Archie gets a modern update in the live-action teen drama Riverdale. The show, with its suspense, drama, and intrigue, is a far cry from the wholesome comics from which it derives its characters. Stories about football games and summer antics are replaced with murder and complicated, sometimes even taboo, relationships. The bright and beautiful facade of the town does little to hide its ugly underbelly when a body turns up.
In true Archie fashion, beloved characters all make an appearance. The main crew, Archie, Veronica, Betty and Jughead, star as the protagonists of the show. The show also includes Josie and the Pussycats, a girl band from another comic book series published by Archie Comics. While most of the cast are relatively new to acting, this show signals the return of Cole Sprouse to acting after going on hiatus to attend university.
The show opens with the tale of the accidental drowning of popular and wealthy high school student, Jason Bloom, and cuts to a few months later at the start of the school year. We are introduced to Veronica Lodge, the daughter of a wealthy businessman facing charges of fraud and embezzlement, who has just fled New York with her mother to Riverdale. We are then introduced to Betty Cooper, the straight-laced girl next door, and her neighbour and best friend Archie Andrews, who has quite a few scandalous secrets under his belt. The three run into each other at the local 24 hour diner on the day before school starts. In true American teen drama fashion, there are already hints of a possible love triangle.
The show uses many of the same plot devices and techniques found in most teen soaps to represent the quintessential high school experience. Archie tries out for the football team. Veronica and Betty try out for the cheerleading squad. The main antagonist is the high school queen bee Cheryl Blossom, Jason Bloom’s twin sister, who is intent on maintaining the social hierarchy status quo, and making Betty’s life miserable. The characters also deal with family drama, such as overbearing parents and parents who already have their children’s lives planned out for them. Featuring school dances, underage drinking, and many sexually charged encounters, the show ticks off everything that defines the teen soap genre just in the first episode. This is all well-worn territory, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t highly entertaining.
The dialogue is at times cliché and simplistic, but this is balanced with an interesting cast of characters and the Twin Peaks-esque aesthetic of the small town murder drama. With its fair share of teen angst and murder mystery, we are brought into a world where not everything is as it seems. Just from its first episode, Riverdale establishes the potential to be a dark and entertaining show for teens and adults alike.
Riverdale is currently being released weekly on Netflix.