Logline: Based on the iconic comic book characters in a subversive take of the well-know franchise’s wholsesome town of riverdale and residents Archie, Betty, Veronica, as well as Josie and the pussycats,
Cast: Lili Reinhart, Casey Cott, Luke Perry, Madelaine Petsch, Ashleigh Murray
Creators: Roberto Auirre-Sacasa (Writer / EP), Sarah Schecter (EP), Jon Goldwater (EP), Greg Berlanti (EP)
Studios: Warner Bros. TV, Berlanti Productions
Riverdale looks at Archie through a Twin Peaks-lens, giving us one of the season’s biggest surprises. Threading a fine line between being faithful to its source material and subverting it like a fanfic-junkie, the pilot gives us darker versions of Archie, Betty, and Veronica, without destroying the basic fabric of the comic book.
I can’t talk much about the characters without giving precious plot points away, but I will say this: Riverdale is delicious. I went in wary because of CBS’ Nancy Drew. The last time I read Archie was 10 years ago, but until that point, I read a lot of Archie. I wasn’t sure I wanted to see a darker, Lynchian version of that world.
But Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa scores a lot of points in my book. While network shows are getting darker and darker (yes, I’m looking at you, Olivia Pope), the good folks of Riverdale have been drinking milkshakes for the better part of a century. How do you update the world to bring in new fans, while still keeping the old ones?
There’s something so slick about the way Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa subverts Archie’s world. He doesn’t destroy the basic fabric of relationships we care about and root for. We’ve still got Archie and Betty and Veronica. We’ve still got Reggie and Jughead. We’ve got Kevin Keller. His process appears to be one of addition, not subtraction.
The pilot is devoted to developing Archie, Betty, and Veronica by giving them dimensions that suit this twisted version of Riverdale. They’re not anti-heroes yet (and I hope they never will be). Instead, they become different versions of themselves, without losing their essence. Like Archie becomes the Archie a teenage girl might fantasize about.
Riverdale (the show) wants to give us what Archie (the comic book) couldn’t — our wacked-out, midnight dream version of Archie, Betty, and Veronica. It’s the stuff of fan fiction. It’s Wincest and Cherik. It’s also firmly within the CW’s established narrative wheelhouse. A few crucial elements like Jughead’s V.O., Veronica’s arrival in Riverdale, and her relationship with Betty are obvious throwbacks to Gossip Girl, the CW’s first hit.
I’m rooting for this one. It’s got a wide, built-in audience owing to Archie’s longevity. Set photos indicate just the right atmosphere. Though it remains to be seen whether fans will be intrigued or put off by the show’s surprising tone, I can see this growing by word-of-mouth. We’ve got a strong central murder mystery too (because how else do we pull viewers back in?).
But Riverdale’s biggest strength lies off the page in the CW’s resident super-producer Greg Berlanti (The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow). He’s got a whopping six broadcast series on the air right now. I can’t help but think this is going to become his seventh.