Most people have heard of the show Riverdale (2017-). This teen T.V. show first aired in 2017 and had been adored by teenagers ever since. I usually stay away from the typical teenage television shows because I find them repetitive and highly unrealistic, but I thought I would give this show a try so I could see what everyone was talking about. *This review has no spoilers!*
Let me premise this by mentioning that I have watched all of Season 1, most of Season 2 and 3, and a portion of Season 4. Although I have not watched all of the episodes, I have watched enough to be able to understand the story, the dynamics of the characters, and the unique tone of the show.
There is so much I could say about this show, both good and bad. When I watched the first Season, I could not understand why so many people were drawn to this show. Personally, I did not find anything intriguing in Season 1, so I almost did not finish watching it. The show was something that I thought teenagers would have made in their film class. The ideas were not unique, did not surprise me and the characters were over-the-top and not believable. I rarely talk about a show or movie like this, but I think it is important to be honest. Don’t worry, it gets better.
Season 2 left me more disappointed than Season 1, so I did not even finish watching it. I took a break from Riverdale and moved onto watching other movies and shows. But more recently, I have had an urge to get back into the show. Maybe it is because I watched an interview of KJ Apa and his accent made me want to give the show another try. Nonetheless, I started watching the show again, starting with Season 3 on Netflix, and then I caught up on the episodes of Season 4 that are on the CW app.
In Season 3, I found that the characters finally started to become more interesting, dynamic and real. I mean the story is still far from realistic, but the characters became more relatable. I think the actors were also starting to get used to playing their characters and their performances started to get better. My favorite character in the first season was Kevin, but slowly my favorite characters became Jughead and Archie. In this season, there were more plot-twists that I did not see coming and that kept me guessing. It was in this season that I got hooked on the show, and I felt like I needed to get my hands on all of the episodes and watch them quick.
Season 4 is almost done airing now, but I was able to catch some of the episodes on the CW app. You can watch a few of the last episodes on this app for free. One thing I need to point out are the singing/musical episodes that appear in every season. I am not a fan of musicals and that being said, the musical episodes are both great and horrible at the same time. The show is not usually realistic, but the musical element adds another layer of “dream world” to the show. The performances are fantastical, but not always in a good way. Some of the songs and scenes are great, incredible actually, but others are off-key and flat. Many of the dance numbers are spectacular in a way that you would be awed if you saw it at your high school play, but you are taken out of the story when you see it on Riverdale. Ironically, one thing that I find consistent with this show is that the quality of the performances, writing and directing is entirely inconsistent.
My favorite actors in the show are KJ Apa and Cole Sprouse. I find their characters most believable because they seem to meld right into their characters. They are in the moment as an actor and their gestures and little movements truly help convey the story. I think that their work as actors is the reason why their characters are my favorite. Somehow they made their highly unrealistic characters seem relatable.
In addition, the sound effects throughout this show throw me off. Often the sounds are not timed properly to the action that is seen on the screen. This can be distracting to a viewer and can take them out of the story. However, in contrast, the soundtrack to each episode adds so much to the tone, suspense and meaning of a scene. This show is full of contradictions, once again, some good and some bad.
Overall, I love the world that this show creates and the characters’ relationships that are ever-changing, but some of the story feels to be repeating itself over and over again. I am looking for uniqueness and get the same story regurgitated in three different ways. I know this story is inspired by the stories in the comics, and maybe that is where it gets some of its appeal to its viewers. The show has characters that are reminiscent of many film noir movies and has a confusing mix of new and old (ex: typewriter then iPhone then cassette player). Who uses cassettes, VHS tapes and typewriters in 2020? Here, I will answer that for you: hardly anyone, except for the characters in Riverdale.
Also, one thing that caught my eye as a writer and filmmaker myself, most of the characters say exactly what they mean, exactly what they are thinking. This is not often done in films and in T.V. Usually feelings are better shown and not said. However, this show has so many repeating characters that it appears that the writers found the need to have the characters say major plot points, instead of just showing the characters in action. I find that this takes away from the story and makes it less interesting to watch. In reality, most people do not say what they are truly thinking, that makes them too vulnerable, their true thoughts are seen through their actions, not their words. But, is anything about this show realistic?
Now, all of that being said, something about me is drawn to this show. I think it is the mystery of the characters and how they are simultaneously normal school kids and criminals at the same time. How can the good kids do bad things and somehow eventually everyone is ok with it? There is so much contradiction in this show that makes me think, and maybe that is why part of me likes the show. This show is not good in the traditional sense of the word, meaning it is not like a Christopher Nolan script or full of Waititi jokes, but there is something magnetizing to it. The show has a wicked hook that makes the viewers want to watch the next episode and the next and the next. I commend the writers for that. And now I will go watch the parts of Season 2 & 3 that I missed. See you when I am out the other side!
What to think about:
I just want to mention that I think this show is for adults, not for kids in high school. However, I imagine that high school kids are the show’s key demographic. I do not think that many of the elements of the show would be a good influence on kids of high school age. I remember in my Anthropology course I learned that what kids and teens watch on T.V. becomes normal for them, therefore if they watch violence, they get used to seeing violence and get desensitized to it. I think that this show does not represent a realistic high school experience and I think it is important for high schoolers to know that before watching this. And I am not just talking about the mysteries and disappearances, I am talking about everything else too. It is hard to find scenarios in this show that ARE realistic.
Check it out: 5.9/10
I think most people have watched this show already and decided if it was or wasn’t for them, but I urge you to give it another try. Riverdale will never be Barry, or Mr. Robot, or The Office, but it is still a good show to put on at the end of the day.
The show does not require your full attention, you can have it on while you are doing your homework, or exercising, and you will still be able to understand what is happening. Although the show has many serious elements that will scare younger kids, I think it is a good mystery show for older teenagers or adults who need a break from their busy lives. Maybe this show is like Scooby-Doo, but for adults.
That being said, I rated it a 5.9/10 because I think the story could be better planned, leave better clues for the audience to follow and have more elements that are realistic and relatable for the everyday person. Some scenes are great, others are not, and because this show is not consistently good or bad, I gave it a 5.9. Some episodes are well thought-out, but other plots twists are done loosely and feel as if they were just thrown in there without much thought going into them. For those reasons, I recommend watching this show, but do not have high hopes, because they might be crushed.
When high school friends in Riverdale encounter danger that you could only dream of, they are forced to grow up fast, make decisions they might regret, and stand up for one another in the face of vicious danger.
What show should I watch and write about next?