Riverdale Returns, Disappoints

The CW cover poster for Riverdale Season 2. The diner where Archie’s dad was shot, Pop’s Chocolit shop can be seen in the background. The show airs every Wednesday at 7/8 Central. (Photo Courtesy of The CW)

The CW cover poster for Riverdale Season 2. The diner where Archie’s dad was shot, Pop’s Chocolit shop can be seen in the background. The show airs every Wednesday at 7/8 Central. (Photo Courtesy of The CW)

Chapter two of Riverdale began with a bang on October 11. After only 5 months since season 1 of Riverdale closed with a distressed Archie desperately attempting to staunch the bleeding of his father’s gun shot wound, the teen drama is back in full swing. However, it’s not as compelling as last season.

Perhaps it’s because a plot line surrounding a mystery gunman is too close to home with mass shootings taking place regularly in the U.S. More likely, however, it is because the focus is now on Archie Andrews. Archie might have been the protagonist of last season on paper but the plotline centered around the Blossom family and the murder of their son Jason. The mysteries hidden within the maple syrup tycoon families mansion, Thornhill, was enough to hook me on the first season of Riverdale. The fact that their mansion has its own name is cringy, but the offbeat inner workings of the family had its own appeal.

There were hints of incest between siblings Cheryl and Jason, and a sinister power struggle between Cheryl and her mother that ended with Cheryl burning down said mansion with her mother inside. The mystery that snaked around this dynasty of a family was never dull with new clues unfolding each episode, and enough suspects piling up to the point where I truly was surprised when it was revealed that Jason’s father was his killer. This fast-paced and riveting plotline was what allowed Riverdale to surpass the traditional CW pitfalls.

The CW is notorious for creating all consuming dramas catered to teens, like The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl. However, they usually contain mediocre acting, melodramatic plots, and relationships that are highly unrealistic. Riverdale does have some of these elements, but the captivating mystery of last season allowed me to overlook it. But now that Archie is taking his true role as the protagonist, I can see what he really is.

Archie is a cardboard cutout of a character. He’s essentially a walking stereotype: varsity football player, dating the prettiest girl in school, golden boy, perfect gelled hair, and a six pack of abs (this seems highly improbable since he’s supposed to be a sophomore). There isn’t much going for Archie besides KJ Appa’s good looks. The show did attempt to humanize Archie in season two’s premiere by giving him a flaw when they revealed that he was a bystander in his father’s shooting. This didn’t make me like Archie more or feel like he was anymore of a full-fledged character. The scene of Archie camped out by his front door with a baseball bat determined to protect his father seemed to me more foolish than heroic, as was the desired effect. Really Archie, you’re going to stop a bullet with a bat?

The full spotlight on Archie has brought to light the flaws in his characterization. I’m hoping the shows writers can make him into a full-fledged character before it’s too late. Riverdale has fallen for another CW pitfall: inaccurate relationships. The show’s leading couple, Betty and Jughead, don’t seem that authentic all the time. The fact that Betty forgave Jughead for joining the South Side Serpents, Riverdale’s drug gang, seems improbable given her girl next door type of character. Also improbable was the poorly-timed shower makeout scene between Archie and Veronica while Archie’s Dad was still in the hospital.

Despite these shortcomings, there were some positives to Riverdale’s season premier. The cinematography shadowed in neon lights carried over from last season, creating a supernatural feel to the show. The scenes with Fred Andrews at milestones in Archie’s life were equally sentimental and tragic when he eventually realizes that he’s not there at all, he’s dead. These scenes provided some nice surprises particularly when it was revealed that the crowd at Archie’s wedding contained some dead guests from last season, like Jason and Clifford Blossom. If there is a criticism to these scenes, it’s that Fred woke up far too soon. The “will Fred live?” drama only lasted for one episode, and now we’re back to Archie’s vendetta to discover the shooter’s identity.

I was sad to see that within all this action only a second was set aside for Cheryl and her mother. I would have been interested to see what their dynamic is like now after Cheryl, a wildcard of a character, burned their old home to the ground.

I’m hoping as the season unfolds we don’t completely abandon Cheryl’s plotline and that Archie grows as a character. 2.3 million viewers tuned into watch the season premier according to Nielson data, so whatever direction the showrunners take, Riverdale’s steadfast fans with continue to watch.