The CW’s newest show, Hot Teens That are Vaguely Involved in Murder, aka RIVERDALE, is keeping its momentum going from the first episode. Starting from a cliffhanger, and ending with a cliffhanger, the show is resolved to do two things over the course of this first season: keep the audience guessing about who killed Jason Blossom; and remind us over and over how sexy these teens are.
It also sets a precedent by showing that each episode will be equally divided into two parts. First, the classic teen plot of romance, angst, and love triangles. Seeing as this show is based on the potentially most iconic love triangle, how can it not? The teen show tropes plot of this episode is all about Betty trying to deal with the whole saga of Veronica and Archie kissing last week. It’s a classic nice gal tries to forgive easily and then learns she can’t. Every turn of this story is wildly predictable, but it works because of the chemistry and building blocks of a relationship set in just the pilot for Betty and Veronica. Forget Archie, even though these are his comics, by far the most compelling relationship is that of the two women. It’s clearly going to keep trying to go for the love triangle angle, but if Riverdale really wanted to be the subversive show that it is trying to hard to be, it could build a beautiful romance out of Betty and Veronica’s friendship.
However, it seems that the true subversive dark edge of this show is being saved for the heavily incestual overtones of the Blossom murder. I’m assuming the Riverdale writers have a tally going of how many creepy things Cheryl can say about her dead brother and that number sure is rising. The murder is also an excuse for Archie to be racked with guilt about hearing a gunshot the morning of Jason’s death when he was sleeping with a woman twice his age. Oh, these CW teens and their rascally illegal sex habits! Archie’s plot feels a little ridiculous, given how he’s supposed to be fifteen, and that makes the whole sex with a teacher thing really gross, and that he’s so hesitant to tell the police a fact that could literally stop a murderer.
The upside of Archie’s silly decision is that is gives him an excuse to reconnect with his old pal Jughead, when he realized the situation Archie’s in. Jughead, along with most of the characters takes the high school tropiness of his character to all new levels. He plays indignant nerd to a T so much that it be comes almost as eyeroll inducing as Veronica’s non stop sophisticated pop culture references. Seriously, name a teen that references Blue Jasmine multiple times. Even so, Jughead and Veronica tow the line of being too much, but also being the most endearing characters on the show. It all leads to a scene that is potentially the most reminiscent of the comics: Betty, Veronica, Archie, and Jughead talking and laughing around a booth, just four teens hanging out and having fun. Of course, there’s a sinister Jughead voiceover about how this moment is fleeting and things are about to get much darker.
Even if things are about to get darker, it seems as if this second episode has shown the audience the way of how this show will go: finding drama at every turn, whether it’s in a last second plot twist of the reveal that Jason was killed a full week after he went missing, or in the glorious teen trope of who will be lab partners. It’s all way over the top, but of course it is, the CW is trying to do about 50 things with this show and half of them are bound to work.
It’s actually been a while since the network did a pure teen show, as they’ve been trying to expand beyond genre lines, sometimes successfully (Jane the Virgin) and sometimes crashing and burning (Frequency). Riverdale is an interesting middle ground, where they are trying to return to CW form with simply beautiful teenagers being idiots and falling in and out of everything they possibly can, and did we mention, they are also beautiful? The show is also trying to be new CW though, and is both a remake of a beloved comic series, but trying throw a murder mystery in there as well. Now, instead of just being a CW Teen Drama, it’s a CW Murder Teen Drama Version of Archie. It’s a lot. There are bound to be hiccups on the way (Archie sleeping with Ms. Grundy is just not a good plot), but if they stick to embracing their cheesiness instead of taking it so gosh darn seriously, the formula of the show just might work.
Season 1, Episode 2 (S01E02)
Riverdale airs Thursday at 9PM on The CW
Raina spends most of her time watching television and trying to find the perfect bagel and lox, because she likes being emotionally distraught.
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Raina Deerwater | Contributor