Riverdale: Archie, why so somber?

Plunging oneself into CW’s Riverdale—streaming now on Netflixmeans tolerating shades of pseudo-philosophizing by Jughead (Cole Sprouse), a vehement, fly-on-the-wall novelist setting the tone for each fifty-something minute episodes. Beyond these jerky starts, however, the show is genuinely rooted in its cognizance of paying homage to the classic Archie comics, albeit not without its own cinematic spritz of buff rugby players and promiscuous undertones.

Riverdale is a quaint, yet gruesome small town, plagued with the recent death of Cheryl Blossom’s beloved brother, sluggishly transforming itself into the teen-drama equivalent of murder mystery Broadchurch. Here, the show maintains its indecisiveness: branching off into peripheral domestic issues of each of the characters, while grasping on the notion that it isn’t gravitating too far from the murderer-on-the-loose plotline. The producers propel the narrative to magnify the significance of Jason Blossom’s slaughter to an almost implausible extent. Yet, here is where the actors portraying Archie, Betty, Veronica, and the rest of the gang bring forth their consistency: soldiering through the one-liners in the script to actually try and bring to life the nastiness of this decaying borough.

Coupled with the extremes of dictator-like parents or completely apathetic ones, it seems the two-dimensional character motivations can often leave them in unconstructive situations, complicating the familial affairs. Does Betty want to see Polly in person, her older sister that’s been exiled because she’s allegedly mentally unstable? Well, too bad, because her mother has a polar opposite view, and she stops at nothing in relaying her ominous presence. Later, once it’s discovered that Polly’s managed to escape from a glass window from a guarded asylum, she ends up attic-dwelling in her own home because of her adamant parents’ views on the pregnancy. I mean: allowing her to breathe for a moment is an impractical possibility when the tightly constructed agenda of the show rests on her banishment, and hence, the plot progression.

It’s flawed—but not to a fault. Riverdale does enough to keep you fastened into your seat. The casting is commendable, and the performances delivered deserve some recognition. The town begins to look familiar, almost homely—save for the unsettling, details of the events that took place that early morning on July 4th. With each episode, the intertwining of different fates leads to a further mélange of complicated undertakings. A robust sense of direction would be appreciated: petty sub-plots of complicated teen-parent relationships only serve as a distraction, though for the demographics of such a program, it is likely necessary. If this review lacks an emphasis on Archie, it’s because he never is the focal point of the show. I attribute this characteristic to the show-runners’ conscious understanding of the fact that fluidity is the key for Riverdale’s longevity on television. It seems the masses approve, considering it’s been renewed for a second season. For now, it remains a Friday night tradition to catch the latest episode with the extraordinary person that got me watching it in the first place.


Varun Maden

(Image: IGN.com)

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