Disclaimer: I’ll probably be nitpicking. A lot. Especially on the characters since they’re the only ties to the original comic (also I’m a sucker for comparisons). There WILL BE SPOILERS sort of. If you see red sentences, skip them.
Or you can just keep on reading. I won’t tell you how to live your life, I barely know how to live mine.
Also, this opinion piece is exactly that; an opinion from a person who, by the way, has stopped reading Archie since 2010 (because it got way too expensive – wtf is that all about) but still carry a huge load of love for these characters.
When I first heard that CW would be releasing a drama based on the Archie Comics, my heart fluttered in excitement for a brief second – before plummeting to the bottom of my stomach. Hard.
Well, no. That was an over-dramatisation (while we’re on the subject of drama). I was, however, skeptical because for a while, it was infamously known that existing fictional YA worlds were being transformed to live-action series, then spun into angsty, teenage drama whereby they would milk the last remnants of whatever cliche plots and dialogues they could conjure up that hadn’t been done already and finally reducing what once was a story with purpose to a bunch of teenagers banging each other in the end.
I didn’t put high hopes for Riverdale but a part of me wanted badly for this series to turn out like I’d pictured it would. Ask anyone of any age whether they’d read the Archie Comics. More than half the time, you’d get a yes. Or at least a vague mumble between ‘perhaps’ to ‘might recall it’ depending on the age of the person you’re asking. Point being; this was a classic pop culture piece people of all ages have enjoyed in the last 75 years. It was iconic. I, myself, had hoarded quite a collection growing up so this was a part of my childhood and ideally, I wished it could’ve gone the way I wanted it.
Anyway, I’m digressing. First impressions after watching the first episode:
I hadn’t expected it to be as dark.
The story starts with the death of Jason Blossom. Cheryl, his fraternal twin had lost him while they were out for a boat ride – when he slipped and drowned in the water. However, it was later revealed to be a murder due to the gunshot wound on his forehead – but who killed him and why?
So this is pretty much the premise of the plot. It is centred around the mystery behind Jason’s death and each character’s relations to his murder. Something like that.
Personally, I didn’t care much for the plot. I thought it was good but not that interesting enough to captivate an audience – or me at least, but that didn’t stop me from watching the next three episodes that were already out.
Character-wise, I have very mixed feelings.
Our ma’fakin Starboy Archie was quite the surprise. Forget the ginger-haired, freckle-faced cutie with the motor skills of a five year-old like in the comics, this Archie successfully crushed that boy-next-door stereotype and adopted a slightly naughtier and more rebellious persona when he bared his ripped body and moderately nefarious attitude.
but what takes the cake is his scandalous affair with Ms Grundy.
It wasn’t that traumatising but this was really something. The whole reveal was just unbearably cringy and so, so difficult to digest. I just cringed every time there was a scene of the both of them being together.
BUT BUT BUT. Before you imagine Archie with a 50-something year-old lady, Ms Grundy was portrayed here as a young, hot blonde who doesn’t have a grey hair or wrinkle in sight. Despite the fact that Archie (and the rest of the students in Riverdale) look old enough to own a college degree, he was still 16 in the series. So not only was Ms Grundy an excellent double bass player and music instructor, but she also has an affinity for underaged kids. I mean how else are you supposed to keep yourself young and rejuvenated, am I right?
Of course, the cringefest only lasted for about 3 episodes because it was later revealed in the 4th that this Ms Grundy wasn’t the Ms Grundy. Relief? Yes. Such a relief but the thought will still haunt me forever. Also, despite whoever this lady was, she was still sleeping with a minor. That’s still there.
Betty’s introduction was the most predictable; there was no way you can fuck up Riverdale’s sweetheart but there was a slightly pleasant twist to her. From a history of family breakdowns to the reveal of Betty’s dark side (and it gets real dark), I’m liking this rendition. She’s not as preppy and cheerful as she is in the comics which adds a touch of reality in her character.
Veronica is probably my favourite at the moment. She was portrayed as the new kid from New York, arriving in Riverdale in hopes to bury the scandal surrounding her father’s notoriety and live a normal teenage life. Veronica’s character is an interesting crossover between being a snooty bitch (dropping classic literary references every two to three sentences) to being a bad girl gone good – and I mean really, properly good. She even successfully eliminated the ~iconic~ love triangle between her, Archie and Betty in the first two episodes (but something tells me this won’t be the last time we’ll hear of it). I like the dynamic that she presents when with the others – especially with Cheryl Blossom, when her New Yorker side comes out. I live for her wit. Very pleasantly surprised at how well her character is executed.
The only disappointing character is Jughead (purely from the comic-to-live action comparison standpoint), which is such a bummer because he has always been my favourite. The resident joker with a never-ending appetite; who can resist the scrawny teenager with a black hole for a stomach? However, in the series, he was portrayed as the token film geek who was in the midst of writing a screenplay based on the events that happened in Riverdale. Honestly speaking, I’m not a fan of this Jughead mostly because I can’t see him being broody and dressed in all black . Also, the most unforgivable trait – he never eats. I saw him eat probably once in an episode and even then, comic Jughead would have a fit seeing how little he was eating. How dare??
He also wasn’t exactly friends with Archie so my dream of them being the Starsky and Hutch of Riverdale kind of flew out the window.
(PS: he’s played by Cole Sprouse – who, I’m sorry to say – really showed that he hasn’t acted in a while. Cringey.)
But I do have to say, the female characters are written so beautifully in this series. From Cheryl Blossom’s – albeit intolerable – Regina George-esque attitude to the powerful messages delivered by Josie and the Pussycats on the struggles of PoC, I’m living for the female empowerment and the portrayal of modern, contemporary women in this show. That’s a huge thing I’d like to highlight.
Where are the parents though????
Okay, really. It was interesting to note how their parents seemed to be so out of touch with their own children, almost as if they didn’t really give a crap about whatever their kids were up to if it didn’t serve any purpose to them.
For example; Betty’s mother only cares about the kind of friends her daughter associates herself with – constantly barraging her with negative insinuations about Archie and Veronica or pretty much anyone else Betty tries to get close to but brushes off any form of conversation that can lead to negotiation or – God forbid – affection.
Maybe this is nitpicking at its finest, especially character-wise but I can’t help it. To be fair, it is only the fourth episode.
I took the series in its entirety and wrote a first impression on that. Here’s the thing, all in all, it was subpar, average at best with cringe-worthy acting and horribly executed dialogues but for a debut series, I think it looks promising enough to have more than one season… hopefully. I still have a hard time disassociating these characters from their comic counterparts but at the same time, that’s really the only reason why I’m still watching and I’m pretty sure a lot of people are holding on to the same reason. I hope the episodes get better since the one writing this is Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; chief creative officer of Archie Comics itself so maybe, just maybe it will get interesting with the episodes to come. I’ll still be following this series because there’s a much bigger picture that I’d like to get a view of… so I’ll stick with it for now.