Drama makes Riverdale riveting

Rachel Farrell

Secrets, lies, heartbreak and family drama – just some of the factors that make up the spine of any teen TV series, and Riverdale is no exception. Almost a year in the making, Riverdale is one of Netflix’s most anticipated TV shows this year. The question surrounding it however, is it worth the hype?

Riverdale is a moody TV adaptation of the renowned graphic novel series, Archie Comics. We’re immediately drawn into the mysterious town in the pilot episode, opening with a murder plot within the intriguing flaming redheaded family, the Blossoms.

We then fast forward to the start of the new school year and the arrival of sassy New Yorker, Veronica Lodge, played by Camila Mendes. Like every teen drama, we have the heartthrob Archibald ‘Archie Andrews’ (KJ Apa), who happens to be the love interest of his next door neighbour Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart). Old school Disney fans will remember the Sprouse twins from ‘The Suite Life of Zack & Cody’, and Cole Sprouse’s return to acting as narrator Jughead Jones has been gathering interest since the show was first announced.

Originally taken up by Fox in 2014, the show’s concept moved to The CW in 2015, with a new episode released every Friday on Netflix. One of the most attracting features of the show so far is the cinematography which colourfully captures the intensity and underlying sense of threat that lies underneath the characters everyday lives. It’s almost too perfect, but it adds to the sense of hidden danger. It’s telling us that not everything is what it seems in the small American town.

What’s also interesting is the storyline involving the parents. We get a look into the life of Betty’s controlling mother Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) quite early in the series, as well as the apparent rocky relationship between Veronica’s parents. It’s evident the older residents of the town have their secrets too, not just the youngsters.

From the onset, Riverdale presents itself as a Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars hybrid. While Gossip Girl ended in 2012, the final 6 episodes of Pretty Little Liars are to be released in April, with many fans keen to fill the teen-angst hole with a new series. Riverdale is probably the closest they’ll get, but as we’re only half a series deep, there’ll be no binge-watching involved.

While nothing will ever be as shocking as the reveal of Gossip Girl or Big A’s identity in the other programmes, Riverdale may follow as a close second. Many have already compared Betty and Veronica’s friendship to the likes of the iconic love-hate relationship between Blair and Serena. That’s not where the similarities end- Gossip Girl was famously dramatically narrated by Kristen Bell as Gossip Girl, similar to Cole Sprouse’s novel-writing character creating the narration for Riverdale.

The similarities with Pretty Little Liars lie with the ‘whodunnit’ plot, trying to piece clues together to figure out who the culprit behind the murder is, and why they did it. As much as we hate the suspense, it’s the suspense that will more than likely keep this show running. As we reach the halfway mark in the series, we’re still no closer to finding out who the bad guy is, and it really is one of the best parts of the show.

There appears to be something missing however, potentially a relatable character that everyone appears to love. Veronica is the girl we wished we could be, and Cheryl Blossom is the girl we were intimidated by. Perhaps it’s the pressure for it to live up to the standards of its comparisons, but Riverdale lacks a bit of the lustre that enticed us into the lives of the Upper East Side or Rosewood kids.

The kids are talented, and we know there’s more to them beneath the surface, but we’re yet to find out what. The characters still need a lot of development, as there’s almost a sense of distance between them and the viewers at home. Jughead (Sprouse) and Veronica (Mendes) stand out amongst the other characters so far, with Jughead providing the valuable narration that keeps us in the loop. We’re only five episodes into a twelve episode first series, so there is potential for the series to grow.

With attractive characters, bright visuals and a catchy soundtrack, Riverdale ticks all the boxes for an addictive teen series. It’s a little bit cheesy, but it wouldn’t be the same without it. Will it live up to its predecessors? We’ll just have to keep watching to find out.

Rachel Farrell