It’s the end of a delightfully chaotic era. On Thursday, the CW announced that Riverdale, for a while the network’s tent-pole series, will end after its seventh season next year. Loosely (and we mean very loosely) based on the Archie comics, the genre-defying teen drama is currently in its sixth season; its final installment will air next year.
What this means is that we must prepare to say goodbye to the days of jingle-jangle-fueled ragers and creepy underage strip-teases to “Mad World.” No longer will a 17-year-old played by a 25-year-old operate a lucrative illegal speakeasy out of the basement of an old-timey 1950s diner. May the incredibly hot but musically mediocre KJ Apa (a.k.a. Archie Andrews) never pick up an acoustic guitar again.
News of Riverdale’s fate comes on the tail of a wave of cancellations from the CBS- and Warner Bros.-owned network. Just last week, the CW revealed its upcoming fall lineup, canceling 10 shows and renewing only eight. Legacies, Charmed, and Dynasty were among the scripted original series to get the ax, while All American, The Flash, and Nancy Drew were renewed.
Just a few weeks prior, the Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow were also scrapped after three and seven seasons, respectively. The killing spree marks a major shift for the network, which will air its lowest number of original series in a decade. Thanks to a successful Netflix output deal, the CW previously cancelled about three shows a year, per The Hollywood Reporter—a low average for a network TV channel.
Riverdale’s cancellation may not necessarily come as a shock to viewers who have stuck around to watch the already absurd series go completely off the rails in recent seasons. In spite of its steady decline in viewership and increasingly nonsensical plot developments, Riverdale has remained one of the shining stars of the CW’s programming since its 2017 debut . It was a show that bravely dared to ask, “What if these beloved comic book characters fucked? And also solved murders? And had superpowers?”
It is actually wild that Riverdale has only been on the air for five years, as there are no less than 700 episodes. (Well, give or take…) In just a half-decade, the writers have managed to explore every plotline known to man: There have been cults, incest, gang violence, teacher-student affairs, a teen boxing ring, bombs, ghosts (?!), and a perplexingly well-funded high school musical theater department all in the mix.
Take, for example, the aforementioned teen boxing ring. Our bottle-ginger himbo protagonist, Archie, winds up in juvie in Riverdale’s third season, after he’s framed for murder by his girlfriend’s father (a deliciously evil Mark Consuelos). There, he must bare-knuckle brawl to survive, lest he face the wrath of the warden, who runs an exploitative teen fight club. Good thing Archie’s so ripped!
Now, all of this sounds pretty dark, but Riverdale is ultimately high camp, so they lighten the mood by having the River Vixens cheer squad break into the prison yard to dance to “Jailhouse Rock” for their horny, incarcerated male peers. And for good measure, later in that same season, Jughead (Cole Sprouse), Betty (Lili Reinhart), and co. must save the town from a mythical figure called the Gargoyle King and face off against a DILF cult leader played by Chad Michael Murray. Because that makes sense!
Throughout the show’s six seasons thus far, there have been dozens of elaborate musical numbers, including full episodes where the gang takes a break from their busy schedule of catching serial killers and meddling with the local underground drug trade to mount Broadway-caliber productions of Heathers and Carrie. A recent episode even feature a lengthy cover of “Toxic,” courtesy of Veronica (Camila Mendes), for reasons far too convoluted to merit explanation here.
The last two seasons have been even more unhinged than ever before, kicking off with season five’s seven-year time jump to get around the problem of the main characters separating for college. In season six, writers introduced an alternate-dimension plot complete with ghosts, witches, and demons. And that’s really—amazingly—just the tip of the iceberg, which is a testament to the show’s, erm, achievements in storytelling.
All of this is to say that, while the end of Riverdale is not coming a moment too soon, we can’t wait to see what the show’s writers have in store for its final chapter in 2023.