The season four fall finale of Riverdale, titled “Tangerine,” is action-packed, jumping from one giant event to another at a breakneck pace. But the real meat is in the last two minutes, where Betty (Lili Reinhart) makes what might be a dangerous choice and then a flash-forward provides more insight into Jughead’s (Cole Sprouse) supposed death.
SPOILER WARNING: Do not keep reading if you haven’t yet watched Riverdale season four, episode nine.
In the waning moments of the episode, Betty uses the Farm’s trigger word — tangerine — to see if the dark part of herself is still inside. Her mother (Madchen Amick) then hears a crash and comes to see if Betty is alright. She says she is… then we flash forward four weeks and Jughead is lying on the ground with a bleeding head wound. Archie (KJ Apa) says he’s dead and says frantically, “What did you do, Betty?!” as she stares at the bloody rocks in her hands in horror.
Here are our theories about what happened.
1. Evelyn Set Betty Up
Evelyn Evernever (Zoé de Grand Maison) is the person activating Betty’s mom and sister (Tiera Skovbye) with the trigger word, causing them to go into a fugue state as “Betty” and try to kill “Dark Betty, Evil Betty, the other Betty.” So perhaps as season four continues, she continues to pull strings from inside Shankshaw Prison and manages to frame Betty for Jughead’s murder.
Of course, this theory is predicated on the idea that Jughead is actually dead and that seems highly unlikely. But it could be that he’s supposed to be dead and he miraculously survives — though we have seen flash-forwards of his body in the morgue with FP (Skeet Ulrich) and Betty looking on, so does he make it all the way to the morgue before anyone realizes he’s not actually dead? Hmm.
2. Charles and Chic set Betty Up
We don’t yet know what Charles (Wyatt Nash) and Chic (Hart Denton) are up to, but Betty’s half-brother and her dad’s secret serial killer accomplice are definitely up to something. Do they kill Jughead and frame Betty for it? Charles does know about the whole “tangerine” thing now. In this scenario, however, as with the Evelyn theory, Jughead would have to appear dead and no one would have to realize he is alive for quite a while. Is that too farfetched for Riverdale? Well, no.
3. It’s an Elaborate Quill & Skull Game
The season four fall finale also sees Jughead get initiated into the Stonewall Prep Quill & Skull secret society. His cohorts have already shown themselves to be pretty devious — maybe they force or coerce Jughead into faking his own death and framing his friends for it. Why would they do that? Well, with Riverdale, anything is possible, but you know Jughead would do anything to protect his loved ones, so maybe they’re threatening Betty, Archie or FP (Skeet Ulrich) and the only way to keep them safe is for Jughead to go along with the ruse.
4. It’s the Mysterious Videotape Messenger
We don’t yet know who is sending surveillance videotapes to everyone in town. It’s a weird little side plot that the show barely touched on in the first half of season four, which means it has to come into play in the back half. Maybe the person sending the videotapes killed (or tried to kill) Jughead and framed Betty.
5. It’s Jughead’s First Baxter Boys Novel
There has been a popular theory this season that the flash-forwards were actually the main characters all acting out Jughead’s “perfect murder” story that he was writing to win the Baxter Boys contract. Well, that plotline has wrapped up because Jughead won the contest. But maybe it’s something very similar — maybe it’s the plot of his first novel as the new Baxter Brothers ghostwriter and the characters are standing in for his book characters as he reads it to them or something.
6. Betty Really Killed Jughead
It’s probably not this one, but you know something dangerous is going on with Betty after she “checked” for the dark side of herself. And Riverdale is always such a wild show that this would be kind of an amazing direction to take things. The writers probably didn’t do that… but what if they did?!
Riverdale returns in 2020, though The CW hasn’t yet announced an exact date.
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