There’s been a lot of hype and quite a few positive reviews of the premiere episode of RIVERDALE, “Chapter One: The River’s Edge,” already. And while I can’t even begin to pretend that I can analyze the essence of this show in the same poetic way that many have already done, I am more than happy to share with all of you my own reaction to what promises to be the best teen drama since Veronica Mars.
This, from me, is probably the highest praise I could ever give a show, because I love Veronica Mars. Veronica Mars is sacred, and Riverdale is dazzling, shining with all the same scorn and love, mystery and murder that put Kristen Bell on a pedestal for me a long time ago.
But of course, Riverdale isn’t Veronica Mars incarnate. It has its own vibe, riffing off its predecessor hit teen dramas, like Pretty Little Liars and even just a little sprinkle of Skins, and making any tropes it uses completely its own. And the musical aspect between Archie and Josie and the Pussycats tips its hat to another great teen show, Glee. A promising, if oddly intriguing, concoction of influence. It’s fresh and familiar at the same time.
And the show is complete eye candy. From the photography to the cast, it’s nothing but gorgeous and colorful from beginning to end. Even corpses are strangely beautiful in this show, despite a certain grotesqueness. The irony here being that Cole Sprouse’s Jughead is the most average looking of the cast, and on an ordinary day Cole Sprouse is most definitely not average-looking. Even dying his hair and putting him in flannel, just to try and tone it down, just a smidge, he’s not your average joe.
The style of the show itself, though, is reminiscent of Broadchurch, conveniently another favorite of mine. Riverdale takes its approach to mise en scene in a similar fashion, drenching every shot in vibrant colors, visualizing the tone of the show, which only adds to the fun. But whereas David Tennant is internal and tortured as Detective Hardy, the Riverdale cast is exactly what teens are – moody and yearning for self-discovery. This is probably my favorite aspect of the show because, while other teen shows choose to depict their teenagers with the maturity and thought processes of young adults ten years their senior, Riverdale keeps a certain level of reactive decision-making at the core of the show. Certain things seem silly and irrational, but the characters accept them or dismiss them with perfectly rational thought, taking their lives and every decision they make, every person they talk to, very seriously. The character depictions remind me of Dawson’s Creek in a way that makes me want to grab a bowl of popcorn and just watch the drama unfold. One of the many reasons I’m looking forward to watching the season unravel and witnessing how these aspects mesh together.
The story of the first episode, of course, throws a lot at us. Here we meet all of our main characters: Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Cheryl – but these probably aren’t the comic book characters you might be familiar with. Sure, the relationships are still pretty much what they were in the comic books, but the angst – and the murder – is definitely new. And it’s a whole lot more entertaining to watch, as well.
In this first episode, we dive into a new, modernized version of Archie, one where character sexuality is a sliding spectrum, and people of color exist in full force, particularly with our rockstar team, Josie and the Pussycats (ironically a very politically relevant name at the moment as well). And it’s absolutely delightful. From day one, Riverdale is telling us that this is going to be a show about people of all walks of life, and that, of course, is refreshing.
The episode centers around our core trio, Archie, Betty, and Veronica. Summer has just ended and Archie got “swell” over the summer, as well as collected a few secrets that keep him at an almost Twilight-level of torment. Veronica is the new girl in town, trying to distance herself from the mistakes her father has made and shed her bratty, rich-girl persona. Betty is perhaps the only one whose life hasn’t taken a serious dip for the worse into adult-level trouble, but trying to chase the perfect high school experience isn’t a walk through the park, either. I feel the most for Betty, because deep down inside, I think we are all Bettys, and Betty is all of us. Then, of course, there is Jughead, possibly the most anticipated character of the bunch because every millennial loves The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. But Jughead is far from a Cody in this show – he’s a wallflower, a writer that chooses to narrate the show from the safety of a ‘50s-style diner. We don’t get too much time with him in this episode, but I suppose that’s all within character – a loner wouldn’t be caught in the thick of all the teen drama, at least, not yet.
The arc of the show centers around the summer disappearance of Cheryl Blossom’s twin brother. By the end of the show, his body is finally discovered, and the mystery behind the murder begins. It’s quite the intriguing set up, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9PM on The CW
Tasha is a freelance writer currently based in Los Angeles. Originally from Kansas, when she’s not writing about or watching TV, Tasha is searching for the best BBQ place in LA to fill the KC BBQ hole in her stomach.
Keep up with all of Tasha’s reviews here.
Tasha Cerny | Contributor