After almost a month since its pilot, I finally found time to binge-watch the first four episodes of the new CW teen drama series, Riverdale. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best judge of good television. In fact, most of my favorite shows revolve around superheroes with predictable relationships and contrived plotlines. But hey, they’re fun. Which is why I think shows like Riverdale, Glee, Gossip Girl, and all those other “trashy” shows are so popular. You can call them shallow or soapy, but the bottom line? They are hella entertaining. And Riverdale is just that—entertaining, and wildly intriguing.
Looking for a full professional review of the show? Variety does an excellent job explaining the shows main plot and why it works. Read here.
First off, the pilot is seriously twisted. It begins with Cheryl and Jason Blossom (the rich red-headed twins) going off for an early morning boat ride (the imagery used here is super creepy) down the river when later Cheryl turns up soaking wet with her beloved brother mysteriously missing. Meanwhile, Archie is also down by the river, but he’s not alone. He’s with his music teacher, Miss Grundy doing you-know-what. –Gasp–
The perfect scandalous act to start a teen drama off right.
The town itself is a pretty decent rendition of the actual town of the comics, that is, if Riverdale decided to remodel itself after Twin Peaks. Pop Tate’s Chocolit Shoppe, once bright and cheerful in the comics, is almost always shot at night to showcase the bright neon lights and retro aesthetic. Other key sets like the high school and the homes of Betty and Veronica are all shot with a similar goal in mind: pay tribute to the comic’s origins, while conveying a dark, mysterious small town in modern day.
There are several jokes in the show comparing Riverdale to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Obviously the writers had an atmosphere in mind.
When they say based on the Archie comics characters, they mean loosely based. Not one character is really anything like their happy-go-lucky comic counterpart. And why would they be? That’d be snoozeville.
- Betty – She is the perfect blonde girl-next-door, which they state many times in the show. But you soon find that’s only the surface. Betty’s got her demons, and a bit of a thirst for vengeance.
- Veronica – Ronnie often refers to herself as the “rich b#$% from New York,” but here’s the thing: she’s not a b#$%. If anything, she’s actually one of the kindest, more considerate characters of the show. When her mother and her move to Riverdale she vows to make herself into a new “Veronica” so watching her try to turn over a new leaf is one of the most interesting things in the show.
- Archie – As the star of his own comics, you’d think Archie would have the most personality. Unfortunately he’s the only character that’s truly…dull. He gets “hot,” joins the varsity football team, and dreams of becoming a musician. Basically the quintessential “Gary Stu” and it is BORING. The scandals he gets himself caught up in is what makes the Archie scenes worth watching.
- Jughead – He’s the emo, hipster character who’s writing a novel based on the events in Riverdale. At first, he seems like a character without any real secrets, but with each episode you get to learn a little more about the tragedy that is Jughead Jones.
- Cheryl – Cheryl Blossom is probably the only character closest to her comic book version. In other words, she’s evil to the core. You love to hate Cheryl Blossom.
- The Parents – All I can say about the parents is that they make the show even more compelling. Their characters are completely twisted from their comic book counterparts, which makes for a gossipy “Desperate Housewives” feel.
Like all CW shows, you think you know where a plot is going for the next half a season or so, then they end up jumping ahead instead of drawing it out. This technique isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it certainly forces the writers to up their game with every episode and every season. The downside of this, however, is ramping up the stakes too high too early on, so when later seasons come on they’re grasping at straws to keep things interesting.
As far as the actual dialogue of the show goes, it’s all very fun and quippy. They make a ton of modern-day references. While the lines can often come across as cheesy, the plot’s scandalous twists and turns more than makes up for it.
To sum up: give Riverdale a shot. If you loved Archie comics as a kid like I did, you’ll enjoy seeing how they’ve taken a franchise frozen in time and moved it into the present in characters, plot, and setting. Even if you’ve never read a single strip, you might find Riverdale’s secrets and scandals morbidly fascinating like a trainwreck where you just can’t look away.