When news of a dark and gritty Archie Comics adaptation was first announced at the beginning of last year, it was met with mixed reception from avid fans of the gang from Riverdale. Could these classic and well-loved characters really be retooled to fit a more dramatic series? While Riverdale has certainly been delivering on its pre-air promises of a “subversive” show, it’s far from the first time Archie and co. have found themselves in a darker set of circumstances than most fans are used to seeing them. (The comic series Afterlife with Archie, for example, featured LITERAL zombies.)
The good news is: Riverdale has been succeeding on a lot of fronts. It’s managed to capture the spirit of familiar characters – like Archie, Betty, and Veronica – within the atmosphere of a series that combines the classic story arc of a murder mystery with complex, layered portrayals of fictional young adults. The not so good news is that in spite of the buzz surrounding the series, it hasn’t been doing so hot in the ratings department. That alone isn’t enough to necessarily send the show to cancellation purgatory, however – the CW has made some recent renewal choices that clearly prioritize series quality over a big ratings draw (see: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). All that being said, a few more eyes on Riverdale probably wouldn’t hurt at this stage.So, why should you be giving this show a shot? Allow us to give you a few reasons:
IT FLIPS THE SCRIPT ON CLASSIC TEEN DRAMA TROPES
We all know the cookie-cutter stereotypes we often see in network teen dramas: the jock, the mean girl, the slacker, the perfectionist. There are definite shades of those in Riverdale, but what the show has managed to do differently is give each of its archetypical characters more dimensions – which, in turn, has led to way more interesting dynamics over the course of the five episodes we’ve gotten so far.
Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), for example, could have easily become the typical “mean girl” of the series given her prickly treatment of Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) or her rivalry with Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), but Riverdale shows these young women fighting and cooperating in equal measure – lending evidence to the fact that teen girls are more than just catfights and shallow rivalries. Similarly, while it would have been convenient for the show to follow the path of the comics and pit Betty and Veronica against each other over Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), Riverdale has taken a different route so far and allowed the two to become friends outside of any boy they may or may not have feelings for.
IT’S A GENRE LOVER’S DREAM SHOW
Every Riverdale fan you talk to has a different take on the influences of the series: it’s noir, it’s Gothic romance, it’s Twin Peaks meets Dawson’s Creek. The truth is that the show embraces all of those inspirations and then some; you can find shades of more than one genre lurking under the surface with every episode that airs.
As recent darker comic arcs have demonstrated, Archie and his friends not only do well in darker plots – they thrive. As a result, the show has the ability to push these characters into some of their most intense storylines yet. Betty isn’t just the perfect student; she also might be harboring a dark side. Meanwhile, the ghost of Jason Blossom has continued to loom over Archie for a while now – and it’s not just because both of them have red hair. The wackier this show gets with its various plot twists and turns, the better (and juicier) it gets. Part of the fun of watching Riverdale is about the desire to see just how far these writers are willing to go.
IT HAS A THOROUGHLY ENGAGING MYSTERY
Speaking of Jason Blossom: did we mention he gets killed off in the first episode?! It was a gutsy choice for the show to kill off a character who Archie Comics fans are probably very familiar with. That being said, Jason isn’t exactly “out of sight, out of mind” for the remainder of the series; his death sets up what will be the underlying mystery for the foreseeable future of season one.
As each episode ticks by, a voiceover by passive observer Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) reminds viewers that we’re getting closer and closer to learning the identity of Jason Blossom’s murderer. Fans have already started speculating, but the show has tossed in several red herrings – leading to the disconcerting realization that it could still literally be anyone from the characters we all know and love.
IT’S GOT EVEN MORE POTENTIAL AHEAD
While Riverdale has been doing some things very well, there are other stories that could use a little more fleshing out. Comics fans have been calling for the show to commit to depicting Jughead as asexual, something that was revealed in Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson’s Jughead solo comic last year. The minds behind the series have chosen not to explicitly establish Riverdale‘s version of Jug that way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve run out of time to course-correct in the way of ace representation. Bringing the show back for a second season would allow the series that opportunity, as well as other chances to shine the spotlight on some of the supporting cast. (Raise your hand if you’d love to see a Reggie Mantle-centric episode.)
And in terms of the mysteries of Riverdale, surely the identity of Jason Blossom’s murderer isn’t the only one that could be uncovered in future seasons. It seems reasonable to expect that even after all the loose ends of that storyline are tied up there would be other, equally intriguing secrets lurking in the underbelly beneath the innocent facade of Riverdale. (No town is that perfect.)
Have you been keeping up with Riverdale every week? If so, what are your thoughts on it so far? (Thank Pop for no more Grundy, amirite?) Let’s chat over a milkshake or two in the comments!
Images: The CW.
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