Riverdale, Revisited

Ms. Grundy and Archie. This is as happy a moment as any you’re likely to see on Riverdale. (Image: CW)

Okay, so it’s been a while since I posted my thoughts on Riverdale, so time to check back in with the series and see what’s up. In that previous post, I expressed my thoughts, especially on the Archie-Ms. Grundy relationship the show was exploring. I was concerned about the direction the producers were planning to take that story line, and I explained why. I also said that they deserved the benefit of the doubt until we saw how that story played out.

I am happy to report that in the very next episode of the series, Ms. Grundy got driven out of town by Archie’s father and Betty’s mother because of the inappropriate relationship with Archie. So, hooray! Now, this is Riverdale, so there were a lot of nasty conversations and Betty and Veronica broke into Ms. Grundy’s car and stole her gun and a whole lot of other stuff that we wouldn’t want to see anyone do in real life but is par for the course in Riverdale, but hey, the story of that relationship ended without getting icky. (Maybe I should say “ickier.”)

No, the ending actually modeled some good ideas for any teenagers who might learn that a friend was in an inappropriate relationship with an adult. And by “good ideas,” I mean, “tell your friend the relationship is unhealthy and needs to end, then tell some adults.” Since this is Riverdale, there were also midnight sleuthing and petulant adults who can’t resist turning any discussion no matter how important into a rehash of decades-old grievances, but we’ll let all that pass because it’s Riverdale. What did you expect?

Some critics have remarked that the ending of the Ms. Grundy story line seemed abrupt. It all came to a screeching halt just four episodes in, which might surprise you, given that about half of the hype about this show before its premiere revolved around “Oooh, Archie is having an affair with Ms. Grundy, can you believe it?” It’s tempting to speculate that this represented some sudden change of heart. Perhaps the show runners were getting too much flak about this story line, and made a last-minute decision to cut it short? Maybe. But I say, what matters is that they made the right decision, and they deserve praise for that. How and when they made the decision is unimportant.

All right, so now that we are ten episodes in, and the Ms. Grundy unpleasantness is behind us, what do we make of Riverdale? Well, Riverdale is…weird. It’s a CW teen soap opera that’s so over-the-top that you can’t help thinking that it’s a sly parody of teen soap operas. But here’s the thought that’s bothering me these days: I asked myself, “If this show were exactly the same as what it is, except that the characters were not named Archie and Betty and Jughead and Veronica, if there were no tie-in to Archie comics, would you still be interested?” I have to confess that the answer to this question, at least for now, is a resounding “No.” A lot of the draw for Riverdale right now is seeing how amazingly far removed from the comics the show has gotten and watching it strain to move farther still, even from the recently re-booted and more realistic and relatable Archie comics.

But this is a draw that can’t go on forever. As the show enters its second season (it’s been renewed), it will become harder to keep going back to that well. Riverdale is going to have to stand on its own, without leaning so heavily on the comics. Otherwise the conceit of the show, “Hey, we sure are different from the comics you read as a kid, aren’t we?” is soon going to wear thin.

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