20 May 2017

RIVERDALE Season 1 Review

I do not own any of these images.

Riverdale, a seemingly normal small town. Until a teenage boy goes missing, and secrets begin to unravel. A crime drama, the show follows Archie and his group of friends as they become involved in this unforseen event.

Although this series is based on the popular Archie comics, this review will solely focus on the Netflix+CW adaption.

At first glance, Riverdale appears to be your typical teen-angst-high-school-drama. You have the jock, Archie, the 'girl next door' Betty, the most popular girl in school & head cheerleader Cheryl, the 'new girl' in town Veronica, Josie the take-no-crap singerthe gay best-friend Kevin, and of course the outcast, Jughead. The first episode is abundant in these clichés, making you wonder whether the whole show will be just another cringey american teen high school drama. However, it doesn't take the show long to rid itself of this expectation: it soon delves into something a lot more touching and real.
Despite the differences between the characters, they all come together for no other reason than that they like each-other. This rejection of the typical 'school squad' immediately captures the audience's attention: it allows the show to delve into the character's backstories and personalities rather than explore the too-well-known social school hierarchy plot. 

The show is founded on family: family history, family expectations & legacies. It's about the parents relationships with their kids, and how the kids perceive them in turn. We see the characters learn some ugly truths about their parents, being disappointed in them - and how they deal and overcome it. The family aspect in the show is crucial to the characters' life at high-school. Their place at home usually plays into their social position & behavior there: some whom are put under a lot of pressure at home tend to channel this frustration into their school life. Seeing the characters interactions with their families allows us to see past their high-school façade into their vulnerable and personal side, especially with Cheryl. Legacy is also a significant topic in this show. The parents who want their kids to follow in their footsteps and yet the kids who want to walk their own path or fix their parents' wrongs. The parents' past comes to haunt the characters' present, their past actions still creating ripples in their children's time.

This exploration of young teenagers' struggles sends a positive message to the younger generation who watches the show: it sends the message that they are not alone: whether they come from a broken home or are experiencing family-related issues. The characters rely on both their inner strength and the support of their friends to overcome their troubles, which ultimately encourages socializing and speaking out to those closest to them.

The strength of the show is the characters and the friendship between them. Few shows seem to grasp the platonic and genuine feel of friendship groups. One of my favourite shots for instance, is Jughead & Archie in Archie's room, playing video games & just chilling. A short scene that just feels real. Or when they both walk through the front door, laughing - little moments that generate this notion that these two are real friends and not just two actors walking into a scene. It's a pat-on-the-back to the writers who know how to deliver a more realistic and genuine feel to a show - little mundane moments that are so often neglected in film & television. It was also refreshing to see such a positive depiction of friendship in this show - honesty, expressing their feelings and doubts to each other, no judgement or lingering drama - a realistic and above all healthy friendship between all. (there is a little back-stabbing towards the final episodes, albeit for good reason) It was also refreshing to see that despite their different backgrounds, whether it be in terms of wealth or social hierarchy - it had no effects on their friendship. The nicknames were particularly heart-warming too.

Riverdale also illustrates teenage characters who are mature, intelligent and driven - it didn't feel like a show that was aiming solely towards a young audience, but towards young adults too.
Overall, Riverdale is a highly enjoyable, binge-worthy show that will make you fall in love with some wonderful characters. The cinematography is beautiful, with dreamy lighting & sets like Pop's that are incredibly aesthetically pleasing. The standard of writing remains strong throughout the season, intertwined with incredible heart-wrenching acting moments by all (Cole Sprouse in particular).

Season One sets the table for the next season, with little hints and narratives that will undoubtedly be developed into something bigger. Overall, a quality, highly enjoyable binge-worthy show that you'll obsess over.

SPOILERS AHEAD - Season 2 thoughts

First of all, we have the inner darkness - Betty's inner darkness: something we will no doubt see if/when something/one pushes her over the edge. And of course, Juggie's: his Dad who warned his friends that he'll try to push them away - and that finale scene when he dons that jacket, suggesting that he could be led down an ugly path.
As someone who seems to have lived a difficult life since his family broke apart, to suddenly have a group of his father's loyal friends present themselves to him with an unconditional offer of belonging (albeit not a good environment, especially for a damaged teenage boy) is understandably an alluring idea for Jughead. This is a man welcoming him into a family, a safety he no doubt has craved for a long time. The last shot of Jughead's slightly surprised expression at Betty's quiet plea for him to stay is enough to keep audiences wondering what will happen next season. Will Juggie lose the hat and wear the jacket? Or will he accept that this is not the best direction for him to go in? In that moment, he has to chose between a possible family and home, or his first love.

The final scene sets the tone for the next season: their safe place, Pop's, now tainted with a tragic event that will have lasting effects in the episodes to come. How will this impact the group, who at this moment, are all set to face huge changes in their lives? The violence in Pop's could signify the rocky future for the friendship group, whose time together is the only escape from their troubling family-related present.

 I'd also like to mention the amazing diverse casting: each actor is so talented and brings something different to the show, but for me the female characters, who are each so very different from each-other, are so captivating. We also have women in positions of power, and boys who show their emotions. Thankyou writers!

Although the show is so incredibly far-fetched from real life (remember we are British and grew up in rural France, so any US high-school story is like a completely different world for us), with the brutal honesty and very dramatic story-lines, the essence of Riverdale, being the platonic friendships, is what is so very enjoyable. We all have memories of our teenage years spent with friends, the sense of belonging and freedom, a notion that is so perfectly delivered in Riverdale.

Have you watched this show yet? Who are your favorite characters? What do you hope for in season 2? We always love reading comments and we'd love to hear your thoughts!

Holly & Summer x


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