Riverdale Review — The Return of Twin Peaks

Or at least the one before the return with the actual Twin Peaks name shows up.

  • If you were to ask me what my favorite live-action show of the Winter season is, I’d definitely say it was Riverdale. While initially dismissed as another cynical reboot of an old comic property, Riverdale ended up surprising many people with its conspiracy murder mystery plot and well-written characters that are self-aware regarding their stereotypes whilst not letting it hold them back. I guess if you were a pretentious asshole, you could say that the show is a dark deconstruction of the Archie comics. But as someone who’s only seen the orange-haired doofus around occasionally and thus wouldn’t care about something like that, I can definitely say that this is what I wanted when I tried watching Twin Peaks last October.
  • I’m not making that comparison lightly by the way, as Riverdale’s plot is pretty identical to Twin Peaks, only with less mindfucks and more CW teen drama. It starts with the murder of a rich family’s son complete with the body being found underwater, and from there on out, you’re watching everyone react to this event either by trying to solve the murder or unearthing conspiracies surrounding the victim’s lifestyle. Or in Archie’s case, acting like a hot mess who can’t seem to decide what he wants. Yeah, I should point out that even with his insecurities and his defined abs, Archie himself is still about as entertaining to watch as a slideshow tutorial.
  • And it’s a real shame because mostly everyone else has gotten reinterpreted in a compelling way. Those of you who are at least familiar with Archie will probably know that the comics are basically light-hearted highschool tales about the titular character and his friends dealing with all sorts of shit ranging from the mundane to the supernatural. It does go into dark territory at times, but nothing to the level of turning one of the nicer characters into a guy who shames women. That sort of thing is pretty difficult to handle without being tied to something that I could read in elementary school, so the fact that Riverdale can do it and make me engaged in the process means it’s doing something right.

Got to say, saying “classic” Archie in live-action is even more creepy than seeing “gritty” Archie

  • Riverdale is a bit hard to talk about regarding why I like it. What with Big Little Lies and 13 Reasons Why also doing the whole “murder mystery as a springboard for more involved storytelling” thing to critical acclaim, as well as Twin Peaks and Serial Experiments Lain doing the same thing decades ago, what exactly is it that makes it so unique besides the Archie roots?
  • Well to be honest, the Archie roots are part of the reason why I gave this show a chance in the first place, and I won’t deny it carries a good amount of appeal. There’s just something inherently funny about Miss Grundy being reimagined as a hot young MILF, only for the show to pull the rug out from under you and laugh in the faces of the angry fans who were tricked. Plus that scene were Jughead has a dream about his life being the like the comics, only for the harsh reality of CW’s drama-filled world to hit him holds a strange sort of appeal.
  • And of course there’s Asian Reggie. Cannot forget Asian Reggie, even though he only shows up for like a minute throughout the entire first season.

I hope you like to hate characters because my god some of them are despicable

  • But as a standalone product, Riverdale just has really good storytelling with some of the best respects to American teen stereotypes I’ve seen in a long time. Not all of them get their dues, but I do like how Cheryl can flip-flop between being a rich bitch and a tormented well-meaning being without coming across like she has dual personalities, and I enjoy how Archie’s father is more understanding a person than most fathers out there, even when he has a responsibility to take care of his son. There’s even a gay biker dude who is nowhere near the nicest guy in the show, but he genuinely feels sympathy to people who think he’s cool.
  • All this strong characterization does a good job at carrying the plot, even though there’s still more seasons to come, so of course the big mystery isn’t going to be solved in the ten episodes that are out now. Things do falter a bit when Archie gets involved because on top of everything I mentioned about him earlier, his story is mostly disconnected from the main plot and every other time he shows up, he’s reacting to someone else’s plot in an incredibly stupid way. However, the show does a good job at keeping him divorced from the other characters when it’s their time to shine, which is pretty rare in an ensemble cast show since a lot of them tend to have all the supporting cast revolve around a central figurehead like in those Persona games.
  • Speaking of those Persona games, I think it’s now a rule that adults must be assholes in order for teenage characters to really shine by comparison, because I don’t see how anyone can be around Betty’s parents for more than ten seconds without trying to throw them out a window. Even the nicer ones get some pretty dick-ish moments due to them being way more involved in far-reaching conspiracies than you’d initially think. Now obviously, you need to have conflict occur from somewhere, but I find it kinda hilarious how every single one of the main characters’ folks actually know each other through a large series of coincidental events that reach back decades. I mean what is this show? Six Degrees of Sabrina’s Friends?

I got to say, I like this new Jughead a lot

  • I should also point out that the self-aware tone this show takes towards its stereotypes is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it’s used to subvert expectations. Sometimes it’s just having your cake and eating it too, Saekano-style. There’s already a bunch of memes centered on a moment Jughead has in the season finale where his confession regarding his character flaws comes off like a whiny emo begging for sympathy, and while I thought that particular scene was fine, let’s just say that while the premiere front loads the times when said self-awareness is used poorly, they don’t exactly go away.
  • But despite getting unnaturally soap opera-y at times, Riverdale still gets my recommendation over all the comic book shows that make it onto the CW and I’m eagerly looking forward to more. Although having said that, please don’t make it run as long as Twin Peaks. That show should have ended at sixteen episodes, max.

Minor Quips

  • Maybe I’d like Twin Peaks more if I grew up on it like everyone else seemed to.
  • So if Sabrina was in this show, she’d be a meth head?

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