13 Pop Culture References You Might Have Missed From the ‘Riverdale’ Flashback Episode


This post contains spoilers for the Riverdale episode, “Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Midnight Club.”

The highly anticipated flashback episode of Riverdale, which found our teens playing younger versions of their parents, has officially come and gone. Thanks to story time with Alice, Betty is now one step closer to solving the mystery of the Gargoyle King. She just has one minor problem: Jughead appears to be too involved in Gryphons and Gargoyles to even remember why he got into the game in the first place (to save future Riverdale teens from dying, to find out why Ben Button jumped, to name a few). I mean, he’s convince he’s going to “meet” the Gargoyle King. Sound familiar?

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The Breakfast Club

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Of course, the episode’s triumph was in all the pop culture references show runner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa sprinkled throughout, from ‘80s synth pop to yes, even the opening credits, all under the warm, comforting blanket of The Breakfast Club (which of course starred Molly Ringwald, who plays Archie’s mom Mary). Though, it’s worth noting that the Serpent jacket has always stayed the same, because the Serpent life has always been stylish and leathery, I guess…

Below, some of the Easter eggs you might have missed from “The Midnight Club,” including some cheeky Riverdale throwbacks.

1. Anthony Michael Hall is Principal Featherhead. If you’ve seen The Breakfast Club, you know that Hall is Brian Johnson, whose essay—you’ve tried to recite a few times—beautifully bookends the film. And just like the film, Featherhead assigns a 1,000 word essay to the group.

riverdale breakfast club

The CW | Universal Pictures

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2. Cole Sprouse’s young FP is definitely, maybe a tribute to Skeet Ulrich’s Scream character. It’s unclear if this was intentional, but those greasy bangs are taking me back.

riverdale scream jughead

The CW | Dimension Films

Later on the episode, young FP sports a white tee. If this isn’t Billy Loomis, give me a chalice of the blue stuff from Gryphons and Gargoyles.

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3. “Winona had Johnny.” As Alice sets up the scene for Betty, she reveals that the parents first played Gryphons and Gargyoles in their junior year of high school. “Phones had chords, Winona had Johnny, and everything smelled like teen spirit,” she said, referring to Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp’s explosive three-year relationship and a Nirvana classic. Damn, Alice was so cool.

4. The title card for this episode is a gentle nod to Saved by the Bell and other sitcoms from the late-‘80s. Unlike the lifespan of Zack Morris’ giant cellphone, the tribute is brief, but bless those squiggly lines, random shapes, and bubbly lettering. Other acceptable comparisons: the Full House title card and maybe even early-‘90s Nickelodeon (like Rugrats).

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5. Alice’s labelling of everyone in detention is very Breakfast Club-by. Just like the trailer and Brian’s essay in The Breakfast Club, Alice (then Alice Smith) gives everyone very appropriate titles: the bad girl (herself); the rebelling catholic (Hermione); the teacher’s pet (Penelope); the artist/athlete (Fred); the political animal (Sierra); the ladies’ man (Forsythe Pendleton Jones Jr., aka FP). In the film, Brian’s labels include the brain, athlete, basket case, princess, and criminal.

6. “Cliques don’t cross-pollinate. Have you seen Heathers?” Young Penelope burns everyone when Fred brings up the fact that they barely know each other despite being in the same school since kindergarten. Heathers, starring Winona Ryder (!), Christian Slater, and Shannen Doherty, came out in 1988, so the film was likely still fresh in the Riverdale kids’ minds.

7. KJ Apa’s young Fred is a dead ringer for Luke Perry during his 90210 days. Dylan McKay, in this denim setup with this volume of hair and his ~mood~, forever.

riverdale 90210

The CW | United Archives GmbH | Alamy Stock Photo

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8. They play Secrets and Sins. Technically not a pop culture throwback, this is the same game Cheryl suggests everyone plays back on season one, when she crashed the party at Archie’s (yes, this is the same night Jughead told Betty he’s “weird,” he’s a “weirdo”).

9. Young FP’s cast is a tribute to the movie It. As young FP tells the others, he ended up in a cast when he tried to tell his old man he wanted to go to college instead of joining the Serpents. Look closely and you’ll see the word “LOVER” (“LOSER” with a red V written over the black S) scribbled on the cast. The cast should look familiar to anyone who saw 2017’s It, where Eddie, one of the kids in The Losers’ Club, sports a similar plaster design.

jughead fp cast it movie lover loser

The CW | Warner Bros.

10. Young Penelope says one of Cheryl’s most famous lines from the series premiere. After discovering Gryphons and Gargoyles in a locked cabinet of a teacher’s desk, the teens play several rounds and loosen up. Young Penelope the game master later spices things up and suggests surprising pairings for the next quest, putting FP with Hermione and Fred with Alice. “I guess I’m just in the mood for a little chaos,” Penelope says, almost with a wink and a nudge to her future daughter’s season one, episode one line delivered at the school dance.

cheryl mood for chaos riverdale

The CW

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11. Do Fizzle Rocks remind you of a sweet blast from the past? Remember Pop Rocks, the candy that fizzles in your mouth and essentially “pops” the second it hits your saliva? In the same vein as Riverdale terms like American Excess and the Five Seasons, Fizzle Rocks is likely a nod to the candy. On the episode, it’s the parents’ equivalent to jingle jangle (which itself is a nod to Pixy Stix). Young Hiram (played by Mark Consuelos and Kelly Ripa’s son Michael) hands out the drug on what would be the group’s final night playing Gryphons and Gargoyles.

12. Principal Featherhead’s body is discovered in a familiar spot at Riverdale High. Not long after Featherhead is killed, likely by the Gargoyle King, his body is found in a closet underneath the stairs at school. You know who else spent some time in that closet? Jughead, when he had problems with FP on season one, refused to live at the trailer, and couldn’t stay at the drive-in because it had been shut down. Guess the closet, under a well-trod staircase, was also forgotten back then.

jughead closet riverdale

The CW

13. All the ‘80s music. Instead of trying to figure out how much The CW paid to use these timeless bops, please give a round of applause to the show for perfectly incorporating the tunes with the storyline and characters and then immediately play them in your car/Spotify/YouTube (because the videos are equally enjoyable).

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