Is there anything that you look back on and wish you hadn’t done, or wish you could have done differently?
I mean, I wish Luke was still around. He was the heart and soul in many ways, and was such a father figure to everyone – especially KJ. The only thing I regret is that he isn’t here. He knew what it was from the start and was excited about it from the start. That’s the only thing I wish it were different.
And you know: Rivervale was a real twist.
And the superpowers! That was the same season.
Those were all those things that Roberto loves! The show took so many risks and went wild. But we were so lucky to have such an incredible group of actors who can pull off literally anything. Sometimes people say ‘literally’ and don’t mean it – I mean literal something. Anything you could think of, they did it, and they did it with grace and style.
What I’m proud of is that – for all the people who think ‘Riverdale’ is crazy and wild – it’s emotional at best. It says something about growing up, and it says something about where you come from and who you are. I think the finale managed to actually land that plane. It was serious and vulnerable. I think it gave insight into life.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from the whole experience?
I learned a lot. I’ve been lucky enough to work on so many incredible shows: “Riverdale” was the first in many ways. In order to make a show that you are so proud of, and a show that has been able to launch so many careers, any producer reading this better try and steal every member of the crew, because they were all so good.
I will remember it as my first child. I will remember it with great love and pride. And then there’s the bear.
This interview has been edited and shortened.
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