By: Emily Hom
The TV show is an example of the familiar cult-classic murder mystery set in a quaint and seemingly innocent town with an increasingly implausible dark secret, dysfunctional police station, and irresponsible parents. A take on the joyful and comedic Archie comics, Riverdale is the story of a small town decaying from the inside. The naive, attractive students at Riverdale High (including the wealthy cheerleader, gay best friend, and other stereotyped teenagers) take a harrowing journey through season one to emerge just as naive and beautiful. After its success in season one, The CW producers seem to have decided to stick with a fairly predictable storyline and have, if possible, further lowered the lighting, and increased the use of their dramatic soundtrack and weather effects to the point that “campy” is the only available adjective left to describe it.
Though season one of Riverdale managed to find the perfect blend between nostalgically campy and intoxicatingly mysterious, season two seems to be a little lost. Apparently out of ideas, the CW decided to take San Francisco’s very own 1960’s “Zodiac Killer”, who famously shot two teenagers in their parked car and others, then sent cryptic letters to the press, and turn him into Riverdale’s “Black Hood.”.
Riverdale has run into the challenge of attempting to both develop three dimensional characters, as well as attempt to give sweet, boy-next door Archie an edge. Perhaps Riverdale season two also has one too many subplots.
Most disappointing is that besides the stubble on Archie Andrews’ chin, his character hasn’t experienced any genuine growth since his father was almost murdered. Whether it is the actor KJ Appa or the fault of CW’s director or writers, Archie’s sudden shift to the dark side is mockable, and his sudden loss of rationality is disturbing. Seemingly overnight, Archie loses his ability to comprehend his feelings and anyone who can help him through trauma. Though in season one Archie may not necessarily have been excited at the idea of talking about his feelings, he was always able to confide in either his father, or best friend Betty Cooper and girlfriend Veronica Lodge. In season two, it seems as if Betty doesn’t care enough about Archie to confront him about his dangerous behavior, Veronica is unable to do anything but distract Archie with sex, and his father is convinced he is safe from his attacker and is completely clueless about how to talk to his son.
Archie’s music, once so much a part of who he is, suddenly doesn’t warrant a second thought from any of the characters in season 2. In the first season, Archie, while grounded, snuck out of his house to hear a song that he helped write be performed. And he and Veronica share a romantic moment when she wraps his injured playing hand, saying,“Be careful, someday this hand will be worth millions.” Now the only tunes the audience hears are from Josie and the Pussy Cats. While we may not miss Archie’s bland but adequate songs and voice, we do miss it as another facet of his personality. Archie, like any artist, used music to express himself and to make sense of his difficult experiences. Now, although his father was just recently shot and there is a mass murderer on the loose threatening him and his friends, Archie seems to have lost his connection to his music, father, and friends. In order to force Archie into this dark and angsty version of himself, The CW has had to eliminate what makes Archie “good” and loveable — his admiral relationships with friends, family and music.
However, for all of its faults, Riverdale still has one thing going for it: casting and clothing! Basing an entire television show off of comic book characters has its challenges. Although Riverdale is struggling with character development and some over-dramatic acting, the CW did manage to pick the perfect looking cast. Each actor and their styling makes them look both real and resemble the Archie comics’ artistic style. Archie Andrews’ and Cheryl Blossom’s flaming red hair and Betty Cooper’s large eyes and blonde hair give us flashbacks to the original comics, and choosing to transform the predominately white cast of characters into a more diverse ensemble keeps Riverdale progressive.
If you are looking for a guilty pleasure, Riverdale season two hits the right spot. Though the characters don’t challenge any stereotypes, the show still features an engrossing mystery and is great for a Netflix binge over the winter holiday.