Chapter 1 – “The Rivers Edge”
If you grew up with the Archie comics you might have been a tad excited at the idea of Riverdale. But there’s no point dancing around the fact, it has very little connection to the comic series that has been around since the 1940s. What you do get is a handful of characters with the same name and some of the central themes. But it’s nice to see a modern adaptation or if you want to go as far as to say an update to the classic.
As you watch it you’re reminded of some TV shows you’ve grown up with or at least you can see similarities with a lot of other series. There is a combination of the 1990s series Twin Peaks story line with a splash of Veronica Mars, a fusion of Gossip Girl and Dawson’s Creek high school drama and for good measure throw in a bit of Pretty Little Liars and a forbidden love story. They are the most comparable similarities, but visually you also get the taste of the Twilight movie series with this small town surrounded by forest that seems rather dark with constant rain.
The chapter opens with the narration of Jughead Jones as her writes his novel. We later find out that this is Archies old friend, but at some point and we don’t know why just yet, they had a falling out. Jughead is telling the story of the Blossom twins, the popular fiery redheaded twins, Cheryl Blossom high school ice-queen and leader of the cheerleading team, River Vixens. And we briefly meet Cheryl’s brother, Jason before he is tragically killed or murdered. This is what the story of Riverdale revolves around, the “who did it” of Jason Blossom.
We go onto meet Archie Andrews whose physique changed a little after a summer of working with his father pouring concrete. “Archie got hot! He’s got abs now. Six more reasons for you to take that ginger bull by the horns tonight”, says Kevin Keller. Keller is the openly gay character and BFF to Betty Cooper. Betty is Archie’s best friend since they were 4 and lived next door to each other. Betty has been in love with Archie and decided this school year to tell him how she feels. But what Betty doesn’t know is Archie had an affair with his music teacher, Ms Grundy over the summer. Together on the morning of July 4, while on a picnic heard a gun shot right where poor ol’ Jason Blossom went missing, only to surface by the end of the chapter in the river with a gunshot to the head.
But as if that’s not enough drama for one chapter, while Betty and Archie are catching up after a summer apart, in walks a dark and mysterious girl by the name of Veronica Lodge. Veronica right away catches Archie’s eye while befriending Betty and putting a little wedge between the already complicated love story between the two. And so the love triangle begins, though technically it’s a square because of Archie’s relationship with Ms Grundy.
So key characters are met, let’s recap where each one is. Archie, the now buff and good-looking redhead played by K.J. Apa (Shortland St, The Cul De Sac, A Dog’s Purpose). He is torn between playing football which will get him into College, writing and playing music and running his fathers business. He is in a weird love square with Betty, his best friend since the age of 4, new girl Veronica and Ms Grundy. And there is a story with once best friend Archie and Jughead we are still yet to find out about.
Betty played by Lili Reinhart (The Good Neighbor, Surviving Jack, Miss Stevens), is the down to earth girl with the perfect ponytail and the great ambitions for her future. She is madly in love with Archie and even though he tells her he’s not interested, she still holds a flame. Betty’s sister dated Jason Blossom before she went a little crazy and ended up in private care. Her mother is overpowering and trying to stop her from seeing Archie and anything to do with the Blossom family. Her relationship with Veronica was off to a great start until Archie and Veronica kissed. But prior to that Veronica helped Betty get into the River Vixens cheer leading squad.
Veronica played by Camila Mendes, is the rich girl that just moved to town from New York. Her very rich and powerful father was caught up in a sort of scandal, which everyone knows about. But there’s still more to come out of that story. She has all the fire and sass of Cheryl Blossom, but is doing her absolute best not to be the rich privileged girl she once was.
Cheryl Blossom, played by Madelaine Petsch, is the queen bee of the high school and milking her brothers death for all its worth. Her fiery red hair matches her personality and she has it in for Betty. When Betty tries out for the cheerleading team, she grills her about the relationship between her dead Brother Jason and Betty’s sister. But you can already see under the ice queen front there are already cracks waiting to burst open.
While it’s a new series to Netflix, you have to wait week by week for the next fix of redheads. Seriously, how many redheads can there be in one small town? This is one of those series where you can switch off and still be able to follow the story line. You’ll connect with at least one or two of the characters and just enjoy the drama that you only get from these types of shows out of America. Is it worth watching? Well if you don’t you won’t know who killed Jason…
Review by Jason Cook
Riverdale is screening weekly episodes every Friday on Netflix Australia