‘The epic highs and lows’ of ‘Riverdale’ deserve more credit

Continuing on the legacy of the ‘Archie Comics’, the CW teen drama “Riverdale” provides a modern twist while trying to retain the classic charm of the original comics. The show, which has been airing since 2017, has lost its intended essence, but still remains a controversial piece of entertainment.


Still provided by CW

Breaking the ice… Attempting to save Cheryl from drowning, Archie breaks through the frozen Sweetwater River while Veronica (left), Jughead (middle) and Betty watch in horror. This scene, featured in the finale of Season 1, exemplifies the uniquely remarkable cinematography of season one.

By introducing eccentric plots intended to sensationalize the show, “Riverdale” has become known for its objectively bad writing that strays too far from the first season.
Season one of “Riverdale” follows the mysterious death of Riverdale High student Jason Blossom, who is a part of the prominent Blossom family. Through the investigation of his death, the dark secrets embedded in the town slowly unravel.
Viewers meet the main characters: Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones and Veronica Lodge. These characters mirror those in the comics, but “Riverdale” expands on each character by providing a fresh take on their general personality.
For example, Betty is portrayed as the girl next door, deeply in love with her neighbor and childhood best friend, Archie. This girl next door persona that Betty fulfills is attributed to pressure from her mother to be the perfect daughter. However, throughout the season, an additional depth is observed as Betty takes charge in investigating Jason’s murder.
Betty is no longer just a stereotype, she’s smart, witty, resourceful and independent. Betty’s character development breaks the stereotypical mold that many teenage girls may find themselves stuck in, providing relatability through Betty’s character.
Along with characters that fans came to love, seasons one and two of “Riverdale” provided a balance between development of plot and development of characters.
The subplots easily intertwine with the main plot, allowing for slower pacing which exudes cinematically pleasing scenes.
Throughout the first season, there is a distinct color pallet for different settings: Riverdale High being washed with bland, neutral shades, the Southside encapsulating grey tones to show its neglected and poor condition, Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe claiming bright neons against a dim background for a retro and comforting feel.
In addition, certain characters are tied to specific colors, especially Cheryl Blossom who wears almost exclusively red to emulate her boldness and sense of superiority and power over others.
In the finale of season one, after learning the startling twist that her father killed Jason, Cheryl, Jason’s twin, attempts suicide by trying to drown in Sweet Water River. However, Archie, Betty, Jughead and Veronica find her before it’s too late.
This scene is devoid of any vibrant colors, particularly red, to mimic Cheryl’s loss of power in her life.
After the cinematic masterpiece that was season one, the future seasons progressively disappoint and do not live up to expectations. The writers became overly ambitious and piled on plot after subplot after plot, creating muddled and messy seasons.
During season three, Archie is in juvenile detention for a murder that he didn’t commit and is forced to fight in an illegal boxing ring, Betty and Jughead are investing a cult called the Farm that Betty’s mom and sister were indoctrinated in, which is really just a front for harvesting organs, Veronica, still underage, is trying to open and successfully run a speakeasy, and Cheryl dug up Jason’s corpse and is “reconnecting” with him at Thistlehouse.
Amidst all this chaos, the writers decided to throw in a “Heathers” musical episode, interrupting the progression of the multiple plots while simultaneously featuring mediocre singing and lackluster performances.
Season four was somehow worse. It began with a flash-forward scene of Archie, Betty and Jughead burning their clothes tainted with Jughead’s blood on them, eluding to the audience that they murdered Jughead.
In actuality, Jughead faked his death to give himself more time to investigate the mysterious suicide of his English teacher and to torment his new classmates at Stonewall Prep, who have continuously ostracized and harassed him.
However, the intended build-up of tension and suspense in this season was diminished due to the viewers knowing that the writers would never kill off Jughead, especially because he is played by the Cole Sprouse.
Meanwhile, back in Riverdale, Veronica and Cheryl, still underage, create their own rum, Maple Claw, to compete against Hiram’s rum business, Archie struggles to keep his community center open.
Season five is steller…psyche! Season five skips seven years into the future to Archie, Betty, Jughead and Veronica’s adult lives as they all return to Riverdale.
Archie returns from the army and struggles with PTSD, Betty is in the FBI and investigates her sister’s murder, Jughead is a semi-successful writer/alcoholic and Veronica is a businesswoman on Wall Street.
Underlying every season are the evil plots of Hiram Lodge and many other villainous characters. It gets so messy, too messy.
One can only hope that the writers attempt to rekindle the flame of season one in the currently airing season six. However, season six has already gone off the rocker, with even more deranged plots.