New Show Alert: Riverdale


Leo Rocha, Co-Editor in Chief

For teen soaps, there are certain requirements needed to be met in order to achieve a successful fan following: a forbidden relationship, a love triangle, mean girls and, of course, a good murder or two. Rarely, however, is this formula executed well—countless shows have been cancelled over the years after a few measly episodes for failing to properly emulate this setup. Nonetheless, following the likes of  “Gossip Girl” and “Pretty Little Liars,” (PLL) The CW Network has culminated the teen soap framework in their latest series, “Riverdale.”  Based upon Archie Comics, the classic characters have been updated and revamped for the modern era, but do not be mistaken: this is definitely not the same family-friendly, “All-American Boy” Archie from the 1950s.

Unknown to some, Archie Comics went through a major reboot in 2015. All of the Archie titles were relaunched, starting with brand new #1 issues for the first time in 73 years, signaling a major shift in the Archie Universe. The art and writing styles changed drastically in order to bring Archie into the 21st century. These alterations ultimately led to the creation of the show.

“Riverdale,” for the most part, remains loyal to the heart of its source material. When it comes to properties as old as Archie Comics, there are bound to be some slight changes for its transition to a new generation. Many characters who were originally white in the comics were cast as people of color in the show, such as Ashleigh Murray as Josie McCoy (along with the rest of the Pussycats) and Ross Butler as Reggie Mantle. Casey Cott also stars as Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character in Archie Comics’ history. Both of these casting decisions reflect the diversity and inclusivity of today’s age that was not present when the comics were first published.

The most significant change by far, however, is that Jason Blossom, brother to Cheryl, the prodigal “it” girl of Riverdale High, is dead. His presumed murder is the focal point of the show, setting off a chain of events that reveal the cracks in the characters’ seemingly idyllic small town life, akin to “Twin Peaks.” Another difference is the notable aging down of Miss Grundy, who is revealed to be having an affair with Archie Andrews himself. This is one of the low points of “Riverdale,” feeling a bit unnecessary and forced, seemingly written only to attract the attention of PLL fans while they prepare to mourn for the upcoming end of their show.

With a mix of stars like Luke Perry (Beverly Hills, 90210), Mädchen Amick (Twin Peaks) and Cole Sprouse (The Suite Life of Zack & Cody) alongside newcomers Camila Mendes, KJ Apa and Lili Reinhart, “Riverdale” is full of fresh and experienced talent. Each character was cast perfectly, almost as if they leapt from the pages and onto the small screen. Apa channels Archie’s naivety and wholesomeness with a charming smirk, but can also switch off the good boy image when need be. Reinhart gives a genuine, down-to-earth performance as Betty Cooper, cementing her as the quiet but loveable “girl-next-door.” Mendes as reformed mean girl Veronica Lodge is the real star of the show, wearing the most fashionable outfits and constantly delivering clever popular culture references, reminiscent of a kinder Blair Waldorf from “Gossip Girl.” While there was not much of Sprouse in the show’s first episode, the few scenes he was in were indicative that his role as broody Jughead Jones will serve as an effective foil to the lighthearted Archie.

Again drawing comparison to “Gossip Girl,” the children in this show are not the only ones with drama. The parents, namely Fred Andrews (Perry), Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols) and Alice Cooper (Amick) each have their own storylines revolving around their time growing up together. This is another plus for “Riverdale,” fully developing their characters instead of leaving them as traditional parental archetypes or even absent altogether.

With the spectacular Destiny’s Child-esque performance by Josie and the Pussycats and Archie’s desire to write songs, it seems like “Riverdale” is going to be a heavily music-centered show. This could either be very good, or very bad. The original comics created a fictional band aptly called “The Archies” which later formed in real life and recorded the popular song “Sugar, Sugar.” From the small snippets of music heard in the first episode, it is clear that the show will not be producing upbeat songs like the old “Archies.” Instead, songs are likely to have an indie-folk and alternative feel to them.

Based on the success of the premiere, there is no doubt that “Riverdale” will become a compelling and addictive hit. Not only does it have self-referential humor in regards to the classic Betty/Archie/Veronica love triangle, but it also fully expands on the ordeal and focuses more on the empowering friendship between Betty and Veronica instead of resorting to the misogynistic “fighting over a boy” rivalry. Unlike their comic book counterparts, each character is multi-faceted, no longer constrained to an archetype. Everyone has a secret, and no one is innocent. With its glowing neon lights, eerie foggy landscapes and neo-noir undertones, the town of Riverdale and its mysteries are worth exploring.