WARNING: This article contains mild spoilers for Riverdale's latest episode, "Chapter Twenty-Three: The Blackboard Jungle. "
While The CW's Riverdale is clearly its own dark and twisted entity, it still looks to the various Archie comic books for inspiration. The characters you know are all there, but all bathed in a cinematic light that's more haunting than cheerful. For that reason, it seems like the horror comic Afterlife With Archie is as much a basis for the television series as the more lighthearted Archie Comics, if not in story, than at least in tone and mood.
With Season 2, however, it looks like Riverdale might be borrowing a little bit more from Afterlife, as well as its upcoming sister series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina --both of which are written by showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. In fact, Season 2's "Chapter 20: Tales From The Darkside" dropped a pretty big tease regarding the potential of the Lovecraft mythos playing a role on the series. And now, "The Blackboard Jungle" seems to continue that trend.
In "Tales From The Dark Side," the Lovecraft tease was subtle. However, this time around, we actually hear the author's name spoken out loud. In the opening moments of "The Blackboard Jungle," Jughead is sharing his most recent work with Toni, who calls the text very "Lovecraftian."
To casual viewers, this could be nothing more than a nice nod to a celebrated author. But in the context of Riverdale, the namedrop holds some potential significance. Since the author's name has already appeared on the side of a mysterious crate three episodes ago, it's unlikely this mention is a simple coincidence. Riverdale knows that some fans are onto its Lovecraft agenda by now, and these teases are only adding fuel to the fire.
But the episode's teases don't even end there. There's another, far more subtle hint that, while not directly connected to Lovecraft, might tie the show into the narrative of Afterlife With Archie. The scene in question takes place in the Riverdale High student lounge, when Archie and his gang of friends are hanging out. Eagle-eyed viewers might have spotted the book in Kevin Keller's hand, a book whose cover receives focus for no more than a second: Clive Barker's The Damnation Game.
The 1985 novel is a tale of horror, in which a man makes a deal with some type of devil or demon figure. This monster possesses many frightening supernatural abilities, not the least of which is the power to summon the dead. If we turn to the themes and elements of this story, it sure looks like this is a direct correlation to Afterlife with Archie, which involved the dead of Riverdale coming back to life as zombies thanks to the interference of dark powers that involved Sabrina.
This book is an odd choice for Kevin to read while the gang is simply hanging out, leading one to wonder whether its presence might be a further hint that Riverdale is transforming into a Lovecraftian universe under our very nose. How long before Riverdale goes full-on Afterlife? How long before the dead rise?