The CW has been pushing Riverdale‘s premiere really hard the past couple of weeks, or maybe it just seemed that way because targeted advertising has my number like never before.
Riverdale is a fresh update on the characters from the Archie Comic universe. If you’re not familiar with the comics (and I wasn’t), here’s the Wikipedia page. Even if you don’t know the characters by name, you’ll probably recognize them vaguely from old newspapers. Either way, it doesn’t really matter whether you have a history with them or not. Audiences can still appreciate the story.
The pilot follows three main characters, Archie, the redheaded hero who’s hot for his music teacher, Betty, the perfect nice-girl who has a crush on Archie, and Veronica, the rich, cool new girl who also has a crush on Archie.
Turns out small town Riverdale holds at least a few secrets, one of which is the circumstances surrounding the murder of Jasper Blossom. Jasper went boating on the river with his twin sister, and only she was found alive. At the end of the episode, the characters find Jasper’s body in the river with a bullet hole in his head.
The show’s been marketing itself as a Gossip Girl meets Vampire Diaries, so I don’t know if that means there will be a supernatural element introduced, but since Sabrina Spellman is an Archie comic character, I’d love it if there was some reference to her.
That being said, I’d be more than happy if this story veered away from the supernatural, because it’s working very well as a teen drama in the Gossip Girl vein.
I think what I like the most about Riverdale, besides the killer soundtrack and incorporating the catchy musical talents of Josie and the Pussycats (A+ on the music production team), is the retro 50s vibe.
The show’s visuals feel dark and mysterious, but pair well with the light wardrobe and the vocabulary of the 1950’s. Some of the names (e.g. Geraldine, Betty) feel dated, but that adds to the show’s quirky atmosphere. It creates an homage to 50s characters in the modern day. Costume design is impeccable – the actors are all clothed in vintage looking, yet modernly-hipster getups.
The dialogue doesn’t feel heavy, unnatural, or self-conscious, like it has come to feel in other CW shows (lookin’ at you, TVD), and I never felt like I was taken out of a moment because the quality of the acting was poor. In fact, Veronica’s character was particularly magnetic and well-acted, and Betty’s role as the nice girl ingénue was played perfectly sympathetic. Mean girl, Holland-Roden-lookalike-Blossom twin was also perfectly spiteful. The characters made you feel exactly how they were intended without being overwrought. I’ll bet there are more than a few breakout stars on the cast – especially the actress playing Veronica.
Riverdale is an impressive debut that doesn’t hit a single sour note. I only hope the writers can keep consistently delivering this gem of a show.