Riverdale is The CW’s newest offering and the dark, edgy, and highly addictive teen drama has quickly stirred up a large online fandom. Loosely based upon, and using the characters from Archie Comics, Riverdale picks up when the small town is rocked by the apparent drowning of its High School Football star, Jason Blossom. As it turns out, Jason was murdered, and the list of potential suspects is huge.
Riverdale seems to grow darker with each outing, too, thanks, in part to the brooding, doom-laden commentary from Jughead Jones. While in some respects the characters have kept elements of their personalities from the comics, they are all edgier and more complex than their hand-drawn counterparts, and they’re changing more with each passing episode.
Betty Cooper (Lilli Reinhart)
The eternal nice girl, Betty on screen is exactly as Betty in Archie Comics, initially. However, we quickly learn that Betty has a dark side, which is evidenced when Cheryl Blossom tries to wind her up during cheerleading tryouts. Clenching her fists to keep from bursting out in a rage, when Betty unfurls her hands, she’s badly marked her own skin. Part of Betty’s rage must surely stem from the relationship she has with her parents, particularly her domineering and controlling mother, Alice.
There are strong hints in Chapter One that Betty is medicated; possibly because her mother is all too aware of what her daughter is capable of. Alice mentions that Betty forgot to fill her prescription, and it seems as though Betty is not taking her meds at all, since she’s getting more sinister and erratic as the show goes on. Sure, she’s finding her inner strength, thanks to her new friendship with Veronica, but she’s also got some serious mental health issues.
In Chapter 3: Body Double, we see Betty don a black wig and channel her inner Veronica in order to get Chuck Clayton to apologize for slut shaming. However, even after he confessed and apologized, Betty continued to torture him, keeping him handcuffed in a hot tub where she was quickly increasing the temperature. It was then that she started referring to herself as her older sister, Polly, and to Chuck as Jason, the deceased football player and Polly’s ex. Though she stopped on Veronica’s insistence, the whole episode was very out of character for Betty. Afterward, she claimed she couldn’t remember a thing about it, which means Betty either suffers from a condition such as Disassociative Identity Disorder (DID), or the pressure of being the A-Grade student and all round perfect gal, is seriously getting to her.
Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch)
Jason’s twin sister, Cheryl, is understandably a little messed up, but it’s clear that she has always been something of a challenging person to be around. Once again, Cheryl starts off similar to her comic book counterpart; bitchy, vain, and rich. She’s instantly unlikable, but she’s been given many more layers by Riverdale creator, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Petsch, and they’re starting to emerge with each new episode.
This Cheryl blows hot and cold, so that neither Betty nor Veronica are ever quite sure where they stand. On one hand, her relationship with her late brother seems deeply suspicious, bordering on incestuous. On the other, she claims that she was going to stage Jason’s drowning in order that he might escape the town. Cheryl uses fake friendship and flirtatiousness to extract secrets from others, and to lure them into a false sense of security. Eternally using her looks to get to Archie Andrews, you get the impression that Cheryl would eat him alive.
Cheryl does also have the capacity to be kind to others, though, such as convincing Josie and the Pussycats to work with Archie on his songs, and working with Betty and Veronica to end the slut shaming from the football team. As the series progresses, we could well see more of Cheryl’s softer, more vulnerable side.
Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse)
Jughead is one of the standout characters from Archie Comics; always eating, always wearing a crown, and always (bizarrely) pictured with his eyes closed. Sprouse’s version is entirely different; dark, brooding, and the eternal outsider, Jughead is also well-liked. Yes, he does wear a weird crown-like hat, and he also has a penchant for black or gray clothing, but he’s smart, and witty, and his brooding inner monologue drives the show along nicely.
No longer just Archie’s sidekick, Jughead hints at his hurt over losing his best childhood friend in Chapter 2. The pair were obviously very close, but Archie has changed a lot in recent months (more on that in a moment) and he seems to be leaving Jughead behind. However, rather than letting this bring him down, Jughead actually starts to come out of his shell a little more, and finds his voice; first when he confronts Archie over his affair with Miss Grundy, and then when he joins the school newspaper at Betty’s request.
Jughead is one of those quietly confident characters, who isn’t exactly the star of the show, but make no mistake; Riverdale would be a very different show without him. It remains to be seen whether Jughead will undergo a personality transformation such as we are already seeing with Betty, Archie, and Veronica, but in a way, that would almost spoil one of the best Riverdale characters.
Miss Grundy (Sarah Habel)
Where to Start? In Archie Comics, Miss Grundy is always depicted as an elderly, white-haired teacher who is sweet and kind, but more than a little bit doddery. In Riverdale, Miss Grundy is super-hot, and also super-criminal, since it emerges that she’s been having an affair with Archie Andrews all summer.
So, technically guilty of statutory rape, Miss Grundy is an eclectic mix of a sultry, sexy siren, a talented, yet geeky music teacher, and a young woman who seems very socially awkward in most situations that don’t involve school, or being with Archie. Miss Grundy is in deep with Archie, and though she tries to stay away, he’s irresistible to her. Of course, Grundy and Archie share a secret, and that is causing a lot of stress for both; they heard the gunshot on the morning that Jason Blossom disappeared, but they were getting it on (in broad daylight) at the time, so she doesn’t want to give that information to the cops.
Miss Grundy is an enigma, possibly because (SPOLIER) she is NOT Miss Grundy. A previously revealed teaser for Chapter 4 shows that she is actually Jennifer Gibson, but given that she was known to Archie as a teacher before the summer, it begs the questions of how long she’s been posing as someone else, and why, as well as what more there is to come from her.
Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes)
While the biggest character changes to come might be from Miss Grundy, there’s no doubt that the character who’s changed the most since Riverdale began, is Veronica. When she first came on the scene, Veronica was as she is in the comics; a classic spoiled rich girl who showed disdain for her new, small-town surroundings. Since then, the show has presented so many facets of her personality it could make a viewer dizzy.
Firstly, Veronica was quick to befriend Betty, which seemed unlikely given their differences. Something about the friendship seemed off from the start, not least the fact that Veronica seemed so eager to set Betty and Archie up, even though he practically drooled over Veronica and ignored Betty’s existence. Suspicions were proven when Veronica and Archie got locked in a closet and promptly made out, even though they were both aware of Betty’s feelings.
What was surprising, though, was Veronica’s immediate remorse, showing a real desperation to have a true friend. Much to the delight of the hordes of Veronica and Betty shippers out there, Veronica says she feels that her and Betty are “meant to be.” To be fair, she was quick to apologize, and has stayed away from any romantic entanglement with Archie ever since. In fact, Veronica’s heartfelt words to Betty, that she wants to be different to how she was in New York, seem to be something she is trying hard to live by.
That said, she’s not afraid to turn the vixen on and off at will. It could be confusing, and frustrating, but to be honest, it works gloriously well, because we never know what Veronica we’re going to get. For now, her friendship with Betty seems solid, but how long will it be before someone comes between them again?
Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa)
Despite the fact that he’s having a blisteringly hot affair with a teacher, Archie perhaps best represents a typical teen in Riverdale. We learn in Chapter 1 that Archie got hot over the summer, reinforced with a shot of him shirtless. It seems as though Archie isn’t shy when it comes to stripping off, though, because he’s now buff, and has a teacher for a girlfriend. Just when we’re thinking that Archie is all man, he turns back into a boy.
His behavior with Betty and Veronica is the stuff of teen dramas, which, let’s face it, Riverdale technically is. This Archie differs from the comic book version in that he’s not as geeky, and neither is he as unkind. Yes, Archie is a prize moron at times, but there’s no real malice to him; more conflict, over what to do about so many girls falling at his feet.
Archie also struggles with his ideas for the future, and how he can manage to pursue several interests at once. Working for his dad and playing football makes his old man happy, but Archie wants to follow music and work on his song writing. This leads to typical teenage outbursts of rage, resulting in him being grounded. It’s easy to see how, or why, his dad still thinks of him as a young boy. It’s safe to say he has a rude awakening coming.
With an unmistakably Twin Peaks vibe, Riverdale has taken all the best traits of the Archie Comics crew, and given them a life of their own. With characterization that evolves as quickly and efficiently as this, it’s easy to see why Riverdale has become such compulsive viewing. Season 1 has 13 episodes for us to try and work out who killed Jason Blossom. Right now, each and every one of the main characters could be a suspect. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Riverdale airs Thursday nights at 9pm on The CW.