The Revamped ‘Riverdale’ Trades Pep for Dark Drama

The CW’s revival of the classic ‘Archie’ comics takes a shadowed route through a town of secrets.

It’s More Than a Love Triangle

The CW’s revival of the classic ‘Archie’ comics takes a shadowed route through a town of secrets.

By Terrica Singletary, Southern New Hampshire University

In January, the CW welcomed the show “Riverdale” into its program line-up as the latest interpretation of the “Archie” comic series.

In the comics, which were first published in the early 1940s, the storyline follows the character Archie Andrews through his day-to-day life. A football star and aspiring musician, Archie is considered Riverdale’s favorite boy next door. With his best friend, Jughead, and his two sweethearts, Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, Archie doesn’t have too many worries outside of which girl to take to the prom. The same cannot be said about Archie in “Riverdale,” however, since the “Town with Pep,” as it’s advertised on its welcome sign, is now plagued by a mysterious death.

image via deadline.com

In the first episode, the voice of Archie’s ex-best friend, Forsythe Jones III, better known as Jughead, provides the audience with narration. The audience later learns Jughead is writing a novel based on his hometown and its dark secrets. He describes the place, saying, “From a distance, it presents itself like so many other small towns all over the world. Safe. Decent. Innocent. Get closer though, and you start seeing the shadows underneath. The name of our town is Riverdale.” Here is the first indication that the show won’t be as innocent and peppy as its inspiration. Jughead then begins to tell the story by presenting the Blossom twins to the audience.

On the 4th of July, Jason Blossom and his twin sister, Cheryl Blossom, decide to take a boat ride early in the morning. While not bright, the scenery is serene as the twins embark down the river. Suddenly, there is a crash of thunder and before you know it, Jason Blossom is dead. His sister is found by the river’s edge by a ranger, and the first weakly uttered word from Cheryl’s mouth is “Jason.”

Cheryl tells the authorities that she dropped her glove into the water and that when Jason was reaching to retrieve it, he accidentally tipped the boat, panicked and drowned. When the police look for his body but are unable to find it, they rule the death an accident. However, the residents of Riverdale have mixed feelings about Jason’s demise. The story begins here.

Cheryl Blossom after her twin’s death (image via riverdaleweb.com)

Fast-forward to the end of the summer, and Betty Cooper is returning from an internship. She has been in love with Archie, her best friend and next-door neighbor, for some time now and is planning to reveal her feelings. Archie, who has become notably more attractive to the general female population of Riverdale, has had quite the summer—and things are only going to get more interesting. When Betty is about to confess, in walks the new girl, Veronica Lodge, who we find has secrets of her own. Veronica, upon spotting Archie for the first time, cannot help her attraction to the redhead boy. The issue of who Archie will choose begins here.

Archie has secrets as well, and they may threaten his relationship with either girl. During the summer, Archie had a fling with his high school music teacher, Miss Geraldine Grundy, who helps Archie discover his passion for music.

However, as he talks with Miss Grundy about wanting private music lessons, the audience finds that Archie has another secret when he says, “Come on, I need to be able to talk about what happened with someone. We heard what we heard and afterwards, we didn’t do anything. We didn’t say anything.” A flashback to the 4th of July reveals that Archie and Miss Grundy were together by the river at 6 a.m. when a single gunshot rang through the air. All Miss Grundy says in response to Archie is, “We heard…fireworks.” Unfortunately for Archie, Miss Grundy is more concerned with keeping their fling a secret and wants nothing to do with him anymore.

Archie and Miss Grundy by the river (image via polygon.com)

That’s only halfway through the first episode. The second part of the episode teases the reader with a school dance, a bathroom proposition between a gay student and a closeted football player and a game of Seven Minutes in Heaven. Finally, a late-night skinny-dip leads to the discovery of Jason Blossom’s body—with a gunshot wound right in the middle of his forehead. Jughead calmly narrates, “That Riverdale wasn’t the same town as before. It was a town of shadows and secrets, now,” and ends the episode on an eerie note: “On Monday, the autopsy of Jason’s body would take place. And on Tuesday, halfway through fifth period, the first arrest would be made.”

A review in the “New York Times” reads, “The old world of Archie was saccharine, down to the 1969 single by spinoff pop group the Archies, ‘Sugar, Sugar’ (which gets an update in the series from the Pussycats). This ‘Riverdale’ suggests that so much sugar, over time, can’t help but make a town a little sick.” With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 89 percent, the show has been renewed for a second season.

“Riverdale” unapologetically introduces themes not seen in the original “Archie” comics, such as alcohol use, homosexuality, murder, sexual predators and student/teacher relationships. The dark mystery of the town lures viewers in, but what more could this show possibly have in store?

Terrica Singletary, Southern New Hampshire University

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Terrica Singletary

Southern New Hampshire University
English & Creative Writing

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