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Riverdale, Season 1

Archie, Veronica, Betty, Jughead, and the rest of the gang find themselves ensnared in the disappearance and murder of Jason Blossom when Archie comics meets teen soap opera in Riverdale.

I watched the first episode of Riverdale shortly after it premiered on the CW website (I don’t get CW on my local cable plan). I liked it, but didn’t keep up with it until the series became available on Netflix. I have finally finished the first season, and I feel in the mood to review.

I enjoyed the first season immensely.

The acting is good. Certainly better than other examples of the teen soap genre. K.J. Apa grows into the role of Archie throughout the season, but his performance is consistently good. Lili Reinhart captures the multifaceted Betty beautifully. Camila Mendes is amazing as Veronica. And Cole Sprouse captures the idealism and pessimism of Jughead wonderfully.

The story is compelling. The viewer is never quite sure who killed Jason Blossom until the end. The subplots and individual character arcs sprinkled throughout the season are all well written and interesting.

The look of Riverdale is quite stunning. The intentional anachronism creates a halcyon and wholesome veneer that belies the corruption endemic to the town. Thematically, well done!

But, as much as I enjoy the series so far, I do have some issues.

As much as I like the look of Riverdale, the fictional city, I am not sure the writers thought through the world building. Does Riverdale have its own police department, or does the county provide all law enforcement? Why is Riverdale High so nice looking whereas Southside High looks like it comes from the gritty 1990s? Surely some parents would sue! Okay, I get that, thematically, the differences between glittering Riverdale High and gritty Southside High have to be extreme, even if the two schools are in the same school district. But the contrast might be too extreme.

Another issue I have is with Kevin Keller. Casey Cott is in every episode. Why is it only in the second season that he is in the main cast? It makes one wonder. . .  (Expect a variation of this criticism if I ever get to reviewing Iron Fist and The Defenders in the case of Madame Gao).

In the end, Riverdale is an engrossing and enjoyable teen soap opera that takes the idealism of Archie and turns it on its head to interrogate the wholesome illusion.