Synopsis – A subversive take on Archie and his friends, exploring small town life, the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome facade.
Episodes – S01E01 to S01E13
My Take – So the 1st season of this teen drama/mystery finally closed its curtains with a not too long, exciting, but nearly exhausting 13 episode stint, with some nicely squared sub plots, a shocking cliff hanger ending & of course, the good news that the show would be back for yet another season. The characters & the title based on the Archie Comics that originated in the 1940s was a goofy take on high school and mostly revolved around a cross-hatched carrot top teenager who had nothing better to do than get in trouble, flash his one giant tooth whenever he smiled and try to win over Betty and Veronica, the only two girls who would seem interested in him. Just in case you have been living under the a rock for the past six months, let me warn you, if you are a purist who enjoyed the Archie comic books, Josie and the Pussycats comic books, or the circa 1968-1970 Saturday morning cartoon shows of the same name, then this series is not for you, mainly as this universe of the titular home town is darker, and more on the lines of Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl and Dawson’s Creek. Honestly, at first, as someone who, from the ages of roughly nine to 14, eagerly nearly bought all of the digests and double digests along with my regular DC imprints, and enjoyed the lighthearted silliness of the adventures of Archie and the gang, my reaction to learning that the CW, home of Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, and other teen fare, was making an Archie TV series amounted to a groan and eye-roll, especially with the announcement of the series’ nature as a mystery-drama rather than the more typical slice-of-life of Archie’s world, I was increasingly skeptical of why anyone would want this show. The casting of unknowns did little to stoke my excitement, and the leaking of details about the story-lines caused more annoyance than anticipation. Yet, I decided to give the pilot a watch mainly as the show was spearheaded by Greg Berlanti, who has gained popularity for making DC TV a better option than their live action adaptations, and boy was I surprised! Before I proceed further I need to warn, you will find SPOILERS ahead. When I started watching the show, I certainly felt like a mixture of Gossip Girl and Dawson’s Creek with some 13 Reasons Why wrapped in there too. There is so much corruption and so much mystery, plus, they’re still just in high school.
The story follows the residents of Riverdale, a small town, whose otherwise quite lives begin to intervene & crumble with each others, when high school star footballer, Jason Blosson (Trevor Stines), twin brother to Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), and son to the wealthiest, entitled, and manipulative family of the town dies tragically by drowning in the river. With everyone suspecting each other, its somehow the lives of Archie (KJ Apa), Jason’s team mate and wannabe singer/songwriter, the sweet girl next door Betty (Lili Reinhart), the glamorous new arrival Veronica (Camila Mendes), Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) an openly gay high school student who is friends with Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge and is the son of Riverdale’s sheriff (Martin Cummins) and Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), a cynical aspiring novelist and son of F.P.(Skeet Ulrich), the leader of the Southside Serpents, a gang of criminals that live and operate on the fringes of Riverdale, seems to be most affected. Of course, within the context of this morbid mystery nothing is as it seems in Riverdale, because nothing’s as it seems in any small town on television. Over the summer, Archie hooked up with Miss Grundy (Sarah Habel), the music teacher, and they might just know something about how Jason died, but of course coming forward would reveal their affair. Veronica’s mother Hermione (Marisol Nichols), having moved her daughter to her old hometown of Riverdale after a financial scandal involving her husband, clearly has the hots for Archie’s dad Fred (Luke Perry), her recently separated high school fling. Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick), Betty’s overbearing mother, has it out for the Blossom family due to the catastrophic relationship between Jason and Betty’s older sister Polly (Tiera Skovbye), who apparently lives in a group home as a result of a mental breakdown caused by said relationship. Plus we have Josie (Ashleigh Murray)and the Pussycats also here, whose only job seems to be singing in events held by Sierra McCoy (Robin Givens), the Mayor of Riverdale and mother to Josie. The show features the characters we expect, but they are multi-dimensional, with problems and desires and secrets. I love how the writers have re-imagined all these classic comic characters and given much needed depth. The way they deviate from the comics like Archie has been turned from a fun loving simpleton to conflicted, much more confident football playing yet musically inclined sensitive guy, Veronica from rich snotty girl to much more caring, sensitive yet sexy girl and Jughead from plain lazy, food loving to this nerdy, perceptive & shy guy! Betty is the only one who on the outside at least is the closest to the original comics and oh how they turned Moose into a Bi-sexual, Alice Cooper a sociopath and Hermione Lodge a gold digger! Amazing! The show is helped along by the fact that the canonical versions of these characters are such thinly sketched archetypes that they can be reshaped and remolded in dozens of ways yet still retain their essence. Jughead is a nonconformist who haunts diner booths; in Riverdale, the Jughead sucks down coffee at Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe while chronicling his town’s secrets in a true-crime novel.
Girl-next-door Betty and affluent Riverdale émigré Veronica still tussle for the affections of Archie, but Betty has a complicated back-story and a controlling mother, and Veronica’s dad is a white-collar criminal who’s too busy being incarcerated to indulge in his comics counterpart’s favorite preoccupation: fretting about his daughter marrying that Andrews boy. There are some interesting story lines such as the rich red head Blossom twins who go out on the water in a row boat but only Cheryl Blossom returns as apparently her brother fell out of the boat only to be taken away by the swift current, but is later found with a bullet in his head. In this series which takes place in 2017 you have characters like Kevin Keller, who is openly gay and accepted by everyone, something that would be in today’s more realistic society. Then we have the newly appointed vixen who just arrived in town from New York city, Veronica Lodge played superbly by Camila Mendes. Veronica is living with mother Hermione Lodge played by Marisol Nichols and they were forced to move out of the big apple New York because Hermione’s ex- husband has been publicly proclaimed the biggest fraudster in the state of New York. Now Veronica who has always grown up filthy rich in New York comes down from the high clouds in New York City and she realizes now that she must tone down her extravagant spending habits and social climbing to live within hers and her mother’s more realistic means in Riverdale. Veronica Lodge has found her first true friend in the shy but beautiful Betty Cooper. Veronica is willing to try and expose Betty to the ways and means to trap a man, and also how to get on to the Riverdale High cheerleading squad. I found the varying story lines and abundance of characters from the original animated books and Saturday morning cartoons quite enjoyable. Kudos to the writers, directors and producers who took the risk in blending characters and a small town atmosphere like Riverdale from a simpler period in life to the more complex world we live in today. This town is so backwards with last week’s episode with Josie talking about how she struggles and this week with Kevin only having a gang member as an option. This town definitely needs to get with the times. Even though there are struggles with the minority characters, I love how diverse this show is. Sadly, there aren’t many shows that can say that. I’m not a fan of casting diversity for diversity sake. I like it when it doesn’t matter who the characters are, black, latino, female, gay. Overseen by Berlanti productions and Archie Comics honcho Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, this series is the ultimate expression of The CW aesthetic. A map of the show’s influences would mirror the pushpin-and-yarn conspiracy board tracking the Blossom case, a web of young-adult entertainment that finds its origins in Archie titles dating to the 1940s, but which is spun primarily around TV of a post-Beverly Hills, 90210 vintage (a debt repaid by the casting of erstwhile Dylan McKay as Archie’s dad).
It’s the entire history of The CW (and, by extension, The WB) crammed into a single show, which makes sense because so much of the blueprint for this type of show was laid out in the pages of Archie Comics. Archie’s wheelhouse is The CW’s wheelhouse: everlasting love triangles, small-town settings, and the notion that the lives of teenagers are interesting enough to sustain a long-term narrative. Riverdale spins the basics of the subgenre into pop-art cotton candy—with all the stickiness, instant gratification, and substance that implies. The murder-mystery material, the show mostly uses these for film-noir texture, like the never-ending fog and gray skies of its British Columbia shooting locations. It’s not especially novel, though its high-stakes gives the cast the excuse to play the citizens of Riverdale like the cartoon characters they are. What it is instead is simply soap, one that would be considered fairly routine if the characters had different names and hair colors. Prior to the finale, the episode resolved the main mystery of the season, revealing that rich-kid Jason Blossom had been murdered by his own father Clifford, apparently to stop Jason from revealing that the family maple syrup business was actually running drugs. Once his crimes were revealed, Clifford promptly (or so it seems) killed himself–actually, he hung himself, allowing Jughead’s narration to put the word “cliffhanger” to good use. While the season finale, written by Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by Lee Toland Krieger, was mostly an epilogue, with a gunshot wound to Archie’s dad in the last few moments to set up Season 2’s story-line. Jughead may be shifting to the dark side, as he starts to identify with his father’s drug-dealing biker gang, while Cheryl, overwhelmed by the tragedies that had engulfed her family, attempted suicide and then burned down the Blossom mansion and finally this being a CW show, Archie and Veronica had PG sex. Among the characters, its Jughead that kind of caught my eye from the beginning, there was just something about him. How is he smart and respectable with a father like that? I’m sure Fred would take him in if he knew how Jughead was struggling. Unlike the lead protagonist, Archie, Jughead’s arc just kept getting interesting with each episode and I can’t wait to watch what’s going to happen with him next. The performances, however, vary from strong to forgettable, also the casting is ingenious, all the right actors taken for the different roles with the twist of having a Latino as Veronica, an Asian as Reggie and Dilton (would like to see more from these two in the next season) and Josie a black girl! The actress that has stood out for me is Lili Reinhart (other than Cole Sprouse), she has nailed the character of this All-American girl-next-door sweetheart, a role we rarely see these day. Plus someone please cast Madelaine Petsch as Poison Ivy already! On the whole, ‘Riverdale’ Season 1 is a thrilling, fun and moody series which embraces its cheesiness and gives us an intriguing take on characters we have grown accustomed to love. So when does Sabrina the witch, get in?
Creator – Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Status – Season 1 (Completed)
Network – The CW