Riverdale S01E01 “Chapter One: The River’s Edge” Review

reviews, TV

Warning Contains Spoilers

Here we have a new CW show and I know what you’re thinking: it’s probably another overdone cliche soap opera filled with beautiful people and their unrealistic portrayal of high school students. I know you think that because that’s the norm for a CW show or really any high school show of today. This one is different; this one is a game changer. It’s Twin Peaks meets Archie Comics; it’s Riverdale.

This was the pilot episode, so the setting needs to be established and the characters need to be introduced. The show takes place in the small town of Riverdale and the young characters go to school at Riverdale High. On the outside, the town look quaint and put together, but deep down it’s harboring secrets. We are introduced immediately to a mystery that has consumed the town. The characters we follow are those drawn from it’s source material: Archie comics.

Right from the beginning I was drawn in with the darkness of it all. It had this eerie feeling and I already knew this wasn’t your typical highschool drama. So much happens in this episode that would normally be dragged over an entire season, which makes me think that this show isn’t messing around; it has a goal and doesn’t want to play with too much exposition. It also started off with a death to a major character from the source material, Jason Blossom. He and his twin sister, Cheryl–they have a weird relationship and seem way too close for comfort–slowly drive to the river and later Jason goes missing presumed dead. This isn’t the Archie Comics you know; this is quite edgy.

Those who grew up reading the Archie comics probably already have a preconceived notion of who these characters are. These characters are all familiar faces from the comics, sure, and yes, they are similar, but they have so much more depth.

Archie is still the typical small town boy: working for his dad in construction, best friends with the literal girl next door, and the all american. This Archie also has a deeper, more angsty side, and wants to explore music. He wrote songs over the summer while he was becoming buff working construction and wants to make a go at a music career. However, his dad (played by a very wrinkled Luke Perry) doesn’t really approve; the high school needs him to step up and be the football star since Jason died. The school’s reigning musician, Josie (yes THAT Josie, of Josie and the Pussy Cats) won’t even listen to his songs because she only sings her own, and oh yeah, he slept with his music teacher, Miss Grundy (she is way younger than her comic counterpart) over summer break which–depending on the state–is statutory rape. He has a lot going on and this was only the first episode. He ultimately decides to have it all: music in the morning with Miss Grundy, football after school and construction on the weekends. This is probably not going to go as smoothly as he thinks. The whole Miss Grundy affair is obviously going to ruin someone’s life if not both. He said he just wanted to work on music with her as an independent study, okay Archie. Apparently on the morning of Jason’s disappearance they were together in the woods and heard a gunshot; they didn’t tell anyone, so they have a few secrets together.

Veronica has just moved to town with her mom, who used to live in Riverdale. She is the stylish rich girl and although she might have an air of entitlement, she is actually a lot less snooty than her comic counterpart. In fact she’s even trying to shy away from the typical rich girl cliche. She moves to Riverdale after a scandal involving her father, so she probably isn’t as well off as you would think. She is incredibly smart, dropping book reference, after movie reference, and incredibly sure of herself. Veronica challenges Queen Bee Cheryl Blossom, who is the popular girl type: rich, well known, icy and head cheerleader; Veronica might just dethrone her. She has an attraction to Archie–like in the comics the triangle is very much alive or should I say square if you add Miss Grundy–but she would throw that away in a heartbeat for Betty, whom she values more than anything. She takes her under her wing almost immediately like they’ve known each other for years–which I loved; it was almost like Archie, who?

Betty is the literal girl next door: cute, sweet, put together–at least on the outside. She seems to be repressing her true self probably because her mom controls her life. She also seems to censor herself quite a bit and doesn’t take risks. She has been best friends with Archie since kindergarden and is totally in love with him. According to Kevin–the friendly neighborhood gay best friend–Archie and Betty are “end game”. She keeps trying to tell him how she feels but then comes up with an excuse. She wants to be a cheerleader but also comes up with an excuse–that is until Veronica shows up and gives Betty a voice. Next thing we know Betty is dancing in her room wearing a cheerleading uniform. This tugged at my heartstrings a bit since I’ve always wanted to be a cheerleader but never got to; it was heartwarming to see Betty be that happy.

Jughead is still a loner, but in this show he’s the brooding writer type. He sits in a diner alone and writes his novel seemingly about the events that transpire–he’s the narrator after all. He reveals plot points in his narration but it doesn’t matter because he’s writing his novel; he’s just sharing what happened. I love the twist on this classic character especially his crown like beanie; it’s perfect. It also would appear that Jughead and Archie are estranged, probably because Archie got popular; in the comics they are best friends for life. Also unlike in the comics, he is not asexual, much to the actor, Cole Sprouse’s, dismay. I’ve read that he is actually pushing for Jughead to be asexual and I hope he pulls through. There’s no need for him to date anyone; the show will have plenty of dating storylines to go wit–there’s a love square after all.

Betty finally was able to tell Archie how she feels at the dance and then Cheryl had to go ruin everything by having a party with seven minutes in heaven–weird choice for 15 year olds. Archie and Veronica end up in the closet together, they of course kiss because why not? Betty is why not! Veronica totally betrayed her and feels awful about it, quickly pushing Archie aside. My heart broke for Betty; she finally has all this courage to take a risk and she falls or well is pushed flat on her face. She has an emotional moment with Archie where she asks him point blank, “do you love me?” and he says she doesn’t deserve him. Way to twist the knife, Archie!

At the end of the episode Kevin finds Jason’s body with a gunshot wound. Jughead–through his narration–reveals that a suspect is arrested by Tuesday, 5th period–next episode most likely. He says the town will never be the same with all the new shadows and secrets lurking about. The town will be consumed by the question: who killed Jason Blossom? Was it Cheryl Blossom, his twin sister,the last person to see him alive, or was it Alice Cooper, Betty’s mom who despises Jason for causing Betty’s sister’s breakdown and ultimate hospitalization– or was it literally anyone else? At this point we can’t know anything. I’m excited for the secrets to start unravelling.

I’m so ready to dive into this show; I am already highly addicted. It’s smart, intriguing, witty, playful, mysterious, all disguised as a high school drama; it’s genius! My roommate, who doesn’t watch CW shows probably as a rule, absolutely loved this– that says a lot about this show. It’s a new leaf for CW, a new era. Who knew a high school soap opera with noir elements based off a comic book series could be this good? I highly recommend giving this pilot a chance.

2 comments

  • I’m interested in why you compared it to Twin Peaks. I didnt see any connection in style or narrative to that show but maybe Im missing something.

    • It’s a town full of secrets and a lot of the shots are very reminiscent of at least the pilot of Twin Peaks especially the long shots of the town. Twin Peaks was a “Who Killed Lauren Palmer” and Riverdale is a “Who killed Jason Blossom”. Also the actress who plays Betty’s Mom, Madchen Amick, was in Twin Peaks which I don’t think was a coincidence. 🙂

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