Riverdale creator on who's under the Gargoyle King mask and Jughead's game
Warning: This story contains spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of Riverdale, “The Midnight Club.”
Let’s do the time warp again!
Riverdale traveled back in time on Wednesday night’s episode for a glimpse into the Riverdale parents’ junior year of high school and the secrets of Gryphons & Gargoyles.
The young cast took a turn at portraying their parental units, with Lili Reinhart donning leather as a young Alice Smith, Cole Sprouse rocking a letterman jacket as a young FP Jones, and KJ Apa sporting a Luke Perry pompadour as young Fred Andrews — all set to a blast-from-the-past soundtrack and a perfectly attuned aesthetic, which even included a Saved By the Bell-worthy title card.
“We decided that the school wouldn’t have changed. That’s part of Riverdale High. It’s timeless from when it was built in the 1940s,” Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa says of the show’s flashback. “Most of it was costume and hair, and we wrote the kids a little bit differently. Nowadays, teens are very articulate, and they reference pop culture and they reference esoteric things and they sound nothing remotely like teens. But with, like, 90210 and stuff, their language is a little bit less heightened, so we had some fun tweaking the voices that we write.”
The Riverdale parents’ secrets came out as we saw them connect in Saturday detention (overseen by Anthony Michael Hall’s Principal Featherhead). After discovering the instruction manual and board for Gryphons & Gargoyles in Mrs. Crabapple’s desk, the group meet in secret as the Midnight Club to escape into the world of the game, building to a night of board game frolic fueled by Fizzle Rocks (that’s the 1990s Riverdale street drug of choice).
Alice Smith encounters two poison chalices in the girl’s bathroom and runs screaming from the school after a run-in with the Gargoyle King — but the horrors only increase when Principal Featherhead goes missing and is found dead in the janitor’s closet some time later, his now-familiar blue lips marking the cause of death. Young Penelope (as portrayed by Madelaine Petsch) is insistent that the Midnight Club must never speak of Gryphons & Gargoyles, and they all make a pact to destroy the instruction manual and scatter the game paraphernalia.
If you thought Penelope’s adamance that they keep this secret was a bit intense, you’re not wrong. It was revealed in this episode that she was essentially bought by the Blossom family as a young girl to be groomed as Clifford’s wife, but she still has secrets to unlock. “Keep an eye on Penelope over the next few episodes,” advises Aguirre-Sacasa. “We’ll start to see some dots being connected around Penelope.”
The events of the Midnight Club murder night so haunt this generation of Riverdale High students that it irrevocably changes their futures. Jock FP Jones trades his letterman jacket for Southside Serpent leathers; Tom Keller and Sierra end their star-crossed romance promising to find their way back to each other one day; Fred trades his guitar for a construction job with his family; Hermione commits herself to a relationship with Hiram; and Alice Smith ditches her bad-girl exterior for pink, tweed, and Hal Cooper.
Aguirre-Sacasa says that montage of transitions is his favorite part of the episode. “I love when we see the kids towards the end of the episode become the version of the adults that we know,” he says. “These feel like huge, mythic moments.”
But will Gryphons & Gargoyles cast as long a shadow over this generation of Riverdale students? When all is said and done, will we find Betty, Jughead, Archie, Veronica, and the gang making similar life-altering choices? “Yes, things will have changed once again for the kids at the end of this story,” Aguirre-Sacasa teases.
Before that though, the mystery of who or what is the Gargoyle King still needs to be solved. Betty tells her mother the person beneath the king’s haunting, antlered visage they both saw might even be one and the same. As to whether Betty’s guess might be right, Aguirre-Sacasa says “absolutely,” but adds, “The mystery of who is beneath that mask is a big one. I’ll just tease there may be more than one person under the mask.”
Betty has more immediate problems to solve: Episode’s end saw her discovering Jughead embroiled in the Gryphons & Gargoyles game in Dilton’s bunker, raving about it only being a matter of time until he can ascend. Alice warned Betty of the game’s all-consuming power, and it appears the Gargoyle King may have gotten his antlers into Jug. “[The next episode] really shows how deep in the game and its mythology Jughead is, and the dramatic question is how deep can Jughead go without losing himself?” Aguirre-Sacasa says. “The answer is he starts to lose himself. I think you really see the promise of that warning fulfilled in the next episode.”
Next week, Riverdale returns to the present day for a heavy G&G episode, which will allow viewers to see just how far Betty has to go to understand Jughead’s fascination with the game. Aguirre-Sacasa says the episode title, “The Great Escape,” is a hint of what’s to come, adding, “We’re going to find out if Archie’s going to spend the rest of his time in juvie or if something’s going to happen.”
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.