‘Riverdale’ Producer Reflects on Most Insane (and Controversial) Storylines, Plus Weighs In On That ‘Too Hot for TV’ Four-Way Romance

SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers from the series finale of “Riverdale,” which aired on The CW Wednesday, August 23.

The end of “Riverdale” has arrived — after seven seasons of milkshake-drinking, love triangles, crime- solving and one incredible bear attack. The CW’s teen drama-turned-supernatural phenom finally wrapped up on Wednesday night, but not before throwing in a few more major twists.

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The finale, titled “Goodbye, Riverdale,” jumped ahead 67 years. Betty (Lili Reinhart) is in her 80s, and is the last remaining alive member of the Riverdale crew. The night before she dies, she gets a visit from the ghost of Jughead (Cole Sprouse), who takes her back to a day when she missed school, revisiting all of her friends and finding out what happened to them after high school. For a full breakdown of where everyone ended up and how they all died (!), read our full recap.

Sarah Schechter, as the chairperson of Berlanti Productions, has worked on “Riverdale” since the beginning, and is one of its executive producers. With showrunner and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa not wanting to do interviews during the ongoing writers strike, Schechter shed light on the way the drama wrapped up, the love triangle-turned-square, that surprise cameo — and much more.

The love triangle/square has been a focus since the beginning of the series, and in the finale, it’s revealed that the four main characters were in a quad relationship. But I was very surprised that none of them ended up together after high school. Was that always the plan?

I think anyone who tells you there was always a plan, they’re lying. From the beginning, we had so many conversations about not wanting this to be retro in the wrong ways, and not wanting to be reductive in the wrong way. There’s this core of Archie Comics about family, town, growing up and everything universal, but there was always Archie picking between two girls. I think we made a really conscious effort to step away from that in the pilot, and have maintained that throughout. So I think it was modern and fitting. Each of these characters have such big lives that they were meant to lead — I do think it was such a brave and interesting choice. Them not ending up together, in a way, is more honest. It also helps you remember that each one of these relationships is equally important in its moment. If anyone ended up with anyone, it would say somehow that it’s more powerful.

There’s a maturity to it that I love so much. A person’s life isn’t who they end up with: It’s deeper and more meaningful than that. Roberto is such a theater fan, and you can really feel “Our Town” in it — with a quad. It’s still “Riverdale”! I thought it was kind of amazing choice, and they kind of all end up in the afterlife together. That allows people to root forever.

Riverdale -- “Chapter One Hundred Thirty-Seven: Goodbye, Riverdale” -- Image Number: RVD720d_0190r -- Pictured (L - R): Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge and Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper -- Photo: Justine Yeung/The CW -- © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge and Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper

The show has been so excellent representing LGBTQ couples. However, when the quad is revealed, all pairings — including Betty and Veronica (Camila Mendes) — are shown hooking up, except Archie (KJ Apa) and Jughead. Was there a reason that wasn’t included?

I mean, that’s, like, too hot for TV. I don’t think there was a reason for it. I think there’s a fantastic, fantastic amount of LGBTQ representation on the show.

I was shocked not only to hear Veronica talk about her “good friend” Peter Roth, the former Warner Bros. Television CEO, but then to see him! How did that cameo happen?

That was all Roberto, and it is my favorite thing of all time. Roberto even sent me the speech that Peter gave, because I wasn’t on set. “Riverdale” exists because of a few people: “Riverdale” exists because of Roberto; “Riverdale” exists because Jon Goldwater at Archie Comics was willing to play and be open and modern; it exists because Greg Berlanti really, really fought for it to be on the air, and [former CW chairman] Mark Pedowitz listened. And no one keeps a show on the air like Peter Roth.

Now that he’s retired and loving his retired life, it was so great. He’s always been a part of the show and a part of the DNA of this show. For him to actually be in “Riverdale,” it just felt perfect.

There were some familiar faces in the finale. Was there anyone else that you were hoping to get back that you couldn’t?

Yeah, if Roberto had his way, everybody that’s ever been on the show would be in every episode. It was great to have so many people back. I mean, the person I wish that was there more than anyone was Luke Perry. I wish he was still here.

The tone of the show went through a very obvious shift over the seasons, going from teen drama into full-blown supernatural series — and a sometimes murder mystery. Do you remember having those conversations about shifting what the vision was?

I think what’s so amazing about “Riverdale” is that it existed in a time where you could still make 24 episodes, or whatever — we got to make so many episodes.

This show is such a testament to the variety of Roberto’s passions. Roberto is a lot like audiences today who love horror movies and comedies and action. The idea that people only like one kind of thing is not true. I think there’s a modernity to it that is really interesting, and will be interesting to look back on.

I also just think that the number of episodes we got to make — to make them in a time where we had a really strong, experienced writers’ room that were on set, producing episodes, getting to know the actors — speaks to how the show evolved, changed and grew. In making so many episodes, you can play. You can have fun.

Well, they had fun in the finale too — Archie’s poem nods at some of the more out-there storylines.

I think that was the writers’ room joke. I was glad that there was that acknowledgement, a fun little Easter egg. We’re really lucky. So many writers have been on the show for years and years and years, and it speaks to the kind of atmosphere that Roberto created.

Speaking of some of those crazy storylines, I’d love to get your take on some of the wildest things “Riverdale” has gone through, starting with the secret brother/Chic/Charles twist.

That was something, wasn’t it? That actually was kind of early — that wasn’t even that wild! That was just like a traditional soap move. The Coopers really had a lot going on.

Archie attacked by a bear in "Riverdale."

Archie after being attacked by a bear in Season 3

The fact that it wasn’t even really wild in comparison is something! Season 3 there were multiple storylines to talk about, but the Gargoyle King and Archie fighting a bear are two that stand out.

The Gargoyle King I totally followed! I didn’t have trouble with that. The bear was — it was around “The Revenant.” Bears are good storytelling devices. But yeah, I think that was a surprise to KJ most of all.

Speaking of that, the cast has spoken about how silly some storylines can be. Did you have conversations with the actors when that shift began, about how the show was changing?

I wish you could talk to the cast! The joy and the immense privilege of doing a show for seven years was watching this cast grow up. I think they all went through it [differently.] I think in Season 2, Cole was like, “But why?” By Season 6, everyone was like, “Yep, OK!” Everyone got on board. Even Camila at one point, I was telling her something, and she just shrugged her shoulders like, “Yep, it’s ‘Riverdale!’”

OK, another strange storyline moment — Edgar, played by Chad Michael Murray, dressed like Evel Knievel, ran a cult and then tried to escape in a homemade rocket.

Yeah that was — something. I don’t even know where that came from.

How about Tabitha being an angel who tries to stop Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder?

Look, it was — yeah. Maybe I won’t comment on that.

OK then! Is there a favorite storyline that some people laugh at, but you thought was really fun?

The idea that there was a nightclub under Pops! We all got used to it, but when that idea first came up, that was really big! It was like doing the Peach Pit After Dark under the Peach Pit. I mean, in the pilot, Archie had an affair with his teacher.

The other one for me, since I love Madelaine Petsch, she’s an incredible actress, and an incredible human —she and Lili had the most of these. She had a whole season where she was talking to dead Jason! And the Maple Syrup mafia! A lot happened to her.

Is there anything that you look back on and wish you guys didn’t do it, or wish you could have done it differently?

I mean, I wish Luke was still here. He was the heart and soul in a lot of ways, and was such a father figure to everyone — especially KJ. My only regret is he’s not here. He knew from the beginning what it was, and he was excited about it from the beginning. That’s the only thing I wish was was different.

And, you know — Rivervale was a real turn.

And the super powers! That was the same season.

Those were all those things that Roberto loves! The show took so many chances, and went wild. But we were so lucky we have such an incredible group of actors that can pull literally anything off. Sometimes people say “literally” and they don’t mean it — I mean literally anything. Anything you could imagine, they did it, and they did it with grace and style.

The thing that I am proud of is — for all the people that think “Riverdale” is crazy and wild — at its very best, it is emotional. It says something about growing up, and it says something about where you’re from and who you are. I think the finale managed to really land that plane. It was earnest and vulnerable. I think it was insightful about life.

What’s the biggest thing you learned from the whole experience?

I learned a lot. I’ve been lucky to work on so many incredible shows: “Riverdale” was the first in a lot of ways. To be able to make a show that you’re so proud of, and a show that was able to launch so many careers — any producer reading this better go try and steal every member of that crew, because they were all so good.

I’ll remember it as my first baby. I’ll just remember it really fondly with a lot of love and pride. And then there’s the bear.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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