While at first they seem to be very, very different shows, it might surprise you to think about how much Arrow and Riverdale have in common.
They both love hoods, vigilante justice, smart blondes with ponytails, overly noble protagonists, mysterious rich people, literal darkness, and lately, really messed up prisons.
Both Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) and Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) have spent their past few episodes incarcerated for various reasons. As of Monday's episode of Arrow, both Oliver and Archie are free from prison and reunited with their loved ones, though neither one is doing so great after months of torture, prison fights, stabbings, and more. Both prison experiences were complete nightmares and both were totally nuts, but whose was the nuttiest of all?
We decided to conduct an incredibly scientific investigation into which guy had the worse time, and the results may or may not surprise you.
Archie was sent to what was allegedly a juvenile detention center after he took a deal for a murder he did not commit, because Archie is occasionally (usually) a sweet dumb puppy who makes really bad decisions, but who would never actually murder anyone. The warden first seemed cool, quoting Shakespeare and letting Archie know there's a music room he could use.
Oliver was sent to prison after he outed himself as the Green Arrow, who, in the process of desperately trying to save his apparently unsavable city, committed more than enough legitimate crimes to make complete sense for him to be in jail, to be quite honest with you. Sure, he did it for the good of the city, but he did commit those crimes. And he didn't do too badly in prison, at least at first, while he was determined to keep his head down and not go for his Green Arrow instincts, even while surrounded by criminals he put there.
This one is a draw, though the point would have gone to Archie if he weren't so dumb and hadn't taken the terrible deal for the murder he, once again, did not commit.
Prison Fight Club vs. Prison Brainwash Program
Both Archie and Oliver went through actual hell while locked up. Archie was targeted by the warden, even branded with a dang Gryphons and Gargoyles symbol before he was forced into a prison fight club. Fortunately, he was pretty good at fighting, so he did pretty well for a while...until it became clear that he wasn't supposed to. Right before his last fight, Joaquin (Rob Raco), who was secretly playing the warden's game of Gryphons and Gargoyles, stabbed Archie in the gut to make sure he wasn't going to win. The flight club also ended up being his saving grace, which we will get to.
Oliver got himself moved to Level Two in the hopes of finding the person who could help him take down Diaz, but instead he found himself getting tortured by an evil psychiatrist who forced him to relive all the worst moments of his life, and subjected him to electroshock therapy while essentially trying to erase his identity. It obviously didn't work, but it almost did, and it made for a nice trip down memory lane.
Point goes to Oliver for surviving identity erasure. Fight clubs are so blasé we don't even talk about them anymore.
After getting his shoes stolen and after getting stuck in a bit of a prison gang war, Archie had a brilliant idea to introduce football to all these criminals. He got all Coach Taylor and successfully inspired a group of violent criminal teen boys to play football instead of fighting with each other, and if you pair that football game with the absurd performance of "Jailhouse Rock" by the River Vixens, you've got yourself a truly bonkers scene of television.
As for Arrow, we've got three words for you: Naked. Shower. Fight.
That sequence, in which Oliver fought several dudes in the shower while completely and totally naked, might have been the most unexpected thing we've ever seen on the CW. Did it accomplish anything, a la Archie's football speech? No. It didn't. But it certainly had an effect on us.
This one is probably a draw because while Archie's inspiring football speech and game set to the most nonsensical performance of "Jailhouse Rock" created one of the most WTF sequences this show has ever produced (which is saying A LOT), we will never get over that naked shower fight scene. Never. Ever.
Archie's escape was only made possible by the prison fight club, because it took place in an empty pool that just so happened to have a laughably huge drain in the floor. During what was clearly going to be his last fight anyway (because he had been stabbed and because the warden wanted him dead), Veronica-in-disguise (Camila Mendes) and pals Josie (Ashleigh Murray) and Reggie (Charles Melton) caused a diversion and helped him escape into the sewers. Sure, he ended up with a very infected wound, but he got out and was able to hide in a convenient bunker that only the teens knew about, all while Jughead (Cole Sprouse) was narrating a game of G&G that seemed suspiciously exactly like Archie's plight.
Oliver's escape was less of an escape from his prison sentence itself, because he was about to be released, and more of an escape from Diaz and the prisoners Diaz had riled up, and from his so-called friend who actually ended up betraying him. It involved a ton of fighting, some getting drugged, some serious stabbing, and a sort of bloody obstacle course of three floors of prison. It was a lot, and it took up an entire episode.
Point goes to Archie, because he's now an escaped convict on the run with a stab wound and Oliver just kinda walked out of there with his stab wound after taking Diaz down but not actually killing him.
The Outside World
Veronica immediately busied herself with trying to get Archie out of juvie, or at least trying to get Archie to have less of a bad time while he was there. She donned multiple disguises to hide from her own dad when she visited (who schemed to put Archie in prison in the first place), and organized a really questionable cheerleader performance while the prisoners played football. What she didn't really fill Archie in on what was the insane game of Gryphons and Gargoyles that was consuming the town, driving everyone crazy and causing seizures. Archie was also not aware that the game was being played inside the prison, and he was one of the characters, but we'll get to that.
On Arrow, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) couldn't exactly visit her husband just to say hello. She and William first had to spend months in witness protection to keep them safe from the evil Diaz, and then she nearly died when Diaz attacked them in their secret apartment. She then rejoined the rest of Team Arrow to continue to work to take down Diaz, even teaming up with the evil version of Laurel (Katie Cassidy) to both put Diaz behind bars and to get Oliver freed. Essentially, she had to do things Felicity wouldn't have normally been willing to do, but she was desperate.
This is tough, honestly, because Oliver's family almost died, but Archie was secretly a character in a role-playing game the warden was playing along with the entire town, and if that's not utterly bonkers, we don't know what is.
Oliver's prison stint had much higher stakes, but there weren't that many surprises in terms of what you'd typically expect to see. Psychiatric experiments, major fights, betrayals, murdered guards, etc etc. But Archie's strange experience in juvenile detention was sort of unmatched just in terms of how we can't even fully explain the whole thing. The warden was playing a role-playing game! Archie got BRANDED! Veronica had to wear blonde wigs to infiltrate a secret prison fight club!
Archie may have won this round of Whose Prison Stint Was More Insane, but we will never forget you, naked shower fight scene.
Arrow airs Mondays at 8 p.m. and Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.