It isn’t that an alternate universe or similar events are not attractive. Done well, they are pretty entertaining, even if they do take steps away from pushing the overarching plot forward. However, “Chapter Ninety-Six: Welcome To Rivervale” doesn’t quite pull it off.
Riverdale’s shadow town, Rivervale, briefly acknowledges the bomb under Archie’s bed from the season 5 finale before passing it off as a dream.
While the concept of going in this direction may have been exciting, the timing is wrong. Even if it can be argued that season 5 didn’t go anywhere, the previous finale still set up a few significant cliffhangers, and none of them have the fallout addressed in the season 6 premiere.
Part of the excitement of a premiere is to see the aftermath of the finale and understand where everyone is going from that point forward. However, by choosing to start the season the way Riverdale does, it is almost like they are claiming the events of the previous finale are not significant enough to address immediately.
If the minds behind the show don’t seem to care enough about the season 5 cliffhangers to start with them, why should the audience?
It is also challenging to contemplate where Riverdale and Rivervale diverge in the sense of how similar and different they are as universes. How seriously is the audience supposed to take some of these storylines if they are not quite the same characters viewers have been following for five seasons?
Rivervale does show some significant changes, such as Doctor Curdle Jr. being a pediatrician instead of a coroner, but otherwise, the changes seem almost inconsequential. Even the craziest moments of “Chapter Ninety-Six: Welcome To Rivervale” feel like things that would have occurred in Riverdale eventually anyway.
Considering Rivervale is meant to be a five-episode event, it is still up for debate how this will end. Will it leak into the regular Riverdale town? How does Sabrina Spellman’s appearance come into play?
Another question remains at what point in time Riverdale will return to its familiar town, and when does the story pick up?
When returning to Riverdale, will the story return with the immediate aftermath of Hiram’s bomb beneath Archie’s bed? Will the Rivervale episodes force a time jump? Will some episodes jump between the two environments?
Regardless of how the following episodes are portrayed, “Chapter Ninety-Six: Welcome To Rivervale” hurts the show’s rhythm as a season premiere and likely should have waited for a few episodes to be brought into the series.