From dark small-town gossip to gay sex – this is your complete rundown on the CW’s David Lynchian take on Archie, Jughead and the gang.
Riverdale didn’t just appear out of thin air and air on the CW.
Yes, Riverdale is fairly true to the Archie comic book universe, which launched in 1941. Back then, Archie was nothing more than an inexpensive ink-and-pen take on Mickey Rooney’s Andy Hardy – a clean-cut, All-American teen age boy of the time.
ANd this isn’t the first time Archie has been produced outside of comic books either. The gang starred in a musical animated TV cartoon that spawned the hit single “Sugar, Sugar.” It was as if SpongeBob had a legit #1 hit.
So as in Riverdale, comic book Archie is a well-liked, ambitious, slightly silly guy who’s always looking for the easiest angle at Riverside High School. His competing girlfriends Berry and Veronica are always around, as is his misogynist pal Jughead, along with a cast of eccentric small town characters. Riverdale has also taken on Archie’s extended family like Josie & the Pussycats and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. If both of those shows can get a live-action reboot, why not Archie?
Riverdale is less silly comic book and more on the weird, dark moodiness of a David Lynch film.
Don’t go into binging season one of Riverdale thinking it’s going to be a lighthearted take on the Archie comics. Riverdale is similar to Archie in name and characters only – the show is very referential to its noir influences.
From the opening sequence of the first episode set behind a river running through the woodlands and a ethereal pop song, to the welcome sign on the outskirts of town, the majority of the show is heavily influenced by Twin Peaks.
Also like Twin Peaks, Riverdale is tied around the death of a member of its community; in this case, it’s the popular bad boy Jason Blossom (a case muddied by the possible involvement of his mean-spirited twin sister Cheryl). As the characters learn the truth about their friends and neighbors, it becomes obvious that their seemingly “perfect” community holds grim secrets, steeped in taboo sex and violence. The point is, Riverdale makes it obvious it has little to do with its comic book origins.
Riverdale’s character names will be familiar, but their personas are completely different.
Don’t expect a lot of similarities with the Riverdale cast and the lighthearted kids of the Archie comics, with only two exceptions. Archie (played by K.J. Apa), the every-teen hero is still a good-hearted but scattered kid, trying to juggle homework, dating, high school football and his music, while Lili Reinhart’s Betty, the blond sweetheart still tends to get in over her head.
Veronica, the third in the love triangle dynamic is very different, however. At the start of the series, Veronica Lodge moves to town with her mom (instead of with her billionaire dad Hiram, knee-deep in a financial scandal); rather than being a typical mean girl, she goes above and beyond by acting very friendly and attentive to atone for her family’s past.
Other changes are even more radical. Jughead is now a teen reporter, digging into the town’s dirty past. Ms. Grundy (above) is now hot AF — she used to be a spinster. Josie McCoy is still an pop star on the brink of being big, but she’s also more cold and calculated, driven by her mother (played by Robin Givens).
Look out for Easter eggs In Riverdale that pay tribute to Archie.
The producers of Riverdale did just about everything they could do to separate their show from the Archie comic universe, but they frequently give quick nods to the books throughout the series. But you need to know your Archie history to catch them – here are a few.
In the opening five minutes of the first episode, we get a quick look at nerdy boy scout, Dilton Doiley, and the first appearance of the community’s motto: “The Town With Pep!” Veronica still calls her man “Archiekins,” and the kids still meet up at Pops Chock’lit Shoppe for burgers, shakes, and onion rings. All textural details from the comic book.
Also, keen eyes will spot the working class symbolism going on with Jughead’s hat. Back in the day, factory employees would cut off the brims of their hats so they could see better. Eventually thy got handed down to their kids and became a trend among teens around the 1940s when Archie debuted.
All photos: CW