Rivervale, Explained: Why is Riverdale Now Rivervale?

Image Credit: Kailey Schwerman/The CW

‘Riverdale’ season 6 brings along with it a plot steeped in the dark horrors of the supernatural world. The season’s 5-episode event of ‘Rivervale’ introduces fans to the town of Rivervale, which is uncannily similar yet starkly different from Riverdale. Needless to say, whilst fans are enthused about this new exploration of the paranormal and the ominously magical, everyone is slightly confused about Rivervale.

Although Rivervale features the same characters as Riverdale, it is noticeably unusual in its approach to them. Is Rivervale the same as Riverdale? Is Rivervale in a different universe/dimension? There are many questions to unpack, but we’ve got you covered!

Why is Riverdale Now Rivervale?

The 5-episode event of season 6 opens with Jughead, in his narrator form, talking about the mystical town of Rivervale where the old ways dominate over scientific ones. “And though it [Rivervale] might seem familiar to you, like a town you visited before, I can assure you, it is not that same town,” states Jughead, narrating in a style reminiscent of ‘The Twilight Zone,’ emphasizing that Rivervale is different from Riverdale. Plus, the town’s sign is decidedly ominous with its slogan of “You’ll never want to leave…”

Certainly, things are not as they seem in Rivervale. Although the characters remain unchanged and share the same relationships, their demeanor is markedly different. They fully embrace their darkest desires and eventually become accustomed to paranormal forces. Cheryl, in particular, heavily leans into her witchy and pagan side. We see the influence of terrifying ghosts and ancient curses. However, even as the residents of Rivervale remain mostly unaware of Riverdale, fans are constantly given hints pertaining to the OG town.

One of the more obvious references made to Riverdale is through Archie’s nightmare. He wakes up terrified and explains to Betty what he saw. “It was surreal. We were talking up here, in my room, and we heard this ticking noise,” he reveals. “It was a bomb under the bed.” This is clearly a reference to the ending of season 5 which sees Hiram Lodge planting a bomb under Archie’s bed before leaving the town forever. We see that Archie finds the bomb after hearing the ticking; Betty is also in the room with him. However, there’s an explosion and we see Archie’s house go up in flames.

Back in Rivervale, Betty comforts her boyfriend. Archie muses, “Yeah, and the weirdest part, we were living in a town called Riverdale.” “Riverdale. With a D,” laughs Betty, amused by the spelling. Thus, it is apparent that Hiram’s bomb and the explosion are not directly a part of the Rivervale universe/dimension, if that’s what we can call it. Most of the characters, excluding narrator Jughead, seem unaware of the existence of Riverdale, although their thoughts and behaviors (such as Archie’s dream) occasionally highlight that they may have vague information about it. The ticking sound in the background of the first episode also points to the unnerving connection between Rivervale and Riverdale.

“It [‘Rivervale’] is very much continuing, in a strange way, all of the episodes from the end of season 5. The idea was, ‘Let’s swing for the fences, let’s do something that fans have been asking for,’” stated Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the show’s creator, highlighting that fans wanted more supernatural elements in the teen series known for its dark plotlines.

It seems as though Rivervale is an alternate universe/dimension/timeline through which the supernatural side of things can be explored without messily changing the structure of the original Riverdale. Otherwise, how will the show justify Archie’s death in a pagan ritual supported by all his loved ones, including Betty? Interestingly, after Archie is sacrificed to unburden Rivervale of its sins and has his heart taken out by Cheryl, the town’s sign changes its slogan to “The town with Heart!” In case you’ve forgotten, the town sign of Riverdale is “The town with Pep!” Suspicious, much?

Aguirre-Sacasa also revealed that some of the episodes in season 6 will feature our beloved characters in different time periods. Thus, despite being separate from one another, Rivervale and Riverdale are connected and darkly exert influence on each other. “Everyone gets to be the darkest version of themselves in Rivervale, which is fun,” stated Aguirre-Sacasa. Clearly, season 6 is about the forces of good and evil, and fans can see the role Riverdale and Rivervale can play with respect to this binary. It is likely that we will return to the world of Riverdale after this 5-episode event of Rivervale.

Many fans theorized that Rivervale might be a fever or coma dream conjured up by an injured, post-explosion Archie. However, the creator stated, “Archie is not in a coma because of the bomb.” Other fans believe Rivervale is Jughead’s new story, a Jingle Jangle-fuelled trip, or a what-if version of Riverdale brought on by Cheryl’s curse, as she blames the town for their mistreatment of her ancestors.

However, we think Rivervale is an alternate version of Riverdale, where dark magic exists and is believed in. Cheryl’s curse is likely to be the most possible explanation for this, as she emerges as the center of pagan magic and witchcraft in this season. Additionally, Rivervale perfectly sets the stage for the cameo of Sabrina Spellman, from ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,’ which is also the brainchild of Aguirre-Sacasa.

The two shows often make references to one other and fans have long wanted a cross-over episode. It seems as though the time has finally come since Kiernan Shipka’s Sabrina, of Greendale, will be seen interacting with Cheryl, of Rivervale, in season 6 episode 4. The arrival of a witch indicates that magic will definitely be used to solve problems. Thus, Sabina’s confirmed presence makes it seem as though Rivervale and Riverdale are two sides of the same coin. We can’t wait to find out more about the twisted connection between these two towns!

Read More: Riverdale Season 6 Episode 2 Recap and Ending, Explained