In light of watching 13 Reasons Why, my now teenage daughter pointed me at Riverdale and suggested I give it a go. And I have to say it was a weird experience, which only got even weirder when I realised exactly what it was based on. For those not aware, the characters come from a pretty famous set of US comics whose principal character is Archie Andrews. For British people of a certain age or an interest in such things, this is more than slightly strange, as it also brings back memories of Peter Brough and ventriloquism on the radio (no, really, it does!). But on purely US terms, It means all sorts of oddness, because the Archie comics were responsible for quite a lot of late 60s bubblegum pop culture, like the Hanna-Barbera version of Josie and The Pussycats, not to mention one of the most famous manufactured pop records in history:
In this version of Riverdale, things have become way more… dark than they ever were in their source material. This is most certainly a reflection of the times, I think. When I wrote about 13RW, I mentioned that it had echoes of earlier, more dysfunctional high-school dramas, and that this was quite possibly a function of the times in which they were produced. It strikes me even more so that this version of Riverdale is very much a product of now. High school is a scary, disorienting place; everyone has a dark backstory.
As a result, the whole thing has a far more “noirish” quality, and it seems that pretty much every character is like a version of their original comic version, viewed through a much darker mirror: doppelgangers.
The story begins with the death of Jason Blossom, rode across the lake by his twin sister, who is the last person to see him alive. From there, the whole thing frankly goes all Twin Peaks on our asses, and takes us a very long way from the old days. Unlike 13RW, which plays things straight, Riverdale layers the miseries on. This is played beautifully over the top, from Betty’s first “Polly” moment, to Moose’s…curiosity, to Cheryl Blossom’s Ice Queen persona, and subsequent disintegration. My only real complaint is that Archie himself seems just a bit, well — wooden is the wrong word, but lacking in some of the spark that soe of th eother charaters have. But again, this only serves to subvert all those typically All-American images. It’s all glorious fun, and thankfully we don’t have too long to wait for series 2!