It’s a “Riverdale” like no other.
No psychotic killers. No masked marauders. No decades-old vendettas.
Tonight’s episode (at 8 p.m. on CW) is about good friends trying to enjoy their final day of high school, preparing for graduation, and making an inevitable parting.
It’s a slice of life unusual for a drama steeped in gothic violence.
And it’s all leading to an epic time jump for the series.
It’s worth noting that “Chapter Seventy-Nine: Graduation,” written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by Gabriel Correa, while officially the third episode of the fifth season, is actually the final episode of the fourth season.
That’s because the COVID crisis prompted “Riverdale” to shut down last year with three scripts left to film for season 4.
For obvious reasons, CW has locked this episode down with a list of do-not-dare-reveal-spoilers, but Skeet Ulrich went public with his decision to leave the show months ago.
As the hour opens, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) feels guilty for Jellybean’s (Trinity Likins) prolonged crime spree. Their father, FP (Ulrich), makes a decision that he hopes will be best for everyone.
Archie (KJ Apa) and Jughead both fret about whether they will be allowed to graduate with their class.
Cheryl (Madalaine Petsch) cracks open a 1945 time capsule and finds an item that reminds Archie of the man he wants to be.
Betty’s (Lili Reinhart) valedictorian speech seems to rewrite history. When was Riverdale ever truly a sleepy town?
Archie and Veronica, Betty and Jughead, and Cheryl and Toni all have unfinished business with each other.
A dream sequence early in the episode will get just about any “Riverdale” fan teary. It’s just heartbreaking.
For anyone who survived high school, the hour’s authentic moments come with the gang coming together and acknowledging that moment when time is there to pull them apart. College beckons for some, but not all.
“Are we just doomed to be haunted by this town for the rest of our lives?” Jughead wonders.
The coming time jump is a bit more than five years, as the final teaser reveals. But it promises the gang will reunite to take on another crisis, another mystery that no doubt threatens to tear the town apart and weird everyone else out.
That’s the “Riverdale” we know and love.