REVIEW: WTF is happening on Riverdale?
Words by Genevieve Couvret
Ok, let me start from the beginning. Riverdale used to be that show that was so bad it was good. It played with typical high school stereotypes and (kind of) subverted them.
Betty: Girl next door.
Veronica: Rich girl.
Archie: Star quarterback.
Jughead: Wannabe writer and misfit.
Season One was pretty good. Jason Blossom’s murder was a good premise – creating fear in a small town and having a bunch of teenagers come together while dealing with all those fun coming of age tropes like love, sex, sexuality and family. This is where the characters were at the end of Season One.
Betty: Nancy Drew meets investigative journalist. Was in love with Archie, now in love with Jughead.
Veronica: Rich girl with a kind heart whose father went to prison. Casually queer baited us all by kissing Betty in the first episode because she thought it would win them points in cheerleading tryouts (still unclear how).
Archie: Star quarterback who wants to start a singing career. Had an affair with a teacher but everyone forgot about that pretty quickly, and there were zero legal repercussions (??).
Jughead: Bit of a weirdo. Was homeless and living at school for a bit. Enjoys solving mysteries in beanies.
At this point, my complaints were all pretty applicable to any high school TV show. They never do homework. 16-year-olds do not dress or look or talk like that. But boy oh boy, Season 2 changed everything.
Season Two – where Riverdale went wrong.
Betty: There’s an episode in Season 1 where Veronica and Betty trick this guy Chuck into a date because he was being a sexist pig. Betty emerges in lingerie and a black wig and almost drowns him, losing herself in the moment. Meet Dark Betty. This moment wasn’t mentioned very much in the first season because there was a murder to solve and it was also completely nonsensical and out of context. But I’m pretty sure the writers didn’t know how to explain their way out of it, so they extended Dark Betty into a whole plotline. And it’s problematic.
Betty realises that there’s this ‘darkness’ underneath the surface that she can’t control. I don’t know what this ‘darkness’ is actually meant to represent, but it’s dangerously conflated with her anxious tendencies - such as pressing her nails so hard into her palms that it leaves scars. To explore this darkness, Betty decided to web-cam in her black wig and lingerie as inspired by fake half-brother Chic. WHY? And why did the show frame it as a positive step for Betty in expressing herself? I’m sorry, but if you want to understand the darkness within you, the first step might not be to engage in pornography.
Further, Betty’s whole ‘darkness’ got mixed in with her father’s serial killer tendencies, as if there’s some sort of hereditary ‘darkness’ that makes you likely to both murder sinners and video chat strangers in your underwear. (Which I’m not judging as an action in and of itself, by the way – it’s more the way it was framed in relation to Betty’s mental health).
Also, when your mother accidentally murders a drug dealer in your home, why do you help her bury the body? Literally leave. Call the police. Go live in the trailer with Jughead and his awesome dad. Get yourself a coping mechanism.
Veronica: Why does she call her father “Daddy”, especially when she’s yelling at him? Is it purely to make me feel uncomfortable?
Why does she feel the need to call Archie “Archikins”? Seriously, is it purely to make me feel uncomfortable?
All in all, Veronica can be a bit of a bitch, but she’s pretty much the same. There’s a lot of back and forth as to whether she likes her father or not and this is where the consistency of the characters starts to break down.
Archie: At the start of the show, I was pretty ambivalent about Archie. I didn’t really care about his music career, and I still don’t understand why it’s hard to reconcile your football skills with your passion for your slightly above average musical abilities. We are living in a post Troy Bolton world; this storyline isn’t working for you Archie.
But Season 2 Archie…I was not ready. In all seriousness, why is Archie such an idiot? Like, I get it, you want to impress your girlfriend’s dad, but he’s actually a criminal mastermind so stop being his pawn? And when you realise he’s manipulating you (after way too many episodes), please don’t threaten him? Why are you forming a militia made of your high school football team? Who came up with the name ‘The Red Circle’ and why, in all of the threatening propaganda videos, is everyone always shirtless and sweaty? Why are you pulling guns on people in your school jacket? Why are you smuggling drugs?
Also – and most importantly - why does your relationship with Veronica revolve entirely around sex? And why are there so many Varchie sex scenes? I demand equality of the love scenes. I demand more Bughead love scenes.
So Season 3 Archie continues to be incapable of making the right decision. Does he not realise that him having a criminal record and going to jail for 2 years is more painful for his parents and Veronica than just having the trial again? Fred is literally the most wholesome character on the show and you put him through THIS SHIT?! Tbh, he’s done some pretty cooked stuff, maybe he should go to jail.
Jughead: When Jughead got his serpent tattoo, my faith in this show began to fade. Every cast member needs to stop with the tattoos. Just stop. Also, remember when they all thought joining a gang was worse than death and now suddenly they’re all up in the gang life.
My main question for Jughead is how he manages to use the term “serpent queen” unironically when talking to his girlfriend. Oh, and I also don’t understand why gang violence is now a huge component of the show? I am seriously confused by the concentration of gang violence in this seemingly innocent small town. Parts of the show have escalated into moments of real violence, like knifing off a bit of Penny’s arm so as to remove her serpent tattoo and beating Jughead to a pulp and making us all think that he DIED!!
So that’s an update on all of our favourite characters. Here are some other questions I didn’t know how to categorise:
Did they come up with the identity of the Black Hood halfway through the Black Hood storyline? Why was it Hal? Did the actor playing Hal demand more character death?
Why are there gay conversion therapies run by evil nuns in Riverdale?
Why is Cheryl’s mum just casually now a prostitute?
Why are we acting like using a bow and arrow is actually an effective method of combat in 21st century America?
Why is Hermione so hot?
My final and most pressing concern is that Riverdale is apparently now supernatural. Just because you have no plot ideas left and the premise of the show is over doesn’t mean you can start having levitating babies and secret demon cults.
And I’m still not going to stop watching.
(This is a cry for help).
P.S. Why did Betty do a strip show to ‘Mad World’??