‘Riverdale’ Season 1 TV REVIEW: An Addictive, Thrilling Teen Drama

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Image credit: Dean Buscher / The CW

It’s been a long time since a television show as creepy as Twin Peaks or as addictive as the likes of One Tree Hill or Gossip Girl has graced our screens, but when Riverdale came along at the beginning of 2017, the teen drama/thriller quickly took precedence as the next big thing, and with good reason. It’s extremely hard to not like or at least appreciate the series, seeing as it’s an addictive mix of Twin Peaks meets Scooby Doo meets Nancy Drew. 

Riverdale is different to your average drama series centred on the lives of teenagers. Whilst the first season does begin with a murder, it quickly establishes itself as a series in a completely different ballpark to the likes of Pretty Little Liars or even Veronica Mars. Created as a new take on Archie Comics characters, including red-haired goofy kid Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), girl next door Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), and extravagant girl from out of town Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), Riverdale takes a murder-mystery approach and circles around the death of one Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines).

The 13-episode first season begins with discovery of Blossom’s body, washed up with a bullet wound in his head after he was presumed missing and dead. Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) narrates the town’s events, setting the tone of the series as dark twists and turns are revealed.

Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Glee, Looking) ensures the 13 episodes pack a punch, and whilst some chapters occasionally seem a little out of place, or feel lost along the overall plot, the focus on intrigue and suspense is kept front and centre. From episode one, the audience is hooked onto the mystery of what happened at Sweetwater River.

Image credit: Diyah Pera / The CW

Riverdale deals with a number of heavy issues throughout its first season. Besides the murder of a student, the series tackles a student-teacher relationship, teen pregnancy, divorce, embezzlement, drug rings, and some pretty downbeat high school/relationship drama.

It’s refreshing that relationship drama isn’t at the forefront of this series (unlike countless others concerning teenagers), and whilst the love triangle between Archie, Veronica and Betty is prominent for a few episodes, it thankfully doesn’t drag out. Some fans of the original comics could be upset that the classic triangle is swept under the carpet for much of the season, but it’s actually refreshing. Archie’s ‘career in music’ subplot is also kept restrained, which is great, because it could have gone very High School Musical very quickly. We dip into the subplot sparingly, which provides breathers from the inherit darkness waiting around the corner.

As you’d expect, the writers have a knack for leaving the series on epic cliffhangers and produce enough red herrings to cause a lot of fan speculation about who the murderer may be. When the shocking reveal arrives, it isn’t one that you could have easily guessed, unless you are some kind of super sleuth from a Christie novel. And just when you think everything has been wrapped up with a nice bow, a final cliffhanger is introduced, leaving us enticed and hungry for more. One thing is for sure: this series sets itself apart from other teen dramas. Let’s hope it can keep up the momentum for an even more addictive follow-up.

THE REEL SCORE: 9/10

Patrice McMullen, 20, studying Bachelor of Arts - Screen Studies through Griffith University online. Currently living in Wagga Wagga, NSW and hoping to graduate next year after three years of study. Favourite film is John Hughes' The Breakfast Club, but enjoys anything 1980s related.

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