A belated love letter to ‘Riverdale’ Season 1
When it was announced that The CW Network was adapting the “Archie” comic series as a teen soap, my reaction echoed those of many: “Why?” When it was revealed the show was taking a stab at turning the classic slice of Americana into something dark and broody, and the positive reviews started to pour in, my second reaction was an abrupt change in course: “I must watch this.” After all, when the convergence point of a show’s Venn diagram is a mix of True Detective and The O.C. — the same hybrid that resulted in the perfection that was Veronica Mars — how can you say no?
I stocked up on snacks and embarked on watching all 13 episodes of the first season in a row, one giant binge session that clocked in a little over nine hours.
Below are just a few of the things learned over the course of the marathon, with only the mildest of spoilers for those still considering whether or not to make the plunge.
As Veronica, Camila Mendes is just channeling Leighton Meester — and that’s 100 percent okay.
The casting on Riverdale is surprisingly strong; even though it’s got a large ensemble, there are no duds among the principal group. K.J. Apa is given a thankless task as Archie, the soulful-yet-dumb jock who just wants to, like, focus on his music, man. He manages to fly off in the handle in the sake of righteousness in scenarios as diverse as visiting a biker bar and attending a gathering of maple syrup executives. Lili Reinhart plays Betty well as a good girl reaching her breaking point, while Mendes makes the wise decision to play Veronica — the New Girl In Town that serves as an extremely fashionable viewer surrogate — as a slightly nicer version of Gossip Girl‘s Blair Waldorf.
It’s nice to know networks still cast grown-ass adults as teens.
This may be an “edgy” take on Archie comics, but Riverdale hews closely to several traditional teen TV tropes. All of the characters come pre-loaded with advanced knowledge of 1970s cinema and every piece of mid-century American literature. All of the actors are far too old to realistically be playing high school sophomores. And of course, yes, there is an affair between a student and a teacher — although it ends quite abruptly, perhaps due to the internet’s less-than-favorable response.
Riverdale also follows in the grand TV tradition of one-restaurant towns. Despite being large enough to support at least two schools, a large biker gang, an apartment complex with a very fancy penthouse, a bus station, and a nightclub that serves alcohol to teens, the town of Riverdale features exactly one restaurant that anyone visits. Serving the same purpose as the Peach Pit and the Applebees in Dillon, Texas, Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe is the nexus for the entire cast. It serves as the 24-hour go-to spot for dates, family dinners, father-son breakfasts, takeout orders and teen brooding.
Like their CW ancestors on Buffy, these kids love a pop culture reference.
As they attempt to solve the season-long murder, our heroes compare themselves to Agatha Christie, Nancy Drew and the Scooby Gang, and drop the term “pesky kids.” Betty and Veronica discuss the Bechdel Test and a kiss between the two in the first episode is immediately dismissed as something that hasn’t been sensational in decades. (Clearly they forgot how big a deal it was when Mischa Barton smooched Olivia Wilde relationship on The O.C. in 2005, but I digress.)
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