Published on February 7th, 2017 | by Sarah Stefanson0
The new show Riverdale has tongues wagging about tradition vs new ideas in the Archie universe. We give you our impressions after the first episode.
I sent the following text to my boyfriend the other day while he was at work:
“This is important: They’ve made a Netflix Original live action series out of Archie comics. Do I need to wait to watch it with you?”
His answer, unfortunately, was yes, so I had to wait several days until we had a chance to sit down and watch it together.
The Netflix write-up for Riverdale promised the characters we all know and love with a dark modern twist.
The show centres around Veronica Lodge, a New York socialite who was a total bitch until her daddy got arrested for fraud and embezzlement and her mom decided to move them back to her hometown of Riverdale, where Veronica endeavours to turn over a new leaf by befriending perfect, perky, A student, Betty Cooper, whose sister went crazy after a relationship gone wrong and who is secretly crushing on and hopelessly friend-zoned by newly sexy redhead Archie Andrews, whose summer spent working for the construction company owned by his dad (played by Luke Perry (!) who has gotten really old, but still acts just as emotively as he did 25 years ago on Beverly Hills, 90210) and having a secret love affair with an inappropriate woman resulted in six-pack abs and a tortured soul he yearns to express through songwriting when he isn’t playing varsity football, and who used to be friends with Jughead, who is a greasy hipster who wears a crown-shaped beanie and is writing a seemingly clairvoyant novel about events as they happen and serves as narrator to the series. Yes, it is the kind of show that inspires epic run-on sentences ideally conveyed at gushingly high speed!
I’m not super familiar with any of the secondary characters from the comics, so I had to do some research to find out if characters like the Blossom twins at the centre of the murder mystery that drives the opening episode or Betty’s gay best friend, Kevin, were featured comic characters or just created for the series. It seems that pretty much every character in the show has existed in the comics at some point, but many of them have had certain distinguishing characteristics changed. For example, Reggie and members of Josie and the Pussycats have been assigned different races, and instead of a white-haired crotchety English teacher, Mrs. Grundy is a hot 30-something music teacher.
At the beginning of episode one, Cheryl and Jason Blossom, gorgeous, popular, ginger twins, go for an early morning rowboat ride, like you do, but soon enough we see Cheryl artfully bedraggled and alone on the shoreline with their overturned boat in the background. She says that Jason accidentally tipped the boat as he was reaching for the glove she had dropped in the water, but we soon learn that something more nefarious is afoot. Cheryl is left to rule the school by herself, playing perfectly the role of the mean girl who attempts to make life hell for our trio of main characters who all have their own desperate teenage problems.
Riverdale is very lovely to look at and I’m not just talking about the beautiful, nubile cast. The production is seamless, with moody landscapes and dramatically lit interiors that evoke pretty much the exact opposite effect of your standard Archie comic with its bright primary colours. The plot of the show thus far is significantly more sinister than the sunny comic version of life in Riverdale as well. Again, I’m not the hugest fan of the comics, but I recall Archie’s greatest hardships being finding time to finish his chores while trying to remember whether he made a date with Betty or Veronica that night, rather than contending with a brutal homicide.
At the end of episode one, I discovered to my great disappointment that the entire season had not been released at once as I’ve come to expect from Netflix. No, we will cruelly be made to wait a week at a time for new episodes, like it’s 1997 or something. Riverdale has everything I like about other teen series involving murder and love triangles, like The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars: haughty popular girls, loveable geeks, daily world-ending tragedies that get neatly wrapped up by episode’s end, teenagers acting like they are much older than they are. Archie traditionalists should probably pass on watching the series as they will likely be appalled by some of the liberties taken (you read that part about Ms. Grundy being hot, right?), but if you’re as into trash teen TV as I am, it’s definitely worth watching.