TV Review – Riverdale Premier

The series premiere of Riverdale, based off the 1940s comic book series Archie’s Comics, features high school students and their day-to-day lives in the small community of Riverdale. However, just because the town of Riverdale is a confined neighborhood, doesn’t mean that it’s quiet.

The narrator in the series Riverdale presents the town as originally “wholesome and decent.”. However, deeper investigation into Riverdale shows that Jason Blossom’s death tainted that purity, and that with it the town changed. However, even before Jason’s death, Riverdale and it’s residents were filled with secrets. This world is much different than the people that make up Riverdale in the original comics, Archie’s comics.  Archie Comics was established in 1939 by founders Maurice Coyne, John L Goldwater, and Louis Silberkleit.

The leading characters that appear in Archie’s comics are Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones, Veronica Lodge, Kevin Keller, Cheryl.

Archie's Comics, the Original Story of Riverdale

The series premiere of Riverdale starts with a dark beginning, the death of Cheryl Blossom’s twin, Jason Blossom. This grim twist presents dismal mood from the very beginning of the series. This tone is very different for Archie’s comics fans, who may be comfortably familiar with the happy, up-beat tempo of Archie Comics and the characters within Riverdale. 

With the tone completely altered, changes in the characters, and their personas and relationships with others also appear different from the comics. 

Archie’s passion for writing music presents him as a 3 dimensional character who has passion and drive in his life. Archie is not just the typical teenage boy who is stuck between two girls, as he is viewed in Archie Comics.

Jughead Jones, who is depicted as Archie’s best friend in the comics, is the narrator. His grave, serious tone alter from the eating machine and “everybody’s pal” persona that Jughead’s character takes on in the comics. He is smart, and analytical, although Jughead Jones possesses certain analytical characteristics/qualities in the comics. Jughead is only heard, but rarely seen in the first episode. He’s a loner, unlike his persona in Archie’s comics where his role is as Archie’s best friend. Instead, Archie’s best friend in the series is Betty. Towards the end of the episode, they reveal that Jughead and Archie used to be best friends, but aren’t anymore; and that communication, or Archie’s lack of communication, lends a hand the demise of Archie and Jughead’s friendship.

Veronica arrives new to the town of Riverdale in the first episode, where no one really knows her. This, again, presents a difference from the already established persona Veronica takes on as the popular, rich girl at Riverdale high school. 

Instead, depth is given to the character of Veronica in the Riverdale series. She is elegant and intelligent, even making a Truman Capote reference/joke to Archie when they first meet. Veronica breaks outside of the two dimensional character renders in Archie comics. In the comics, Veronica is simply a girl who loves to shopping and uses her wealth to get whatever she wants, including Archie.

Betty is intelligent, active and strong, similar to her portrayal in Archies comics. Many even deem her to be “perfect” in the series Riverdale. However, she has her weaknesses, namely her sister Polly and her lack of confidence in confronting others, namely Archie and Cheryl.

Betty and Archie aren’t together in the first episode; Archie’s attraction to Veronica is immediately and powerful, barely even noticing Betty in the same way. This dissolves the love triangle concept between Betty, Archie, and Veronica in the comics. It also shows that strong women like Betty and Veronica wouldn’t stand to be in a love triangle and fighting over Archie, or at least to the extend within the comics.

Archie, Veronica and Betty of Riverdale

Betty’s mother plays a major role in the Riverdale story, all the parents do in some way. The parents all have a stake and a role in Riverdale, before their children’s stories. Namely, the parents feature Alice Cooper, Betty’s mother, Hermoine Lodge, Veronica’s mother, and Fred Andrews, Archie’s father. Even Hermoine’s husband/Veronica’s father and his reputation plays a role in Riverdale. Fred and Hermoine even have a past as “friends.”

Alice Cooper, Betty’s mother, portrays the obsessive and controlling parent. She continues to hate Jason Blossom even after his death. Alice continuously accuses and blames Jason for destroying her daughter Polly’s future and her subsequential mental breakdown and placement into a group home. However, although Jason hurt Polly, Betty states that it was their mother who broke Polly by disowning her. Similarly, Alice puts an extreme amount of pressure on Betty as a sophomore, scrutinizing her choices in academics and after school activities. Betty has a prescription for Adderall for her ADHD, which her mother refills for her. Although the audeince may perceive this action as Alice’s overbearing and dominating actions over her daughter, there is something deeper at work. Showing Betty’s ADHD medication adds depth to her character, that she isn’t as perfect as other people expect of her.

Cheryl Blossom, who faces the tragic loss of her brother’s death, feeds off of chaos, fear and intimidating others. Cheryl’s character takes a darker twist on her simple need for attention within the comics. She not only craves attention, she craves destruction.

Additionally, the character Josie also presents depth through diversity, in relation to the comics. Josie is black, along with the other members of Josie and the Pussycats. These racial and cultural elements, which differs from the comics, adds dimension to the series.

However, Kevin’s role is lacking in the series, compared to the comic books. He plyas the role of Betty’s gay best friend in Riverdale; where as in the comic books, Kevin has his own likes, and dislikes and his own persona as a character that stands out in Archie’s comics. This general characterization overview is also seen in Moose’s character, as well as Reggie’s character. In fact, Reggie plays Archie’s friend in Riverdale; this characterization of Reggie is very much the opposite, as he serves as an arch enemy of sorts in the comics, with Reggie’s constant teasing and self obsession. 

The language and demeanor of these characters is very typical of modern day high school and their roles. They are classified as popular, gay best friend, jock, musician, geek/scholar. Yet, they all have complexities within their individual characteristics that make them people, not categories in a high school’s social system. 

Comic Book Image of CW's New Series Riverdale

Some of the biggest complexities presented in these characters are their confidence, character development, or their need to take action. 

Archie’s sexual relationship with his teacher, Geraldine Grundy very different from the tone of Riverdale in the comics. It begs the questions, is it his relationship with his music teacher that drives Archie to music? The relationship between Archie and Geraldine fell out. Yet, they are still and forever bound by the sound of the gunshots that they witnessed on Fourth of July weekend, when Jason Blossom was found dead. Archie wants to come clean about what they heard. However, Ms. Grundy doesn’t want to face the backlash of reporting the shooting and jeopardizing her life as a teacher by admitting to having had relations with a students. This complex, darkened plot is VERY different from the comics.

Veronica shows her loyalty and stands up for Betty, who isn’t confident when face by Cheryl. Betty’s lack of confidence is in opposition to her portrayal in the comics, as strong and confident women. But in the real world, everyone has their weaknesses. Veronica’s speech about reckoning and that wealth doesn’t last originates from her personal experience. Veronica’s father’s demise lead to Veronica’s own reckoning, and the subsequent realization that she was like Cheryl. It also led her to the path of becoming a better person. Veronica states that she wants to use Riverdale as an opportunity to become “a better version” of herself. Veronica’s character development allows her to stand up for herself, as well as others for what is right. This progression comes after realizing her faults and the wrongs she has done to others in her past. 

Veronica, again, stands up for Betty, using her confidence to give Betty what she is too scared to seek out; for example, becoming a cheerleader or asking Archie to the dance.

Betty, in turn, stands up for herself and stands up for Veronica as her friend. Betty tells her mother that she is always doing everything for everyone else. She’s trying to obtain this perfect persona(s) for those who set her to an impossible standard.  Now, it’s her turn to break away from her role of this “perfect” person in all aspects of her life. She finally takes the opportunity to act on what she wants.

This series presents complex qualities, such as: strength, confidence, maturity, growth and passion and desires that each characters have. These features add three dimensional characterizations to characters; rather than keeping them at bay with the one/two dimensional traits that the characters possessed as somewhat average teenagers in Archies comics. 

Jason’s body washes up on the shore, with a bullet hole mark left on his forehead.

“Riverdale wasn’t the same town as before, it was a town of shadows and secrets now,” Jughead states at the end.

The series Riverdale presents the question: is this version of a dark Riverdale the aftermath of what Archie’s comics used to be? Is this town of secrets the result of what can happen when people’s desires complicate and change the dynamic? Or has Riverdale always been tainted with private affairs that are tucked away behind closed doors, even from Fred Andrews, Hermoine Lodge, and Alice Cooper’s era in Riverdale. Does the cycle simply repeat itself?

Lauren Peterson