With no new episode of The CW’s new hit show Riverdale this week, now seems as good a time as any to discuss the first 10 episodes of Season 1 of the The CW’s newest soapy drama.
Riverdale is based on characters from the Archie Comics series that’s been around for 75 years. If you’re familiar with Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead; you probably entered this show with expectations of how they might be portrayed. If you’re looking for the comic book core four, you may or may not be disappointed. The characters in the comics are fun but somewhat one dimensional; while that’s cute and all for a 10-15-page comic, it’s not really something that translates to a multi-episode television show. Jughead can’t just walk around eating hamburgers nor can Betty and Veronica chase after Archie every episode.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, creator and writer of Riverdale, also chief creative director of Archie Comics, does a great job of fleshing out these characters into fully formed individuals with thoughts, opinions, backstories, and secrets. The show kicks off with a dead body, that of one Jason Blossom. The investigation into his murder drives the story telling throughout season 1.
If you’re just catching up or thinking about checking out Riverdale, here’s what’s been going on so far.
The Core Four
While Archie Andrews, played by KJ Apa, is arguably “the worst”, he’s also a teenage boy and amongst our cast of characters, the only one who consistently acts that way. We often, myself included, give Archie a hard time for being selfish and clueless but honestly, have you met a 15-year-old boy?
Archie does things like having an affair with his much older music teacher (inappropriate), marching into a baby shower to confront his best friend (also inappropriate), showing up to a biker bar in his letterman jacket (idiot), ignoring his adorable and way too good for him girlfriend (your loss), or inviting the entire school into his house for his best friend’s birthday when said best friend just expressed his hatred of birthday parties (really, Archie!). For all the stupid things, he does, Archie can also be sweet. He immediately insists Jughead come live with him when he finds out Jughead’s been sleeping in the school broom closet. He marches into the biker bar to find out who beat up his friend Moose and is trying to sabotage his father’s business. He mostly means well, even if it’s not always executed the best way.
Betty Cooper, played by Lili Reinhart, is a far cry from the girl next door she is in the comics. She’s still sweet, adorable Betty always willing to go above and beyond for a friend; but she has some demons of her own. In the pilot, it’s mentioned that Betty takes Adderall, although that plot point hasn’t been revisited, it’s still out there. In episode 3, she and Veronica team up to get back at slut-shaming Chuck Clayton where she exhibits this dual personality, dressing up as “Dark Betty” and torturing Chuck until he admits he lied about Veronica. She has this crazy controlling mother, lying father, and a sister who disappeared during the summer. Betty thinks her sister, Polly, has gone off to a mental facility based on what little her parents have told her, but curiosity and the looming question of who killed Jason, kicks off an investigation led by her and Jughead. They find Polly in a convent, PREGNANT with Jason Blossom’s baby, twins, actually. Trying to hold her family together, it seems only a matter of time before Dark Betty resurfaces. On the love front; Betty reveals her longtime crush on Archie in the pilot, but when he turns her down (sheesh. This guy.), she ends up falling for her old friend and investigating buddy Jughead and the two begin an adorable little romance, Bughead for the shippers!
Veronica Lodge, played by Camila Mendes, is barely recognizable to her comic counterpart. She’s raven haired and wealthy, but that’s about where the similarities end. In the comics, Veronica is a mean girl, stuck up and always throwing her money around. Our Veronica is a reformed mean girl. Plucked from NYC high society, Veronica is dragged back to Riverdale by her mother, Hermione, after her father, Hiram, is arrested for embezzlement and fraud. Veronica vows to turn over a new leaf and immediately befriends Betty. The two girls couldn’t seem more different, but a bond is forged and they are forever “B & V”.
In the comics, these two dawdle back and forth between friendship and clawing each other’s eyes out over Archie. I prefer this version. Strong female friendships that encourage supporting one another are always a welcome change to catty girls throwing obscenities at one another over some undeserving boy. Veronica can snark with the best of them and is the only one who can hold her own against Cheryl Blossom. She’s also very sweet and loyal and willing to help a friend in need. She’s only begun to scratch the surface of understanding just how deep her parents’ illegal activities go. She also has smoking chemistry with Archie.
Jughead Jones, played by Cole Sprouse, is the only recognizable actor in the core four. While the other 3 have been in a few small things, Cole and his twin brother Dylan are known as Ross’s son on FRIENDS, Julian in Big Daddy, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody twins. This is his return to acting after taking a break to attend NYU with his brother.
This version of Jughead is a little bit emo, lone wolf type teenager. He values his friendship with Archie and relationship with Betty, but mostly keeps to himself. His sardonic personality is off putting to most around him, but if you scratch the surface, he’s just a damaged kid with trust issues and a not so great home life, trying to make it through high school. Jughead in the comics is more apathetic than anything and his main interest is in food. We find out early on Jughead has been living at the Drive-In and then crashing in the school broom closet, so watching him hoover food didn’t bring on the nostalgia we wanted as you were just thinking, gosh this poor kid is homeless and probably starving. The truth being, Jughead has a home and a father, FP, who has a bit of a drinking problem. Jughead chooses not to live with him and ends up crashing at the Andrews house while his father is “getting his act together”. The biggest conversation that has come out of this character is his portrayal in terms of having romantic feelings towards Betty. Jughead has always been a woman hating, a-romantic type character.
In October 2015, Chip Zdarsky began a new series of Jughead comics and in issue #4, he classifies Jughead as asexual. It’s more a fleeting remark made in a conversation between Jughead and Kevin Keller and is mildly explored further when Sabrina has a crush on him and he has to tell her he’s not interested. Some fans are very upset that Riverdale has ignored this “canon” characterization of Jughead.
What I would beg them to remember is this A) Jughead is a 75 year old character that has gone through many iterations B) Zdarsky’s comics exist in barely 2 years of that 75 year history C) you don’t know that the story isn’t eventually going that way D) just because someone is exploring their sexuality, doesn’t mean that won’t lead to a discovery of asexuality E) we can have a longer discussion about canon and whether or not it should be honored and how comics have so many versions, how do you pick just one canon F) none of the characters are exact replicas G) this is a CW show.
Now that we’ve gotten you acquainted with the core four of Riverdale, we should touch on the secondary characters.