We Review the Latest Episode of Riverdale SN01 EP01 – ‘Chapter One: The River’s Edge’

When The CW announced their forthcoming “Archie Comics meets Twin Peaks” series, Riverdale, I was giddy with excitement.  The CW have really made a name for themselves of late for producing top quality shows based on comic books.  One need only look at the highly successful DC Comics superhero adaptation, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow, or the less well known Vertigo Comics zombie based adaptation, iZombie, to feel Archie and the gang are in safe hands.

Riverdale is a murder-mystery set in the titular Riverdale, a small wholesome American town (or so it would seem).  Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), the conflicted, wannabe-musician, varsity-football-playing, handsome sophomore is the focal point of the first episode.  That being said, the show really does feel more like an ensemble cast rather than having a ‘leader of the pack’.  Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) is the blonde, sweet, smart, newly-inducted cheerleader who has harboured a long-time crush on Archie.  Town newbie, Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) is the ex-high-society girl with a string of pearls around her neck, whose mother has returned to Riverdale with Veronica in tow after her father is disgraced in New York. Let me tell you; she is bad-ass!  Upon introducing herself to Archie and Betty, she declares “I’m Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but this place is strictly In Cold Blood.” And in a scene reminiscent of 00s cheerleader film Bring It On, she tells resident high school bitch, and head of the ‘River Vixen’ cheer squad Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) “my speciality is ice”.  And absolutely not to be forgotten, there is Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), part-hipster, part-emo, all-outsider, who seems to be an all-seeing eye in Riverdale – a point affirmed by the fact he is the narrator of the show.

The episode starts with a broody Jughead introducing a “story about a town”.  We see the classic Archie Comics hotspot, Pop’s Diner, in the opening montage.  Some other places in the opening montage include MLJ Comics store (Easter Egg alert: the store is named after the original title of the Archie Comics brand) and the Twilight Drive-In, the very real only drive-in movie theatre in Vancouver, where Riverdale was partially filmed.  The montage closes on the town sign, which sets lets the audience in on the facade – “Welcome to Riverdale – The town with pep!”

Welcome to Riverdale The CW Archie Comics

Within minutes, we are told what the mystery is: the disappearance of one of the unsettlingly vampish Blossom twins, Jason Blossom in an apparent drowning.  You wouldn’t be mistaken for believing this would be a tragedy, yet no one in the town seems to be treating it as such.  From the fake mourning “bereaved red widow” Cheryl appears to do, to Jughead quipping the irony of the water polo team captain drowning, all is not what it seems.  As the mystery unfolds, so does the drama of high school: the loves, the hates, the parties and the sex.

Written by Archie Comics chief creative officer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by Lee Toland Krieger, the first episode perfectly sets up the modern darker setting for Archie and the gang, whilst maintaining plenty of nods to the iconography of the original comics.  For instance, the Riverdale High School colours of blue, yellow and white feature throughout (the letterman jacket and the cheer squad uniform remain unchanged) and Archie still has his red hair.

Riverdale Archie Comics Betty Cheerleader

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I appreciated the use of music throughout the episode.  From the eerie opening number, Tell Me by Johnny Jones (from the Lost River soundtrack), to the ethereal Only by Ry X during a ‘Seven Minutes of Heaven’ scene, to the penultimate pulpy electropop The Passenger by Hunter As A Horse, each song feels perfectly curated for its moment.  There is also a wonderful cover of All Through The Night by Josie & The Pussycats – the incredible Archie Comics all-girl band who wear cat ears at all times to complete their aesthetic.

Riverdale Josie and the Pussycats Josie singing

For lovers of Archie Comics, this is a much darker, subversive version of beloved characters; for lovers of Twin Peaks, this is a brighter, neon, more melodramatic take on the noir mystery.  The first episode is a sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious high school dramedy, with familiar beats, that drips with teen angst, and I bloody loved it.

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