We’ve all seen the out of context videos on Twitter: Archie telling Reggie he got mauled by “a freakin’ bear,” Jughead wearing a “stupid hat” because he’s a weird weirdo that doesn’t fit in or Archie in jail lamenting over people who have spent time in prison instead of experiencing “the epic highs and lows of high school football.”
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that The CW’s “Riverdale” is good (no matter how much I want to), because that’s subjective. However, I do believe that there are things that make it worth watching. I promise, some of the clips are less ridiculous — even if they’re just as outlandish — in context.
Before going into the merits of “Riverdale,” it is important to acknowledge the less savory aspects of the show. Characters of color are often given less backstory and screen time than white characters, save for Veronica who is a part of the “core four” (with Betty, Archie and Jughead rounding the group out). Bernadette Beck, Asha Bromfield and Vanessa Morgan, Black actresses on the show, have spoken out about how “Riverdale” has failed its characters. Their concerns centered around the Black characters on the show essentially being reduced to one-note plot devices, and though the head writer promised change, myself and other fans have noticed Toni Topaz (Morgan) still being relegated to that role from time to time despite running in the same circles and narrative arcs as the white characters.
“Riverdale” is by no means a perfect show, and audiences should listen to actors of color, especially Black actresses, when they speak out about their treatment on any set. The way to move forward as a fan and as a potential watcher is to continue to monitor the way writers treat these characters and find ways to keep said writers accountable — especially with a show like “Riverdale,” in which the writers are terminally online enough to include “Succession” references, a possible homage to a Letterboxed review of “Joker” and alien abductions within the same season.
That being said, the writers do know what they’re doing sometimes. At its heart, “Riverdale” is an examination of cycles and the suffocating veneer of “perfect” small towns. Like I said before, it probably is worth your while. Yes, the plots and dialogue are ridiculous (sometimes overwhelmingly so), but it works. Obviously, the show and the comics have entirely different plots, but the television characters are just as, if not more endearing than the comic characters. This allows for viewers to join them on their bizarre story arcs with a degree of familiarity and friendliness. By the end of the first season, the only thing I wanted was to see how the characters I cared about would end up in the second.
The CW’s “Riverdale” is able to do something the comic books can’t. In a serialized fashion, creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and the rest of the creative team are able to view the town so many people grew up reading about through a darker (but still palatable) lens. It’s not your mother’s “Riverdale,” but it kind of is. Despite the layers of camp and irony and whatever words a fan uses to justify Archie Getting Mauled By A Freaking Bear, the show demonstrates the very real effects of suppression and filthy underbellies in small towns. It takes perfection, turns it over and shows viewers the cracks. And it’s pretty entertaining.
All I’m saying is, there are much worse ways of spending 45 minutes. Let the core four and their insane friends/enemies/fellow gang members/private school friends/parents with NPD into your life.