End of the Innocence: CW's RIVERDALE a Subversive, Adult Spin on Comic Book Champion

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If you were a fan of DAWSON'S CREEK, you're in luck: it's back, only under a new name with different characters. The characters may suspiciously sound and look like they come from a familiar comic book, but names and appearances are where the familiarity ends.

It's been a long summer for the teens of Riverdale, highlighted by the mysterious death of Jason Blossom (TREVOR STINES) while on a pseudo-romantic boat trip with his twin sister, Cheryl (MADELAINE PETSCH). Cheryl was found crying on the riverbank by Scout Troop leader Dilton Doiley (DANIEL YANG), but Jason's body was never recovered; and his death has an impact the entire town -- a tragedy for many, and an answered prayer for others, like Alice Cooper (MADCHEN AMICK) who tells her husband that she hopes Jason burns in hell. It's the mystery at the heart of the series, and we learn all about it through our narrator and blogger, Veronica Mars Jughead Jones (COLE SPROUSE).

Fast forward to the end of the summer, and the day before school starts. Girl-next-door Betty Cooper (LILI REINHART) sits at her vanity applying lip gloss and talking about Archie Andrews' return from summer break. Pull back and we see that she's at her vanity in her pink brassiere, and she's talking to a boy in her room who sprawls on her bed. The boy is Kevin Keller (played by the equally alliterative CASEY COTT). Before older ARCHIE COMICS fans freak out over why there's a boy in Betty's room while she's half-dressed, let the Millennial generation calm them down. It's okay. He's gay.

And as he looks out Betty's window, he sees that Archie (K.J. APA) has not only returned, but he's pulling his shirt on in his own window, and he's earned a serious set of abs over the summer. Kevin says that Betty definitely needs to take that ginger bull by the horns this year and seal the deal with him, so to speak.

Betty meets up with Archie at Pop Tate's Chok'lit Shoppe, finding out what he did over the summer, which was pouring concrete for his dad's construction company. (Fred Andrews is played by BEVERLY HILLS 90210 alum, LUKE PERRY). While he did the tedious work, he composed poems in his head -- songs, actually, and he thinks that music is the thing he should be doing with his life. Betty is supportive, asking all kinds of questions, like if he'll ask Miss Grundy to tutor him with his music. This line of questioning makes Archie visibly uncomfortable, and Betty moves on to the issue truly important to her: the future of where their relationship could be headed.

Bad timing.

Because that's when Veronica Lodge (CAMILA MENDES) enters the shop -- and Archie's life. He can't hear anything over her glamour. Veronica has just moved to town with her mother, Hermione (MARISOL NICHOLS) who was a Riverdale native. Riverdale is the only place where there's property in her name, and not in the name of her husband who is currently embroiled in a legal scandal, which has presumably frozen all his assets and properties.

With Veronica added to the mix, Betty's plans get put on hold.

When school begins, Archie and Betty begin their sophomore year. Archie's dad would like him to stop by the business on the way home so he can learn some of the back-office skills. He obviously wants his son to take over the business. Betty's mom is a real controlling person with her daughter, giving her her refill for Adderall, urging her to stay focused rather than mooning over that red-headed boy. She doesn't want Betty to end up like her older sister, Polly -- which apparently had everything to do with Jason Blossom.

At school, Betty (and Kevin) are assigned to give Veronica the nickel tour of the school. Veronica asks about Archie's relationship status, which makes things awkward for Betty and Kevin. Meanwhile, Archie, after fending off summer questions from Reggie Mantle (ROSS BUTLER) and Moose Mason (CODY KEARSLEY) about his summer, and did he "tap some cougar ass" during the break, finds his way to the music room, where he finds Josie McCoy (ASHLEIGH MURRAY), Valerie Brown (HAYLEY LAW), and Melody Valentine (ASHA BROMFIELD) rehearsing. (In the television version, the somewhat-diverse band has had a makeover, with Josie and Melody both having been cast as African-Americans, making the Pussycats something of the Supremes; it would have been humorous to have had Valerie recast as a Caucasian.) He wants to talk to them about his lyrics, but Josie shuts him down. They are building a brand, and only do their own music.

The school is supposed to have a semi-formal dance coming up, but its status is up in the air with Jason's death (although why that should be the case is not explained). At a school assembly, Cheryl Blossom addresses the students and urges the school not to cancel the dance. "Jason would want us to move on." As she talks, Archie exchanges glances with a teacher in the front row -- Miss Geraldine Grundy, who isn't the white-haired spinster from the comics but the smoking hot 34-year-old SARAH HABEL. Cue up the flashback, Arhie on a hot summer day taking a ride from Miss Grundy, and we learn that Reggie Mantle's assumptions were spot on the money: he totally did it with her, as we see the two of them stripping down in the back of her Volkswagen Beetle.

This is definitely not your father's Archie.

It's not even my Archie. Or, for that matter, my son's, who is nine and enjoys getting his hands on all the Archie Digests he can find every week -- the only format that original Archie seems to come in these days.

I love the Archie experiments. AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE is a wonderful, mature, (and never on time) supernatural take on the characters. The relaunch of the Archie line is definitely a more modern version that carries a teen appeal (although whether the readership is teens or not is something I would have to research). So I'm all for changing the formula around for different offerings.

But RIVERDALE feels different. RIVERDALE feels more...sacrilegious. The characters definitely don't behave in the manner of the comics, with Archie being the loveable but gullible teen, and Jughead his girl-hating, burger-feasting best bud.

It's definitely a CW teen show.

But it's not Archie.

(Side note: Archie Comics co-founder, Louis Silberkleit, was one of the founding fathers of the Comics Code Authority, a self-policing agency of comics in the 1950s to protect the medium during a time when comics were being heavily scrutinized for a number of things deemed "bad influences" on children. I can't help but wonder if he would recognize his red-headed child today.)