When Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) first left Riverdale, it was to go to New York, flash forward a few years, and become a supporting character on Katy Keene, the short-lived spinoff series that also introduced audiences to Alexandra Cabot, Pepper Smith, and other characters who have ties to Josie's long history in the comics and on TV and film. With the series over, Josie (as well as some other characters from Katy) made her way back to Riverdale last night in an episode titled "Return of the Pussycats." As you might imagine from that title, Josie also reunited the Pussycats, her all-girl band consisting of bass player Valerie (Hayley Law) and drummer Melody (Asha Bromfield).
But...was last night's episode secretly a backdoor pilot for a Josie and the Pussycats spinoff of its own? It certainly felt like one.
Giving the usual series narration duty over to Melody (who, in a reflection of Bromfield's real-life experience, has become a YA writer), last night's episode focused almost exclusively on Josie, Val, Mel, and their supporting cast, with the usual Riverdale characters treated as an afterthought in their own show. Series big bad Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) literally showed up for about 30 second, so that Josie could repeatedly call him a "bitch."
The show also contrived a reason to put Josie together with Alexandra again, and introduced Alan M (here, Alan Mayberry, played by Chris McNally). In the comics and cartoon, he was the band's roadie and Josie's love interest. Here, he's a charming and handsome man hopelessly in love with Val. The end of the episode sees Josie, the Pussycats, Alexandra, Alan M., and some other characters with close ties to Josie pile into a tour bus and head off on a cross-country tour, where Josie helps she can rediscover herself while also spreading her late father's ashes in all of the various places he loved during his life.
And, of course, in true Riverdale fashion, a last-minute plot twist introduced the idea that Josie's father may not have died of natural causes after all, and might have been the victim of foul play. This not only sets up a potential mystery for Josie and the Pussycats to solve, but also sets the stage for Alexandra to embrace her comic roots and get a little into dark magic, since it turns out one of the dangerous things Josie's dad was wrapped up in was New Orleans voodoo.
At this point, all of the elements of classic Josie and the Pussycats -- the band, Alexandra, Alan M., and a mystery to solve -- are present in this one episode of Riverdale. While it wasn't promoted as a backdoor pilot, that may have been intentional. Fans have been clamoring for more from Josie and the Pussycats for a while, but The CW's record with backdoor pilots and spinoffs is somewhat spotty lately, with Supernatural and Arrow both failing to get their spinoff shows off the ground, and relatively little heat around Nancy Drew's Tom Swift spinoff, even though that one did eventually get picked up. If producers, Archie, and Warner Bros. Television wanted to set Josie and the Pussycats up for a spinoff -- or at least a miniseries, HBO Max movie, or arc on Riverdale's next season -- it's possible they thought it would be better to blow the doors off with a strong episode and continue to build fan demand, rather than calling their shot right away and failing to deliver.
Would you like to see Riverdale's version of Josie and the Pussycats in their own adventures? Sound off in the comments below, or hit up @russburlingame on Twitter to talk about all things Josie.