I love Riverdale. I love the eeriness that looms in every episode, the mysteries that keep you on your toes, the idyllic, 50s–esque atmosphere that, like almost all the characters on the show, has a dark side to it. I also love the friendships and relationships. I even love the unrealistic plot twists.
After months of being marked on my calendar, on Wednesday, October 10, the much–anticipated season three premiere finally aired. But after watching the season's first episode, I was left feeling confused and disappointed.
The episode opens with Jughead’s iconic narration. It's cheesy as usual, but we love how he describes the ways in which Riverdale teens filled their summer as junior year approaches. Already we notice a shift for this season: blurred effects that make viewers wonder if the show was filmed in portrait mode on an iPhone X and a colorful brightness similar to increasing the ‘saturation’ on an Instagram photo. The brightness seemed odd for a show that thrives on eerie darkness and the effects created a sense of artificiality that only escalated throughout the episode.
Sure, there was drama and interesting plot points in the 42 minutes, but somehow a lot of the scenes felt forced and contrived. Although Archie is being tried for murder, he’s still able to attend Cheryl’s pool party where much of the episode's drama takes place. Yes, Riverdale has its fair share of make–out scenes, but the whole atmosphere is so overtly sexualized that you feel as if you’re watching a bad reality tv show.
My biggest problem with this scene, and episode in general, is the juxtaposition of extremely serious situations with carelessness and almost funny indifference. While Archie asks Reggie to step up and be a leader if he goes to jail for murder, the two toss the ol’ pig skin shirtless (oh you know, murder charges are casual).
Cheryl watches their encounter as she sits next to Toni, prompting the latter to ask about “that day on the river,” referring to when Cheryl attempted suicide and Archie saved her. Cheryl simply responds to “TT,” a nickname that takes away from the severity of the moment, that “she did something really stupid” and he saved her. The use of such a relevant, serious topic as seemingly an afterthought in the show strikes me as problematic.
Later, Polly reveals that Betty has been making up seeing a psychiatrist and overusing Adderall. But before this serious topic can be discussed in further detail, 5 Seconds of Summer's Youngblood blares and the foursome drives to a swimming hole to have a good time. Even when Betty is talking to Jughead about her conversation with Polly and her mom, it doesn’t last long because they make out instead, consistently underscoring any serious issue with trivial drama. Maybe Riverdale is emphasizing how hard it is to address internal struggles, but I wish they would do so in a way that doesn’t seem artificially placed to showcase sex scenes.
In the last few minutes of the show, Riverdale returns to its iconic, if confusing, plot twists and cliffhangers. The fate of the trial is determined and creepy cult–like mysteries emerge. Yes, there was a lot of action in the remaining minutes but it all happened so fast that it just left me with three letters: WTF.
While the premiere was confusing and ultimately disappointing in its framing of narratives, I still have hope for Riverdale. If the show can stop trying to somehow be a part of, like, seven genres, and just stick to the elements that we know and love, then I look forward to following these comic book characters around the namesake town for countless Wednesdays to come.