Season 6, Episode 1 of Riverdale plunges viewers into a parallel universe called Rivervale where Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) is a mightily powerful school headmistress who relies on magic to beguile unsuspecting citizens.
Uncannily similar to Riverdale, Rivervale is a not-so-quaint small town where happy couples like Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) and Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) can easily contemplate the prospect of having kids before getting randomly torn apart thanks to a bloody ritual. So, what's going on? Is KJ Apa leaving Riverdale?
Is KJ Apa leaving 'Riverdale'?
With Jughead (Cole Sprouse) stepping up as the narrator, Season 6, Episode 1 introduces viewers to a world more or less ruled by impeccably dressed witch and No. 1 schemester Cheryl.
Eager to bring the maple trees back to their former glory, she sets out on an endeavor that involves making pacts with people like Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), who is having relationship troubles with Reggie (Charles Melton).
After trading magical potions, tricks and tips, and pieces of advice with the townfolk, Cheryl decides to throw a Midsommar-esque festival featuring a pancake eating contest, an ax-throwing number, and others. The only catch? The afterparty culminates in Archie's heart getting ripped out.
In the Season 6 premiere, weird things happen to KJ Apa.
Once they are back at home from the festival, Betty gleefully feeds Archie a "sin pie." The pie is a symbolic confectionary that allows its consumer to gobble up all the horrors the townsfolk committed in the past. Archie takes a lick before doing another round of family-planning-related activities with Betty on their dinner table.
At the end of the episode, Archie is fooled into thinking that Betty's life might be in danger. He heads over to the Blossom Maple Farms — only to get his heart ritualistically ripped out of his chest by Cheryl.
Cheryl claims that the Blossom Maple Farms can be revived, and the town made happier, if only they opt for a sacrifice grandiose enough. Cue: Archie. Meanwhile, Betty announces that she beat infertility and is now pregnant with what she thinks is a son.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa says that KJ Apa's character, Archie, is indeed quite dead.
"We loved the idea of Archie, who is such a Dudley Do-Right, he's always trying to do the best thing and telling everyone how they’re not living up to the expectations of the town, we thought it'd be really, really funny to see the town get their revenge on Archie," Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the showrunner of Riverdale, told TVLine,
As Roberto added, Archie will continue to be dead in Season 6, Episode 2. What happens to the character beyond the five-episode premiere event is uncertain, however.
For what it's worth, Riverdale and Rivervale are quite unlike.
It's possible that KJ Apa went on a paternity leave-style arrangement (his first son, Sasha Vai Keneti Apa was born on Sept. 23, 2021), which is perhaps why he wasn't on set to shoot the first few episodes of the new season.
He told Los Angeles Times in March 2020 that he has a three-year contract with Riverdale — which casts new light on the aforementioned heart removal scene and means he definitely won't be dead for long.
There's a chance that the Riverdale and Rivervale storylines will mesh later on. It's perhaps worth pointing out that Archie and Betty became the victims of a bomb explosion in Riverdale, which doesn't sound like the easiest thing to come back from either.
Catch Riverdale every Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST on the CW.