Archie Andrews, welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans probably never expected to hear those words, but strangely enough, the latest episode of Riverdale includes a major crossover that brought one of the superhero franchise's most gruesome vigilantes to town. The truth about who Ted Bishop really is on Riverdale will definitely shock a lot of fans, but the unexpected Marvel crossover actually has a storied history.
Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers from Riverdale Season 4, Episode 12, "Men of Honor." In the Feb. 5 episode of Riverdale, Archie faced yet another incredibly scary near-death experience when a mercenary named Ted Bishop came to town to try to murder both him and his uncle Frank. So just add military-trained killer to the ever-growing list of adversaries who nearly ended Archie's life, alongside mafiosos, drug lords, biker gangs, corrupt prison guards, his girlfriend's dad, two masked serial killers, and — who could forget? — a bear. But there is actually a lot more to this mercenary than viewers may have realized.
Ted originally seemed to be a friend upon his arrival, happily reuniting with his old army buddy Frank Andrews after telling him the sad news about the death of a fellow soldier. It turned out, though, Ted was the one responsible for that death, and he only came to Riverdale to continue his murder spree as part of a mercenary program Frank himself was once a part of. In the end, Archie and Frank were able to take Ted down, but his arrest also led to Frank fleeing town to avoid getting caught himself.
Marvel superfans may have picked up on the fact that Ted was actually very directly inspired by the iconic superhero Punisher. While the Punisher's real name was Frank Castle, he used Ted Bishop as an alias a few times in his comics. Ted also shares the Punisher's backstory as a veteran turned mercenary, and he even wears the character's iconic skull logo on a shirt in his final scene. Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa confirmed the Marvel crossover on Twitter ahead of the episode.
Probably the strangest part of this whole unexpected crossover is that it actually has a basis in comic-book history. Back in 1994, Marvel and Archie Comics collaborated on a one-off issue in which the Punisher chased a drug smuggler into Riverdale. Given Archie's resemblance to this villain, he and his friends got embroiled in the uncharacteristically dangerous adventure, ending with Archie and the Punisher working together to save the day.
Leave it to Riverdale to bring one of the most bizarre issues of Archie Comics history to life in a totally unexpected way. After that, who knows what the rest of Season 4 might have in store for fans.
New episodes of Riverdale air Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.