Over the years, The CW’s Riverdale has had its fair share of triumphs and defeats. With mysteries that encapsulated the town, introduced a cult, and showed the darker nature of serial killers in the teen-drama world, there’s been no shortage of surprise for Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), and Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse). The show specializes in take routes that are completely unpredictable. There’s no lack of romance either … whether you approve of the various couples getting together or not. But, ultimately, it’s the mysteries that have defined each season, whether it’s the Black Hood serial killer in season two or the Gargoyle King in season three. Some have turned out better than others, which typically results in making that respective season either more or less enjoyable. With of this in mind, here is our ranking of the five completed seasons of Riverdale from worst to best.

5. Season 3

Coming in last is Riverdale’s third season, which was quite a snoozefest overall. Even with two big mysteries in play with the Gargoyle King and Edgar Evernever (Chad Michael Murray) and his cult — or, perhaps, because of them — the season fell flat, taking too many turns that hurt many of our beloved characters. Several members of the Riverdale ensemble ended up joining the cult, like Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) and Fangs Fogarty (Drew Ray Tanner), causing them to make decisions that effectively ruined them, like Kevin and Fangs dragging Betty to get a lobotomy.

Meanwhile, in the second season of Hiram Lodge’s (Mark Consuelos) too-long stay in Riverdale, he has Archie thrown in jail. This leads to far too much focus on aggression and violence, as Archie is forced to participate in an underground fighting ring at the jail before he dyes his ginger hair, skips town, and is nearly mauled by a bear. And, due to the “Varchie” romance and Veronica’s complicated relationship with her father, this puts an even bigger strain on Veronica as the men in her life continue to have it out for each other.

All in all, Riverdale Season 3 was, to be frank, an utter mess. And, who can forget the floating babies that Betty saw at the beginning of the season? However, some highlights were the romances between Archie and Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) and between Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) and Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan).

4. Season 2

Riverdale’s second season took a dark turn from the series’ introductory season, leaning far more into the mysteries and murders, effectively changing the tone of the show. Whereas season one was a teen drama with a murder mystery intertwined, season two felt like a murder mystery with some teen angst in-between. This was also the introduction of Lodge and his off-and-on-again rivalry with 15-year-old Archie, his daughter’s beloved, which viewers were already begging the writers to stop by season’s end. Season two’s biggest mystery was that of the Black Hood, who ruthlessly tormented Betty while killing many throughout Riverdale. The murderer turned out to be her father, Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro). Although the mystery wasn’t terrible, it did feel like it was dragged out far longer than it needed to be, especially after the shortened first season revealed the killer in half of the time.

Some highlights of the season were the introduction of Toni Topaz, Cheryl Blossom’s fraught coming out and subsequent blossoming romance with Toni, and Charles Melton stepping in as Reggie Mantle after the exit of Ross Butler, who originally played the character. The exploration of the “Bughead” and “Varchie” relationships was also fun in this season, and their dynamics were quite interesting to watch as official couples and a group of friends.

3. Season 4

Riverdale season four had quite a bit of potential. After the previous year’s cliffhanger of Veronica, Archie, and Betty in the woods, burning their clothes, with no sight of Jughead, it was thrilling to piece together the mystery of what happened over the first half of the season, with brief glimpses into the future as we went. Though it was clear nothing too terrible actually happened to Jughead, as the show would never go that far, it was a refreshing change of pace — something desperately needed after two seasons in a row that felt miserably the same. What particularly stood out about season four was Betty and Archie finally crossing the line from friends to lovers in the final episodes … in the most teen-drama way possible. It was about time for a new dynamic to be introduced, and the new romance led to an exciting end for the season. Additionally, Cheryl and Veronica opening a business together was quite nice to watch. The series also did a beautiful job of honoring the loss of longtime cast member Luke Perry, who played Fred Andrews, and Archie’s story following the loss of his father was one of the more enjoyable stories he has had individually. The mystery of the Voyeur and the videos that were being spread around town were intriguing as the second, lesser mystery of the season behind the Stonewall mess, even if the resolution in the beginning of season five was a bit predictable and anticlimactic.

Honestly, Riverdale season four would be higher on the list, but the poor treatment of Toni Topaz, Vanessa Morgan, and the relationship between Cheryl and Toni makes it impossible to fully enjoy the season. The messy storyline with Cheryl having her brother Jason’s rotting corpse in her extremely large home was disturbingly off-putting, and how the writers put such little effort into writing for Toni was extremely disrespectful and distasteful.

2. Season 5

Perhaps at an advantage, Riverdale’s fifth season started stronger than the others. The first few episodes were filled with game-changing moments, due to the writers having to wrap up the previous season’s stories (like the aftermath of Betty and Archie’s brief affair and wrapping up the story of the Voyeur) that would have finished out season four if not for production being shut down early due to COVID-19. But the ensuing time jump is what made this season one of the best. Archie and the gang finally being out of high school opened the show to new opportunities, and the behind-the-scenes goings-on in between seasons led to the writers finally bringing Toni more into the spotlight as the primary character on the show who stayed in town during those seven years that we missed after high school graduation. The introduction of Tabitha Tate (Erinn Westbrook) was another highlight that resulted from the time jump..

Sure, there were some aspects that didn’t work, like Hiram continuing to be the Big Bad and Cheryl being isolated from the others at Thornhill. However, this was the most creative and enjoyable the show had felt since the first season, with the old formula being thrown out of the window. New pairings were being explored, allowing for new story opportunities and different dynamics, like Tabitha working with both Betty and Jughead on their mostly separate mysteries or Archie and Toni having a friendship of any kind. Riverdale was given new life with season five.

1. Season 1

Unfortunately, none can compete with the first season. Riverdale started off so strong, confident in the type of show it wanted to be. Despite the ridicule it faced for things like Jughead’s “I’m a weirdo” monologue or the more problematic aspects of the show — ahem, Ms. Grundy, for example — there was something about the show that drew you in from those first moments at Sweetwater River. The characters were all written so strongly, and it felt like an ensemble endeavor with all of these iconic characters having their important roles in the show, something that has been sorely missed since. Plus, given the shorter episode count, the mystery of Jason Blossom’s death was written more succinctly and didn’t go off into strange places to bide time until the end of the season. No leaps in logic were required either, as things were fairly straightforward way back when the show was first beginning. The writers didn’t try to force more supernatural and spooky elements into their mysteries, like floating babies or mothmen that resembled aliens.

This was before Riverdale got too comfortable with certain dynamics as well, so viewers were able to really see how all of these characters were intertwined and involved in each other’s lives. Look no farther than Hermione (Marisol Nichols) and Veronica’s arrival in town, as we caught up on the history of Riverdale and these established characters with them. Riverdale was in such a sweet spot during season one, both with story and tone. It’s a shame that the show didn’t continue on like this with some of the improvements that came from future seasons, like Toni’s introduction and Cheryl’s coming out.

All five seasons of Riverdale are streaming on Netflix. The five-episode “Rivervale Event” that kickstarted season six is currently streaming on The CW’s website.

Source: collider.com

By Ivaylo Angelov

Ivaylo Angelov born in Bulgaria, Varna graduated School Geo Milev is Tvserieswelove's Soaps Editor and oversees all of the section's news, features, spoilers and interviews.