Riverdale definitely is not a stranger to gasp-worthy twists, but its mid-season premiere on Wednesday took things to another level entirely. Amidst all the gangs, mafia, cults, and murderous gargoyles roaming around town, Season 3 has been packed with drama, and it has never been more shocking than the final moments of this week's new episode. Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers for Riverdale Season 3 Episode 9, "No Exit." At the very end of the episode, every Riverdale fan is left asking the same frightening question: Is Archie really dead!? It is incredibly rare for a show to kill off its main character, but that final shot of Archie drenched in blood with a totally vacant look in his eyes really seems to mean only one thing.
The mid-season premiere episode was a doozy for Archie. While all his friends were dealing with Hiram Lodge problems back in Riverdale, Archie secluded himself in a cabin in the woods up in Canada to work through his various issues. But although he was safe from Hiram in that shack, he was not safe from bears. Yep — in the first few moments of the episode, Archie gets mauled by a grizzly bear (that we don't see on screen) while he is out for a walk in the woods. What a drag!
Things only get weirder after that sudden bear attack. Archie, now with a gigantic bloody gash on his chest, lies down to wait for help. He has either lost too much blood or that was like a magical bear that clawed him, because Archie immediately begins to hallucinate. Cassidy and the other dead Shadow Lake kids, Warden Norton, and then Betty, Jughead, and Veronica all appear to him and force him to play Gryphons and Gargoyles with them. The rounds force Archie to confront and kill the three perceived roadblocks in his life: the Black Hood, Hiram Lodge, and (we all saw this one coming) himself.
While all of this is happening in Archie's head, though, he is dying. At the end of the episode, a couple of rangers finally reach Archie's cabin and find him bleeding out on his bed, appearing to be dead.
Sooooo, is he for real dead or what!? The dream-hallucinations about Gryphons and Gargoyles definitely seem to point to the game's concept of "ascending," which appears to be a euphemism for suicide, and since Archie completed all the tasks of the game, he has theoretically ascended as well.
But although things look really bad for Archie, it is pretty safe to assume that he is not really dead. I mean, it really would not be Riverdale without Archie, and although shows like Game of Thrones have set a rare precedent in killing off lead characters, Riverdale's story is much more focused on its four leads than on a sprawling, fuller cast. We will most likely find out that while Archie was close to death because of that bear attack, these rangers were able to save his life just in time.
The bigger question, really, is how this near-death experience and his murderous vision quest will change Archie when he finally does return to Riverdale. Fans can expect him to be a much different Archie going forward.