I am not a fan of comic books, although I do enjoy the stories when told in other media (films, tv shows) because they are generally more entertaining and less predictable than other genres. The whole concept of “retconning,” which I have come to like when used in moderation, stems from comic books. (That is when a new storyline is written that rewrites the established “canon” or backstory of a character or series to be able to add a new dimension, spin, or detail to it.)
But I will confess something to you. My earliest memory of reading for my enjoyment, not as part of a class assignment, is reading Archie Comics in the first grade. To this day, I have a pretty good idea in my head of the main characters, including Betty, Veronica, and Jughead. (I only discovered years later than other characters I knew, like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Josie and Pussycats, have made appearances in the comics.) I didn’t keep up with the comics as I got older, so I missed a lot of the odder storylines (like Archie facing a zombie apocalypse and other such nonsense). However, when I heard The CW had green-lit an hour-long drama based on a darker retelling of the Archie Comics, I have to admit I was excited.
The pilot episode of “Riverdale” did not disappoint. An opinion I apparently share with the New York Times.
The biggest flaw is the cast – and it’s not their fault, as I think they all did a good job and established their characters in a real, relatable, memorable way. The problem may be that they are supposed to be high school sophomores and yet look and act for the most part like college students. But given the darker story (a murder mystery, sex secrets, etc.), I guess casting a bunch of actual teenagers would not have gone over well.
The second biggest problem was a small third-act betrayal that made little sense except as a way to force a truth out of Archie that was made very plain to the viewer but not to the person he hurt. But I wouldn’t spoil it for you.
The Archie/Betty/Veronica dynamic was well-done, and giving us a mostly sympathetic take on the sophisticated Veronica (the new girl in town after her father was exposed as a fraud, in a backstory similar to Caroline Channing on 2 Broke Girls) was a nice choice. Jughead being a peripheral character as the Narrator was a slightly odd choice for fans of the comics, but it gave room for Kevin Keller (Betty’s gay best friend) to have more screen time, including Kevin being the one in the final moments of the episode to find the dead body.
Some other plot points probably weren’t necessary for the first episode, including a backstory between the dead teenager and Betty’s sister and a closet case for Kevin to chase, but they didn’t feel overly forced, either.
My favorite moment of the episode? Veronica telling off the head cheerleader, Cheryl Blossom. Blossom is the creepily close twin sister of Jason, the dead teenager, and her bitchy attitude totally deserved getting taken down a peg by the new girl in town.
It may be too early to give this show my seal of approval, but I am definitely having my DVR record next week’s episode and could easily get hooked.