“RIVERDALE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON”— A Subversive Take on Archie and his Friends

Riverdale: The Complete First Season

A Subversive Take on Archie and his Friends

Amos Lassen

After the death of one of the rich and popular Blossom twins on the 4th of July, the small town of Riverdale investigates the murder. The series begins in September with the beginning of a new school year that brings new students, relationships and reveals the mysteries of the past summer. “Riverdale,” is a new high school noir; a dark, weird reimagining of the Archie Comics franchise.

It throws out the comics’ old clichés for a new pastiche that is built on the suspicion that any town can have decay, corruption and secrets. The big secret surrounds the murder of Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines), who disappeared while on an outing in the woods with his mean-girl twin sister Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch). Archie (K. J. Apa), an aspiring musician with a great body, witnessed a key bit of evidence but can’t talk because at the time, of he was hooking up with his music teacher, Ms. Grundy (Sarah Habel).

The regular “Archie” characters are here but with differences. Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), the spellbinding rich girl, is a transplant to Riverdale from Manhattan and her father is in jail for fraud. Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), has an older sister who had a breakdown after an entanglement with Jason.

Kevin Keller (Casey Cott), a gay student, was introduced in the recent comics. The mayor, the principal and the girl group Josie and the Pussycats are all African-American. When Archie asks Josie (Ashleigh Murray) if he might write songs for her group, she scolds him for his white privilege, and he soberly concedes her point. The malt shop is still in business, but the drive-in is closing down. The town is beset with bullying, sexual harassment and abuse. Jughead (Cole Sprouse), the wry, burger-munching sidekick of the comics, is now an emo and the narrator of the series.

The old world of Archie was saccharine sweet while this time that world has so much sugar that it seems quite sick. Jughead, in his opening narration, tells us that Riverdale is a small town and the people who live there seem to be, at first “safe, decent, innocent. However, he lets us know, that as we get closer to knowing the residents, we start to so see their undersides. We first meet Betty while she is in her underwear, putting up a pony tail. In the window across the way, Archie is shirtless, and ripped, having worked construction for his father (Luke Perry). Betty wonders whether she should tell Archie she likes him, while her mother (Mädchen Amick) is concerned that she maintains “a decent character” and keep clear of bad influences. Then we meet Veronica (Camila Mendes), who with her mother, Riverdale native Hermoine (Marisol Nichols), have moved to town when Veronica’s father went to jail for fraud.

Betty and Veronica are at the dynamic core of the series— they are the light and the dark, yin and yang, the girl next door and the girl on the hill. They are the active forces here, while Archie frets and waits. The three are probably the world’s longest-lasting love triangle, but what matters is how Betty and Veronica get along and get on with their lives.

Other characters include Reggie Mantle (Ross Butler), Archie’s traditional rival, jock Moose Mason (Cody Kearsley) is bi-curious; and egghead Dilton Doiley (Major Curda) is “a hard-core survivalist.” Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) and her musical crew “The Pussycats” are African-American divas and Josie’s mother (Robin Givens) is the mayor.

Our gay subplot concerns Kevin, a gay teen who enjoys clandestine sex sessions with closeted football star Moose (Cody Kearsley). until new bad boy Joaquin (Rob Raco) comes to town and catches his eye.

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