TV Recap: Riverdale - Chapter One: "The River's Edge"
Archie Andrews and the inhabitants of Riverdale have had a place on comic book stands for over 75 years. In the last decade or so, Archie Comics have done some serious re-branding, incorporating mature themes and putting the characters in a variety of spin-offs. From Afterlife with Archie (zombie apocalypse) to Archie VS Predator (Yes, that Predator), they've done a great job at branching out and hitting home run after home run with new spins on the characters. Riverdale, which premiered tonight on The CW, is no different.
Picture Twin Peaks by way of Dawson's Creek, sprinkle in the pop culture knowhow of Gilmore Girls and you'd have a pretty good idea of Riverdale. Oh and The CW, this may look like every other CW show at first glance, but it's certainly the network at its best. All that aside, these are the same characters who have been through everything a teen can go through since their creation in 1941, just with a twist. These are truly modern incarnations of the Riverdale kids, and more mature for that matter.
The cast here is top-notch and really sells the often obvious melodrama at hand. K.J. Apa stars as Archie Andrews, the classic boy next door. He's a sensitive songwriter, Varsity football player, and local heartthrob. Vying for his attention are newly made best friends Betty and Veronica, played by Lili Reinhart and Camila Mendes respectfully. Betty, Archie's lifelong best friend and potential love interest welcomes Veronica to town and that's where things get interesting. Reshaping Veronica Lodge and her mother as daughter and wife of a Bernie Madoff type character is a really smart choice. As Veronica says in the first episode, "I'm already the Blue Jasmine of Riverdale." It seems as though the writers could have a field day with this type of subplot and it's one of the more intriguing aspects early on.
Rounding out the cast of characters in the first episode are Betty's GBF Kevin Keller (played by Casey Cott), a fountain of snark and pop culture references, and Queen Bitch Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), who is clearly the villain early on here. Blossom is also the impetus for all the drama at Riverdale High, as over the summer, on The Fourth of July to be exact, her brother went missing and was presumed dead. Good luck feeling sympathy for her however, as she is the definition of a high school Mean Girl.
What starts out as a basic high school drama really starts to get into Twin Peaks territory with the revelation of a dark secret and the discovery of the corpse of Cheryl's brother. On the night of the first dance of the school year, Kevin tries to hook up with Moose, a football playing jock, down by the lake. It's here that they discover that Cheryl's brother, Jason, certainly did not die in a boating accident and was in fact murdered. This all leads into setup for the next episode and introduces Archie's former best friend Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), a relative outsider on the high school scene and if this first episode is to be believed, the show's narrator.
All in all this was a terrific first episode to kick off the series. There's teen drama, romance, murder, and gossip, key ingredients for any show worth your time. The performances and cinematography are on point, adding the the allure of Riverdale. Have we seen all of this before? Of course we have, but with these characters being given a dark edge, it's certainly a hook that will keep me coming back week to week. The CW just might have their next Gossip Girl on their hands with Riverdale, something that the network has been in need of for years. It's a well produced show with what looks to be a great mystery at its core, here's hoping it can keep the momentum up for the rest of the season.