Riverdale: The Complete First Season
I was harsh on Riverdale when it started, but the series grew on me as it continued. (Thanks to the CW for making it easy to watch through their various apps.) Now, for an evening in with a glass of wine, binging a few episodes at a time, it’s an enjoyable teen soap opera guilty pleasure. Riverdale: The Complete First Season releases next Tuesday, August 15. (The studio, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, provided me with a free review copy of this DVD set. My opinions below are mine.)
Disc one has episodes one through five, which introduce all the juicy plots:
- Archie (KJ Apa) “got hot” and developed abs over a summer working construction for his dad (Luke Perry) and hooked up with a teacher.
- Betty (Lili Reinhart) is determined to reveal her crush on her long-time best friend, but he’s only got eyes for the new rich girl in town.
- Said rich girl, Veronica (Camila Mendes), is BFFing with gay Kevin (Casey Cott, who unfortunately isn’t given much more than that as a character) and spatting with Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch, morbidly mesmerizing), whose twin brother Jason (Trevor Stines) died mysteriously over the summer (both wearing all white on the Fourth of July).
- Betty’s mother (Mädchen Amick) hates the Blossoms because Jason got her other daughter, Polly (Tiera Skovbye), pregnant.
- Then there’s Jughead (Cole Sprouse), who does tortured voiceover because he’s writing a novel about all this (and turned out to be my favorite character).
- Oh, and Archie is trying to balance football, helping his dad, and his new love of singing and songwriting, which he gets help with from Valerie (Hayley Law), who’s in a band with Josie (Ashleigh Murray).
Now, if you’re going to say “that doesn’t sound like Archie comics”, that’s a lot of the point. The young audience the network pursues doesn’t read them anyway. There’s a little bit more on that concept in the extras (see below). But if it’s going to bother you that they turned “America’s favorite teenager” into part of a “teenage Twin Peaks“, then this isn’t for you.
As the series progressed through its 13 episodes, it calmed down a little bit, with some of the more salacious elements, introduced just to get viewers talking (such as when Betty and Veronica kiss while trying out for cheerleading) falling by the wayside in favor of heightened emotions with a gothic overlay and the occasional reworked retro musical number. Seeing B and V become close friends in spite of Betty’s disappointment over Archie not feeling romantic towards her was one of the best parts of the series for me.
Almost every episode has at least one deleted scene. Of the eight minutes on disc one, most are forgettable (one is under 10 seconds), adding nothing to the story, but the standout for me was a short scene between Veronica and her mother (Marisol Nichols) talking about Ms. Lodge’s decision about finding a place to work. Hermione Lodge features in many of the deleted scenes, which is unfortunate, because I would like to see more of her.
Riverdale pays more attention to the parents than most Archie projects, but getting the most attention are Archie’s dad and Betty’s mom. There are an additional three minutes of deleted scenes on disc two (where we see Jughead with Hot Dog) and six on disc three. The more substantial extras are:
“The New Normal” (9 minutes) begins with executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and supervising producer Yolonda E. Lawrance telling us why they liked reading Archie comics. Oddly, they talk about how appealing Riverdale because it was safe and everyone was friendly, but that’s not what they’ve turned this show into. Instead, they used Blue Velvet as a model for “scandals, secrets, and lies”.
It’s interesting to hear the two explain and justify the choices they’ve made and what themes they’re aiming for, even if I’m not sure it all came together the way they wanted. Hearing about the many films noir that influenced them explains a lot. Comic art is scattered throughout, from all different eras, with no artists credited.
“I Got You” is a minute of Archie and Valerie singing together.
“The Ultimate Sin” (9 minutes) has Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa attributing the need for a dead body (to set the show apart from other teen coming-of-age shows) to first, Greg Berlanti (producer of all the DC WB shows as well as this one) and then, network feedback. Supervising producer Michael Grassi also praises the noir element for making the show “addictive” and “satisfying”. The difference between the first featurette and this one (beyond the second participant) is that this one also talks a little bit about sex and more about the symbolism of the river.
“These Are Moments I Remember” is two minutes of Archie performing with the Pussycats.
The 2016 Comic-Con Panel is only eight minutes of excerpts, of which two minutes is taken up introducing everyone and getting them seated. It’s fun to see the cast as themselves, even if briefly. Cole Sprouse name-drops actual modern Archie writers (Waid and Zdarsky), so bonus points to him!
The five-minute gag reel contains the usual line flubs, faces, and laughing.
I was disappointed that nobody talked about how Veronica always wears pearls. I wanted a special feature on costume design. And I always wish that they do more substantial comparisons of source material (with proper credits) to end result, but that’s unlikely these days on a rapid “catch up before season two starts” release like this one. That second season, which has another murder to solve, will begin on October 11.