Riverdale: Chapter One: The River’s Edge review S1, Ep.1

While some of my apprehensions for this re-imagining of Archie wasn’t unfounded, The River’s Edge was hardly the tone deaf tragedy that I envisioned either.

With Archie hooking up with Miss Grundy, Betty and Veronica kissing and Moose confused about his sexuality, this definitely is a unique spin on Riverdale that’s as provocative as it is engaging. Riverdale might not be the same old Archie, but it doesn’t play out the tired CW teen formula either making for a compelling and fresh reason to keep watching. 

Riverdale’s tone is decidedly darker than the comic source material. In fairness, the characters act truer to modern teens. But I still wish Riverdale had a less depressing and dark feel. A little optimism and fun goes a long way for shows like The Flash and Supergirl. And having Archie remain a klutz instead of all out heartthrob would have been a nice nod to the past.

Besides some notable missteps, The River’s Edge was a good start to this new take on Archie. And for the most part, the characters felt right.

Archie (KJ Apa) is the prototypical All-American teen of 2017. He’s got a million dreams, no idea how to pursue them and still naive enough to not want to disappoint everyone. Naturally Archie’s parents are split and his dad (Luke Perry in the most blatant yes you’re old moment for folks who remember watching new episodes of 90210) has custody.

Riverdale The River's Edge review - Hermione and Veronica Lodge

That’s is helpful for any single moms that might be hanging around, like his old flame Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols), who’s returned to Riverdale after her husband was caught in an embezzling scheme.

Fortunately, Hermione brought her daughter, Veronica (Camila Mendes) along. Nice girl Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) instantly feels threatened, but in Riverdale’s most fascinating and welcome twist, Ronnie is tired of the bad girl shtick. While Veronica is a tad obnoxious dropping a million movie references constantly, she’s got a good heart.

Veronica has no problem telling off mean girl Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) to help get Betty on the cheerleading squad, but darned if Archie’s hard-earned summer bod still make her weak in the knees despite Betty nursing a longtime crush. Their girls before bros bond might be strained, but Cheryl’s obnoxious queen bee attitude will get them back on the same page before long.

I was hoping for more with Josie (Ashleigh Murray) and the Pussycats, but they’re just cold, fine-arts major style characters obsessed with pure art and their branding.

CW’s apparent bias against blondes continues as Kevin Keller is played by brunette Casey Cott. Kevin faithfully plays into every gay best friend cliche. Kevin seems poised to become the most grating supporting character just from the writers inability to make him more nuanced than the same character we’ve seen in teen movies since the 90s.

Riverdale The River's Edge review - Archie and Mr. Andrews

We know what Archie did this summer: Ms. Grundy (Sarah Habel). She’s the music teacher who shared a passionate tryst over the summer. The two also have another secret of hearing a gunshot the same day socialite and Cheryl’s brother, Jason, was killed. Archie wants to tell the investigators he heard a shot, but Grundy knows that revelation comes with major questions. Who shot Jason should make for a juicy overarching plot for the first season. There’s plenty of viable suspects.

For a show I really wasn’t giving a fair shake, there were only a few instances where The River’s Edge disappointed. Betty and Veronica kissing to get on the cheerleading squad was silly and desperate. Unless Cruel Intentions is one of Veronica’s favorite movies?

Apparently the show only has room for one snarky and occasionally mean character. With Cheryl filling that slot, Reggie is reduced to being a stereotypical bro. That’s a shame as Reggie has always been one of the love to hate characters in the Archie realm and he’s more of a third-tier supporting character.

Making Moose gay or at least bi-curious removes one of the more longstanding dynamics of the series with Riverdale’s other love triangle of Reggie, Midge and Moose. Poor Reg can’t catch a break as his risky love affair was deemed irrelevant in the wake of Archie and Ms. Grundy.

Riverdale The River's Edge review - Archie and Betty

Of all the makeovers, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) might be the most disappointing. He was always Archie’s great conscious, but they’re barely on speaking terms now. As The River’s Edge unfolds, Jughead is the narrator crafting what he envisions is his first great novel.

If ever there were a more relatable character for today’s teens, it’d be slacker Jughead polishing off hamburgers while lazily spending time on his phone. Making one of Riverdale’s most beloved characters a brooding aspiring artist misses the mark on what’s made him so endearing.

Riverdale isn’t perfect and there’s still some growing pains that need to be worked out. The good news is there’s enough of an interesting foundation here that it’s worth a passing grade for now.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Image Credit: Katie Yu/The CW

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