‘Riverdale’ brings Archie comics to life on screen
From the CW comes a fresh take on a classic comic book series in the form of the new TV show: “Riverdale.” The series is on Thursday nights at 9 and is based on the Archie Comics with some notable differences.
It features the same beloved characters — Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones and Veronica Lodge — as the cartoon and takes place in Riverdale, the same small town. But one major difference is that it centers around the mysterious disappearance and murder of Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines), twin brother of Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), that previous summer.
As the story progresses, the four teens try to uncover the strange details of Jason’s disappearance while simultaneously dealing with their own problems and the consequences of living in a small town where everyone gets into everyone else’s business.
Some characters stay true to their comic counterparts and retain a majority of their key qualities and motivations. Archie Andrews (K.J. Appa) is still just a regular teen attempting to balance school, dating, friends, and football in addition to finding time to try building a career in music.
However, many characters stray from the archetypes set by the comics in surprising ways. For example, unlike her snobbish persona in the comics, Veronica Lodge is kind and well-meaning in the show. Though she has her flaws, she tries to be a good friend to Betty, and at times Cheryl, to make up for her family’s bad reputation and the way she had treated people in New York, before she moved back to Riverdale with her mother, Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols).
Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) is still the blonde girl-next-door. She is hopelessly in love with Archie who sees her as just a friend. Though she has a similar personality to her character in the comics, “Riverdale’s” Betty is hardened by her sister Polly’s mental breakdown and institutionalization. She is determined to prove that her sister’s previous relationship with Jason Blossom had nothing to do with his murder and to find out what happened between them that hurt Polly to her breaking point.
But the character that is the most modified from his original persona is Jughead Jones, Archie’s burger loving best friend. Though he retains his famous hat, Jughead is no longer Archie’s food-obsessed sidekick. Played by Cole Sprouse, Jughead is now an enigmatic outcast with a keen interest in the Blossom murder case. He serves as the show’s narrator as he writes a true crime novel about the events surrounding Jason Blossom’s death and his search to find his killer.
Because it has a long history of material to draw from, “Riverdale” creates complex and entertaining characters with rich back stories. However, sometimes these characters do and says things that don’t make sense.
They lack predictability which, in some ways, is a good thing. Viewers will not always know how they will react to something or what their motivations are. This adds to the mystery and keeps the suspense alive. However, sometimes this causes them to do things that seem random or out of character. For instance, Cheryl Blossom is meant to be the mean girl, but she’ll occasionally drop that persona and act nice only to assume it again later for no other reason than it seems to fit the current context for her to be mean. Also, when Betty finds out that Archie does not like her back, she can’t seem to decide how she feels about it. One minute she appears to be completely over it and the next she’s crying and giving him the silent treatment. The way the characters’ emotions and personalities tend to fluctuate is an unnecessary confusion that could be easily avoided.
“Riverdale” attempts to take on a much darker tone than the original Archie comics. This can sometimes feels forced and unnatural to those who are used to the cartoon’s playful hijinks. It is also interrupted on occasion by obvious product placement. Because of this, it can be hard to take the show seriously at times. However, this does not make the plot any less interesting.
If viewers can look past these quirks, they will still find the show thrilling and enjoyable. It does a good job supplementing the murder mystery with several subplots that keep the show interesting such as Archie’s struggles as a musician and Veronica and her mother trying to get used to small town life and cope with a town full of people who judge them for their family’s sordid past.
And though it would be easy for the show to get lost in the many interesting things happening in the town of Riverdale, it does a good job of keeping most of the focus on the lives of its four main characters and the town’s search for answers about Jason Blossom’s death. This ensures that even though there is a lot going on, the show is not hard to follow.
The show’s pacing is also good. Often series like this that center around mysteries tend to drag on revealing almost nothing in order to keep the audience in suspense. The episodes, though at times a little slow, uncover small pieces without revealing the whole puzzle, which gives the series an investigative feel that invites viewers to try and solve the mystery alongside its main characters.
“Riverdale” is a refreshing update of the classic Archie comic series. It builds on the original characters, giving them more depth without straying to far from their initial concepts. Despite some minor flaws, it is entertaining and well worth the watch.