archie-riverdale

Review by C.J. Bunce

Viewers know in the first ten minutes of Riverdale that the show is going to be a winner.  Archie Comics has had 75 years to perfect its ageless story of a guy, two gals, and a bunch of friends living in Everytown, USA.  Not many comic book series are so good to successfully draw in fans year after year for so long.  With The CW’s drama Riverdale, you’ll wonder why it took so long to bring these characters to television.  The series may also give the Twin Peaks reboot some competition this year.

World building is still a requirement for a TV pilot–the writers can’t assume we all knew each character and where they fit in.  So it’s impressive most of what viewers need to know is delivered before the first commercial break.  By the end of the pilot episode, one of the age-old questions is answered, too, at least temporarily: Is Archie Andrews (played by a perfectly cast K.J. Apa) going to go after sweet and innocent Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) or seductive and fiery Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes)?

Riverdale -- "Pilot" -- Image Number: RVD101g_0002.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): KJ Apa as Archie and Lili Reinhart as Betty -- Photo: Katie Yu/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.

Jughead (Cole Sprouse) serves as narrator for the first episode, a loner documenting the summer’s big event: death in a small town, via laptop at his table at the all-night burger joint.  But it’s new girl Veronica that we follow through town via a path similar to Buffy Summers looking to find a friend or two in the pilot to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Veronica befriends Betty and the chemistry is instantaneous.  Appropriately distracted Archie is almost a third wheel.  We’re immediately in Veronica’s corner after she punches the head cheerleader in the face with a perfectly delivered, dressing-down, and we’re equally cheering for Betty to get all the good that she deserves.

Tight, clever writing, actors who fit into their roles from their first scenes just as if we’ve known them for years, a town that looks just right complete with the local burger joint and fashions that tell fans that know the characters who’s who before each person’s name is even mentioned, and a twisted, dark Twin Peaks-inspired tale to throw a wrench into the works for anyone expecting the goody two-shoes caricatures from the original.

riverdale-cast

The supporting cast fits right in: bristly Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick), busy but doting dad Fred Andrews (Luke Perry), high school villain queen Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), gay best friend Kevin Keller (Casey Cott), and jerky friend Reggie (Ross Butler).

Riverdale is what a comic book adaptation for the screen is supposed to be.  Can they keep up the momentum beyond the pilot?  Watch Riverdale Thursday nights at 8 p.m. Central on the CW.

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