The CW just introduced a new series to its Network with characters from the Archie Digest Magazine universe. Fans of the Archie comics, like me, were first blessed with a Betty & Veronica collection from MAC in 2013, and now a tv show. However, the show takes a dramatic turn from the mundane, comedic stories shared in the paper Digests.
The similarities between “Riverdale” and the Archie comics begin and end with the characters. You’ll see Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), his neighbor and best friend Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), the fiery Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), and their beloved rival Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch). With the inclusion of Josie and the Pussycats (with Ashleigh Murray as Josie, Asha Bromfield as Melody, and Irie Hayleau as Val), and other side characters like Reggie (Ross Butler), Moose (Cody Kearsley), and the sardonic Jughead (Cole Sprouse), “Riverdale” acts more as a separate entity from the comics than a visual retelling. For instance, “Riverdale” further develops and builds from the character’s pre-existing comic personalities. Betty is still smart, reserved, and studious, as she was in the Digest, but you quickly realize this is the result of her manipulative mother, Alice Cooper (Madchen Amick), who never had a strong role in the comics. Veronica and Archie are shown in a similar manner, with strong influence from their parents that was never as prevalent in the comics.
While the character manipulation was necessary to show a darker Riverdale, I welcome the small consistencies creator Robert Aguirre-Sacasa kept with the Archie universe. Betty and Archie are still neighbors, Jughead still wears his signature grey “crown” beanie, and Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe still plays a vital role as the beloved town meeting place.
In every sense of its creation, “Riverdale” is the Archie comic’s darker twin. The pilot episode begins with the death of Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines) and the return of the Lodge women to Riverdale. The quality of the show reminds me of an early “Vampire Diaries,” where the plot and characters are over-sensationalized to help deliver the story. I’m not necessarily turned away from the show, because I think it still has a lot to offer, but I’m cautious of what to expect from the rest of the season.
If you’re a fan of other CW shows like “Vampire Diaries” and “Reign,” you will probably enjoy “Riverdale.” You can catch up on the first few episodes here, and be sure to tune in Thursdays at 9PM EST to watch the next installment live. If you need another reason to watch, check out the trailer below (or here).
Check out this video essay by Kristian Williams.