For those who grew up reading Archie comics, they are used to seeing the young red-headed heartthrob and his gang partaking in light and friendly fun. It’s fairly G-rated and there are never any references of sex, death, betrayal, or girl-on-girl action. The CW has injected all of that AND Luke Perry into their take on the lives of Archie and his friends in RIVERDALE.
The pilot episode was screened at Comic-Con and it immediately presented itself as a noirish mix of Dawson’s Creek and Twin Peaks with a sprinkling of Gossip Girl and Veronica Mars. The show kicks off with the mysterious death of Jason Blossom, a popular boy in high school who had a very close — a seemingly V.C. Andrews-type of closeness — relationship with his twin sister Cheryl. A haze of tragedy descends upon the town of Riverdale as we later learn that the death is, in one way or another, connected to Archie (K.J. Apa a.k.a. Zac Efron 2.0) and his friend-zoned girl-next-door Betty (Lili Reinhart).
As the story unfolds, we learn A LOT about the not-so-innocent Archie including his relationship with one of his teachers, his dreams of becoming a musician, and the fact that he got a ripped bod over the summer (the show gives us many opportunities to see his abs) by working construction for his dad (Perry). When the affluent Veronica (Camila Mendes) moves into town, she makes quite the impression on Archie, which threatens Betty’s chances of becoming his main squeeze. Thus setting up a love triangle for the show and one of the central stories of the episode.
Unlike the comics, it seems as though the show makes Betty and Veronica partners in crime rather than rivals. Veronica isn’t the manipulating Queen Diva Villainess we are hoping her to be. Instead, Veronica’s daddy issues and emotional baggage make her empathetic and likable — but she still has her edge. She tries to help Betty get Archie not out of charity but because she genuinely wants to. This leaves the Blair Waldorf-esque role up for grabs and Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) takes it without hesitation.
There seems to be a heavy emphasis on the relationship between Betty and Veronica — more so than Archie’s story. Despite the unnecessary faux lesbian kiss during a cheerleader tryout scene, the show gives us a different kind of relationship between two females where they aren’t trying to rip each other’s eyes out for a guy. They are actually supporting each other and it’s refreshing as much as it is appreciated. Apa has the look of a modern-day Archie, but he’s still finding his rhythm as the face of Riverdale. There’s a lot on his plate in the first episode, and whether or not he will grow into a dynamic character or become an uninteresting lead cut from the same cloth as Vince from Entourage remains to be seen.
Riverdale isn’t in a rush, but it moves at a pace that engages. The pilot introduced us to the main three characters and did an admirable job of folding in other characters from the comics that we are sure to hear about further down the road. There’s the resident bro Reggie (Ross Butler); the emo writer Jughead (Cole Sprouse) documenting the entire saga; talented musician Josie (Ashleigh Murray) and her Pussycats; and Kevin (Casey Cott), Betty’s close friend and an openly gay character, who, at times, does nothing but deliver sassy quips, one-liners, and other unfortunate gay tropes.
Filled with 21st teenage angst and the perfect amount of “mature” content, Riverdale sells itself as a fun, yet dark show that can only get better and more entertaining with each episode. The pilot builds a solid foundation and gives the show plenty of room to grow into what is sure to be the next CW obsession.
Dino-Ray Ramos watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer