Not Your Parent’s Archie and Betty

Riverdale Season 3 — One of the CW’s Best Shows

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It’s only been a year and a half since Riverdale, the CW’s reinvention of the Archie Comics, made its debut, but one can hardly deny that it’s become a phenomenom. Considering that it has some of the most adult storylines of any series in the Berlanti world, its rather remarkable that it’s popularity has become enormous among teenagers. It was one of the major powers at the MTV Movie and TV awards, with Madeline Peutsch winning a trophy for her incredible work as scene stealer Cherry Blossom. It was the big winner at the Nick Teen Choice Awards. It’s become a big deal at conventions, actually inspiring its own. And now, there’s going to be a spinoff for Netflix about Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which just from the look of it, seems to be aiming for ten times the darkness factor of Stranger Things. (I’m still going to take a look at it because Sabrina will be played by Kieran Shpika. Sally Draper is getting her own series at last.)

Of course, this begs the question: Is Riverdale any good? Well, its definitely playing by its own set of rules. The series is very clearly a shadow of Twin Peaks, and one can definitely see that this might have been the direction David Lynch would have taken the series had it had a longer run on ABC. And every season so far, it continues to plumb what can only be considered Lynchian territory with its central characters. Archie (KJ Apa, who spent most of Season 2 exploring his own darkness, now seems to be trying to pay for his sins. Accused of a murder he didn’t commit, he ended up taking a sentence to juvie in order to pay for his sins. Which seems to be a recurring theme. The Serpents and the Ghoulies, two gangs who he tried to mediate between are in jail with him, neither has occasion to trust him, and he just seems to have been tapped for an underground fighting ring.

Things are not much brighter for the other students at Riverdale High. Veronica (Camilla Mendes) has officially renounced her crime boss father, and doesn’t have must use for her mother (Marisol Nichols), who even though she was elected Mayor seems to be a pawn of her father. She’s trying to hold on to some frays of normality, running Pop’s and trying like hell to get her ‘Archiekins’ out of jail. Betty (Lili Reinhart) has spent the summer reeling from the revelation that her father was The Black Hood, has become addicted to Adderall, and now seems to be dealing with the possibility that her sister and her mother (the always fascinating Madchen Amick) seem to be under the sway of the cult. And then Jughead, who last season embraced his title of ‘Serpent King’, now finds that there seems to be a new and even more frightening murder mystery developing that has ties to a role-playing game ‘Gryphons and Gargoyles’ (The satire of everyday items is one of the few real ties this series has to the official comics. ) This leads to a promising storyline in which it has become very clear that the parents of all the teenagers know something about the murders that are taking place — and that has happened when they were teenagers.

Riverdale is a very dark series, and seems to revel in this darkness with an equal amount of daring. I don’t know any other series that would decide, for its musical show, to do the score of Carrie. And it seems to love subverting every old chestnut from the series — Mrs. Grundy and Midge were murdered last season, Moose is now in a gay relationship and Cherry is having a lesbian affair with one of the Pussycats. And it has a lot of talent playing the adults — in addition to Amick, Skeet Ulrich, Luke Perry, and Robin Givens are among the parental figures in play. (I look forward to an upcoming flashback episode where the teenage actors play the young versions of their parents). My one problem with the show is the same with so many in the Berlanti-verse — last season, so many of the characters played against type to an end result that was frustrating because it didn’t seem to accomplish anything. But the fact of the matter is, like with Twin Peaks, of which this show is the red-headed child, it’s all about the journey. And few series make this journey worthwhile.

My score: 4.25 stars.

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After years of laboring for love in my blog on TV, I have decided to expand my horizons by blogging about my great love to a new and hopefully wider field.

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