On the morning of July 4th, twins Cheryl and Jason Blossom shared a canoe ride across a lake. Moments later Cheryl emerges on the other side claiming her brother drowned when their canoe flipped. Later that night, his body is found with a bullet in his forehead. Enter Archie Andrews and company to unravel the mystery that has shocked their quaint town of Riverdale. Giving Riverdale the Twin Peaks makeover seemed like a fresh and promising twist on the classic comic characters as well as the teenage drama genre. However, for all it has going for it, Riverdale struggles to stay compelling by choosing exaggeration over entertainment. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)
That’s not to say there isn’t anything good in “Riverdale”. The characters are set up well: Archie as the conflicted son torn between his musical passion and pleasing his dad, Jughead as the brooding outsider who sees Riverdale for what it really is, Betty the unflinchingly devoted girl next door who’s the best friend/unrequited love interest of Archie, Veronica as the stylish former New York socialite who’s looking to shake the reputation of her corrupt and convicted Father, and Cheryl as school head diva and family punching bag. These roles seem cliche but the actors and actresses sell them with a sincerity that makes them easy root for.
However, the show fails these characters when it forces them to speak and act in ways that make no sense. At one point Cheryl Blossom stops Jughead’s birthday rager so everyone can play Secrets and Sins, a plot device game that creates unnecessary tension reveals everyone’s . . . well . . . secrets and sins. What’s even more ridiculous is that all the party goers are standing around in silent approval as this TOTALLY NORMAL THING happens.
Even worse are the interactions between the teenagers and adults. I don’t mind having flawed adult characters, but too often the show uses the teenage ones to condescendingly teach their parent counterparts all too obvious lessons. Listen, I’m all for the “from the mouth of babes” theme, but morals are more believable coming from people who didn’t just torture a classmate in a hot tub for slut shaming (in full femme fatale no less) several episodes back.
By the time the show reaches the final act and reveals who killed Jason the viewer is desperate for some kind of payoff that has made everything worthwhile. However, the twist that Jason was killed by his own father (of course he was) for finding out that the family’s maple syrup empire was a front for drug trafficking (of course it was) is so limp handed that it kills (no pun intended) any last little bit of investment the viewer has. So final events like Mr. Blossom “seemingly” committing suicide and Cheryl Blossom burning down the family mansion do little to revive any interest in where the show goes from there. Teenage soaps like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Gossip Girl” kept you watching with the mysterious presence of characters who pulled the strings from behind the current. With the lack of a strong antagonistic presence that can tie multiple seasons together, I fear “Riverdale” will burn out quicker than the Blossom mansion.
But hey the main characters are still really attractive, so ya I might still watch season 2. I mean, Luke Perry AND Skeet Ulrich are both in it so, uh, ya, that’s . . . um, awesome.