Riverdale: Season 1 – Season In Review

Riverdale: The most fascinating show I’ve watched in 2017. For me, the show started out really promising, and then as the season progressed became a guilty pleasure. Towards the end it was awesome, then somewhat disappointing, but the season ended on a high note. To properly evaluate my numerous thoughts on this mixed bag of a show, I’ll be presenting this ‘season in review’ by going over many aspects of Riverdale individually.

Episode Superlatives

Worst Episode: There were a lot of really bad episodes this season. But the third, Body Double, takes the cake. The main plot of this episode Ethel being slut shamed by a boy and going to Veronica for help. This prompts Betty and Veronica to almost kill him and then have him admit that there is a list that all the guys use for a hookup point system, which causes him to get thrown off the team. My biggest problem seems to be a recurring one in many TV shows, most recently 13 Reasons Why. The episode portrays all jocks as terrible violent perverts and all females in the school as innocent little darlings who have the ability to fight back. This is immature. I believe there are a good amount of women in the world who are terrible to men. Almost as many as there are the other way around, now obviously men can be more physically violent but I don’t enjoy how it’s portrayed in television – men are ALWAYS the animals. One more thing: “Dark Betty” was terrible. She comes out of nowhere and while I enjoy some of the moments where she has a little spunk over the whole season, in this episode it’s handled terribly. Betty is freaking nuts at the end of this episode; She goes from zero to ten in one scene.

Most Disappointing Episode: Episode 12. It is better than most episodes of the series but still pretty bad. As I’ll mention later, the reveal of Clifford could have been handled much better and many of the boiling character relationships went nowhere. My favorite moment in the whole season was when Betty called out Archie and Veronica because she disagreed with their actions towards Jughead’s dad. It was awesome, not because it was justified, but because it threatened the group dynamic that had gotten so boring and unoriginal. However, in episode 12, this scene is immediately forgotten and Betty, Archie, and Veronica are back to their simple square one terms. This reflects a bigger problem with the show. Riverdale feels a need to have a tight social group at the center of the show but it reflects poorly when each and every relationship between the main characters seems so similar. What’s the difference in the way that Veronica acts with Archie than with Betty? Yes, I know Archie and Veronica have a romantic fling at the end of the season but even then there is no difference in the way Veronica acts toward both of them. This is a problem because the relationships end up being like a “paint by numbers” game instead of real, complex, engaging interactions, like most real relationships. Back to episode twelve – getting everything revealed is nice, but bottom line: this was a bad way to deliver the news.

Characters

Fred Andrews: Archie’s dad is the best character on this show. He is a great moral center whenever he appears. He is willing to admit when he does things wrong, and has a great ability to handle situations properly. Luke Perry does a fantastic job. TRAGIC DEATH THOUGH. WHY??? While I do admire the show for killing a character off, I don’t believe it will be a smart move in the long run to murder the most compelling, and only good parental figure in Riverdale.

Archie: I have more to say about Archie’s dad then I do about Archie and Archie’s dad receives about a quarter of the screen time. This reflects the biggest problem with Archie: there is nothing particularly interesting about him until he punches the ice to get Cheryl out of the water. I’ll always believe that the show gave him the worst intro to a main character ever. Having a protagonist be romantically involved with a teacher for the first four episodes without actually saying that that relationship is wrong is a significant problem. Overall, his season long arc is rather disappointing.

Jughead: The biggest problem with Jughead is his narration at the beginning of each episode. I always find his monologues incredibly pretentious. This is because the show runners don’t just have him recap the episodes before, but they have him talk about emotions and life. I hate this because I don’t like to believe that a sophomore in high school can have such a good grasp on these complex philosophical ideas. Other than this though, Jughead is one of my favorite characters. His wit is fun and not obnoxious and his true vulnerability near the end of the series is very compelling.

Cheryl: Cheryl is mostly obnoxious. While I admire the attempt to humanize her toward the end of the season, in most cases she is just back to her regular self the next episode. This happened two or three times until the show finally had enough guts to have her attempt suicide and then burn her house down.

Betty: Betty is #2 in best characters on this show, right behind Archie’s dad. Out of the main cast, she is by far the best character. Betty seems like an innocent girl. She comes from a nuclear middle class family and has a crush on the boy next door. She checks all the boxes. The great thing about her development throughout the season is that both of these traits are deconstructed. The show ditches Betty’s crush on Archie almost immediately and after that promptly makes her question her family’s actions toward Jason’s murder and the treatment of her sister. While I was initially upset at the way they handled her “dark side” in episode three, the show more than paid off for it in episode 11. When Betty finds out her friends investigated Jughead’s dad behind her back she is rightfully angry and tells them about it. The best moment for me all season was the small moment right before that, when Betty tells her mom that she will push back if she keeps her at home that night and her mom lets her leave. It is such a satisfying moment since Betty’s mom is aware of the anger within Betty and immediately backs off. In this episode, giving a character a “dark side” was handled perfectly and it only gets better in the last episode.

Kevin: He was the gang’s link to the Sheriff, but other than that Kevin is a non-factor. When he appears he doesn’t add anything or subtract anything for me. If he didn’t exist the show would be exactly the same for me.

Veronica: I don’t have strong feelings about Veronica. Her best moments are always subtle. I like how nice she is to some characters, and her ambition is occasionally admirable, but there is one trait that detracts from everything else. The writers have given her really bad dialogue. It’s totally inconsistent with the way anyone else on the show talks and her constant pop culture references get incredibly annoying.

Val, Josie and the Pussy Cat Girls: The show breaks the “show, don’t tell” rule with these characters. Before we even meet them, we are told that they’re awesome and great singers and then when we see them, they’re just ok.

Image result for clifford blossom

Random bad thing about the show: The sense of community in this show is upsetting. First off: where is Riverdale? Which state is it in? It would not bother me if the show didn’t care to mention this but because of the constant references to external real life places, I feel it becomes necessary. Veronica is from New York. How far away is New York? Jughead wants to catch a bus to Toledo, Ohio. How far away is it? Ms. Grundy escaped her abusive husband who lived in Minnesota. How far away is it? Two Hours? Two days? This is important information. I understand the appeal of not saying which state this show takes place in, it gives all viewers the ability to feel as if Riverdale is the city in which they live.

Romantic Relationships

Jughead/Betty: I don’t really care how their relationship can advance, but when they interact together and something happens, I don’t scream at my television. The tension teased in episode 13 between Betty’s hard line on crime and Jughead’s willingness to put on the jacket says a lot though, and I really look forward to seeing that played out.

Archie/Veronica: Archie and Veronica is also a relationship I am passive about, but I lean more to the actively hate side. This is because I don’t particularly like Veronica as mentioned above.

Archie/Betty: For some reason I find this relationship incredibly compelling whenever it is dwelled on (which happens to be rare). I have a strange soft spot for the best friend love story.

Season Arc: Who Killed Jason Blossom?

Having Clifford Blossom be the killer was a cool twist. It works really well, and the multiple side plots of investigating Jughead’s dad and Veronica’s dad help to make the reveal feel legitimately surprising. The problem is in the execution (no pun intended). Cliff never presents a threat to our main characters, which makes his reveal ultimately underwhelming. Betty finds a tape, everyone watches it and everyone all lives happily ever after. It’s boring. The stakes were never raised.

In Summary

If I had to give this season an overall review I would say it was strangely compelling. I have no idea why I kept looking forward to this show every week. Every fiber of my being told me to give it up, and yet every week I was glued to my television texting my friend all my grievances about what was currently transpiring. Watching was worth it just for the last episode and I am anticipating season two. Here’s hoping we focus less on high school centered stories we’ve seen a thousand times and more on a crazy spiral into chaos. From the cliffhanger, I think it’s safe to assume the latter.

By Jeremy Koffsky

Image result for riverdale punching ice

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