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Riverdale “The River’s Edge” Pilot Review

RiverdaleRiverdale, the CW’s take on the Archie comic book universe, is a blend of teen dramas (like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars) with a hint of Twin Peaks.

The pilot, “The River’s Edge,” is written by Roberto Aguirre-SacasaRiverdale is produced by Sacasa along with a team that includes Arrowverse overseer Greg Berlanti.  Sacasa also worked on Fox’s Glee and this could account for some of the teen’s dialogue (paging Truman Capote).

Individuals who are familiar with the property should leave their biases at the door.  Though the show is built around the Archie/Betty/Veronica dynamic, the Archie characters are elastic and are capable of withstanding various interpretations.  This includes a zombie horror comic book called Afterlife with Archie (also written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa), and Life with Archie featuring adult versions of the characters grappling with real life issues.  The Archie brand has existed since 1941.  Riverdale is not the property’s first attempt at a live action program.  Riverdale’s “The River’s Edge” is far superior to the botched 1990 NBC television movie/pilot entitled Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again.

“The River’s Edge” introduced a number of mysteries, including one that is nearly 76 years old.  Why are so many women in the town of Riverdale smitten with Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa)?  The show starts addressing this question by deconstructing the impact of Archie’s abdominal muscles (it worked for Arrow) on the town’s residents, and his emerging musical ability.  Viewers also learn about Archie’s fling with his teacher Geraldine Grundy (Sarah Habel) and his interest in Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), a self-described ice queen.  The pilot does answer one important question.  Who is the providing the voiceover narration?  Riverdale’s Gossip Girl is none other than Archie’s (former) pal Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse)!

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Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and her confidant Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) also seem to be smitten with Archie ‘The Manwhore’ Andrews, or at least his abs.  Betty is typically portrayed as the intelligent childhood friend of Archie who is in love with him.  Riverdale provides Betty with some additional problems.  She is dealing with an overbearing perfectionist mother (Mädchen E. Amick), and local mean girl Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch).  Kevin Keller is one of the recent additions to the Archie Universe; he was introduced in 2010 and is the property’s first openly gay character.

Riverdale, like other teen dramas, includes parental figures who are dealing with their own baggage and secrets.  Former Beverly Hills 90210 star Luke Perry portrays Fred Andrews.  Fred is attempting to carry on the time honored tradition of offering sage advice to his son.  Not only does Fred have to contend with Archie and his construction business, but also the return of his former flame Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols).  Hermione and her daughter Veronica fled New York City to avoid scandal and financial ruin; Hermione’s husband Hiram Lodge is on trial for financial misconduct.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa crafted “The River’s Edge” that combines the WB & the CW’s classic brand, teen dramas, along with the CW’s current interest in comic book properties.  Riverdale captures the essence of the classic Archie archetypes, but the show is not enslaved by the source material.  The River’s Edge is successful in introducing numerous characters and plot elements that should keep soap fans hooked.  Unfortunately the episode felt a little crammed; the pilot changed locations so often that if a viewer did not pay attention they could have missed something vital.  Based on the pilot Riverdale appears to have a lot to offer viewers whether they were lured in by Archie’s abs or the Twin Peaks inspired atmosphere.

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