By Stan Sy
It’s been a week, but I’m glad I can finally talk about Riverdale after having seen the pilot episode.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. The CW was very upfront about the show not being the classic Archie Comics we all grew up with. They took the characters and setting, applied a shitload of dark, gritty filters on it a la VSCO, and presented this brooding Pretty Little Liars-style adaptation of our favorite small town in America. The only way this makes sense in my head, given how familiar and different all of it seemed as I was watching it, was to justify that we’re watching Riverdale on one of the many alternate Earths. Think of it as the multiverse in the DC TV Universe. So let’s call this one Earth-41 (y’know, because Archie first came out in 1941).
The story revolves around how quiet, little Riverdale gets rocked by the recent disappearance and death of Jason Blossom, Cheryl Blossom’s twin brother. At the same time, Veronica Lodge moves into town from New York, where she finds herself having trouble fitting in before meeting best friends Betty Cooper and Kevin Keller. As for your favorite redhead? Homeboy’s no longer the happy-go-lucky goof you’ve come to know and love.
Instead, KJ Apa’s Archie is the ginger version of Robert Pattinson, whose affection Betty covets, but he’s clearly #shookt by Jason’s death and deals with it by trying to pursue both of his passions (football and music) at once. Oh, and he has this forbidden romance angle with Sarah Habel’s Miss Grundy, which also easily makes for the hottest portrayal of Miss Grundy of all time.
Archie Comics have always had this wholesome, yet progressive approach towards life and the issues that are generally being talked about in society at a certain period in time. In the this decade alone, Archie as a brand wasn’t afraid to touch on topics like gun control, the financial recession of the late 2000s, and same-sex marriage, with the latter leading to the creation of the series’ first openly-gay character in Kevin Keller.
So it’s pretty jarring to watch the series’ most iconic character involved with Miss Grundy (!!!) in a supposed forbidden romance, until you realize that Archie’s not even 18 yet. Hell, none of the characters, save for probably Cheryl, who’s in senior year at this point, are 18. That means the Archie/Grundy thing is a little something called STATUTORY RAPE. Why is this being glorified? And why do I want to be in Archie’s shoes while he does the dirty with this incredibly attractive version of Geraldine Grundy?
I’m six paragraphs in, and I haven’t mentioned Jughead—my favorite character from the comics—yet, and for good reason. He doesn’t really make his presence felt until more than halfway through the pilot. Earth-41 Jughead is far from the lazy glutton/occasional voice of reason/Archie’s best friend that we’ve known him to be. Here, he’s an outsider, hanging alone at Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe at night, while writing what appears to be a novel about the events of the show. He’s also stopped being friends with Archie, which is the plot point I’m most interested in… other than Miss Grundy’s general willingness to be a sexual predator.
Overall, the Riverdale pilot is actually worth a watch, just so you can see the CW’s take on the series. From the trailers alone, you should already know not to expect Earth-1 Archie and the gang. You’re not going to get the same wholesome goodness you grew up with. What you do get, though, is Riverdale through VSCO’s M series filter, cranked up all the way to 12.0. They’re the same characters with a whole new dynamic altogether. Call it fan fiction, call it a sacrilege, call it Earth-41, if you have to.
But it’s also a pretty ballsy way to bring the Archie universe into a time like this, which isn’t any less dark and gritty when you think about it.