Connect with us

TV

Riverdale “Chapter One: The River’s Edge” is a trashy, beautiful twist on the Archie mythos

Published

on

RIVERDALE

The many dog-eared digests of Archie Comics stashed with my other childhood belongings hold a series of simple truths, consistent in each and every volume. Archie is a lovable dumbass who wins over the people of Riverdale with his winning smile and completely clueless, utterly wholesome soul. Jughead is eternally tortured, the philosophic, burger-holic who should probably be given credit for being the original emo boy. Betty and Veronica are a dichotomy of female archetypes, playing off the tropes baked into their characters as high school females, two women torn between their friendship, their infatuations, and their frustrations with Archie Andrews, America’s goofball.

These conventions spread to the town of Riverdale, and the other people in it: Pop’s Place is where everyone has milkshakes and hamburgers, no matter what decade the comic might be written in, Veronica’s dad is a dick, Reggie is the classic bully, and Principal Weatherbee just doesn’t understand kids, man. These universal truths have been upheld in Archie Comics for decades, even in the recent (and remarkably fantastic) reboot of the mainline Archie universe in 2015. It’s the kind of comic Minister Wilford or Robert Ford could get behind – everything has its place, operating on a perfectly-dictated schedule, no matter how often the writers throw small tweaks and changes into the works.

Sure, there might be a break or left turn in the story here and there, but readers know what to expect, and they know it will be delivered with such energy and heart that it would be impossible not to enjoy, no matter how familiar or clichéd. Archie, in many ways, is the epitome of serialization in American culture; he’ll always be a redhead (the object of both brunettes and blondes, of course), and he’ll always live in a town that loves its American pie and its football.

There’s still an argument to be made that Riverdale didn’t need to be yet another murder mystery show; as a framing device, it’s probably the weakest element of the pilot.

The CW’s Riverdale takes that Archie, the guy who the world has known and loved for fifty-plus years, and spends 46 minutes saying “fuck tradition.” Like any great show on The CW, it’s the kind that makes no sense on paper (Riverdale turns into Twin Peaks, then into The Killing and Daria at the same time?), and yet somehow turns into network magic in the capable hands of the network’s creative minds. Jughead is writing in word documents, like a moody Gossip Girl? Archie is a tortured music singer, who banged his music teacher while getting ripped working for his dad over the summer? Veronica Lodge isn’t filthy-ass rich? For every moment Riverdale presents itself as a recognizable entity in the Archie Andrews Multiverse, there are three or four moments where Riverdale throws the most angsty teen drama twists into the mix, slowly transforming the classic high school setting and characters into something a lot more modern and fresh in ways I didn’t even realize I wanted Archie to be.

What makes Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s script work so beautifully is how confident it is in reshaping the Archie mythos. Clearly, he understands that nearly every person who is watching this show is doing so for one of two reasons: to watch pretty people be dramatic, and/or because they’re curious long-time Archie fans. As the chief creative officer of Archie Comics, there are few people more attune to the history of Archie than Roberto Aguirre-Sacas, and Riverdale‘s pilot is dripping with loving references to the long-running series, honoring its legacy while simultaneously reflecting on its conventions, remixing it for a modern audience, and presenting it in a way that can satisfy both longtime fans and newcomers alike. That is a tricky fucking act to pull off, yet “Chapter One: The River’s Edge” finds a way to nail nearly every note. Sure, some of the pop culture references and music cues feel like they’re about a year behind what they should be (when Veronica says “you’re not trending #1”, Riverdale nearly tips too far into its own parody), but how “Chapter One” completely reframes and commentates on its own, well-worn mythology is refreshing in a lot of ways other modernizations haven’t come close to capturing. Riverdale isn’t quite as clever culturally as one might hope it is out of the gate, but its self-awareness about its own familiar culture is a genuine surprise and delight.

 

Riverdale could be 2017’s first genuine guilty pleasure, and arguably the best “reimagining” in recent memory since Hannibal.

Chapter One: The River's Edge

There’s still an argument to be made that Riverdale didn’t need to be yet another murder mystery show; as a framing device, it’s probably the weakest element of the pilot, though it helps develop a mysterious personality that the rest of the first episode picks up and plays with in wonderful, engaging ways (like Polly Cooper’s backstory, or the “multiple” secrets Archie has with the sexy librarian-style music teacher, Miss Grundy). Riverdale is at its hypnotic, giggle-inducing finest when it is doing its best Rob Thomas impression (the writer, not the goofy rock star), throwing shade with pop culture references and riffing on its conventions. The show nails it when it’s showing us stuff like Moose sneaking off for gay trysts with Kevin Keller, or with a series of jump cuts that reveals that Miss Grundy is not 75 years old in this world, and Archie definitely had steamy sex with her in the backseat after work one day this summer.

Riverdale is the trashy gem we don’t deserve. It understands that the mean cheerleader and the gay best friend are absolute cliches of the genre, and leans into them with a wink, a smile, and a surprising amount of thought. It’s like some weird, twisted mix of One Tree Hill (the early, high school years, at least) and that aforementioned tween version of The Killing I never knew I wanted. It may not be the Veronica Mars/Twin Peaks/Gossip Girl CW execs have posited it as, but the potential the series has is actually something far more ambitious – and potentially, rewarding – to watch. All the neon-tinged promotional photos and “spooky” trailers had me a little worried; if “Chapter One” is a template for what we’ll see moving forward, Riverdale could be 2017’s first genuine guilty pleasure, and arguably the best “reimagining” in recent memory since Hannibal. I’m not ready to heap that kind of praise on it just yet – but as with the Hannibal pilot, I’m more than a little intrigued to see where this all goes.

RiverDaleCW

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Cheryl Blossom is always a bitch, and she makes a perfect antagonist for this particular style of Archie adaptation.
  • I love how dynamic and complex Veronica and Betty’s relationship is already, after just one episode; there are definitely some very light shades of OTH Brooke/Peyton here, which makes me gleeful.
  • What high school show has a football subplot, but never says what position its main character plays? Little notes like this are what makes Riverdale sing.
  • Reggie is more a dumbass than an antagonist here, which may make him a perfect foil for what appears to be a slightly more mature, less clumsy Archie character.
  • How this show turns Archie’s emotional insecurities into full-blown existential “high school identity” conflicts is wonderful.
  • Jughead and Archie ARE NOT best friends here, which may be a little unnecessary, but definitely adds intrigue in a way that feels familiar to the “What happened to Betty and Archie?” story that drove the first arc of the recent comic reboot.
  • Not enough Josie and the Pussycats – just dropping that now. And why are they doing a cover to start the series? (also, can we not have them care so much about “branding”? K thanks)
  • Know how this story is modern and edgy? All the happy couples of Riverdale ARE DIVORCED, motherfucker. And Archie has a strained relationship with his father, perhaps the oddest twist of them all.
  • I like Super Smart Veronica.
  • Is Jughead writing his novel in the present, or reading it back from the past? His voice-overs range from ominous to straight omniscient, and it’s hard to figure out what context he’s actually applying to the visual narrative.
  • The conversation Archie has with his father about honesty shows an undercurrent of maturity that leaks into every facet of the pilot. If there’s something singularly striking about Riverdale, it’s how it takes the simplistic world of the comics and introduces so many gray elements to give it a new sense of texture. Here’s to hoping it can continue to capture that lightning in a bottle through its first season.

 

 

A TV critic since the pre-Peak TV days of 2011, Randy is a critic and editor formerly of Sound on Sight, Processed Media, TVOvermind, Pop Optiq, and many, many others.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

TV

The Boys Season 2 Episode 3 Review: “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men”

The Boys’ marks an improvement and pays big dividends in an explosive, violently revealing hour.

Published

on

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

Half bottle episode and half coming out party, “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” is a sneaky little showcase for The Boys, and just how big its world’s suddenly gotten in season two. Though ostensibly an episode designed around two events – the boys getting stuck on the boat, and Stormfront revealing her inner racist sociopath – “Over the Hill” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion. With a nimble script and a game group of performers, The Boys‘ second season is turning out to be a distinct pleasure – albeit one heading down a gruesome, dark path I sure hope it’s capable of navigating.

“Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion.

It does take a little while for “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” to get going; beginning three miles offshore with The Boys and the reunited super-siblings, the first quarter feels like it’s simply restating the stakes. It’s a nimble trick, though; led by Kimiko and Kenji, The Boys begins to feel like it is approaching a true moral quandary for the group. Which door descending into hell will they choose?

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

While The Boys often likes to posture its presenting characters with complex dilemmas, the show’s unnerving nihilism often upends any sort of nuance it looks for in its debates around “necessary” violence. Here, Kimiko’s presence throws a fascinating wrench into the proceedings; with most of the group’s members clinging to whatever mirage of family they have left (save for Hughie, who has… forgotten his dad exists?), even Butcher can’t deny having conflicting feelings about what to do with Kenji, and the deal that’s been offered to him if he turns him in.

Elsewhere, “Over the Hill” throws the brazen personalities of The Seven into their own little blenders, as Stormfront begins to sow discord through Vought, and abuse her powers to casually murder a lot of people – nearly all of them minorities, in a way that feels like an explosion of character, rather than an unpeeling of some complicated identity. Stormfront simply doesn’t give a fuck; and with her supernatural ability to manipulate feminist views (her speech to the reporters is magnificent, both in how it develops Stormfront’s character and nods to the simplistic ways in which the evilest people in society disguise themselves among the “good”).

While she’s kicking up tornadoes and electrocuting everyone that gets in her way, characters like The Deep and Homelander continue to benefit from the much-improved writing of season two. The show is still struggling to make Becca something more than the Ultimate Mother Protector trope, but Homelander’s warped sense of responsibility to his son is interesting, surely a bad sign for the upbringing of this world’s Superboy (will he also don a cool leather jacket and weird cyberpunk sunglasses? Who knows!). It’s clearly not going well; even he seems to recognize the danger in bringing his son’s powers to the surface, as its the first time in his life he’s facing a challenge as the world’s strongest hero (that is, until Stormfront doubles that total later in the episode, further frustrating Homelander’s attempts to hold domain over everything in his grasp).

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

It’s not going well for The Deep, either, as his slow descent into cult life is bringing his desperation for acceptance further to the surface. Like with Homelander’s stories, I wish The Deep’s story was a little tighter and more thoughtful (some of the body image stuff seems to be treated trivially, in a way that borders on insensitive and uninformed for the sake of easy jokes), but there’s no denying his character is infinitely more interesting this season, a test case for what a superhero trying to learn their own limits would struggle with. The Deep works best as a pathetic character, but not when it’s a pathetic character The Boys just kick around with bad punchlines; when he’s treated as a byproduct of a deeply flawed human being trying to find a path to good intentions, his fumbles and weak-minded rhetoric is much more amusing – and at times, the tiniest bit empathic (his sadness over Billy’s, well, butchering of his whale buddy was such an earnest, raw and twistedly funny moment).

The Boys has needed to accelerate its internal stakes for a while; the introduction of “super terrorists” to the world by Homelander, and Compound V’s reveal to the public might make the show’s world feel a bit smaller than intended – I think a lot about the “big” fight scenes at the end of Arrow‘s third season, where the ‘entire city’ is fighting, but there’s never more than six people around – The Boys does that on a narrative level sometimes. But as the stories of the show dig a little deeper into its characters – Maeve’s disillusionment, Homelander’s failure to emulate paternal behavior, A-Train’s desperation, it’s beginning to feel like the writers have a deeper understanding of its characters and world, and how to wield its inherent sadistic cynicism to more interesting ends. “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” benefits massively from that, setting up a number of intriguing dominoes for the back half of season two to knock over (in bloody fashion).

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Look, I’m bummed how the Kenji character played out; he was such an interesting character, an examination of everything horrible about what power and war can do to a human being. It’s sad to see The Boys dispose of such an intriguing presence, especially as its a death of a minority character in service of mostly white-related stories – however, with such a hateful, nasty character like Stormfront waiting in the wings, it is easy to see how the writers found their way down that path. (like, she could’ve killed Black Noir and this show would’ve literally lost nothing… just sayin’).
  • Can A-Train just collapse or whatever, so we can get this storyline moving? We’ve been doing this since the second episode!
  • Why haven’t we seen any reaction to Becca seeing Butcher in person at the end of season one? She hasn’t mentioned it or even had a longing look off-screen to violin music.
  • Man, I’m so glad they cast Aya Cash as Stormfront.
Continue Reading

TV

The Best Golden Girl is Sophia Petrillo

Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won.

Published

on

By

Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

A seemingly harmless little old lady with curly white hair, oversized glasses, and an innate ability to tell a great story shows up on her daughter’s doorstep when the retirement home she was put in by said daughter burns down. With a simple, “Hi there,” the world meets Sophia Petrillo. For seven years on NBC’s The Golden Girlsa show about the senior set—Sophia lived with her intelligent and extremely sarcastic divorced daughter Dorothy Zbornak and her two roommates, sexy, eternally horny southern belle Blanche Devereaux and sweet but dim-witted Minnesotan Rose Nylund. Each is memorable in their own way, but it’s Sophia, “feisty, zesty, and full of old-world charm,” that stands out the most.

When TV was full of generic, sweet grandma types, Sophia was anything but. Sure, she looked the part with her bifocals, pearls, and now iconic straw and bamboo-beaded handbag, but Sophia was always trying to make a quick buck. She conned Rose into going into a sandwich-making business that pit them against the mob, faked being paralyzed to try and collect insurance, and constantly “borrowed” money from Dorothy’s purse. Instead of helping Dorothy, Blanche and Rose get out of jail when they are mistaken for hookers (don’t ask, just Youtube it). She stole their tickets to go to a party and meet Burt Reynolds. She also stole Rose’s car, worked at a fast-food restaurant, and won a marathon. Not bad for a woman in her eighties. Sophia had a sharp wit and an acerbic tongue, blaming her stroke for leaving her without the ability to self-censor. She was always ready with a zinger or a comeback, some of which she saved for her very own daughter.

Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

Sophia Petrillo is the Secret Star of The Golden Girls

That’s not to say she’s all schemes and insults. Beneath her tough exterior is a kind woman with a big heart who loves her family and friends. Viewers don’t often get to see her softer side, which makes the moments they do seem that much more special. One of the best Sophia episodes showed her reaction to the death of her son, Phil. She put up a wall of anger which Rose was finally able to break down in the final moments of the episode, revealing Sophia’s true feelings of guilt over Phil’s cross-dressing as she bursts into tears. Another favourite was when Dorothy expressed concern about her mother not doing enough with her days. We then get to see exactly what she gets up to sticking up for her friend and causing a scene at the grocery store while claiming to represent a fictional senior citizens union, volunteering at a sick kids hospital and later, conducting a senior citizens jazz band. Meanwhile, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche do next to nothing except sit around and eat. When she’s asked what she did all day upon her return, she simply says she bought a nectarine, and Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche are none the wiser.

But if Sophia has one claim to fame, it is her colorful old-world tales about Sicily, which often as not, contain a pearl of wisdom or embellishment of some kind. We would have loved to have known her during her “picatta period (a wedge of lemon and a smart answer for everything),” when she was the most beautiful girl at a resort and all the men fought over her (so beautiful, in fact, that she had “a butt you could bounce a quarter off of”). She was also once painted by Picasso and was best friends with Mama Celeste. But I digress. Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won. Her hunches were never wrong, and rarely, if ever did she meet her match. Sophia was, in short, a one-woman show. And thanks to re-runs and fan appreciation, that show will never be gone.

  • Dasilva

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.

Continue Reading

TV

30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Published

on

By

30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Continue Reading

We update daily. Support our site by simply following us on Twitter and Facebook

Facebook

Trending