BitterSweet: Riverdale

In this week's BitterSweet, columnist Amy Gildert shares the pros and cons of Netflix's Riverdale.

Amy Gildert
20th November 2017
Image: Bruno Scramgnon (Pexels)

BITTER: Oh Riverdale, you sweet venture back into teenage drama. Poised as a gritty re-imagining of Archie Comics, Netflix’s Riverdale repeatedly falls on its face while trying to dance between genres. Is it a romance? Is it a murder mystery? Is it a thriller? Who knows? Certainly not the writers.

Although Archie may be the only character that actually has teenage problems, his issues are ridiculous in comparison to the other characters. Betty and Jughead are out here trying to solve a murder, and Archie is lamenting over whether he’s going to get a music scholarship or a football scholarship. Boy, sure must be tough to be so talented.

Also, is everyone going to continue to overlook how weird the Blossoms are? The entire family gives out weird vibes, but no more so than Cheryl and Jason. I understand that they’re twins, but I’m consistently worried that we’re straying into Lannister sibling relations here. On behalf of all of us I ask the writers: please stop. I am Uncomfortable.

Characters in Riverdale are often the main source of frustration. Betty is positioned as the good girl character we are meant to like, but she consistently comes across as a judgemental busybody. It’s understandable though, when her abusive mother is just as bad and shows no signs of changing. Also, Pussycats? There’s only so far commitment to the theme will get you in the music business. Please take the cat ears off.

Betty is positioned as the good girl character we are meant to like, but she consistently comes across as a judgemental busybody

In addition to the sin of unnecessary head-wear, Riverdale falls victim to one of my most hated tropes in any show: queer-baiting. Advertising videos went up focusing on the kiss between Veronica and Betty, aiming specifically to draw in queer audiences longing for representation. However the kiss was taken totally out of context and I among many, am left having invested in two characters I know will never get together. It’s a frustratingly common phenomenon in television and it needs to stop.

SWEET: Despite Riverdale’s many flaws, it does manage to be a really entertaining show. The murder of Jason Blossom plotline progresses with nice pace throughout the first season while still providing you with enough new information to keep you interested. The romance plots are quick and sweet, but I find myself rooting for each new relationship as different characters interact. Although Riverdale draws you in through the teenage characters, the older generation of parents plays a really interesting role in the show, and are just as captivating as their children.

I’d be lying if I said that Cole Sprouse’s reemergence onto our screens wasn’t a positive factor in my love of Riverdale. Perhaps it’s the childhood crush on Zack and Cody, perhaps it’s the bad boy trope that he exudes, but his portrayal of Jughead Jones is easily one of the best performances on the entire show. His relationship with Betty is also an attractive feature. Although the pacing of their relationship could have been drawn out a little longer to really maximise the reward of their inevitable get together, their dynamic together is extremely watchable.

I'd be lying if I said Cole Sprouse's reemergence onto our screens wasn't a positive factor in my love of Riverdale

The production value of Riverdale is something that is increasing as the show progresses, and currently it’s at an incredible level. The lighting and cinematography are at the top of their game right now, and for a show aimed at teenagers, it really manages to look beautiful with many of its shots. It also makes use of some top quality music that is definitely Shazam-worthy.

VERDICT: Although it’s easy to write Riverdale off as wholly bitter, I can’t deny its popularity and the fact that I watch new episodes the moment they’re out. It’s unapologetic in its drama, and its high-stakes cliffhangers mean that if you watch one, you’ll probably end up watching them all.

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