You ever watch a series that wasn’t on your radar at all and you land up being pleasantly surprised? Well that just happened to me. I was scrolling through Netflix as I often do and came across the first season of the series Riverdale. All i knew about the series was that it’s based off of the Archie comics and that it airs on the CW. For me, shows that air on the CW come attached with a giant red flag. This is because CW has this thing where they go for a certain aesthetic for their actors which means their acting quality tends to be inconsistent. This also takes away from their series that attempt to have any grit. It’s hard to really get invested in some of these darker series when everything on screen is so pretty. I’m lucky that this didn’t really get in the way of my enjoyment of the series.
Riverdale attempts to be this darker mystery series set in the Archie universe. I wasn’t really sure if they could pull it off, but the style I mentioned before that is usually a problem, actually feeds into the Archie universe. This extremely pretty aesthetic helps work as a good juxtaposition for the vile things happening in Riverdale. This interpretation of the universe also comes with all of the characters that long time fans of the comics will recognize. Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead are all here along with other regulars from the comics.
That bad acting I feared was also mostly avoided. I actually liked a lot of the acting in the series, especially considering that the majority of them are newcomers. If I had to pick a stand out it would definitely be a Camilla Mendes as Veronica Lodge. She had a great presence on screen and was able to make some of the longer scenes go over well. My favorite performance was definitely Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom though. She was so over the top in a hilarious way. She was pretty much every bitchy high school girl, but I ate it up. Her delivery on some of those insults had me cracking up. As for the negative, I have to go with K.J Apa as Archie. He fell flat for me pretty much all the time. Luckily he has a stronger cast around him. Oh and Jughead is played by Cole Sprouse, who played Cody in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. He’s fine in the show, I just thought I would mention that.
As I mentioned before, Riverdale’s story plays out as a mystery. Basically, a kid named Jason is missing after going on a boating trip with his sister. During the season we see how different revelations lead up to everyone finding out what actually happened to him. There are also several subplots in the series dealing with the different kids in the town. What I was most surprised at was the faster pace that they attempt to go with at the start of the season. They throw everything at you so fast, but it’s done in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you. This is why I believe the first half of the season is the stronger half. While the revelations that happen in the 2nd half are well worth the wait, the narrative tends to drag and go in circles for a while. Some of the subplots are after thoughts as well and it gave me the impression that they just wasted time on them. I will say that the build up is definitely done in a way that gets you invested in the mystery, and that the climax is intriguing. The ending of the season leaves everyone on a cliffhanger too, which made me wish I had season 2 right now. Luckily the show did get renewed.
All of these plot points would mean nothing without a group of likable characters, right? Well Riverdale has you covered. I found the characters here to be quite enjoyable. Archie may be an idiot, but he tries to do good. He’s a bit naive though and it creates some facepalm moments. Betty is another person who generally tries to do good. She is seen as this good girl, but at times shows that she can flip the switch. Veronica is the in your face girl who doesn’t take shit from anyone. She always has a comeback to everything. Jughead is doom and gloom. He’s the kid that comes from a broken home and he’s your typical outcast with all of the baggage that usually comes with those characters. They all have their quirks and the way they play off of each other works well. Most of their parents are awful though. Betty’s parents can burn in hell honestly. They come across as horrible people in episode 1, and nothing in the entire season changed my perspective on them.
Overall, Riverdale is an enjoyable series. I was pleasantly surprised by how invested I was in the characters and the story. There are a lot of twists and turns in the story that will certainly have on your toes trying to piece things together. The acting is also surprisingly good considering this is a CW show. It works as something I can certainly recommend if you were on the fence about watching it.
Riverdale gets a 77/100