There’s a point in every pilot episode when hopeful viewers either get hooked or shut the television off. The verdict on “Riverdale, The CW’s new show? After just six episodes into the first season, the show was already renewed for a second season. That can tell you all you need to know.
So what makes this show binge-worthy? What makes it different from every other show out there? It’s based on the classic 1940s Americana comic, “Archie.” You remember: the goofy redheaded football star, his sarcastic, outcast friend Jughead Jones, the singing group Josie and the Pussycats and best friend duo Betty and Veronica, all set in the town of Riverdale.
But the one thing “Riverdale” has that the wholesome “Archie” comics didn’t? Murder.
In the opening of the series, it is revealed that on July 4, Cheryl Blossom’s twin brother Jason drowned after falling overboard on a boat. We find out later in the episode that there’s more to Jason’s death than just an “accidental” drowning.
Meanwhile, Archie spent his summer earning six-pack-abs by working construction with his father, writing songs on his guitar and having a steamy affair with his music teacher, Ms. Grundy. The affair isn’t even the darkest secret that the pair is keeping. And to those of you who remember Ms. Grundy from the comics: no, she is not an old, gray-haired woman. “Riverdale” has revamped her to be a young, sultry and smart brunette.
In the present, Betty Cooper is convinced by her gay best friend, Kevin Keller, to finally act on her romantic feelings for Archie. She’s interrupted while trying to leave the friend-zone by the arrival of the rich and beautiful town-newbie, Veronica Lodge, who moves to the town after her father is sent to jail for embezzlement.
While most of the cast are newcomers or vaguely familiar faces, one cast member sticks out: Cole Sprouse who plays the brooding outsider, Jughead Jones. After Disney’s “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” the Sprouse twins went off to college and put their acting careers on hold. Cole Sprouse’s sans-twin debut back into the spotlight is edgy and unforgettable, sporting darker locks with an angst-filled twist on the classic character. The show is narrated by Sprouse’s character through the manuscript Jughead is writing about Jason’s murder and the key events that relate to it. Not only does Sprouse’s performance shine, but in the fourth episode of the series, a major plot twist also gives Jughead Jones a much deeper backstory, pulling you into the world of his character even further.
The show also has a mix of representation, showcasing characters that are gay, straight, bisexual, black, white and Latino. But The CW doesn’t sugarcoat any of this. When Archie wants to help Josie and the Pussycats by writing songs, Josie immediately rejects him and calls him out on his white privilege, explaining that the girls named themselves after the fact that they have to “claw our way into the same rooms that you can just waltz into.”
The series also tackles issues such as homophobic jocks and slut shaming, both addressed by Betty and the school newspaper. One quote perfectly sums up the way most of the characters in “Riverdale” feel: “Can’t we, in this post-James Franco world, be all things at once?”
The show’s specific aesthetic has brought a dark twist on the classic “Archie” bubblegum, high school look. Bringing in pops of neon color with an almost theater-like set, there’s a definitive tone the show brings which sets a mood to perfectly pair with the content of the series. The warping of the all-American comic is dark and slightly haunting, with nods to “Twin Peaks” through wide shots of the Riverdale welcome sign and a quirky dark humor to not only the script but also the set.
“Riverdale” is a multifaceted, creative twist on the classic comics, packed with mystery, sex, humor, cliffhangers, diversity and in-depth story lines, and we’ve only just begun. The show is definitely certified binge-worthy, earning an 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The pilot can be found on The CW’s website so you can see for yourself. Otherwise, catch it Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on The CW.