Lately I’ve been enamored with the CW show Riverdale, which chronicles the stories of the classic characters from Archie Comics. I grew up reading Archie Comics (mainly due to my sister’s influence), and all of the characters still give me this feeling of nostalgic comfort. Jughead was probably my favorite character within the comics because of his humorous personality and how different he was from the rest of the gang. I also really just liked his hat. But where the Riverdale within the comics tends to be this light-hearted community, Riverdale is a darker rebirth of the town.
Riverdale is one of drama and vice. It opens with the death of one of it’s beloved citizens, and the series continues to unfold the mystery that surrounds it. It is a classic expression of a teen drama, having tangled romantic relationships, gossip, confrontations, lies, etc. I typically don’t tend to watch dramas aimed at a younger audience mainly because they’re aimed at a younger audience. I can no longer relate to the growing pains of youth nor the day-to-day rhythmic life of secondary education. Teenage drama plots always appear thin and the character development is often substituted for more situational entanglement and melodrama. Frankly, once you have seen one teen drama, you’ve essentially seen them all. But why is Riverdale different? What makes it stand apart? It may be a teen drama, but it’s pretty well done.
I’m no professional critic, but for me the writers and producers seemed to have spent a considerable amount of time on creating good, intricate plots that leave the audience wanting more. The characters, compared to their comic book selves, have been reborn with darker and deeper layers. This of course, is comparing these modern adaptations with my fond and vague memories. Archie is more than a football star and a stud, but he is also struggling with his identity and purpose in life. Betty is forced to question the authority and the motives behind her parents’ actions in regards to her older sister. Here in the series, the teenage characters seem to be the morally upright individuals, contrasted with the subtle and blatant corruption they witness amongst their parents and elders. The actors bring the script to life, and when I watch an episode I empathize with the characters’ struggles. Each dramatic twist and revelation pulls on me emotionally, even if it’s to a small degree. They become more than just a pretty face and body speaking lines. The characters are almost tangible, and it is as if I know them.
Another strength of the series is its multifaceted storytelling. Much like this past summer’s hit Stranger Things, Riverdale jumps between different story arcs and gives equal weight to each. Here the story doesn’t revolve completely around Archie, but rather solving the mysterious death in their community and bringing to light the misdeeds of their parents and leaders. Each arc gives an important part of the puzzle and no character is really indispensable or secondary to the overall plot. When done right, this form of storytelling is so engaging and satisfying to watch. I may feel more invested in one arc than another (such as Betty and Jughead’s arc) but I am still invested in all of them nevertheless.
Overall, Riverdale has been an enjoyable experience. I may have an idea of how the series will resolve, but my love for the show has not been diminished by this. I take joy not merely in the overarching plot but more in the subtle twists and turns the story takes in getting there. Much like Jughead, who is the outsider of the community and serves as the show’s detached narrator, I feel compelled to watch how this series unravels. Perhaps the town will continue to decay and corruption will give rise, or perhaps out of this tragedy will come a stronger, more resolved community. Only time will tell.