Okay, so this show is utterly batshit insane. It’s based loosely on Archie Comics and I mean ‘loosely’ like a marquee fits a kitten. You know it’s in there somewhere but you keep losing sight of it.
The series starts off staidly enough, with a murder mystery, a disturbing relationship between a teacher and a student, and the surprising presence of a leather-clad gang, led by Skeet Ulrich.
Maybe it’s because I’m, well, old, but the highlights of this show for me are the dads – the late Luke Perry plays Fred Andrews, the only decent man in Riverdale, Skeet Ulrich plays FP Jones, father of the iconic-I-guess Jughead Jones, and Martin Cummins plays Tom Keller, one time sheriff and father of Kevin Keller, one of a number of openly gay characters in the show. My personal favourite is Mark Consuelos who plays the evil Hiram Lodge, father of the fabulous Veronica Lodge, and scheming mobster.
Now, you could be forgiven for thinking this is a slightly dark riff on high school dramas, and I think that’s how it starts but, now that I have watched all three released seasons, I have questions, namely – how and why is Betty Cooper so good at picking locks and hotwiring cars? Is this some kind of elective they offer at Riverdale High School, when they remember that they are, in fact, high school students?
So, the first season largely deals with the death of Jason Blossom, twin brother of Cheryl Blossom, and the rather convoluted Blossom family dynamics. The second season broadly follows the arc of the Black Hood, Riverdale’s very own serial killer. The third season is about the sinister Farm and the Gargoyle King, though I feel like that’s underselling the third season a little, given that sideplots include Veronica running a speakeasy out of Pop’s Diner (yes, she is a high school student), Jughead being the ‘king’ of a gang (yes, he is a high school student) and Archie participating in a prison-based Fight Club (yes, he is a high school student), as well as surviving a bear attack when he goes on the run in Canada.
Now, I’m not sure which quote I’d rather leave you with, so I’ll leave you with two: “I’m going to have to dig up Jason’s body, aren’t I?” and “Our old adversaries, the Ghoulies, have been released.” Both lines are delivered to perfection by Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and probably don’t even come close to relaying how surreal and daft this show can be.
So, if you like your high school dramas to be overwrought, occasionally tongue-in-cheek, and occasionally impenetrable, while touching on issues such as conversion therapy, organised crime, organ harvesting, grave robbing, drugs (with harmless names like jingle-jangle and fizzle rock!), long lost relatives, poisoning and lethal roleplaying games, then this show is absolutely for you.