Riverdale's Supernatural Turn Pulled Inspiration From A Stephen King Classic

"Riverdale" basically one-ups its own insanity every season, and most recently it achieved this by introducing the newest villain, Percival Pickens (Chris O'Shea). Percival comes to town at the same time that the main characters mysteriously gain superpowers. At first glance, Percival seems like he is cut from the same cloth as the town's previous antagonist, Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos). They are both sinister businessmen who mean to squander Riverdale's "heart" by buying it up and letting the debaucherous Ghoulies have the lay of the land. 

Still, one thing sets Percival and Hiram apart; while Hiram operates like a Don right out of a mafia movie, Percival is more sinister and supernatural, like a villain from a Stephen King novel.

Hiram Lodge has powers of his own — money and fear. At the beginning of the series he is imprisoned, but he doesn't stay that way for long. He soon establishes himself as mayor of Riverdale and even buys a local public school so that he can establish a private, for-profit prison. He is at times shockingly compassionate, lending a hand to his daughter Veronica, and at other times cartoonishly evil, running an underground fighting ring of juvenile delinquents and making numerous attempts on Archie's life. This complexity breathed humanity into the character that Percival does not possess. "There's gotta be some redeeming moments [for Hiram] ... like the protection he has for Veronica," Consuelos explained to Recap Rewind.

Hiram's loyalty to his family and his network of criminal enterprises is reminiscent of the mob bosses in movies like "The Godfather" and "Goodfellas." "[Hiram] was a great mafia boss, gang lord," showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa told Decider. "So when we were talking about bringing in a new big bad, we definitely didn't want anyone who was swimming in those waters."

Percival Pickens is based on Randall Flagg

Hiram is run out of town by Veronica in Season 5 of "Riverdale," but not before planting a bomb under the Andrews' house. The bomb unknowingly triggers a connection between Riverdale and its alternate universe, Rivervale, and a new villain enters the picture. Archie, Betty, and Jughead survive the bombing, blessed with new supernatural abilities.

"Riverdale" was never really bound by the constraints of realism and believability. It has always existed in a cartoonish and campy universe. "This is a show that knows the camp it sells, we understand the sort of genres that we're fitting into and how to appeal to that audience," Cole Sprouse, who plays Jughead, explained to TVLine. It's played with supernatural elements in the past, like with the Gargoyle King's cult, but the sixth season marked a definitive pivot into a world untethered from reality, one that borrows more elements from comic books and science fiction. The new big bad had to reflect the show's exaggerated tone — to move from a criminal evil to a magical one.

"Given that the season was more supernaturally tinged and on the fringes of that, we were thinking of [Percival] as more of a villain out of a Stephen King novel," Aguirre-Sacasa revealed. "Like Randall Flagg out of 'The Stand,' or like the proprietor of the shop in 'Needful Things.' Someone who had a very different tone and manner of villainy from Hiram. So that we weren't trying to fill those formidable shoes, which we probably would not have been able to do."

The Riverdale villain also runs a shop like the one in Needful Things

Percival possesses a silver tongue and can magically persuade almost anyone into doing his bidding. As a thin and mysterious wizard, he is certainly reminiscent of King's Randall Flagg. Like Hiram, Percival wants to monopolize the town and control it. He also quickly becomes the mayor by convincing all the homeless people to hop on buses and move out of town, solving the town's housing problem on a surface level and winning over those townspeople that he was unable to control directly. He even runs a curiosity shop, just like the villain in "Needful Things." A curiosity shop is often associated with evil characters and cursed items, just like the shop in King's story or the one in Charles Dickens' "The Old Curiosity Shop."

The transition from Hiram to Percival in "Riverdale" marked a new tone for the show as a whole, which now entertains the supernatural without question. As Decider points out, "Britta asks Cheryl, 'Do we believe in magic and curses now?' and Cheryl answers something to the effect of, 'A new age of wonderment is upon us.'" Aguirre-Sacasa says that this exchange "does sort of capture the vibe and the tone of this season, 100%, [this] idea that the old ways of the old, old Riverdale, an ancient time when magic and superstition ruled the land, has resurfaced."

The supernatural villain ushers in a new era for "Riverdale" that truly abandons all claims of realism. The show is free to be as campy as possible in its final seasons, complete with an antagonist ripped from the pages of a Stephen King novel.