Review: Riverdale fails to connect with today’s youth



CW’s new hit TV show, Riverdale, is based on the Archie comics, but has changed the plot dramatically.

Ani Mathison, Photo Manager

At first glance, The CW’s new hit show Riverdale checks off all the boxes needed for a success among teens: love triangles, murder, and perfectly curled hair. As the show progresses, however, the veil of intrigue and novelty pulls back to reveal contrived writing and shallow characters.

The story itself is based on the Archie comics that were popular from the 40s to the 90s. That’s right- the brightly colored pages of times past are gone, replaced by fifteen-year-olds with bad attitudes. Almost everything has changed, besides the location and character’s names.

However, once we accept the differences from the source material, the show itself still fails to live up to the hype. Through bad writing and portrayals, the characters become flat and unoriginal.

Archie, played by KJ Apa, has his problems, struggling with the implausible issue of choosing music or football. Apparently the writers watched High School Musical. But Apa’s acting abilities do the character little justice; he is irritatingly earnest, each line delivered with the devotion of a golden retriever. While endearing for the first few episodes, Archie quickly becomes aggravating.

Jughead, played by former Disney star Cole Sprouse, has some substance, struggling with homelessness and a bad relationship with his father. However, his storyline is shoved aside to make room for love triangles and sex scenes. The character is reduced to a one-dimensional snark machine in a silly hat.

Betty, played by Lili Reinhart, is worryingly underwritten. Her “girl next door” character is meant to show the dangers of suburban life and overprotective parents, making a cruel caricature of teenage girls. Reinhart is unable to capture the little intricacy the character has, which makes Betty seem unimaginative.

Veronica, played by Camila Mendes, runs into similar problems. Her character is undergoing a redemption arc, but due to the audience never seeing the person she used to be, Veronica becomes incredibly unsympathetic. Despite these character flaws that allow for some depth, Mendes unfortunately portrays Veronica’s character as selfish and ultimately shallow.

Finally, Madelaine Petsch’s Cheryl Blossom, while originally meant to be a tragic hero that struggles with her reputation and perception in the wake of her brother’s death, is reduced to a catty and mean girl. It is unclear whether this is due to Petsch herself or the writers. Regardless, she is nothing more than a stereotype.

The characters themselves are forgivable. The things they say, however, are not. From Jughead’s famous, meme-worthy “I’m a weirdo” speech to every word that comes out of Cheryl’s mouth, the language of the show grates on the viewer.


As the seasons progress, the characters resort to increasingly obscure references that do nothing more than detract from the plot and make the characters even less realistic or likable. One example is when Veronica says, “Are you familiar with the works of Truman Capote?  I’m Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but this place is strictly In Cold Blood.” Another sinful line again comes from Veronica, “Can’t we just liberate ourselves from the tired dichotomy of jock-artist? Can’t we, in this post-James Franco world, be all things at once?”

It is clear that the writers are wildly out of touch with today’s youth. The characters range from sounding like English professors, using absurdly long and unrealistic words, to being ridiculous stereotypes of teenagers, using words like “bae” in conversations and asking to follow each other on Twitter. This brings forth the image of two balding fathers scrolling through the internet to find language they can deem relatable. In this mission, they fail.

However, the one saving grace of Riverdale is the cinematography. The show is filmed with 80’s aesthetics in mind, combining bold colors with bright, neon lights and otherwise soft lighting. Scenes, artfully symmetric, are filtered with a muted effect that dulls colors, but lets light through to achieve a beautiful and mysterious effect. The result is a striking and unique picture that is simultaneously modern and retro.

Riverdale is not a perfect show- far from it. The writing is, at the end of the day, lazy. The dialogue is choppy and unrealistic, even cringey at times. The actors struggle with the two-dimensionalities of the writing and ultimately do not overcome it. However, this show has potential. Not only is it fantastically filmed in a style completely unique to any other show on television right now, it also has a monstrous fanbase. Currently, it seems as if people either love or hate Riverdale– but many people love it. I wish I could say I was one of them.