Forget the bright colors, harmless teenage hijinks, and all-American purity of the Archie comic books that you grew up with (or flipped through while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store). Riverdale has all of the classic Archie characters and relationships in one form or another, but now the small town is a sinister place full of secrets, scandals, and a murder mystery.
For example, perfect girl-next-door Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) is on a date with dumb-yet-earnest Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa) at the local Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe when rich-and-flirty Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) walks in, igniting the classic love triangle. Sound familiar? Only, it’s not. Betty is high-strung, self-abusive, and living with a nosy, controlling mother. Veronica’s family has been rocked by her father’s criminal dealings, leaving her and her mom to try and get by on their own in Riverdale. And Archie is not interested in a love triangle when he can have a hot-and-heavy secret romance with school teacher Ms. Grundy (Sarah Habel).
There is also fiery Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), a bit of a vixen and the show’s main source of antagonism, always full of vicious verbal delights. It is not immediately clear what to make of Cheryl given that it was her twin brother who died when they were out boating together, setting off alarms of foul play and spurring on the murder mystery that drives the show and complicates everyone’s lives. Cheryl shows real pain, but also uses it to escalate her importance at school, earning both disdain and sympathy. Cheryl stands out as one of the most watchable characters.
Everyone has been brought down to Earth from their comic book trappings. Some characters feel like a necessary piece in a high school drama while others have a bit more complexity to them. What binds it all together is the juicy and flavorful dialogue, the crisp pacing propelled by the murder mystery elements, and the excellent cinematography. The opening shots are picturesque and surreal, as if lifted from a dream-turned-nightmare, while a visit to Pop Tate’s is drowned in neon. Riverdale is an old-fashioned town with some decay beginning to show (literally and metaphorically) and is beset by a persistent fog — an atmosphere that lends itself to methodical, stylish shots that enhance the moody tone. Riverdale certainly stands out as the best-looking comic book adaption on TV.
I loved it! A murder mystery ignites all sorts of drama inside Riverdale, turning the once colorful Archie comic book characters into intriguing people with dark secrets. Visually, Riverdale is moody. The plot peels back layers of this twisted old town, one layer at a time, revealing secret backstories to the classic characters. While it can feel a bit strange to watch such liberties being taken with such classic characters, it is all done with confidence and intent. My favorite character adaptation, thus far, is Jughead. Jughead’s storyline by the end of Season 1 has me super excited for Season 2!
Riverdale is just the latest of The CW’s adaptations of the DC Comics. Catch Season 2 on the The CW on Wednesday, October 11th at 8pm. Catch upon Season 1 now on Netflix.
While you wait for the Season 2 premiere, considering exploring Afterlife With Archie, an Archie comic book series that told the horror story of what happened when Riverdale was overrun by zombies.