CW’s new drama inspired by Archie Comics puts a dark spin on the traditional world
By Michaela McGrath and Chloe Steinig
First premiering at the end of January 2016 and completing its mid-season finale on March 9, CW’s Riverdale is a riveting drama based on characters from Archie Comics. Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Josie and the Pussycats, and of course Archie, all become entangled in the show’s dark departure from its source material: a murder. The show is quickly becoming one of the most talked about dramas on television, with over one million viewers tuning in to the premiere.
Jason Blossom, head quarterback for Riverdale High, is mysteriously killed on the Fourth of July. The show revolves around trying to figure out who killed Jason, as well as the many secrets of the town that come to light. What unravels is a web of intertwined mysteries involving the families of Riverdale. This version of the Archie universe wears its soap-inspired influences on its sleeve; the creators have taken cues from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and other nostalgic prime-time dramas. Riverdale embraces a moody atmosphere and penchant for melodrama, but also never forgets to be playful with its cast of often crazy characters.
While the show features parallels to the original comics, there are significant changes, particularly to the main cast. Archie (K.J. Apa) is still the teenage boy grappling with playing football, music, and dating, and Betty (Lili Reinhart) is still the sweet girl-next-door. However, Veronica (Camila Mendes) is nicer and more thoughtful than her comic counterpart, while Josie (Ashleigh Murray) is an aspiring pop-star with a new edge. Archie’s funny sidekick, Jughead (Cole Sprouse), is now a troubled outsider and sleuthing detective who serves as the narrator of the show, delivering film-noir shaded voice-overs in every episode.
And yet even these archetypes are deepened and made complicated throughout the episodes. For one, the traditional love triangle between Veronica, Betty and Archie has evolved to give the two girls more agency. The entire show seems to have traded in the classic Americana of its source material for modern day—a progression that has also been happening in the comics for years now. Audiences will be surprised by the fact that the show isn’t afraid to take risks, venturing into mature emotional territory and taboo topics. With season two confirmed on March 7, the show will only dig deeper. Riverdale is the guilty pleasure you will forget to feel guilty about because it’s just too much fun.
Riverdale returns with episode 8 March 30th on the CW at 9 p.m. Watch all previous episodes here.