Is Riverdale pulling a page out of The Walking Dead’s handbook? A prevailing theory has emerged that The CW drama may be adapting a post-apocalyptic story straight from the Archie comics spin-off Afterlife with Archie, in which a zombie horde decimates the town. Seriously.
Stay with us for a moment: In the 2013 comics, Jughead pleads with Sabrina Spellman (of Sabrina the Teenage Witch fame) to help bring his pooch back to life after it’s hit by a car. But she accidentally turns Hot Dog into a zombie that bites Jughead, thus starting a zombie plague.
So, what are the hints for this story potentially coming to life on the small screen? Before his death in the series premiere, Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines) traveled to the Greendale side of the river — that’s the hometown of Sabrina, who has the potential to appear on the show — and was later found with a gunshot wound to the head. (You know, how you kill a zombie…) Meanwhile, his sister Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) had a vision of an undead Jason earlier this season. (See above.)
Oh, and there’s also the tiny detail that Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa actually wrote Afterlife with Archie. “There’s a chance that happens,” says Aguirre-Sacasa, who admits Easter eggs were intentionally included this season. In fact, he reveals that an Afterlife take was among the pitches when first developing the show, with Riverdale then more in the vein of Buffy than Dawson’s Creek. “Ultimately we ended up starting with a more grounded, less supernatural version because we thought we could always go there, but if we started there, it would be hard to take that away.”
For what it’s worth, Aguirre-Sacasa promises a character from the Archie mythos with a darker origin will appear in the finale, which may have implications for the sophomore season. “Afterlife or not, there will definitely be a big genre element to season 2,” he says. “It’s going to make people go, ‘They’re not really doing that, are they?’” Yes, yes they are. But will they really do zombies? Here’s our full Q&A with the Riverdale boss.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What do you say to that theory that Riverdale might do Afterlife with Archie?
ROBERTO AGUIRRE-SACASA: Well, I can tell you a few things: Obviously before I worked on Riverdale, my passion project was Afterlife with Archie. When we were originally talking about doing a show about the Archie comic characters, one of the takes we debated pitching was Afterlife with Archie and it being not a descendant of Dawson’s Creek as Riverdale is, but a descendant of Buffy. That was an idea that everyone was passionate about. Ultimately we ended up going for Riverdale and starting with a more grounded, less supernatural version of that because we thought we could always go there, but if we started there, it would be hard to take that away. So start a little more grounded and normal, and then introduce something supernatural as opposed to, once you’re supernatural, it’s going to be hard to go back to non-supernatural, so that was kind of the thinking behind that.
So what you’re saying is there’s a chance.
There’s a chance that happens.
How do you think that would change the show? Is there a little bit of hesitation in eventually doing that story line?
I think what people like about Riverdale and what they like about Afterlife is that it takes these beloved characters and puts them into essentially genre vehicles — a noir mystery in Riverdale, and a Sam Raimi/Evil Dead-like horror movie in Afterlife with Archie. It’s funny, when Greg Berlanti — who of course is the godfather of all these shows and my boss — and I were talking about possibly doing Afterlife with Archie, or introducing the character of Sabrina, I said, “Yeah, but we can’t just suddenly have magic and supernatural elements on the show,” and Greg, without missing a beat, said, “Of course you can.” I was like, “Wait! Yeah, we can.”
In my mind, the mythology is this: Riverdale is a non-magical grounded town with weird stuff happening. Then there’s Sweetwater River, where Jason died, and on the other side of that river is Greendale, where Sabrina and the witches traditionally live. On one side of the river, there’s no magic, there’s no supernatural — that’s where Riverdale is. And on the other side of the mythic river, which is sort of like the River Styx, there’s magic and witches and dark Lovecraftian horrors.
Were you then planting these clues intentionally?
Yeah. Listen, I’m a fan as much as anyone of all this stuff, so I love Easter eggs and I love inside jokes, and I love little nods to things, but absolutely when we have zombie Jason creeping up on Cheryl, it’s an homage to Afterlife with Archie the way that Afterlife with Archie is an homage to Creep Show. Do you know what I mean? So definitely we were doing specific nods. There are even things in the pilot and episode 2, like after Betty invites Cheryl over and Alice is sage-ing Betty’s room, Alice says, “You know, I bet you the Blossoms are up there worshiping some dark pagan god.” It’s an allusion to Lovecraft and those old gods that are in Afterlife with Archie. The Easter eggs, and the nods, and the allusions to horror and Afterlife with Archie continue throughout the season. In episode 7, there’s a great scene of the kids searching the woods where Polly and Jason vanished, and we had a conversation where they were talking about the witches of Greendale that we actually had to cut because the episode was too long. But yeah, we’re trying to keep the door open to anything being possible on the show.
Can you say whether Sabrina is going to appear this season?
I feel like I can say two things: One is, we are constantly talking about Sabrina and how to update her character and introduce her to the TV audiences, whether it’s part of the Riverdale universe or it’s alongside the Riverdale universe. Hopefully sooner rather than later, there will be something to do with Sabrina. And the other thing I will say is that in the finale there is an appearance of a character from the Archie mythology that has a darker origin and backstory.
Are you interested in potentially doing a Sabrina spin-off?
I talk about it all the tim because it’s my obsession. [Laughs] I love that character and obviously I also write The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic book. It’s sort of like, you know how there’s the Arrow-verse and then there’s Supergirl, which kind of exists in a different universe — they still cross over, but they’re in a different universe. I think there’s a lot of ways to skin the Sabrina cat, and I’m talking about them all the time basically to anyone who will listen.
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If and when you guys do decide to do Afterlife with Archie, would you put a twist on it since so many fans have expectations from the comics?
Yeah, for sure. There’s already an amazing zombie show on TV, a couple of amazing zombie shows — probably actually three or four. There are a lot of zombie shows, so if we did go there, I think we’d more lean into the Lovecraftian horrors or it would be more like the Evil Dead zombies rather than the Night of the Living Dead zombies, if that makes sense. Night of the Living Dead right into Walking Dead, it seems like they’re biological warfare or they came from science or extra-terrestrial, whereas the Evil Dead zombies are very much about the Book of the Dead and the Necronomicon and demons possessing the bodies and stuff. That’s where I gravitate toward anyway. I’m more horror than sci-fi.
Obviously I can’t confirm or deny anything, but I will tell you that Afterlife or not, there definitely will be a big genre element to season 2. It won’t suddenly just be a coming-of-age drama. There will definitely be a very strong, bold genre statement. If season 1 is a murder mystery, it won’t necessarily be another murder mystery. We’re telling, for us, kind of the best version of a murder mystery: Who killed Jason Blossom? So whatever twist in genre element that we add in season 2, it’s going to be different from that and probably, I think, it’s going to make people go, “They’re not really doing that, are they?”
Lastly, what can you tease for the finale?
I can tell you that the finale that we shot is not the finale that we started in mind. It has probably three or four giant set pieces for us. If Jason Blossom’s death changed Riverdale in a fundamental way, what happens at the end of the season yet again fundamentally changes what kind of town Riverdale is again, and it’s probably not going to be for the better. And that’s what I’ll say about that.
Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.