'Riverdale' S1E1: The River's Edge

★ ★ ★ ★

When The CW promised the creation of an Archie Comics series that mixed Twin Peaks with a gritty teen drama, the idea was met with skepticism and excitement. Riverdale is far more than just that. Riverdale is the first "regular" teen series to be introduced to The CW in years. Without any supernatural or science-fiction elements putting a spin on this show, Riverdale is The CW's first entry into a contemporary teen work.

The most interesting twist on the series isn't the mysteries and secrets, but its depiction of Archie. Comic book Archie is far more of a goofball than how Riverdale depicts him. Here, he's a hot item that everyone wants a piece of. Hopefully almost comical number of people attracted to Archie in "The River's Edge" is more of a setup and less of a week-by-week fact of life. That average Joe part of Archie's life is restricted by his newfound good looks, but besides that, his characterization in this series makes him a far more realistic character than you'd expect him to be. Archie struggles to live up to everyone's expectations as he searches for what makes him happy. As his father says, every choice Archie makes in this series has consequences. His secret is by far the least compelling of the group, but that's what makes it such a great first reveal. Rather than "build up" to something anticlimactic, Riverdale gets the affair right out of the way so that they can focus on more interesting things to come.

Riverdale succeeds in turning archetypal characters into something more. Characters here aren't just the mean girl or the girl next door or the gay best friend. Their main trait is simply a base to build off of. While Veronica and Cheryl Blossom are, so far, the most closely adapted characters, Betty is a far cry from her tomboyish self in the comics. In Riverdale, Betty's far more Betty Draper than she wants to be, but it's that inner anger that's seen on the show that adds dimension to the character. It'll be interesting to watch Betty evolve from this point on, as she's the biggest surprise of the series.

Riverdale: S1E1

It took only one episode for Betty and Veronica's relationship to sour, but it's not like that was unforeseen since the comics thrive off of that rivalry between the two of them. It was fun to watch them work together (as they most likely will in the future) even if the tactics came across as a little absurd at times. Cheryl and Veronica's hatred for each other is the weirdest thing in the show so far besides a lot of the Twin Peaks-esque dialogue, as much of it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense and is more there to serve whatever drama the plot needed in this episode.

The supporting characters are so far the most two-dimensional of the series, though it's not like Riverdale isn't one to make a meta joke about that fault. Even with Kevin and Moose's scene at the end of the episode, Kevin is quick to point out how much of a cliche closet case Moose is. Kevin's inclusion into the series is refreshing given the fact that he isn't totally there for comedic value (unlike the vampire in The Originals who's friends with Davina). He almost serves the same role as Jughead would if Jughead weren't so… emo in this version. Though it'd be in Riverdale's best interest to add more dimension to the character since they're so eager to include him among the main group.

The same goes for Josie and the Pussycats, who are absolutely nothing like the characters you might have grown up watching on Boomerang. They're a cute group of minor characters to be keeping around, but their importance besides a cameo is something that will be fun to look forward to. (My guess is that Josie will end up dating Archie.) That in mind, it'll be interesting to see what other blast-from-the-past characters will be making cameos on the series. (I'm just a little miffed to presume that Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space is sooo out of the question.)

There's a whole lot of drama happening among all of the parents. It's very Secret Circle of Riverdale to do, so get ready for a lot of lengthy flashbacks and explanations detailing just why these parents hate each other so much. The parents are probably the grittiest adaptation of the comics. They're all so disappointed with their lives and hope that their children will be making better decisions than they did. They have their children's best interests at heart, but, man, do they go about it the wrong way. It's clear that Jason's death will have so much more to do with what the parents did in the past than what Archie and his friends are doing in the present. In that sense, Riverdale is going to be a whole lot more Veronica Mars than Twin Peaks, which will definitely work in its favor.

Riverdale is an exciting adventure into The CW's first return to realistic teen drama. Its Bates Motel kitschy vibe meeting with a Veronica Mars-esque mystery and a Pretty Little Liars level of secret-keeping will make Riverdale a twist-and-turn series to look forward to.



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Jan 30, 2017 8:01PM EST

Sex between a sophomore student and a high school teacher isn't an "affair", it's statutory rape.

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Feb 6, 2017 3:58PM EST

I'm just glad they're not trying to romanticize it like Pretty Little Liars does.

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Feb 7, 2017 6:26PM EST

@daviswalden - Thank you for this great and revealing review about the characters and the episode. I haven't read the comics, so Archie and co are all brand new to me. I didn't even know the show was based on a comic book! Watching the premiere without knowing all of this, well after this article it now all makes much more sense to me. That said, I really enjoyed the premiere and look forward to watching each week but it's great to read about the background to it all and your observations about the episode have me understanding what happened a great deal more.

Yep, as soon as I saw that anger in Betty I thought, "Ah, so this is how a young Betty Draper looked and behaved!" :D

Interesting about the parents, I think I need to rewatch as I've obviously missed so much, I'd like to focus more on them in a second watch.

I certainly did enjoy the Twin Peaks moments of the twins and the river/lake, Veronica walking into that diner like little Miss Red Riding Hood only in black, in pearls and possibly Chanel, plus her mother and that new bag she has...but as you said this is so much more than a teen Twin Peaks, probably why I like it so much as it's never quite what what I think it is going to be.

The idea of a Twin Peaks-like show pulled me in but it's the contemporary feel (Bernie Madoff-like dad) characters, actors and whatever storyline the writers have in mind that will keep me watching.

Great review, many thanks. : ) Go Josie and the Pussycats! I want more of them in each episode!

: )

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Feb 8, 2017 8:52AM EST

@daviswalden I loved your review so much. This part got the me most "Riverdale is the first "regular" teen series to be introduced to The CW in years". I have always had a problem with CW's cast choices for their teen series (Handsomely beautiful, Fit/Slim, in essence perfect specimens of teenagers/adults often with very little emotional spectrum to work with) hence why I was very skeptical that I could buy into the series.

I am so glad to say I was wrong, every episode so far has been really invoking, making me rerun events in my head and thinking deeply about the dimensions to the characters. Long story short, I am hooked and can't wait to see how it plays out.

great review!

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