Attending the San Diego Comic-Con convention each year isn't always necessary if you're a TV/film/comic enthusiast waiting on big news. The internet has us all covered in that regard with new trailers and clips uploaded just moments after being revealed in panels. If you want to feel truly a part of exclusivity at the convention, attending pilot screenings is the way to go.
After being a part of the first audience to watch Blair Witch, née The Woods (first new trailer above), I thought I'd seen the most surprising thing I'd see over the four days of Comic-Con, and then I saw Riverdale. One of my favorite childhood comics, Archie, has been wrapped in a twisty Twin Peaks murder mystery shroud as tight as Laura Palmer's cellophane and oozing with all the high school schmaltz of Dawson's Creek. No one was more surprised than me to discover that I may have found the perfect show to not only fill the Twin Peaks-sized hole in my TV show viewing, but also appease my guilty interest in clever high school drama.
Why You'll Love It If You Love Twin Peaks
As a fan of the Archie comics as a child, I knew enough about this new show to know it wasn't exactly going to be the innocent tomfoolery and Betty-Archie-Veronica love triangle romancing I was used to. Riverdale is stylistic, dark, and works well by both playing off the wholesome character dynamics so beloved in the 75-year-old comic series and also tipping them on their head. If you love Twin Peaks and are already regretting binge-watching Stranger Things too quickly — because those 8 precious episodes go far too quick— you now have something to look forward to.
Riverdale is narrated by the brooding misanthrope writer Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse, dark haired and all grown up). He describes the idyllic town of Riverdale, matter of factly laying out the details of a most recent event: the disappearance of Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines). After a summer boat ride on the river with his twin sister, Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), Jason falls out of the boat and goes missing. By the end of the summer, the scandal has cooled, there's still no sign of Jason, but there are clearly those with secrets and someone, maybe Cheryl, knows more than they are letting on.
Archie (K.J. Apa with laughably box-dyed red hair) has spent his summer working for his dad at his construction company, leading to a new set of abs appreciated by his neighbor and best friend, Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart). Her gay best friend Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) notices as well, encouraging Betty to finally make things official with her long-time crush. But anyone who has ever read the comics knows Betty and Archie have never had a straight and narrow romance. The Lodges breeze into Riverdale, Hermione (Marisol Nichols) and Veronica (Camila Mendes), leaving behind scandal in New York City. Veronica catches Archie's eye, but she's more interested in making friends and Betty quickly becomes a confidant and project. Even with everyone plotting to get Archie and Betty together, finally, the red-headed footballer has his own summer secret keeping him more than a little distracted from the schemes of his friends.
Twin Peaks also had its fair share of love triangles, though most of them involved the dead Laura Palmer and Riverdale's romantic interludes are (for now) mostly between the living. Still the secret affairs of Riverdale's historically virtuous teens feels decidedly Lynchian in scope. The inexplicable missing person story that opens the series feels like backstory until the pilot's last moments, when it is clear that this mystery will play a large part in how the series progresses. And if love triangles and crime mysteries aren't enough to evoke our favorite cult classic series of the '90s, Archie even features Twin Peaks' Mädchen Amick as Betty Cooper's controlling and bitter mother. Nostalgia evoked!
It's most Lynchian quality, however, is by far the atmospheric feel of the show. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Chief Creative Officer of Archie Comics, spoke at the Comic-Con panel about the look they wanted for the show:
“We thought it should be like ‘The Virgins Suicides’ or that movie ‘Heavenly Creatures'. We wanted it to have that kind of timeless, dream-like look.”
With it's bright colors, neon glow, and noir-ish mood the show feels like a loyal mashup of comic book and criminal engima. One way Riverdale is at least assured to be better than the original Twin Peaks (since we're still waiting for more news on the show's next iteration)? No overly drawn out plot. Executive producer Sarah Schechter said at Saturday's panel:
Why You'll Love It If You Love Dawson's Creek
So you're not into strange cult-y TV shows, but you love the CW? Riverdale is also for you. I've already been considering what I'm supposed to do if there's no darkly-minded high school drama in my life once Pretty Little Liars wraps up next year. While PLL is decidedly more thriller-like in nature than Riverdale, Riverdale has all the darkness but somehow much of the same teenage emotionality as my forever-favorite, Dawson's Creek.
The will-they-won't-they of Joey and Dawson (or Joey and Pacey) mirrors the set-up between Archie and Betty in the pilot episode. The youthful urgency to do something significant with one's imminent adulthood, shown in Dawson's constant need to create, is present in Archie's summertime discovery that he's actually a decent songwriter. Suddenly the football team doesn't seem so appealing. Heck, Riverdale was even developed by Greg Berlanti, co-exec producer of Dawson's Creek. If that doesn't sound like enough high school heart-wrenching for you, just picture Luke Perry as Archie's father Fred and remember all the smolder he inflicted on teenage hearts in 90210. Not bad, eh?
Aguirre-Sacasa stated this about the show's teenaged romantic side:
“We’re going to follow all the twists and turns of [the mystery of Jason Blossom] but of course it’s ‘Archie,’ it’s ‘Riverdale,’ it’s the CW. There’s going to be a lot of romances and I can tell you that most of the people [on this panel] will become involved with each other, including Kevin (Keller).”
Let's All Watch Riverdale
If you're not sold on the show yet, then clearly you are neither a true Twin Peaks or Dawson's Creek fan. For those intrigued, I assure you the first episode (at least) is entertaining as hell. But a word to the tried and true Archie fans out there: If you're holding tight to the original ideals of a wholesome comic of a bygone era, you might want to remember that Archie introduced one of the first gay comic book characters, introduced Josie and her feminist Pussycats (also featured in the show!), and has even dabbled in the occult with not only Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but also a storyline about the undead in the Afterlife With Archie series.
Archie Comics have had fun and explored different stories over the years, here's an all new iteration, providing a new way to jump in and love the small town players of Riverdale, while enjoying some fine original TV programming perfectly in sync with our weirder sides.
Is Riverdale something you'll be watching come October?