Pretty Little Riverdale and the story of unsuccessful trope subversion.

I’ve never read Archie comics. I’ve only heard something or stumbled on some mentions of it in articles about history of comic books. Not that I now remember much from that reading. And I don’t think modernized TV show of those comics has any connection to source material, apart from character names, that’s why I won’t even try to read original comics.

TL;DR I am in love-to-hate relationship with CW teenage-based programming

Show is your good old young-adult aimed CW adaptation show. How delightful As I am wary of anything this channel produces post-Gossip Girl.  I’ve been unhappy and too salty by all the changes they’ve made. CW love for campaigning endgames keeps me in check. To all of that add my hatred of majority of teenage mindset portrayal. As 25-year-old I wish more than ever I’d wished as a teenager for TV show creators to aim for good teenage portrayal.   (I keep my grudge very seriously) Especially, from basic American cable. Listen. I’m just a humble foreigner dealing with mostly American progamming. I admit, that all of those decisions have an impact on other countries And also on teenagers all around the globe.

I am not denouncing the uplifting fact that all kids watch the same on the same rate. I am only denoucing and urging for a thing called a quality and standards. United States still keep a stronghold on standardizing TV quality. And adults are kept happy. For teenagers? Let’s show them how adults view them? Amirite?

And there we have Riverdale. Show which was rorared about on every media I follow. As new and fantastic show for teens! Murder! Mystery! Aesthetics for teenagers!!!

I think @supercanaries wrote that Riverdale is a show about averting the tropes so badly that those tropes are even harder too avoid. Now I am laughing, because CW’s slogan is Dare to Defy and oh boy that did backfire.

But let’s go suffer through the plot and I may finally make decision if I should continue my adventure in Riverdale.

We start with narration by Cole Sprouse. About of a mystery disappearance. of one of red-haired twins. (Note: when I read early tumblr reactions to the show I thought that by mentions of Cheryl and Jason Julia and Kylie’s Game of Thrones Character Glossary hit mainstream. Sadly, we still have to wait.) Aforementioned Cheryl and Jason Blossom? Bloomberg? Not that I care for last names. Really. Basically in fairy-tale-like sequence we find out that twins went on some boat joyride in solitary. Cheryl dares Jason to do something. Twins look at each other in a way that I am uncomfortable and fully convinced that those kids are in-universe redition of newest trend: incest. Yikes. Somwhere in-between there is a mention how small town Riverdale is and yadda yadda, secrets, mysteries, but’s your typical American small town.

Later, shocked and wet Cheryl is found on a river shore by scouts. As Cole Sprouse continues to narrate and charm us with your typical CW murder-mystery (God, I miss Veronica Mars now.) All grown-ups appear and take a part in search-party. Meanwhile wife tells husband that better Jason wouldn’t be found because it’s better for world if he stays dead. Speaking of wishful thinking, thinking about usual CW’s adults are shadier and thair kids pay for it set up. Overall, that scene looks bizzare. Believe me. Something between Netflix’ A Series of Unfortunate Events or Moonrise Kingdom. With Cole Sprouse STILL TALKING. Someone take away a mic from this boy.

(We also find out that The Disappearance took place on Forth of July. And The Pilot won’t get us forget.)

Now we are in a room with an excited Mousey-looking girl (Betty) and her gay best friend Kevin and Betty talk about last summer, how she and her best friend Archie are going on a date to see of they are couple material. Meanwhile, Kevin with all good intetntions peeps on Archie when he puts on a shirt and takes a selfie. As we reailze quickly it’s not for Betty. I am not even sad I just want this scene to be over. Kevin also informs us that Archie jacked-up during this summer. Now I feel like palying TV Tropes Bingo next time. As if.

As it’s over we are now meeting another set of characters. Veronica and her mother Hermione as they just are moving in. Town is small but that block of flats looks luxurious as fuck. I am a bit confused. And we know they are rich, by the sole fact that wear cocktail dressed. In the middle of the night. While moving places. God, I hate rich people in CW shows. I really do.

Veronica and her mother are set up to come here form a New York after some big scandal™ involving her father. Which ended up with Hermione and her hubby divorce. Of course. Why not. Girls have nice chat with an usher? butler? and decide to order some local famous burgers.

Here at diner Betty and Archie talk about summer. Betty tries to say what’s on her mind lately but she is interrupted by Archie manpain and his big problem. He want’s to become singer-songwriter, but his dad makes him join the football team. Oh, the horror! His dad also makes him to work in family company. Oh the double horror! Listen, millenials these days are so desperate for a job that inheriting a steady job in family company is like dream come true. Shut up, Archie.

Veronica enters, we are subjected to watching camera objectyfying her via Archie glance. If we are supposed to cheer on him, he is lost in my eyes rught here. Archie, Veronica and Betty exchange courtesies. Oh boy, this is painful to watch so much you are sure ADULTS AND DUDES write  this. The references Veronica gives. Too forced and too much. Am I the only one who thinks Veronica’s actress seems more like reading her lines than acting?

We are not even half-way and now gladly school stuff begins!

Archie and Betty prepare to go to school. Both are given pep-talks by their parents. Archie is reminded that he has a place in a family company. We are revealed that this nice lady who wished Jason death was One and Only Betty’s mom. Adorable. And Betty is pushed over by her overachieving and perfectionist mother to her level. How nice and sweet. Also, Betty’s mother gives her an Adderal, because why not force your kid to take meds on ADD to enhance academic achievement!

Archie is met by his jock-friends. Who tell him that he was surely surrounded by middle-aged women when he worked on his father construction sitle. One of them, I think Reggie, talks like a true teenager. He mostly shouts some weird words with a lot of excitement in his voice. I almost believed him.

Betty and Veronica bond. Over Archie and sad backstories. But they are interrupted by Kevin who uses his power of exposition to tell Veronica what’s up here. He is made Veronica new best friend, because every chic girl needs one gay friend! The progress we made guys! And also asks insensitively about matter of her arrival here. What means everyone in school knows who she is. However, Veronica is sad that her appearance in town is not gasped enough. Kevin tells her and we are repeated the story of Jason Blossom or Bloomberg and his impact on whether school dance will take place or not. If you are good at guessing, I think you already know the outcome. And I think it’s nice that Veronica not maliciously tries to push Betty toward Archie. That’s unique in CW shows, as I expected them to be low-key catty about it. You got me on this one, CW. You got me.

And we go to the school assembly. Cheryl tearfully in mourning attire not-creeply at all talks about her twin brother and graciously says that Jason would like very much this dance to happen. God bless those basic boys!

Another Creep alert: it is revealed that Archie indeed scored some during this summer! And he was seduced by his music teacher during summer! And they did it in a Volkswagen Beetle. These cars are forever ruined for me. And also now we know why Archie became so interested in songwriting. Those teenage boys and their creeping tendencies over older women! Those older women who seduce younger boys and later try to act like it didn;t happen and boy’s feelings aren’t messed up by this. Upside of this scene: hilarious close-ups in hot teacher – Archie glance exchange. The camera work is clearly of Supernatural school of dramatic close-up. We are at home.

Over lunch break our favorite four talks about stuff and things. Girls bond Archie has secrets and goes to hot teacher (Yes I’m terrible ar remembering names.) Cheryl as real mean girl of a school invites herself over to the table and talks school politics. What a nice girl.

Veronica is invited to cheerleader try-outs and Betty too, because now she is not fat. Erm. I will avoid to talk about it for now. Cheryl walks out, but not after advertising her twitter account, In 2017! I think she should be snapchatting like crazy. And this proves how out of touch creators are. Afterwards Veronica promises Betty to reach her cheerleading routine.

Girls present their routine and end it with a kiss. Cheryl with all her wisdom tells us girls kissing stopped being shocking in 1994. I have some news. Our gals who are pals take an offence. But Cheryl in all her kindness lets Veronica to join the team and ridicules the living out of Betty. Because Jason and Betty sister dated. And it ended badly. With Polly in group house after mental breakdown and Cheryl blaming everyone but Jason for his fuckboyery. This show was supposed to be progressive, so why Cheryl is so cartoonishly villain? It also gives another hit that older DUDES WROTE IT. After that Veronica gives heroic speech where ahe exposes Cheryl as school villain, protects Betty, and tells Cheryl to such it up and let them both join as they are a joint package. And reveals she is of The North as places herself Ice to Cheryl Fire. How poetic??? It also explains possible twincest, if Cheryl is Mad Targaryen.

What can I say, Cheryl fascinates me.

Archie follows his dreams and tires to convince Hot Teacher  Predator to be his mentor. We also find out she graduated from Julliard, which arises questions what happened so she is now teaching music here? At the same time I don’t wanna know.

Sometime during all of this Archie and the girls all agree to go together to the ball. Kevin announces he has a date.

We are on American soil so those dances are too obligatory

Kids prepare for dance. Sometime before Betty argued with her mom about going with a boy. Or at all. Betty’s mom is terrified by Ginger curse apparently, as Betty has to explain that Jason and Archie being ginger is a mere coincidence. I’ll take it with a grain of salt. CW taught me to be vary of coincidences. Also lack of Archie mother is suspicious so, we can only guess. It’t to early to theorise now.

They all go and dance a minute. Veronica keeps on throwing cultural references. Betty broods over Archie, who broods over Hot Predator. Who agrees on giving Archie lessons.

Cheryl crowns herself as Queen of a ball. For any Americans reading me: Is it really a thing? Or just another TV myth.

I don’t really know when -as I was not paying attention again – we move to after party. Apparently, Seven Minutes fabled game is still a thing, as Cheryl makes Archie and Veronica to go there. They talk and kiss a little. Betty is sad and escapes. Trope specialist Veronica tells Archie to go follow her friend, as she comes home to be sad while her mom drinks wine and cares for her daughter in Rich TV Mother fashion. Classic Hermione.

Archie visits a diner and talks to Cole Sprouse who is not vague at all. He says he is writing a novel about a town, gives Archie some life advice, despite of them not being friends anymore. He also tells Archie to clear things with Betty until it’s too late. God, Archie is dumb. Happy we established that.

Friends have a reunion and explain things to one another rather tearfully. We saved status quo! Or did we?

In background of an episode, Adult Hijinx™ happen and Hermione talks to Archie’s dad about The Past. Do we smell romance? If so it’s never a good idea to revisit your exes. Also some business happens? Hermione gets bag full of money?? I have to be honest, I wasn’t paying attention.

On the finishing line Kevin and his date discover Jason’s body. He was show in the head!


Salty Conclusion


I have a mixed feelings about this one. Really.

On the one hand we have a really dumb fun for adults. As a result of all of those badly executed trope subversions. Archie is generic at his sad boy place in narrative. Betty suffers for being unheard but is popular enough to maintain her perfect student reputation. Veronica is… I have a trouble with her as she  somewhat fulfills an Alpha Bitch trope, but in all of that she is not mean to people around her. On a big minus with Veronica I have to say, she is way out of her element. She speaks like Blair Waldorf in 2017! And it’s too obnoxious about New York to my taste.

There are voices of cancern abou queerbaiting in regard of Betty and Veronica relationship. I wish we drop the baiting and make them canon, as girls getting together and ditching forced boy drama is something we all need.

Cole Sprouse or as his character is named Jughead, has this creepy role of observant. In my opinion he is too sidelined. But that was only episode one, and time will tell.

The more I think, the more I know story is as good as it’s villain. Cheryl as much as cartoonishly she tends to be written. And as sometimes she is filmed as from another movie. I think a bit Wes Anderson is there. She compels as an antagonist. Not even on writing level. Her manipulative wits are fun to watch, but the delivery is a key. I can;t say she is Cersei Lannister  of a show, but certainly has some similar vibes to her and Who’s Missy. I love fun to watch evil women.

As I am all happy for more representation, and makes me rethink my perception of gay stereotype in television. But, gods, I think we all agree that having Kevin as Exposition Ex Machina is an awful thing to do. Especially if series are produced by Greg Berlanti. I hope show would rectify this and have Kevin in the future to exclaim things but to have his own charcter arc.

In my review I mentioned some cringeworthy moments. The worst is in my opinion wooden delivery from almost most kids. Camilla Mendes (Veronica) is to theatrical in delivery. K.J. Apa (Archie) and Lili Reinheart (Betty) are so bad.

I don’t know if it’s director’s or writers’ fault but something was really off. Show tries to paint itself as dark story a’la Pretty Little Liars (which I only managed to watch pilot) but it sets mystery way too fast. Storytelling is a kind of marathon, you have to measure and strategize things. So if show main mystery of Jason’s disappearance was unfolded slowly and we’s seen the body on third episode. How unnerving that’d be. Especially if we don’t know key players that well. Some emotional response would be good.

Am I going to keep watching this? I think so. Am I going to be salty all the time? Very yes.

PS. I think I forgot to write anything about Josie.Which is a greatest proof how writers fail to handle her character.


Images, courtesy of CW and ABC



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