If there was ever any doubt let it be confirmed now: Riverdale is anything but boring. Dark, extravagant and ever loyal to its fans, season two had its Netflix premiere on Thursday (12 October) and ramped up the stakes with a bloodsoaked new chapter.
Based on characters from Archie Comics, the TV adaptation of Riverdale appealed to a wide, eclectic demographic with its murder mystery intrigue and soap opera drama upon its debut on the streaming service earlier this year. Teenagers dreaming of Gossip Girl days as well as Stranger Things fans of all ages could find meat to chew on in the town where anything is possible.
Characters Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) and Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) all returned as they dealt with the cliffhanger tragedy that closed the first season. After Archie’s dad Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) was dramatically shot by a rogue menace in local diner Pop’s, everyone we love and hate rushes to hospital to see how the drama unfolds.
The first episode ties up a lot of loose ends and does what Riverdale does best: installing mystery, celebrating high-voltage relationships and remaining painfully, theatrically extra. Fan favourites live up to their stereotypes, both in style and in substance: Veronica is making sure she’s “the best girlfriend ever” by widening the gulf with her parents one mimosa at a time and jumping in the shower with Archie – only wholly necessary.
Betty does her best to care for her friends in their time of need, but is secretly just waiting for the next person to ask whether she and Jughead finally “did it”. Jughead is also having a great time in the season premiere as his arc includes sex, neighbourhood bad guys the Southside Serpents, a cheeseburger and the tasty “the angel of death” investigation to feed his ongoing novel, in the search for the runaway gunman.
But the best part of the episode is that season two now promises a shift in focus back to Archie, the almost too attractive football player who had little to offer past his looks in the first season. Trying to support his dad while holding himself together, his increased vulnerability does wonders for his second season status as hero of the town in season two, where last season he was more of a passenger in the investigation of Jason Blossom’s murder and Riverdale’s other vices. Performance wise, KJ Apa hones in on the clumsy likeability he established in the first season, while teasing the potential for a more gripping and weighty narrative past his character’s redhead posterboy good looks.
Riverdale succeeds in its transparent generosity: If Archie says he’ll protect his dad, you can be sure he’ll be sitting on a wooden box by his front door, baseball bat in hand by the end of the episode. Anything that fans could potentially obsess over is cared for and revisited repeatedly – even Jughead’s “I’m a weirdo” beanie follows him all the way to Archie’s hallucination-imagined wedding.
Once you get used to the fact that characters will explicitly explain all of their emotions after great dramatic pauses (“Guys there’s something I haven’t told you… because I’m so ashamed!”, Archie chokes before revealing what actually happened at the shootout), Riverdale is hugely satisfying – heightened theatrics are the thread that keep this show together.
Each new ridiculous twist is clear and always entertaining, and the level of darkness and electricity in the town never lessens. It’s Twin Peaks if passionate fan-fiction-writing teenagers reigned in the boardroom. Sealed with blue neon lights and red-lipstick kisses, season two promises the most delectable and dramatic chapter yet.
Originally published on The Independent