Ever since The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was announced by Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the question of how and when the two shows — both starring characters from Archie comics — would cross over.
Now that Sabrina’s entire first season is out on Netflix, that question has been answered in a way that makes literally everything else about both shows way more complicated than it has to be.
While characters on Sabrina name-dropped Riverdale High as early on as Episode 2, it took until Episode 7 for a real Riverdale character to show up in the flesh. Ben Button, who has primarily been a background character on Riverdale for its first two seasons, makes a cameo as Miss Wardwell’s pizza delivery boy. The way his scene ends, with the evil Wardwell luring him into her house with the intention to eat him, is meant to emphasize the cannibalistic nature of the Greendale witches…but there’s one big problem with that.
According to Riverdale, Ben is already dead. And there’s so simple explanation as to why he’s suddenly resurrected.
Ben dies in the early episodes of Riverdale Season 3 when he throws himself out of a hospital window out of deference to the mysterious Gargoyle King, a cult figure from a board game that seems to encourage teens to take their own lives. The timing of his death is shortly after Labor Day, which is in September.
Miss Wardwell’s pizza delivery, however, takes place on or around Thanksgiving, three months after Labor Day. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is explicitly said to take place in “This Year,” which would only allow Ben to both deliver a pizza on Thanksgiving and die around Labor Day if Season 3 of Riverdale takes place the year after Season 1 of Sabrina, in 2019.
On its face, that theory does make sense. Before Season 3 of Riverdale, Ben Button seemed like a normal kid who worked in a movie theater and showed up in the background of some party scenes. At the start of the third season he was in a game-based cult that worshipped a gargoyle devil in the forest. Maybe Ben had a horrible supernatural experience that made him susceptible to the evils of Gryphons & Gargoyles.
An experience like nearly being eaten by a witch while on his pizza delivery rounds? The plot thickens.
The idea that Riverdale has somehow been taking place a year in the future solely to preserve the continuity of a background character’s magic trauma is pretty hard to swallow and, not to mention, dumb as hell.
But wait. Come on. The idea that Riverdale has somehow been taking place a year in the future solely to preserve the continuity of a background character’s magic trauma is pretty hard to swallow and, not to mention, dumb as hell. There has to be another explanation.
Zombie Ben. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa himself has (kind of) supported the idea that the Ben seen in Sabrina may not be of this world. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, he said of the cameo that “It seemed like [Ben’s death] was pretty final, but yet there he is in Greendale. But in Greendale, everyone pops up — the dead don’t stay dead long in Greendale.”
So Ben died in Riverdale and was maybe buried in Greendale (did he live there? Why didn’t he enroll at Baxter High then?), and someone or something reanimated him for the grand purpose of making sure the pizza shop had someone to make good on the “delivery in 30 minutes or it’s free” promise on their flyer. Then he got eaten by a witch.
Ugh, none of this makes sense.
The only other thing Aguirre-Sacasa says about Ben’s appearance is that it “suggests a very deep, deep mythology where time and space bends,” which could mean that he’s playing a long game where the parallel stories of Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina exist in adjacent universes where the life/death states of certain characters are determinant on factors like the existence of witchcraft or other unknowable constants…
…or it could mean that he literally didn’t think about it and just thought having Ben show up was cute.
As far as mysteries go, it feels unlikely that this one is going to be solved on Riverdale or Sabrina, but those who love cameos and crave continuity will surely be scratching their heads about it for months to come.
In the meanwhile, RIP (???) Ben Button.