Send Help! I Can’t Stop Watching ‘Riverdale’
Riverdale is back! Television’s favorite it’s-so-bad-it’s-good-but-also-I-legitimately-can’t-tell-anymore show’s returned from its winter hiatus. My body is ready. However, I’m not entirely sure why.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love this show. I can’t get enough of the soap opera antics. Even though Riverdale is the most ridiculous show on CW (maybe on television in general), it’s impossible for me to look away. It’s a trashy teen Twin Peaks. It has me hook, line, and sinker.
Now, I know this is not a particularly sophisticated piece of television. You won’t find the nuanced storytelling of Atlanta, the intricate mystery of True Detective, or the character dynamics of Succession. You will, however, find horny as hell teens and god-awful musical numbers. Why do I keep watching?
Well, maybe the subversion of the characters is part of it. I’ll confess: I’ve never been particularly attached to the old Archie Comics, but I do consider them something of a pop cultural institution. They’re charming pieces of Americana. Evocative of a simpler time, old school Archie Comics were the model of Main Street, USA. For a while, the license was even shopped out to produce aggressively Christian comics, so you had Archie spouting lines like, “Get out of my way, Beelzebub! I want to see things God’s way—not man’s way!” as Betty Cooper prays in front of a house being destroyed Old Testament style. (The comics have been much more progressive in the decades that followed: spinoff Kevin Keller was Archie Comics first book to be titled for and led by an openly Gay character.)
That classic, squeaky clean image is a far cry from the web of murder and lies that marks every season of Riverdale. There are serial killers! There are students sleeping with teachers! There are incestuous maple syrup dynasties! It’s all patently absurd, and the escalation is constant with melodrama at every turn.
Much has been said about the show’s appeal to teens (a diverse cast, modern sensibilities, and Cole Sprouse), but I don’t fall into that demographic. This show is not designed for me. Veronica’s slang-ridden quips are infuriating and probably already outdated, and I fast forward through the musical numbers because I hate them.
However, these characters baffle and fascinate me: Jughead is heir apparent to one of Riverdale’s most notorious street gangs, Archie becomes a fascist vigilante, and Veronica runs a goddamn speakeasy under the ‘50s diner—remember, they’re all high schoolers. Nothing makes sense, but I’m glad that it doesn’t because that’d ruin all the fun.
For a show that’s so constantly gloomy and dark (the series starts with an unsolved murder, after all), Riverdale is still charmingly goofy. It’s self-aware and knows exactly what it’s doing, and it does it well. It’s a perfect iteration of the primetime soap opera genre, evoking the best of what has worked before (Luke Perry!), but remaining fresh and distinct. It’s weird and wonderful.
That said, Jughead’s eaten a hamburger, like, one time. Get your shit together, Riverdale.