REVIEW: Riverdale The Complete Second Season
When we first met Archie Andrews, he was the prototypical American teenager when being a teenager was a new concept. The idea of teens having free time was also new and mandatory attendance at high school was just a few decades old. It was a perfect place to explore what it meant to have leisure time to pursue personal interests be it the opposite sex or cars or sports or whatever.
The Archie comics have endured largely through their universality and their gentle humorous antics. Wisely, the company belatedly acknowledged the changing times and revamped the look and feel of the characters with the brilliant Mark Waid/Fiona Staples run which brought national attention and increased sales to the company. (Their digests continued to display the “classic” material.)
The universality and humor was retained but introduced more contemporary themes and issues. This got television interested and the ubiquitous Greg Berlanti convinced the CW that Riverdale was the next great thing. He partnered with Archie’s creator guru Robert Aguirre-Sacasa and they desired that Archie didn’t have to be relatable or funny or anything resembling the comics. Instead, it was propelling the characters and town into uncharted territory: darker in tone, with dollops of premarital sex, illicit affairs, conspiracy and murder.
Purists detested it but you can’t argue with success. The ratings were stellar and the short first season earned a renewal and fans were delighted with a full 22 episode second season. Out Tuesday is Riverdale the Complete Second Season from Warner Home Entertainment. You may judge for yourself if this is how you want to enjoy the characters.
The melodrama has become a guilty pleasure with a rabid audience, skewing mostly to females from 10-35, which may explain why I find this a bad adaptation of the source material and overwrought drama.
While the comics were purely white bread in makeup, the series gets plaudits for being far more multicultural in their casting, more reflective of America today. They also amped up the adult parts so the teens can be contrasted with their parents in addition to a more thorough exploration of the class warfare that was always present in the comics.
That said, the casting is atrocious in that none of the “teens” look like they belong in high school, spoiling the whole feel. Had they changed it from Riverdale High to Riverdale Community College, it might work but then Veronica would have already been sent off to a private college. Archie was always intended to be the everyteen, earnest and klutzy, sincere and unable to control his raging hormones. With newcomer KJ Apa learning to act while playing the part, he’s all hunk and no subtlety. And forget humor, apparently, that was the first thing to go when bringing this from print to screen.
We open the season with the repercussions of Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) being shot and end with Betty’s (Lili Reinhart) dad Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro) locked up behind a pane of glass and Archie arrested for murder. In between we see Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) and Betty become a thing while he adjusts to running his father’s biker gang. Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) is dragooned into learning the family business, which backfires when she takes Hiram Lodge’s (Mark Consuelos). lessons and saves Pop Tate’s diner. Haunting them all was a killer (or killers) dubbed the Black Hood (a nod to Archie’s comic book origins) in addition to the shady world the adults seem to prefer living in with questionable moral choices, making them lousy role models for their offspring. Hiram has gone from the big business tycoon in the less offensive Trump mode to being Don Lodge, head of a shadowy crime family that tries to seduce Archie with offers of easy cash in exchange for easing of morality. Yuck.
Aguirre-Sacasa has made much of the tonal shift from the mystery of who killed Jason Blossom in the 13-episode first season to the serial killer threat in season two. Death is still death and really, the issues confronting teens today, including incredible peer pressure and fully packed schedules, is totally absent from the show making it a funhouse mirror reflection of being a teen today.
The darkness grabbed hold of the cast, especially Betty who veered between innocent crusader and sexual being, complete with black wig. She had to confront this dichotomy and her struggle was perhaps the best character arc of the season and it was nice to see her smile at the end.
What’s to come in season three, arriving October 10? We’re told “Tales from the Darkside”, S2E7, offers some clues.
The Season is sold widely as a DVD box set although a Blu-ray edition can be ordered from Warner Archive. The DVD transfer is fine and looks just as it on broadcast TV, with an equally good audio track (important since the music is sometimes more enjoyable than the plotting).
There are just a handful of special feature, starting with the behind-the-scenes Caught between Two Worlds: The Darkness Inside and Making the Musical: Riverdale. The requisite Riverdale: 2017 Comic-Con Panel is on hand along with a Riverdale Pop Quiz! There are Deleted Scenes for just about every episode (some interesting, some easily left out), and of course, the Gag Reel.