The first episode of Riverdale, the teen drama based on the Archie Comics, aired last week. As a longtime fan and collector of the original comic books, I was pumped to hear it had been revived again (there have already been several film and TV adaptations). The wholesome and lovable characters that I knew were coming to the small screen! But after I watched the first teaser trailer, I realised that it wasn’t going to be anything like the soda-pops-and-sock-hops-world that I was expecting….and that was okay.
Riverdale is airing on The CW in the US (and Netflix in Australia) which, as the home for gritty teen dramas, is the perfect place for it. It has been likened to Twin Peaks, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and Veronica Mars to name a few, so if you enjoyed any or all of these high school mystery shows, this is perf for you. As I watched the pilot, I kept mentally listing the differences and similarities of the TV show to the comic books. I found that the main trio (Archie, Betty and Veronica) were pretty faithful to the original characters but everyone and everything else was different. Let’s discuss specifics.
The Riverdale Cast
K.J. Apa as Archie Andrews
Archie in the comic books is on several sporting teams, loves his car, sings and plays guitar (he’s in a band called The Archies) and spends all his free time being the meat in the Betty and Veronica love sandwich. He’s a nice guy with good intentions but is accident-prone and always getting into sticky situations. Despite being a little too attractive (see six pack below) and a faux redhead, Riverdale Archie is actually a good fit! The show has shaken up some of his traditional comic book relationships, for example, Cheryl Blossom does not appear to be his third romantic interest (that place is reserved for, wait for it, MISS. GRUNDY.), Jughead is not currently his BFF (a long time ago, they used to be friends), Reggie is apparently a buddy and not a rival and Mrs Andrews is not currently in the picture. Fun fact: K.J. Apa is from New Zealand!
Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper
Riverdale Betty is exactly who she should be – the sweet girl next door with the signature twirly pony tail and major obsession with Archie. In the comic books Betty is studious, charitable, socially conscious and friends with everybody. She’s a cheerleader and athlete who likes animals, writing, volunteering, cooking and making her own clothes. Her friendship/rivalry with Veronica translated really well on screen because they’re both nice to each other despite their attraction to the same guy. Best moment: when she’s bouncing around her room singing into her hairbrush – it’s quintessentially Betty.
Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge
Veronica Lodge is the Cher Horowitz of Riverdale. Except she’s not Jewish, she’s Latina (one of many culturally diverse changes in the show). She’s a vain, rich, spoiled, boy-crazy shop-a-holic! Or at least she was in the comic books. In Riverdale, Veronica has been trying to turn over a new leaf since her billionaire father got arrested and lost their fortune and she and her mother Hermione fled New York. Her fierceness, honesty and passion make her quite likable! Despite being new to town, she’s already grown fond of Betty and has taken on the role of protective mentor. In the comics, she dates Reggie occasionally and butts heads with Jughead. Throughout the pilot, she uses a lot of literary and pop culture references which I thought gave the character a nice edge. Best Ronnie moment – when she called Archie Archiekins (like in the comics)!
Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones
Despite being the narrator of the episode, Riverdale Jughead, played by Cole Sprouse (Cody from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody all grown up!), has a fairly small talking role in the pilot. He is a quiet loner who has his head permanently buried in his laptop writing his novel about the events of the town. He has had a mysterious falling out with ex-best pal Archie and that’s about as much as we know about him. In the comic books, he is dramatically different. He’s a lazy, food-obsessed moocher who spends all his time either eating burgers at Pop’s or dreaming about eating burgers at Pop’s. He is forever trying to escape the romantic advances of females, specifically Big Ethel who has a crush on him. The best nod to the comics was Jughead’s grey spiked beanie which took the place of his signature crooked crown! Noticebly absent was his shaggy white sidekick Hot Dog.
Casey Cott as Kevin Keller
Kevin is a relatively new addition to the comics (2010) and is the first openly gay character. He was introduced as the attractive newbie as opposed to Riverdale where Veronica plays that role. His character loves to eat and aspires to become a journalist. In the show, he’s Betty and Veronica’s “GBF” and is exploring the boundries of Moose’s sexuality (who is straight in the comics)!
Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom
Comic book Cheryl is a red-headed vixen who turns the head of all the boys, in particular our very own redhead Archie! Speaking of which, I feel like the redhead population in Riverdale is a tad bit high…but then again most of them clearly aren’t natural redheads (see Cliff Blossom below – Ronald McDonald much?). Riverdale Cheryl is still a vixen but she’s also a nasty bitch with mildly incestuous feelings for her twin brother Jason (she said he was her soulmate). Best quote: “Though they usually perform their own material, tonight they’re making an exception and debuting a cover of the song my parents claim they were listening to the night Jason and I were conceived.”
Sarah Habel as Miss Geraldine Grundy
As you can see from the images above, apart from a fondness for girly blouses and tight buns, Miss Geraldine Grundy in Riverdale is nothing like her comic book counterpart. In the comics she’s a stern but nurturing English teacher. In the show, she’s a music teacher and statutory rapist. A fairly controversial leap!
Luke Perry as Fred Andrews
Archie’s dad Fred has a much bigger role in the show than in the comic books where other than being the judgmental old school father, he didn’t really do much. In Riverdale, Luke Perry plays a younger, slimmer and hairier Fred who hopes that his son will eventually take over the family construction business. He’s currently separated from Archie’s mum and apparently dated Hermione Lodge in high school.
Marisol Nichols as Hermione Lodge
Riverdale Hermione Lodge is hiding something. She’s moved her daughter to her hometown for a fresh start and is trying to find a job to support her but she’s got a dark past. She looks really put together but in the words of Damian Leigh from Mean Girls, “That’s why her hair is so big. It’s full of secrets”. In the comic books, Hermione is blonde and not a Latina so that’s new!
Mädchen Amick as Alice Cooper
What have they done to you, Alice? In the comics she’s a loving, caring and supportive mother to Betty. In Riverdale, she is the opposite of that. Overbearing, controlling, a pill pusher (she’s a fan of keeping Betty on Adderall) and has a shady past involving her daughter and Jason Blossom. Fun fact: Mädchen was in both Twin Peaks and Gossip Girl! You might also recognise her as Sherry from Gilmore Girls.
Ross Butler as Reggie Mantle
In the comic books Reggie is a bit of a douche. He’s a cocky, self-obsessed prankster who’s always competing with Archie for Veronica. We didn’t see much of Riverdale Reggie in the pilot but from his short conversation with Archie he did come across as a bit of a shallow perv.
Josie and the Pussycats
Josie and the Pussycats are Riverdale High’s resident girl band. In the comics Josie McCoy is the sweet redheaded leader of the group but in the series she’s got a rude ‘tude (played by Ashleigh Murray). In Riverdale, the other two bandmembers have yet to speak but in the comic books Melody Valentine is a stereotypically dumb blonde drummer (Asha Bromfield in the show) and Valerie Smith (now Brown) is an intelligent songwriter and bassist (Hayley Law in the show). Best quote by Josie: “Justin Ginger-lake”.
Cody Kearsley as Moose Mason
In the comics dim-witted blond jock Moose is in love with Midge (not written into the show). In Riverdale he’s gay. Or “not gay!” as he was quick to point out to Kevin.
Alvin Sanders as Pop Tate
In the comic books, Pop Tate is the jolly, plump and balding European owner of the Chock’lit Shoppe. In Riverdale, he’s a plump and possibly balding (we’ll need to see him without the soda jerk cap to be sure) African American man who owns the Chock’lit Shoppe but it’s unclear whether he’s jolly at this stage.
Tom McBeath as Smithers
I don’t know why Smithers always had his eyes closed in the comic books. Was he meant to look smug or did he have narcolepsy? Glad to see Riverdale Smithers’ eyes are open. He was the Lodge’s butler in the comic books and is now Hermione Lodge’s doorman.
Colin Lawrence as Coach Clayton
Coach Clayton doesn’t have much of a personality yet. Unsure if he has the Mr Sheffield grey streak through his hair either. In the comic books, he was a likable and approachable coach and P.E. teacher.
Trevor Stines as Jason Blossom
Although he’s dead, Jason Blossom is a major character in Riverdale. It seems like the mystery surrounding his death will drive the season. In the comic books he was always playing pranks but in an evil way not in a cheeky way like Reggie. He is Cheryl’s incredibly arrogant and entitled twin brother who likes Betty. In the show, all we know is that he got himself killed and he had a rocky relationship with Betty’s older sister Polly that ended badly.
Lochlyn Munro as Hal Cooper
Hal is Betty’s dad. In the comic books he works as a pharmacist but in the show he’s seen to own the local newspaper (blink and you’ll miss it at the beginning of the episode). Physically they did a pretty good casting job! You might recognise Lochlyn as fitness freak Craig from A Night at the Roxbury or Agent Jake Harper from White Chicks.
Major Curda as Dilton Doiley
In the comic books Dilton is the smartest person in town and besties with Moose (who is arguably the dumbest person in town). We’ve only seen a quick minute of him in Riverdale but so far he fits the bill.
Some of the characters that are still to come: Veronica’s father Hiram Lodge, Archie’s mother Mary Andrews (played by ’80s sweetheart Molly Ringwald), Jughead’s biggest fan Ethel Muggs (played by Stranger Things’ Shannon Purser aka BARB!), Josie’s mother Sierra McCoy, Betty’s sister Polly Cooper, Principal Waldo Weatherbee and Coach’s son Chuck Clayton.
Recurring characters who have not yet been – and probably won’t be – cast: Moose’s girlfriend Midge Klump, Chuck’s girlfriend Nancy Woods, Betty’s brother Chic Cooper, Veronica’s chef Gaston, Jughead’s mother Gladys Jones and sister Jellybean.
Why It’s Worth Watching
It’s filmed in and around Vancouver, Canada so I’m sure we can expect more of these gorgeous panoramas. In addition to being picturesque, Riverdale’s mountains and rivers are hauntingly beautiful in a way that’s reminiscent of Twin Peaks.
The Teen Drama
There’s the typical teen drama of mean cheerleaders, painful high school parties, love triangles, unreciprocated crushes, gossip, sexual exploration, broken friendships…and that’s just from the pilot.
If you loved the music in the first episode, check out this track list (the opening song is Tell Me by Johnny Jewel and that Lana Del Rey-esque voice is Saoirse Ronan!). I really liked Josie and the Pussycats’ cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night” and hope there are a lot more performances throughout the season.
Again with the Twin Peaks reference but the creepy opening river scene reminded me a lot of the Laura Palmer body scene. I was totally hooked within the first five minutes! How did Jason die? Was he murdered? What was the motive? What is Cheryl hiding?
Update: Check out our Who Killed Jason Blossom post for our theories!
The whole opening sequence was incredible. Jason’s red Chevy Impala gliding through the town in the early morning, Cheryl’s gloved hand hanging out the window, her red heel stepping onto the damp ground, the aerial shots of the boat and everything that follows – perfect.
It might not be the raunchiest show on TV but it’s definitely pushing the boundaries of these traditionally wholesome characters! Nudity (Betty and Archie shirtless – gasp!), prescription pill pushing parents (just say no, Betty), Archie saying “wank bank”, sex in a vintage Volkswagen Beetle with a music teacher and a same sex kiss at cheerleader tryouts…farewell soda pops and sock hops! Bring on episode 2!
What did you think of the Riverdale pilot?
Riverdale airs on Netflix on Fridays (worldwide) and on The CW on Thursdays at 9/8c (US).
Season 1 is now available to pre-order on Amazon!
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