Plus, what to expect when Sabrina comes to town.
Chapter Thirteen: The Sweet Hereafter

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Riverdale season 6 premiere.

If you thought Riverdale was dangerous, just wait until you meet Rivervale.

For Riverdale's sixth season, things are starting with a five-episode event, which we now know takes place in Rivervale, an alternate universe of sorts where Veronica (Camila Mendes) and Reggie (Charles Melton) are a power couple, Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Archie (K.J. Apa) want kids, and Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) is performing sacrifices to the Maple Maiden in order to bring her maple trees back to life.

The first episode in Rivervale didn't hold anything back — there were bugs, creepy dolls, and even murder. The season 6 premiere ended with Cheryl bringing the entire town together to perform a sacrifice. The sacrificial lamb? Archie. The hour ended when Cheryl cut out Archie's heart. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

EW spoke with Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa all about Rivervale, Archie's fate, and what to expect from the next four episodes.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did the idea for Rivervale and this big five-episode event come from?

ROBERTO AGUIRRE-SACASA: The idea came from the CW. The CW reached out and said, "We would love to launch season 6 with a sort of miniseries," like how the superhero shows do crossovers. To be totally honest, I always feel jealous that Riverdale isn't a part of those big crossover events, so when [CW president] Mark Pedowitz said, "Do you want to do this? And can you do this?" we were like, "We want to and we can and we will." We then spent a while talking about, what would be a special enough story to warrant that? We talked about doing something like an homage to Sin City, which is different short stories that are very pulpy and hard-boiled. And it felt like we kind of do that already. One thing we're always asked about is, when is Riverdale going to go full horror? And when is Riverdale going to embrace the supernatural? It's just never felt right, and then it was like, okay, these are stories we have not been able to tell on Riverdale that feel special and that fans will really enjoy and the actors will enjoy. All of those different things came together and just felt really right.

K.J. Apa, Madelaine Petsch, and Lili Reinhart on 'Riverdale'
| Credit: Kailey Schwerman/The CW

There was something about watching the whole town participate in a sacrifice that felt pretty normal.

Yeah it's funny, one of my favorite short stories is the classic Shirley Jackson story "The Lottery." We always talk about Riverdale being about a town, and that that is such a powerful story because it's about evil in a small town. That, to me, is almost like one of the quintessential Riverdale stories, and we've never been able to do it because as dark as Riverdale is, you don't want to believe that your friends and neighbors would ever come together to do something as horrific as the end of that episode. But it sort of was exactly the right kind of story to kick us off in season 6.

This alternate reality definitely follows through with some of what happened in season 5, so I'm curious: Is this a full standalone event, or will whatever happens in Rivervale have repercussions in Riverdale?

When this idea came up, I don't think we got too into the weeds with the CW or WB about should this be a standalone, or could it be? We thought, of course it's fun to have the freedom to do whatever you want to do and not worry about continuity and serialization, but we sort of said, "What would be really fun is if we could figure out a way to tell these stories in Rivervale and then figure out some way that they were in continuity and that they affected and informed the rest of season 6." You're so right, we're basically picking up in Rivervale with the status quo that was established at the end of Riverdale, even kind of owning the explosion at the end of the season. In our minds, this is in continuity, this is a part of Riverdale.

So then Archie's dead? Is he in the rest of the five-episode event?

I can say that Archie is dead. In [season 6, episode 2], the town isn't exactly mourning him, because they killed him, but the town does know that they sacrificed Archie. There's a scene in fact where Cheryl and Nana are toasting Archie's sacrifice because now their maple trees are producing maple syrup again. And Betty is pregnant with Archie's love child. And we won't see K.J. [next episode]. All of those things are true.

What were the conversations like with the actors in terms of talking about playing these same characters but also playing different versions of them?

Usually I have very big conversations with all of the actors before the season and we talk about all that stuff. This time, because of the pandemic and because everyone was doing movies and because of my schedule, we didn't get to have that conversation. We just sort of published the first script. [Laughs] I'll say that certain actors immediately reached out and were like, "What the hell is happening?" But a surprisingly large majority of them were kind of like, "Of course this is what's happening. It's Riverdale!" But once a few questions were answered for the actors, they really embraced their roles with gusto, and I think they like getting to play more extreme versions of themselves.

Obviously we know Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is coming. For years you talked about the problem with a crossover being that there's no magic in Rivervale. But now that we're in Rivervale, what can you say about how she'll tie into things?

It's exactly as you said. We all really wanted to make this happen, but it didn't feel 100 percent right and we hadn't cracked it. When this came about, we thought, "If we're going to make this an event and lean into that, what would be the single most meaningful thing we could do?" And we thought, "Sabrina!" Then usually we have all the reasons why we shouldn't or can't do that, but in this case everyone was like, "Wait, we can actually do this finally!" Luckily things worked out with Kiernan's schedule. I will say I was there when she was filming, and it felt so right and so natural. It took so long to get here but also felt like this was so great, and hopefully we can do it again and it won't be five years before we do it again.

Do we get any sort of update on Sabrina's life?

Yes! We definitely refer to the end of Chilling Adventures, and we own how that ended and how she's back.

Riverdale airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CW.

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Chapter Thirteen: The Sweet Hereafter
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