This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors who are currently on strike, series like Riverdale would not be possible, and Autostraddle is grateful for the artists who do this work. The following review of the Riverdale series finale contains spoilers.
The Riverdale series finale reveals Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica spent their senior year of high school queer polyamorous relationship. The core four became a queer quad.
Yes, you read that correctly. Riverdale concluded seven seasons of serial killers, evil nuns, warring gangs, queerleaders, lesbian archery, bear attacks, cursed tabletop games, musical numbers, witchcraft, melodrama, and horror homages last night with a fittingly bonkers series finale. It kicks off with Betty Cooper, at 86-years-old and on her deathbed, wishing she could go back in time to relive one of the gang’s last days of high school when they all received their senior yearbooks. You see, Betty missed this day the first time around, because she had the mumps (season seven is set in the 1950s). But Jughead’s ghost (?) shows up at her deathbed and guides her on a journey back in time to experience that day from her youth. So, 86-year-old Betty now in her teenage self’s body does exactly that, taking a stroll down memory lane that also involves her recounting how every single character from the series dies? It’s a bizarre series finale and yet also one that feels distinctly Riverdaleian. Most importantly, we learn which ship was endgame all along for our core four, whose love quadrangle that has expanded to be something more like a love helix has been one of the driving forces of the show’s narrative. And the answer? All of them. All of them are endgame.
Ghost Jughead reminds Old Betty that she, Archie, Jughead, and Veronica all spent their last year of high school in a secret polyamorous relationship, a core four quad. As the memories come rushing back, Betty recounts to Reggie the wild escapades of hookups between herself and Jughead, herself and Archie, Veronica and Jughead, Veronica and Archie, and yes, most importantly, Betty and Veronica. The Betty/Veronica arc that has been brewing all season — and arguably since the show’s pilot — comes to complete fruition, Betty confirming that she and her best friend hooked up on many nights together during their senior year. We don’t get explicit confirmation that Jughead/Archie also hooked up during this time, but I choose to believe Archie’s dalliances with Reggie this season suggest it was a possibility.
So yes, our core four finishes out the series in a four-way queer relationship configuration. Betty and Veronica are both canonically bisexual. Riverdale doesn’t choose just one straightforward, boring endgame for its characters; it chooses something more complex, surprising, and deeply deeply queer. Even I, a devout documenter of all of Riverdale‘s queer happenings — which really ramped up in this final season for just about every character — truly did not see this coming! And yet, now I can’t imagine Riverdale ending any differently. I almost feel like Jughead predicted this outcome all the way back in season two’s “The Hills Have Eyes.” This friend group all loves each other. Why not make that love official by making them all date each other simultaneously?
As for other queer conclusions to the series: Kevin and Clay move to NYC together and live a beautiful life of queer theater, art, and literature in their apartment ABOVE THE APOLLO THEATER. Archie’s mom meets a woman at the dress shop where she works and spends the rest of her life with her. Cheryl and Toni move out West together and become combination artist-activists together. They have a son who they name…Dale?! I feel like River would have been the better name! Betty runs a feminist and women’s liberation magazine. Veronica becomes a hotshot movie producer. And even though the quad splits up after graduation, it’s clear this four-way relationship remained meaningful to them.
It isn’t all happy endings though. Kevin’s dad and Archie’s uncle — revealed to be queer last episode for some reason — are murdered?! By Chic?! The series finale’s determination to weave as many characters and plotlines from the past into its story is bold! Archie at one point reads a “poem” that is essentially just a rhyming roast of everyone with a lot of meta reflections on things that have happened throughout the series, including even that Reggie was recast.
I’ll have more I want to say about this series and what it meant to me soon. For now, I am just still basking in the glow of the CORE FOUR QUAD. A happy ending for Choni! My longtime prediction of Bisexual Betty coming true in the most glorious of ways! Bisexual Veronica, too, to throw an extra cherry on top of this sweet, sweet gay milkshake!