There are at least two fans still watching the once popular teen drama Riverdale. The seventh and (blessedly) final season of the CW’s show begins this week, wrapping up a saga that once enthralled hordes of teens and nostalgic millennials but has come to burden anyone who’s stuck with it. A Twitter thread dedicated to simply relaying the outlines of the show’s plot went viral for laying bare just how byzantine and bonkers the show has become. Yet, Jackie Zebrowski and MJ Knefel still produce the podcast Riverdale Roundup, a recap of Riverdale’s episodes as they air. Mystified by their dedication to a show that, as I told them before the interview, I stopped watching after Chad Michael Murray’s Edgar Evernever, an organ-harvesting cult leader, left the show. I sat down with the hosts to learn what it’s like to watch something you love devolve—and to still be forced to watch it and discuss it publicly. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Nadira Goffe: I went back and listened to the first episode of your show, and in that first episode, your then-co-host, Marcus Parks, refers to someone else who thinks that Riverdale is “unbearably stupid.” And Jackie, you said, “It is stupid, but not unbearably stupid.” Do you still agree that the show, in its current state, is still tolerably stupid? Or has it become unbearably stupid?
Jackie Zebrowski: It’s unbearably stupid.
MJ Knefel: You stopped after the Chad Michael Murray plotline, which is about organ harvesting, and it got at least four steps worse after that.
Zebrowski: That is, of course, the plotline where his desire was to create his own rocket ship and go into outer space.
Knefel: But again, that is before the time jump, before the alternate universe. We haven’t even talked about the alternate universe season! And now, another time jump is coming up in the new season.
Listen, I stayed for Chad Michael Murray’s abs.
Zebrowski: I get it.
And once he left in that rocket, I left too. It was the natural progression.
Knefel: That was the time to make a graceful exit. We could have made our exit then, but at the same time, we couldn’t.
Let’s talk about that. Considering that we all agree that Riverdale is now unbearably stupid, how do you continue to bear it for the podcast?
Zebrowski: Well, poor MJ had to watch it for years, through pregnancy, sober, and I don’t know how you did it. One thing that gets me through is my husband, Jeff. The poor soul has been forced, I’m not even going to say encouraged, to watch every single episode with me. Screaming about it with him has been such a delightful weekly pastime.
Knefel: And my husband, my poor husband, also has had a real journey where he was with me from the beginning. Since the beginning of Riverdale, I’ve had two children and there’s been a pandemic. There were just a lot of times where I was like, “This is my work!” But sometimes I had to watch without him. And the thing is, once you miss a couple episodes of Riverdale, it’s very hard to get back. You’re like, Wait. Who has killed who and who is inhabiting whose body?
Zebrowski: I actually don’t know what we’re going to do when it’s over. This is the last season. And weirdly, I have so many feelings about that. The main feeling is relief. But it is something that I’ve complained about having to do for so long that I feel there’s going to be an emptiness in me when it’s gone. But what’s going to fill it? Are we going to start watching Supernatural? I don’t know if I can take that on.
How did you both feel about the show when it first started?
Knefel: I legitimately thought it was awesome. I wasn’t going to recommend it to my friends who only watched prestige TV. It’s not Succession. I thought Season 1 was a perfect show in terms of sexy, teenage, CW drama.
Zebrowski: And queer enough, too, which I think we all were very interested in.
Knefel: Yes. My friend called it Diet Woke. This was seven years ago, when it was exciting, really exciting, to see a show that was just kind of normalizing queer relationships for teenagers. It wasn’t like, Oh, this is groundbreaking, but it felt like, Hey, if teenagers actually watch this …
Zebrowski: I remember we used to refer to it as Twin Peaks-ian.
Zebrowski: It just so quickly shifted from that in such a fast way. There was a whole plotline this year about … What were the rights? Oh, the union.
Knefel: A hard union plotline. I mean, I love this. They’re singing folk songs in Riverdale and talking about workers’ rights. But also, it’s like, why would you insert this into a body-snatching plot?
I’m wondering, at what point, in both of your opinions, did the show really start to shift into, OK, maybe this is unbearably stupid now?
Knefel: I would say pretty early—I would say Season 2 or Season 3—we started to realize maybe something’s happening here where it’s not good anymore. And definitely by the organ harvesting plotline.
Zebrowski: Definitely by then, for sure. Because all of the Gryphons and Gargoyles stuff was a lot of fun. But when it got too many narratives, it wasn’t even that it didn’t make sense, but it kind of, and I hate to say this, it got a little boring around Season 4 for a while there. And I think that’s when I fell off of my lust for Riverdale. But then, that was really when it started: OK, but we have to keep watching it. We must get through this. But then, you get some gold like—was it Betty that got stolen by the aliens in Season 5, that we thought were aliens but were actually—
Knefel: Yes. It wasn’t aliens. It was actually just people who live in the woods for some reason.
Zebrowski: It was bastard children of the Blossoms that were incestual, so their brains had become different over generations of incest. That got me back.
… I love this show.
Zebrowski: That’s the thing with Riverdale. You could have two episodes where you’re out and you’re like, They’ll never get me back. And then just one plotline, one random plotline, you’re just like, Well, I love it. This is why I love it. We’re in an abusive relationship with Riverdale.
What’s crazy is we don’t get paid to do Riverdale Roundup. When we say we have to do it, we don’t. There’s nothing making us do it. The only thing, I think, is dignity. I think it is continuing a project and finishing it. I refuse to stop until they won’t give me any more, even though I technically hate it.
Knefel: Yeah, I agree. And I’d say it’s the feedback we get, because it is really fun to hear from people who love Riverdale Roundup, especially people who listen even though they don’t watch Riverdale. And so, I think that part of it is, we’re going down with this ship.
The thing about teen shows that no one ever really wants to say is that I like when they’re teens. So as soon as you do a time jump, then I’m like, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to see Veronica be the, whatever, female Wolf of Wall Street.”
Zebrowski: She-Wolf of Wall Street.
It’s like they watched Uncut Gems and were like, You know what? Let’s just throw this in here.
Knefel: This is the infuriating thing about Riverdale. It’s like Calvinball, if you were ever a Calvin and Hobbes fan. The rule of Calvinball is that you can make up the rules as you go. And Riverdale, they are constantly changing the rules. And also, to your point about them being teenagers, you never know if they’re teenagers or adults. Because sometimes, you’re getting high school drama, but also, even before the time jump, Veronica is running her own speakeasy. All the teenagers are drinking alcohol constantly. Archie has several jobs. He’s living on his own. He has no parent at all, except for sometimes.
Zebrowski: [He] got mauled by that bear and is fine!
Oh, and sent to prison. Don’t forget when he was sent to prison.
Knefel: Yes. He went to juvie, where he fell in love with the young convict with the heart of gold.
Ugh. Archie had so many jobs. He had gotten out of prison and then started a community boxing gym and then was doing construction.
Zebrowski: He started the fire department again.
Oh, my god. Yes.
Knefel: He’s the head of the fire department and he fights crime at night.
I know that you are wondering how you’re going to fill this void now, and I know you mentioned maybe starting on a new show, but do you think you’d ever really do a podcast tied to a show like this again? Especially one that is still currently coming out?
Zebrowski: I think I like to live in the fear. I want a show that’s not going to end.
Knefel: Yeah, I agree. When we started Riverdale, it was a show that a lot of people thought was really good, and now we’re finishing Riverdale, and it’s a show that nobody watches. I like having had the journey.