Riverdale is the new CW show trying to give Archie and his gang a darker spin. Think Pretty Little Liars meets Dawson’s Creek, meets absolutely every other teen high-school drama ever. With a hell of a lot of soap.
Archie and Betty are best friends, she pines after him but he’s hot for teacher and the new girl who moved to town. Veronica is that new girl who becomes instant-friends with Betty, making her impending relationship with Archie very difficult. Oh, and a classmate was murdered on July 4th as well. There’s so much going on that could make this a really fun, dark high school drama but it still feels too light – like the writers don’t know how to lean into the dark-and-twisty of their show.
The show started out very surreal with the music, colour saturation and occasional slow-mo, but I wish they kept that up and made the whole thing feel like a big step outside of reality. It’s almost like they’re not sure whether to go full on into 50’s retro style, or just normal high school teen drama. They use so many of the usual tropes, like popular music and horribly placed pop-culture references, and it just feels a bit tired. It’s like everyone was so focused on recognizing past teen dramas that they couldn’t revamp and do anything new.
They’ve put Jughead into this weird semi-omniscient role that would usually be fine, if we didn’t know him outside of the narration. Sure, he’s a fine narrator if they had a better script, but him as a character just feels way off. He is basically Gossip Girl, without the who-could-it-be mystery. And Cole Sprouse could be doing a lot more here, if he was developed and the show had some better writers.
This whole murder subplot gives a Pretty Little Liars or How to Get Away with Murder dynamic but it hasn’t delved deep enough. Jughead could go all Veronica Mars on this and do his little investigation, but we haven’t got there yet and I don’t know if they’ll ever push over into that. How can you create intrigue in the murder mystery while only making that a small subplot in the first episode?
But despite all these problems, I’ll still be watching next week. It’s a cheesy, relatively lighthearted teen drama, and I’m a sucker for that type of show. I just hope they’ll go further into the absurd, sort of like MTV’s Scream, where they don’t care that it’s unbelievable – because that’s part of the point.