[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 3 finale of Riverdale, "Chapter Fifty-Seven: Survive the Night."]
Is it possible senior year is going to be the Core Four's worst time yet? Yes, yes, it is.
Flashforwards are clearly the hot new storytelling technique, as Riverdale's Season 3 finale ends with a big one. Just as Betty (Lili Reinhart), Veronica (Camila Mendes), Archie (KJ Apa) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) toast to their future, we jump to Spring Break of their senior year, and Archie, Betty and Veronica are bloodied and in their underwear in the woods.
"We have to burn all of our clothes, including Jughead's beanie," Betty tells Archie. "We'll wash off the blood in the swimming hole. After tonight, we never speak of this, ever, not to each other, not to our parents, no one. We finish our senior year, we graduate and we'll go our separate ways. That is the only way we won't get caught." On her order, Archie burns Jughead's beanie.
That doesn't bode well for Jughead — or does it? We're clearly supposed to think that something happened to him and that's why he's not there, but is it possible he's actually the safest, since a twist has to be coming in Season 4? But that still begs the question: Why isn't he there?
But before we're left wondering about the Core Four's future problems, they survive a crazy night in the woods in the present.
This Would Make for Quite the College Application Essay
First, Penelope buys Betty from Edgar (as "organs in bulk") and brings the rest of the Core Four to the Blossom Hunting Lodge, where they're joined by the Black Hood and the Gargoyle King. Sure, Ethel may have told Jughead that the King was Jason Blossom, but we've seen his dead body. As Jughead points out, there is one body not accounted for with a connection to both Hal and Penelope: Chic.
Penelope dyed his hair red and is calling him Jason. Hal "recognized a kinship" in Chic, who pledged his life to Hal in service of his and Penelope's mission. During their affair, Penelope "cultivated [Hal's] murderous impulses" to get revenge on the town for letting her be sold as a child bride to the Blossoms. Penelope is the true mastermind, the true King.
She orders the "Midnight Children" to play one last round to prove they're as dark as the town and survive her Grand Hunt. She expects them to lose so their parents, who mocked her for her Blossom secret, will feel the pain she did — the death of a child.
Each must complete a task. Archie faces a "grizzled beast" — reminding the others that he survived a real bear attack — and emerges the victor. Veronica and Betty play a poisonous Russian Roulette version of Spin the Bottle, and when only one chalice is left, Veronica takes it before her friend can. She completes her challenge and proves her loyalty — but Penelope informs them all the cups were poisoned. They'll only get the antidote if they finish the game.
Jughead must fight Chic (and an axe). He tries to talk to him, but that's not really possible with someone who asks, "Who doesn't want blood sacrifices made in their name?" Jughead, too, emerges as victor.
Betty's is the most personal: a duel with her father. But she doesn't kill him, instead shooting off the fingers of his remaining hand, not that that matters. Penelope finishes the job. Archie gets the antidote, and the four make a run for it, just as Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and Toni (Vanessa Morgan) lead the Serpents and Poisons in a rescue.
So, in the end, the Black Hood is dead, Chic is in jail and Penelope is still out there. Oh, and Veronica should be worried about Hiram, who despite being behind bars arranges for his wife's arrest. "Veronica, you don't even know what's coming," he says.
So, Alice Hasn't Gone Completely Crazy?
After surviving Penelope's crazy tasks, Betty, Veronica, Archie, Jughead, Cheryl and Toni go to the Farm, only to find everyone has "ascended" and left Kevin (Casey Cott) behind. "We'll never see them again," he says.
But there's more to the story — an FBI agent shows up and tells Jughead and Betty his agency has had someone on the inside, tasked with getting close to Edgar and gathering intel: Alice (Mädchen Amick). She's been an FBI informant this entire time. And it turns out she wasn't lying or hallucinating when she said she spoke with Charles because this FBI agent is Charles, as in Betty and Jughead's half-brother.
But Cheryl May Have?
Cheryl discovers that Edgar has dug up her brother's body, and though she is furious upon seeing what he's done, she ends up bringing Jason home with her.
"It's a vicious cycle of never-ending madness that turns back on itself over and over again until someone breaks the chain," Jughead says of the darkness of Riverdale. And based on that look into the future, it's going to continue in Season 4.
Riverdale, Season 4, Fall 2019, The CW