By Tim Stack
December 12, 2018 at 09:00 PM EST
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WARNING: This article contains spoilers about the Riverdale midseason finale. Read at your own risk!

Riverdale makes Washington, D.C. look calm.

In the midseason finale, the town was put under quarantine due to the seizure epidemic and mass chaos ensued, complete with sirens and soldiers.

Meanwhile, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) reunited with his estranged mother Gladys (Gina Gershon), who may or may not have murdered Penny (Brit Morgan).

EW talked to executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa about all the drama and what to expect when Riverdale returns in 2019.

Diyah Pera/The CW

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where are we going in the back half of this season?
ROBERTO AGUIRRE-SACASA: I always talk about the show as being a show not about one character but about a community and a community that makes up the town. So, we’re always thinking of what can happen to a town? Last year we built to a riot. This year, we thought, “What’s another thing that would be town-wide that would affect all of our characters?” And we landed on the idea of a quarantine and building to that for a midseason finale so that when we would come back from that it would be a very changed Riverdale. It’s been pretty breakneck pacing up through [episode] 8 and we’re doing a little bit of a time jump between the midseason finale and our premiere. It’s definitely a changed Riverdale. It’s almost like a town under occupation. It’s very totalitarian. It’s very lawless. And there are a lot of people who are really scared. It’s about our forces of good kind of coming together to face the various threats. That said, it’s a little bit of a slower burn when we get back. We do some more character stories. We do some more relationship stories. We’re even doing an episode that’s focused on the kids taking the SAT because, quarantine or not quarantine, junior year continues and the kids have to take the SATs! There are a couple of new romances on the horizon that feel a little more like season 1.

We finally meet Jughead’s mom, Gladys (Gina Gerson). Will we see her again?
Definitely. Every time we introduce a parent on this show, the bar is so high on getting this right. Thank God Mark Consuelos exists out there because I don’t know who else could have been Hiram and could have been up for what we wanted to do. Usually actors don’t wanna play the villain or be mean and Mark is like, “Bring it on!” With Gladys, it’s the same thing where we built her and her arrival up for a while. You kind of want someone special when the camera finds her. I had a great talk with Gina. She struck up a great rapport with Cole and Skeet. Now that we’re weaving her more into the series, she’s doing exactly what you kind of want from Gina Gershon when you put her into a show, which is, she starts to affect everyone in the show — in good ways and bad ways and troublemaking ways and surprisingly warm ways.

She interrogates Penny intensely. Can you say, did Gladys kill Penny?
I can tell you we’re pretty deep into the rest of the season and there’s been no sign of Penny. So, the assumption is, since they’re living in a junkyard, Penny might have been dropped into one of those huge car compactors. But there are lots of clues in episode 8 about who Gladys is and what she’s capable of that we definitely will be building out later in the season.

Hiram is in his office with the Gargoyle King at the end. Is that a hallucination? Or is the Gargoyle King a living breathing person?
Yes.

And the identity of this person will play out in the back half?
Who the Gargoyle King is, is something that absolutely snakes its way through the season. I will say though, we’ve actually got a lot of mysteries up and running and a lot of weird stuff and we start unpacking and resolving some of that stuff sooner rather than later. Of course, new mysteries begin.

Archie has been separated from the others for most of this season. Now, he’s on the run again. What can you tease about him?
He’s definitely on a mythic journey. He’s the boy who’s left home to find out what kind of man he is. It’s true we’ve sort of gone from the town of Riverdale to the smaller universe of the jail to the bunker to on the run with Jughead and it seems like at the end of this episode it’s just Archie and Vegas. He’s sort of been stripped of everything quite methodically so he’s laid down to his barest bones to see what he’s really made of. I will tell you, he does return to Riverdale. I don’t think Riverdale could exist too long without Archie. His quest definitely continues. It’s been really interesting. We were shooting an episode and I was up [in Vancouver] and KJ was like, “Oh my God. I haven’t been on these sets in months!”

You mentioned new romances. Is one of them potentially Reggie (Charles Melton) and Veronica (Camila Mendes)? They’ve had so many scenes at the club.
Yeah, that’s definitely brewing. I will say though, in my mind, though Archie and Veronica had that tearful goodbye at the payphone, that was all circumstantial. Neither of them wanted to break up with the other. The question is: When those circumstances change, are they together or broken up? I would say to the Varchie fans, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings!

So, what is Hiram’s plan exactly? Is he just trying to create chaos to take control of the city?
Yeah, there’s definitely a giant plan afoot. Hiram has big plans for Riverdale. It does seem like that’s kind of what he’s doing. However, I will say that’s the mystery of the first three or four episodes back. The other thing that kind of happens in the next batch of episodes is, you realize he’s not the only one with REAL big plans for Riverdale.

Riverdale returns Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. on The CW.

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