Let’s Examine The ‘Riverdale’ Season 5 Episode Titles, Shall We?

- Riverdale -
Let’s Examine The ‘Riverdale’ Season 5 Episode Titles, Shall We?

As we inch ever closer to the January 20, 2021 premiere of Riverdale’s Season 5, every bit of information released about the show is sure to bring up theories aplenty — especially since Season 4 left us with a rather unfinished taste in our mouths (through no fault of the Riverdale team).

We have very few details about what Season 5 will bring (a time jump? Yes. What that means for the characters? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.) but we do know the titles of the first five episodes: "Climax," "The Preppy Murders," "Graduation," "Purgatory," and "The Homecoming."

I decided to look at these titles closely and see if they shed any light on what Riverdale viewers can expect from the season. I also chatted with two Riverdale fans — Kate Vatter, who co-hosts the XOXO Riverdale podcast, and E, who runs the @rvdlarthistory Twitter account and Tumblr page — to get their insights.

Let's dive into the ominous titles, shall we?

Episode 1: “Climax”

Since Season 4 ended prematurely due to a COVID-19-related production shutdown, it makes sense to think about this episode as the climax of that season, just at the start of Season 5. So maybe we can assume this episode will take the Voyeur mystery to its climax.

Judging from the comic art on Episode 1’s script cover , this episode will also serve up some prom shenanigans. When I spoke with E, who runs the @rvdlarthistory Twitter account and Tumblr page, they pointed out that Season 4 “was sort of broken unevenly into two chunks — the Stonewall plot and then everything that happen[ed] outside of/after the Stonewall plot. So theoretically we could be discovering [in “Climax”] who exactly the Voyeur is—the season’s other big question.”

However, E also brought up the Betty-and-Archie-love-each-other plot that popped up toward the untimely end of the fourth season. “I suppose that has to come to light at some point, why not a high-stakes situation like senior prom?,” E questioned.

Kate Vatter, co-host of the XOXO Riverdale podcast, recalled that “traditionally, we've seen some correlation with the plot of the movie used as the episode title. In later episodes, there was a lot more deviation from not just the naming conventions, but the ties to the source material were loose at best.”

Both Vatter and E mentioned a 2018 French horror film called Climax as the possible inspiration for this episode. In that film, a group of people are locked in a school, drugged with LSD, and some of them end up dying. Are we in for a re-enactment of this situation at RHS’ prom? Yikes!

Episode 2: “The Preppy Murders”

It seemed like the preppy murders — anything having to do with the Stonewall Prep kids a.k.a., “the preppies” — was wrapped up in Season 4 Episode 16, right? Well, maybe not! Whether or not Brett, Donna, et al. return to the scene, it seems like the twisted murder games they were involved in will be popping back up in Season 5, Episode 2. …Or will they?

Vatter told me that she “want[s] it to be about the Stonewall preppies and what happened to that one kid [Jonathan] they admitted to murdering and really just blew right past to focus on other things, but I think that's just never going to be addressed and Stonewall is done.” Instead, she thinks this episode will focus on the prosecution of Charles, who she suspects is the Voyeur.

But what if, instead of drawing inspiration from a movie, this episode title is ripped from the headlines? Both E and Vatter brought up the 1986 murder of Jennifer Levin when discussing this episode, whose boyfriend was convicted for her murder and called the “Preppy Killer” by the media.

Vatter thinks the connection could “refer to the brief mention in Season 2 from Chic's neighbor that Chic maybe killed his boyfriend but Chic said it was a trick gone bad.” E, meanwhile, connected the misogyny Levin posthumously faced after the Preppy Killer claimed she’d died during sex with the Season 4 reveal that Brett filmed Jughead and Betty “in an intimate moment” and Brett’s blackmail/insinuation “that Betty would face the true negative repercussions of such a thing, as a woman in 21st century America.”

“The Preppy Murders” also reminded E of the Menendez brothers, which called to mind “Charles and Chic, who are seemingly involved romantically and working on some unknown project (revealed at the end of 4x06 and never mentioned since.) True, they're explicitly not brothers — but they have both at different points been sons (or 'sons') of Alice Cooper née Smith, and have various reasons to hold a grudge against her.”

Episode 3: “Graduation”

This one seems obvious. The RHS seniors are going to graduate!

Since this is Riverdale we’re talking about, there’s no way this graduation ceremony will go off without a hitch. Will the Voyeur rig the A/V system, play a creepy video, and scare everyone out of their wits? Will someone end up missing the ceremony? Will someone die at the ceremony?

The big question for Vatter is whether or not Archie will graduate. “He probably will, but he really shouldn’t,” she said. She also guessed that we’ll say “goodbye to Falice (since Skeet Ulrich is leaving Riverdale) in this one and will possibly have some breakups due to soon-to-be long-distance relationships. I think the guaranteed breakup in this episode is Varchie since we know Archie is joining the military.”

Episode 4: “Purgatory”

Of all the episode titles we’ve seen for Season 5, this one seems the most ominous and mysterious (OK, maybe it’s a tie with “The Preppy Murders”). Judging by the cover art for this episode’s script, my money’s on this episode title referring to the purgatory Archie’s loved ones will exist in as they wait to hear more about his MIA status (a Season 5 in which Archie goes missing while deployed). E noted that the title “suggests that perhaps the characters aren't exactly where they want to be in life” since “purgatory’s a liminal space.”

Vatter predicted that “this is the ‘where are they now?’ episode” after the time jump, when everyone will be “forced back together by another mystery to solve and they're all facing their exes for the first time in years and everyone's uncomfortable.”

Episode 5: “The Homecoming”

Well, this episode title seems pretty straightforward, though it remains to be seen whether the episode will find everyone making their trek home to Riverdale, or just one character—most likely Archiekins. Will he return after being MIA and presumed dead? Will he have amnesia? Will he regale his friends and family (and us) with “military stories for 42 minutes while Molly Ringwald chews the scenery,” as Vatter posits?

Another intriguing idea from Vatter: the RHS gang won’t exactly get a warm welcome from the Riverdale townspeople, because the town will have “stopped being a crime-ridden pit of despair when they all left.” Archie, Betty, Veronica, and co. shunned by the people of Riverdale? Stranger things have happened in The Town with Pep…

Nothing is a coincidence in Riverdale — or on Riverdale — and that means these episode titles have to mean something. Whether or not our theories are correct, what lies ahead with the Season 5 time-jump is sure to be exciting and fresh, since, as E told me “the thing about Archie characters is that they are eternal teenagers — only rarely, rarely are there moments where we get to see their adult versions (only The Married Life comics arc comes to mind).” Adulthood opens up all kinds of wild plot possibilities; imagine how free Veronica and Cheryl will feel once they can run a rum club legally, for example!

Images: CW

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