Raunchy, Raucous, Righteous: A “Riverdale” Review

It took a few days and a number of hours, but I’ve finally collected myself enough to compose this impromptu review of the hot new mystery show with equally hot (and iconic) source material: Riverdale.

Although I did hear of this remake last year, I haven’t gotten a chance to check this show out at all. Can’t say I was too eager to either, especially considering my disdain for try hard reboots of my favorite childhood shows/ books etc.

And yet here I am, six episodes later– desensitized, a bit shocked and intrigued. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Riverdale is, in essence, a dark twist on the iconic comic book heroes of the Archie series. The first season of the show seems to center on the mysterious death of Jason Blossom, ┬ábut as the episodes unfold you come to realize that there’s more to this show than its teen drama/ murder mystery tale.

On the Characters

Riverdale features all of the original characters of Archie lore– Archie himself, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, Jughead Jones and everyone in between. However, the show interprets them, and their families, in a very different light.

First of all, let’s start with Archie. A lot of his telling characteristics are still there– fire red hair, letterman jacket with the Riverdale R, penchant for music, his dad, his friendship with Betty… aaand that’s about it. Our favorite ginger exchanges his happy comic home for a one-parent household, a sexual affair with one Geraldine Grundy (yes, you’ve read that right) and issues that are mundane in comparison to the scandalous storylines and problematic parents that seem to populate this ‘once innocent’ small town.

Perhaps this could be explained by Archie having, despite a broken household, the only remotely decent parent in the entire town. For some strange reason the central characters are the offspring of a problematic group of parentals whose personal issues take no time in pouring into the lives of their unfortunate offspring.

Unlike Archie’s almost cartoonish red hair (he reminds me of Ariana Grande circa Victorious), bubbly blonde Betty Cooper is an almost perfect version of her comic self– complete with blonde ponytail, blue eyes and a penchant for pink. Yet in this iteration even she hides secrets far worse than that of her domineering mother (a step up from her comic self, to be honest), and submissive yet scary father. In the comics Betty’s absentee elder sister is the ‘perfect sibling’: a successful broadcaster whose fast-paced New York life is one that Betty aspires to have. In this series, however, she’s become the unlikely black sheep hidden away as Betty is molded to her mother’s specifications, albeit against her will.

Jughead Jones is brought to life by a surprisingly… perfect Cole Sprouse– whose sole nod to the comic book foodie lies in his crown beanie. And frankly, that seems to be where the similarities end– Jones is another unfortunate product of problematic parents and his iconic love for hamburgers barely makes an onscreen appearance.

Veronica Lodge has become my favorite iteration among all the characters, as it seems as though the depth given to her character actually feels… fleshed out. She actually feels more human when she isn’t fighting Betty for Archie’s affections and instead assumes the role of the supportive female friend. Although I sure do wish she gets her own romantic prospects in future seasons (IF this show lasts that long).

However, even realistic Ronnie (a mold probably aided by characters like Blair Waldorf) is not immune to the epidemic of problematic parents: her dad (a prominent parent figure in the comics), is in jail in the Riverdale world, and her mom (Hermione Lodge), has her own set of secrets as well.

The following secondary characters also make an appearance in the show: Principal Weatherbee (dude lost weight!), Ethel Muggs, Moose Mason (he’s apparently gay, not bad! But what about Midge?), Coach and Chuck Clayton (aka apparently a douche now), and the first season’s primary figures of sort: twins Cheryl and Jason Blossom.

I didn’t read much of the prominent Cheryl comics growing up but I am familiar with her character and how she was in the comics– and as for her show self, all I can say is: okaay. She’s mean but nice but broken.. ?? ehhh. At least there’s more to her here than being the notorious third choice for Archie.

One character that doesn’t seem to play a prominent role (even if he is technically a main character), is Reggie Mantle. Sure he’s been incarnated as an Asian-American fellow but why has he been reduced to a somewhat secondary character? Dude had his own comics for a while… why isn’t he more prominent?? Please let him be more than the ‘football dude’ in later seasons!

On The Plot

As mentioned earlier, season one centers on the mysterious death of golden boy/ football captain Jason Blossom– a relatively simple central plot that allows a number of stories to begin unfolding early on. These sub stories include the rivalry between the Coopers and Blossoms, the shady dealings between the Mayor and Riverdale’s local gang the Serpents, and (arguably the most interesting) subplot is the collective past shared by the parents of the main characters. Its as if the show is foreshadowing an exciting flashback episode (or two!) to give the viewers some context behind the past shared by the Riverdale parents.

There is so much more to say about the plot (especially with the rate at which the story unfolds on Riverdale), but I’ll keep it at that– all you need to know is that once you start watching, you might never stop.

Overall….

If you can set aside the very different character interpretations, and enjoy Riverdale mainly for its story, then you will be fine. Plot wise, the show unfolds pretty well, and does a suitable job of keeping viewers engaged enough that they’ll want to keep tuning in.

In case the interpretations freak you out, you may want to read up on later iterations of the Archie cannon– many of which have reworked the squeaky clean lore in order to incorporate darker plot elements that may make stomaching this show feel less “traumatizing”.

Trust me, die hard Archie fans, its not that bad. In fact, it’s rather exciting. Give it a try, and get hooked!

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