‘Riverdale’ review: A new take on an old classic

Is this yet another teen drama?

1:30 pm EST, January 24, 2017

It’s the Age of Revivals folks! It’s time to not only accept it, but also embrace it. Because among the bad are the surprisingly good. And The CW’s Riverdale could be looking to be a top contender.

The show opens with, “Our story is about a town. A small town. And the people who live in the town.” Anyone who has watched TV these days knows these small towns mean one thing and one thing only: Murder.

The teen drama is based off of the classic comic Archie from 1941. The bright eyed, redheaded, lovable, small town boy perpetually torn between girl-next-door Betty, and rich and sophisticated Veronica. Now, before you go and complain how 2017 is ruining classic stories by adding unnecessary murder plots, hear me out.

Some revivals need to be updated. A murder plot is to grab our attention, but the updated inclusiveness to the world of Archie is what keeps us in Riverdale, so to speak. The town is a bit eerie, there was a murder after all!

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is showrunner as well as Chief Creative Officer Of Archie Comics, and for the past decade has been expanding the comic to include darker themes, a featured gay character, Kevin, who by the way is in the show and is a fantastic addition, as well as biracial couples. Remember, this comic started in the ’40s so it had a lot of catching up to do. But it wasn’t easy, Aguirre-Sacasa was ordered a cease-and-desist for a play he wrote that had Archie coming out of the closet. But clearly his updates worked because here we are watching it in 2017.

Here’s the story: We are introduced to Riverdale at the summer’s end when everyone is back at school and suspicions run high about what happened to a teenager called Jason. Redheaded, pale-faced twins Jason and Cheryl get into a rowboat wearing matching white, Cheryl in gloves. Both go out but only one comes back — it’s a little creepy, but mesmerizing. This sequence is stylized in such a way that it makes you wonder what else it has in store.

But, as I said before, the murder is not what keeps us there. The character development in the first four episodes is on par. The Betty (Lili Reinhart) and (Camila Mendes) Veronica friendship is surprisingly very believable. Betty is the good girl trying to break away from her overbearing mother, while Veronica is the new rich girl from the city who is trying to redefine herself. Very easily it can be argued that these two drive this show, because unfortunately Archie (K.J. Apa) comes across pretty flat.

Archie seems to flutter around in the first four episodes while Betty and Veronica go off on interesting and developing storylines. He’s on the football team but his heart lies with music. He’s a bit of an innocent and immature high school guy that makes you feel bad for him when he continues to chase after a way-to-old for him teacher, whom over the summer he had an affair with. This storyline right here is by far the biggest mistake the show has made. Student/teacher affairs are overdone and reminds us that this is yet another teen high school drama on The CW.

But Jughead (Cole Sprouse), Archie’s friend in the comics, is good in the show. He’s a bit different from his comic ancestor, a little emo and a budding crime story writer, and like Betty and Veronica, has interesting storylines that grow each episode and makes you want to know more. Kevin, the ‘obligatory gay friend’ has a developing storyline all to himself and has potential of being more than just ‘the obligatory gay friend’. This is certainly an ensemble type of show, and so far it works, especially when coinciding with a murder mystery.

It’s a revival that’s an example that not all stories brought back to life need to be shells of their predecessors. Although a classic Archie show may have been fine, it wouldn’t be a show that pushes and grows. Is this just another teen drama? Probably. But it has potential of being more.

‘Riverdale’ premieres Thursday Jan. 26 on The CW

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