This image was taken from the official press kit for “Riverdale,” distributed by The CW.

This article includes spoilers for the sixth season of Riverdale.

The year is 2017. “Envelopegate” happens at the Oscars, Prince Harry and Megan get engaged, Taylor Swift makes a comeback and Beyonce’s twins are born. All in all, a pretty good year. But there was one moment in pop culture that year that outshone them all (except for maybe Taylor Swift): the very first season of “Riverdale.”

Obviously, I’m joking. However, you have to admit that since that fateful year, “Riverdale” has more than earned its spot in pop culture history, though perhaps mostly as the punch line of jokes like mine. The show started off harmless and cute, an homage to the Archie Comics series featuring Archie, a cute jock, Betty, the classic girl next door, Veronica, the posh fashionista and Jughead, the typical jokester and class clown. But what was once a simple high-school drama series with a mystery twist has now become one of the most ridiculous and meme-ified shows on television. Still, there’s just something about “Riverdale” that has everyone hooked. Maybe it’s the show’s persistence despite adversity or its fantastical (and sometimes absurd) plot — or maybe it’s the fact that it’s just simply not good. Whatever it is, “Riverdale” has it, and as the show returns for its sixth season, I think it’s time to give “Riverdale” the respect it (kind of) deserves.

I’m not really sure how many people actually watch “Riverdale.” Clearly, someone must, since it’s still running, but I’ll fill in the blanks in case that someone isn’t you. In the six seasons that “Riverdale” has been on TV, it has featured many high-school breakups, several serial killers, some organized crime, a cult, mild incest and now the emergence of some kind of alternate dimension. Season six starts off with a bang, and after the town mob-boss Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos, “Queen of the South”) plants a homemade bomb under Archie’s (KJ Apa, “Songbird”) bed, the whole “Riverdale” crew is launched into an alternate universe in a special five-episode arc called “Rivervale” where the town is even creepier and weirder than before.

Archie and Betty (Lili Reinhart, “Chemical Hearts”) are together and thinking about kids. Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch, “Sightless”) is the ringleader of a cult of teenage girls (not sure where she acquired a group of bow and arrow wielding teens from, but we’ll go with it) and human sacrifice rituals are the norm. Rather than hiding behind a typewriter to tell his stories, Jughead (Cole Sprouse, “Five Feet Apart”) sets the scene in Rivervale by narrating to the camera, both an actor and an omniscient observer. He takes us through Betty’s investigation of a case of animal sacrifice, Archie and Cheryl’s beef over maple syrup and the final “Midsommar”-esque scene in which Cheryl sacrifices Archie to her maple syrup goddess. The absolutely batshit crazy episode and all its creepy twists and turns was a perfect representation of everything “Riverdale” is.

In the past, “Riverdale” has struggled to maintain a serious tone with its absolutely wild and unrealistic plot twists, often coming off as corny. Season six is a bit different though, as the backwardness of “Rivervale” seems almost like an astoundingly self-aware parody of “Riverdale” in its entirety — and Jughead’s role as a host only makes it feel like more of a big inside joke. Joke or not, this strange new introduction to the plot seems to serve only to feed into criticisms of “Riverdale” that we’ve heard before — that it’s unrealistic, out of touch or cringey to the point of not-quite-camp. But this new narrative has the potential to do the show a lot more good than harm, if the creators play their cards right. Though the “Rivervale” episodes will make up only half of this season, the introduction of fantasy elements almost seem natural to the kind of stories “Riverdale” has been known to showcase, as much of its core plot already stretches credulity and is only a few steps away from magical realism. This “Rivervale” arc toys with some darker themes, and it may be the show’s chance to finally achieve the somber tone and more serious drama that it has been lacking.

Whether or not you’re a “Riverdale” fan, you have to admit that this new installment continues to prove one thing: no matter its flaws, “Riverdale” is endlessly creative. The characters might not be super complex and the plot may be insane, but if you just suspend your judgment for a mere 45 minutes, you will find that it is entertaining — and isn’t that the standard we should have for all TV shows? What makes the insanity of “Riverdale” so different from other young adult dramas like “Pretty Little Liars,” a show so many of us watched in earnest, hanging onto cliff-hangers and plot twists? Is “Riverdale” not just as ridiculous, just as enticing? I, for one, think it’s time to retire the endless ridicule and judgment we all foster towards “Riverdale.” It may never be your favorite show (I don’t think it’s anyone’s) but it can still be interesting, entertaining and sometimes downright fun to watch. After six seasons, it’s pretty clear that “Riverdale” isn’t going anywhere, so maybe it’s time to give it a chance. 

Daily Arts Writer Annabel Curran can be reached at