Riverdale, a new teen drama on The CW network, launched on Netflix Canada in January. The show is a loose adaptation of the Archie Comics and in a short time has managed to incite divisive reactions in its audience. Here, two writers debate whether the show is worthy of your time or if it should be relegated to the bottom of your queue.
A small town. A dark secret. Lovable childhood favourites turned dramatic teen heroes. These time tested tropes must make for great TV, right? One would think so.
One would be wrong.
Riverdale burst onto our screens with much aplomb, boasting of its predecessors in the beloved Archie Comics and proudly flaunting the badge of ‘Netflix Original.’ The show’s main promotional image displayed at the top of our Netflix feeds featured the age-old love triangle of Archie, Betty, and Veronica in the foreground, staring the viewer down, while fan favourite Jughead stood defiantly in the background.
It’s an image as dramatic as it is sexy, and it is all wrong.
Many fans took to the Internet to voice their complaints, saying that the series’ attempt to strike a more mature tone directly contradicted the playful and innocent feel of the original comics. This is an understandable complaint, considering the immense backlash that’s been faced by other recent cinematic ventures that overemphasized a dark, serious, and mature vibe not present in their original properties — I’m looking at you, Batman v. Superman.
A common response to this from supporters of the show was that Riverdale simply took inspiration from the comics, utilizing the universe while not directly adapting its characters and storylines.
This might have been a fair defence, if not for the fact that Riverdale simply went too far by turning a number of characters on their heads. Ms. Grundy, the elderly, discreetly feminist teacher of the comics, is now not only significantly younger but young enough to have had a summer fling with Archie — her student. Chuck, a truly decent guy in the comics, has become a misogynistic, bullying jock.
While Betty and Veronica are symbols of female empowerment and unity that I am absolutely living for, they’ve all but forgotten their iconic rivalry. Any animosity between the two is over and forgotten by the opening of the third episode.
While it’s nice to see the two teaming up as besties, the tension between them made for great reading in the comics, which were dramatic in their own way. And also, when did Mrs. Cooper become Betty’s own personal totalitarian dictator? I must have missed that arc.
Mildly cringeworthy dialogue, over-the-top storylines, and everybody being ridiculously attractive detract from this already shambolic show. There is only some good in Riverdale: while the murder mystery plot is a far cry from the comics’ wholesome humour, it does keep it interesting, at times. Yet, with a near total disregard of its source material, Riverdale stands as a Netflix Original unworthy of the classic midterm season binge.
— Sarim Irfan
Riverdale has quickly managed to ensnare many of us in its bingewatching net. A splendid combination of dark thriller and soapy teen drama, the show centres on the small picturesque town of Riverdale.
Once idyllic, the town is now haunted by the ongoing investigation of the murder of high school football star, Jason Blossom.
Everyone is guilty until proven innocent — the police investigate each family, and the students investigate each other. The mounting tension in this small town is tied up not only in the homicide investigation but also in important, divisive issues, such as racism, feminism, homophobia, and homelessness.
So far, the young and mostly unknown cast — besides Cole Sprouse from the beloved show The Suite Life of Zack and Cody — has proven to be well prepared to explore these issues.
Riverdale’s cast contains many strongly written female characters that know how to stand up for themselves and their values. Though the series may be based on Archie Comics, here it’s Betty and Veronica leading the show.
Accompanied by supportive friends like Archie, Jughead, and Kevin, Betty and Veronica do their best to topple the patriarchy. This does not occur without hurdles — in the third episode, Veronica goes on a date with Chuck, a football player and womanizer. The next day, she finds herself the victim of a slut shaming cyberbullying campaign.
Veronica confronts Chuck in the football team’s locker room but doesn’t get the apologetic response she wants. She also discovers that the football players keep a list of their conquests, leading her to attempt to exact revenge on them with the help of her accomplice, Betty. This episode showcases female empowerment, as the girls of the high school confront the issue of slut shaming together.
The show also offers up other complex female characters through the portrayal of the local band Josie and the Pussycats.
When Archie seeks their help with songwriting, the three black feminist band members make his privileged position clear to him. While the girls struggle to be listened to and taken seriously, Archie, as a white male, does not face the same struggles.
While these two plotlines may be seen as oversimplifying the complexity of these issues, the show should be credited with making these societal issues approachable.
Riverdale makes use of dark and creative visuals that meld smoothly with the plot. Its gloomy blue tones and the large amount of action taking place at night contribute to the small town’s overall spookiness.
Pop’s Diner, a meeting place for the teens, contrasts this with a bright neon landscape. These stimulating aesthetics lend the show an artistic character that I adore and that figures heavily into my bingewatching addiction.
I caught up on Riverdale during reading week and fell in love with it in the first two minutes. The show’s opening moments are enthralling, easily capturing the duality of Riverdale: cutesy high school plotlines combined with a dark thriller. Ultimately, I love the show for its modern approach to high school and teenage problems, its addictive storylines, and Jughead.
— Charlene Hanania