Riverdale: Still dark and joyless in season 2’s first episode

Teen dramas have been putting high school students in impossible, adult situations since the original Beverly Hills 90210. Sex and drinking? That’s nothing. Think blackmail, murder and sometimes battling supernatural beings to save the world. That seems to be a good recipe for a ride-or-die fandom. In Gossip Girl, the inimitable Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass stood out because they were so unapologetic about their bad behavior. In Vampire Diaries, we saw the morally questionable Salvatore brothers do unthinkable things for love. In Teen Wolf, the relatively wholesome kids of Beacon Hills fought backstabbing, power-hungry killer werewolves, kanimas and anuk-ites. We saw them fall and fail and become horrible people, but we rooted for their redemption, we wanted them to win, and we watched every single episode hoping maybe they would. We remember all of their names: Serena, Blair, Nate, Chuck, Dan, Stefan, Damon, Elena, Bonnie, Scott, Stiles, Derek, Allison, Lydia, Jackson. We remember them like they were our classmates (or the classmates we wish we had). And that’s the thing: inspite of all that boyfriend-stealing and awkward lapdances, the almost-homicides, the hallucinations, the decapitations, they remained what they were — students. They were kids with mothers and fathers who cared (or didn’t) about them. They went to school, failed in classes, played sports, partied, fell in love.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Remember when Betty threw Jughead a birthday party? That was awkward. It also explains why I, try as I might, just can’t get onboard the Riverdale wagon like I expected. Riverdale is a show about high school students, but we hardly see them in school anymore.  Instead, they are hounded by problems that are too big for them. Season 1 started off with a murder and the show has not given that a rest since.

A good show keeps on introducing its characters with every episode. Riverdale has been so busy being a whodunnit, it’s forgotten to give its characters personalities. The stereotypes the whole Archie universe was built around have been erased. Some would say this is a good thing, creating well-rounded characters and what not, but what this leaves us with is a show that rests too much on the assumption that we know who these people are. There has to be a stereotype before you can break it (which is what TVD did with Damon, and Teen Wolf did so well with Lydia, over three whole seasons no less) — Riverdale rushed that crucial stage of introduction. Honestly, its best attempt at this was “Archie got hot.”

And that’s the thing: Riverdale is at its best when it’s being petty. Last season’s most memorable moments, in no particular order, were Betty and Veronica’s cheer dance audition, Betty going all dark in “Body Double,” Archie and Veronica kissing in a closet, and Reggie not getting any compliments in his Compliments Bag… wait, that’s a different show. See what I mean?

GIST got an advanced preview of the first episode of season 2, called “A Kiss Before Dying,” and let me tell you, this show needs to chill. I was hoping for a bit of small talk, a lighthearted moment before diving into conspiracies; but I had forgotten where we left off in season 1. Archie’s dad was shot at Pop’s. The first episode starts off as a continuation of that scene. All is dim and grim from there. Based on the things revealed in the episode, it looks like I’m not getting the light and fun Riverdale that I’ve always hoped for. Not in this new season at least. The silver lining: at least tortured Jughead still has his weird sense of humor and now rides a bike and wears a leather jacket. Oh, and Reggie showed his new face for three seconds.

I haven’t given up hope. Riverdale just needs to have a little more fun, so that maybe, we would, too. As of episode 1 though, everything is still way too depressing — but since I’ve already watched the first episode where at least one interesting thing happens (I promise), I think I might have to see this season through.


As Fred’s (Luke Perry) life hangs in the balance following the shooting at Pop’s diner, Archie (KJ Apa) struggles with the emotional aftermath of what he witnessed.  Meanwhile, as Veronica (Camila Mendes) steps out of her comfort zone to support Archie, she learns that her father Hiram (Mark Consuelos) has arrived to Riverdale earlier than expected.  Elsewhere, at Pop’s diner, Pop Tate (guest star Alvin Sanders) recounts the chilling details of the shooting, which leaves Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) questioning the gunman’s true motives.  Lastly, after running into Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) at the hospital, Betty and Kevin (Casey Cott) are surprised to learn about the fire at Thornhill.

All new episodes of the 22 episode season will be available on Netflix weekly on Thursdays from Oct. 12.