Riverdale Review: Chapter One: The River’s Edge (Season 1 Episode 1)

Riverdale had a premiere unlike any other, proving it was everything it promised, and so much more.

Riverdale Season 1 Episode 1, “The River’s Edge,” threw us into this small town that was full of secrets, especially when it came to the mysterious death of Jason Blossom. At first it seemed like it was all wrapped up nicely and everyone was just trying to move on, but upon closer inspection it looks like some wanted him dead, while others knew more than they lead on about that day. Things got even more intense when Jason’s body was found, and he didn’t drown like his sister, Cheryl Blossom, claimed; instead, there was a giant bullet wound in his head.
As someone who didn’t read any of the Archie comics, I had a broad idea about what the show might cover and which characters I wanted to get invested in. But the pilot blew me away even more than I expected it to, making sure to have me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The biggest reason why would have to be the setting they created, opting for a much darker take on the comics, and even adding a murder to stir up some mystery.

The characters were another reason why; specifically everyone around Archie because Archie himself was a disappointment.

Although, is it considered a disappointment if the male lead fits the exact criteria you would expect from a CW show? He’s appealing and all the girls like him but there’s something in his life that he can’t connect with. In this case it’s a mix between possibly being around when Jason was murdered, hooking up with his music teacher who he harbors some kind of feelings for, and wanting to please everyone in his life.

Now, I could understand the ”wanting to pursue your dream” thing even though his father didn’t understand it, but the focus is so heavy on him not feeling fulfilled when it comes to relationships that I find myself rolling my eyes in any other scenes he appears in. I want to give the show some leeway since this was only the pilot, and I think once Archie actually becomes more engrossed in the Jason murder I’ll actually want to see more of him.

There’s clearly more that he knows than he is leading on, so I’m wondering what else Archie could have witnessed in between his 6am sex sessions with Ms. Grundy.

Then we have characters like Betty and Veronica, who are so different yet their scenes together may have been the biggest highlight of the pilot episode. Betty is struggling so much, trying to break out of that perfect mold that her mother has boxed her into now that her sister isn’t around to take away some of that pressure. Striking up a friendship with the mysterious Veronica was just what both of them needed.

My one worry is how much their friendship will revolve around Archie because it’s not like either of them will stop having romantic scenes with him. They were on the right path with the way they created a friendship before Archie made a move on either, so hopefully they continue with that.

Jughead is a character I knew next to nothing about, mostly hearing about the representation that came from his asexuality in the comics. There’s no guarantee at this point that the show will go through with it, but Jughead made a memorable appearance and actually stood out against the backdrop of all the sexually-fueled scenes before it.

Jughead’s narrator role has a downside as he’s not really around a lot, something that will probably change as we get to know more about his involvement in everything and his past with Archie. For now though, that scene in the diner was the perfect amount of suspense and, for me, created an interesting vibe around this character that we don’t know much about. He’s writing about what’s going on in the town which probably is why I’m so invested in him already. Nothing beats following the writer when something like a murder washes up in a small town. Pun intended.

The actual murder also is kept under wraps, we meet these two twins and only have time to feel something that we can’t put our finger on before Jason ends up dead. The more we see of Cheryl, the more the word combo twincest comes to mind, the way their first scene was shot and that casually soulmate reference can’t be a coincidence. There’s definitely something that happened out there between those two that Cheryl probably doesn’t want getting out, and that I’m actually very curious about.

I don’t know what it is about Riverdale that made the minimal information angle actually work this time, but it did in more ways than one. There’s still so much to learn about what happened with Archie this past summer, with Betty and the emotion that lingers just below the surface, the secrets that Veronica’s family is probably hiding and how someone from their school will likely be arrested for a death that was meant to be an accidental drowning. 

Overall, Riverdale had it’s faults like most shows do, but there was more than enough when it came to the characters and the murder set up to momentarily make up for the slight queer-baiting and teacher/student relationship which shouldn’t be sexualized the way that it was.

I have no doubt that at least on the plot front we will get plenty to keep us watching, and maybe in time Archie will become more involved in something that highlights him as an individual. If we could only more Jughead because if there’s one person we can trust it’s the character that observes more than partakes. 

Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.

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