Of late, I’ve been very into murder mystery TV series. I just finished binge watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Murdoch Mysteries on Netflix, so I didn’t imagine that I had room for another anachronistic mystery series in my life. Growing up, I had a passing knowledge of Archie comics, but they weren’t really my thing. I hadn’t felt an overwhelming need to check it out until I saw the early positive reviews for the show and I decided to give it a shot. These are my thoughts after seeing Riverdale:
If TV Tropes was a show, this would be it.
From the start, the show makes tongue-in-cheek references to TV teen drama tropes as characters make jokes about how everyone had magically transformed into hot teenagers over the summer, unrequited teenage love is explored via spin the bottle, and that girls kissing was last controversial in 1994. Riverdale clearly knows it’s in charted territory and is willing to embrace it, which is kind of refreshing.
The first scenes are a throwback to that of Twin Peaks, opening with the mysterious death of a prominent citizen’s teenage son in a small town full of dark secrets. The mystery is reminiscent of Lois Duncan novels, where the teenagers know more than they’re willing to let the adults know, and the shenanigans are about to commence.
The major players are laid out plainly from the start – Archie is the tortured jock/musician, Betty is the classic girl next door and her gay best friend is Kevin, with Veronica as the new girl in town causing a stir. While none were close to the deceased, his death is a stand in for the end of their lives as they were. Betty takes a risk to tell Archie that she’s in love with him, but he’s too caught up on the arrival of Veronica and trying to figure out his life choices to return the sentiment, splitting the lifelong friends apart. At the end of the episode, it’s revealed that the lurking background character Jughead was once Archie’s best friend as well, but for some reason they’re no longer close. Usually, it takes at least a dozen episodes for a teen drama to play out to this point of big reveals. The pilot manages to have the whole tangled mess unfold in less than 45 minutes. This sort of plot pacing works for a feature film, but the show will likely spend its entire first season trying to overcompensate for it.
Overall, the series is off to a fairly strong start. The actors have good chemistry and there’s enough room to build in plot twists that could undermine the seemingly straightforward whodunit aspect of the murder. It’s enough to make me tune in for next week’s edition anyway.
Photo credit: IMDb