Comic books are in. If this is news to you, step away from this article, hunker down and use that nifty Amazon Prime student account to stream some Iron Man. If superheroes aren’t your thing, never fear; there is a niche for you in the live-action comic book sphere. It could be Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the wannabe punk kid’s bible. It could be some Netflix originals like Jessica Jones or Luke Cage, although the superhero overtones are strong with these two. But if you find yourself wanting a television show that isn’t about superheroes but still pays homage to the comic book kingdom, the CW’s new drama Riverdale might be the show for you.
Based on the drug store Archie comics, Riverdale revolves around the town of the same name, focusing on the various students of Riverdale High School. After the mysterious death of rich kid pretty boy Jason Blossom, Riverdale is thrown into a frenzy as students vainly try to unravel the unknown circumstances surrounding his alleged drowning. K.J. Apa takes on the role of Archie, while Lili Reinhart portrays the suspiciously sweet Betty and Cole Sprouse narrates the exciting tale as Jughead Jones. Because the cast lacked any real star power, I wasn’t sure how the show would go. Three episodes in and my feelings toward the show remain as ambiguous as before.
It has taken me a while to decide whether I love Riverdale or absolutely hate it. There are definitely elements of the show that lead me to both ends of the spectrum. In some ways I love it because of its concept. The Archie comics, while popular, never garnered as much attention as Marvel or DC comics did. Seeing these vaguely familiar characters fleshed out on the silver screen is exciting, as is any experience in which you see a different interpretation of an established character.
I also find myself enjoying it because of its overall look. The whole production is not only aesthetically pleasing, but each shot actually looks like it came straight out of a comic book. Each character has an exaggerated feature. With Archie, it’s his carrot orange hair and defined jawline. With Veronica, it’s her arched eyebrows and dark eyes. These characters would look ridiculous if they didn’t come straight out of a comic, yet giving them such bold looks and actions just pays further homage to the story’s roots.
Still, it takes a while for the show to grow on you. Because comics tend to be so exaggerated, it seems like the actors chose to reflect that in their respective performances. While I can appreciate what they’re trying to do, the amount of melodrama present is sometimes a little hard to watch. These exaggerations only highlight how unrealistic the entire plot is. In the span of three episodes, it’s revealed one character has a sexual relationship with a teacher, another one becomes so controlling that even the local sheriff appears intimidated by her, and yet another dresses up as a sexy, dominatrix-looking vixen. While not completely unbelievable, keep in mind they are all sophomores in high school.
With 10 episodes to go, expect more comic based performances and plot twists. If you love it, congrats; you’ve found yourself a comic book winner. If you hate it, never fear; in 2017, there are certainly other options.