Elsewhere on the Internet, you may find recaps of Riverdale written by diehard Archie fanatics who will tell you all about the unseen mythos and deeply-rooted details that have defined this comic-book high school series for the past 75 years. These recaps may Jugsplain to you that, actually, Betty and Veronica didn’t make out until issue 47 or, actually, Josie and the Pussycats covered five different Cyndi Lauper songs in their oeuvre, or, actually, Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe isn’t a problematic title. They are your Archie whisperers; I am not. This is not one of those recaps.
As a lifelong casual Archie peruser but general aspirant, I will approach Riverdale — The CW’s juicy new thriller set in the colorful universe of Archie Comics — with only the facts and mythos that the series itself presents, save for a light dip into online Archie lore whenever the situation truly demands it. (For instance, you better believe I had to double-check that two deuteragonists here were, in fact, named Hiram and Hermione, a bold naming choice that should have J.K. Rowling rowling in her multi-billion-dollar grave.)
If you’re an Archie amateur like myself, you ought to know the core characters: Archie, Veronica, Betty, and Jughead. Knowing their names is fundamental to anyone with a passing knowledge of pop culture, but I assume this foursome of friends has probably never had to deal with the drama Riverdale sets up in its pulpy first hour: Murder. Embezzlement. Statutory rape. A black-tie dance the first week of school.
Luckily, we have JUGHEAD JONES to fill us in. He’s our noir-adjacent narrator who’s busy writing a novel about the goings-on of what seems to have been a very busy summer in Riverdale. This Jughead isn’t the happy-go-lucky best friend of Archie that we know, but rather, a loner on the depressed side of a mysteriously dramatic rift with his former best friend. Nowadays, Jughead seems to be the omniscient eyes and ears of the town, posting up at Pop’s to glean what he can about the behavior of the town following the news that rocked Riverdale that summer: The death of Jason Blossom, the male half of a pair of creepy, elegantly dressed, possibly incestuous ginger twins.
According to Jason’s sister, CHERYL BLOSSOM, Jason drowned in Sweetwater River on July 4 during a casual matching boat ride with his twin. (I do not have a twin and cannot vouch for whether this is normal, but my gut says, um, absolutely not.) She dropped her glove, he went after it, and then he panicked and drowned. His body was never recovered, and so Cheryl’s story became fact; it was only weeks later that Jason’s body is finally discovered, and with a gunshot to the forehead no less — a surprising turn of events to almost everyone in town.
So, who are the suspects at play? Not to say that everyone in town is a potential killer, but now seems as good a time as ever to introduce our main cast.
Something called K.J. Apa plays Archie, a perennially popular and endlessly attractive sophomore who apparently got even more popular this summer after three months spent working at his dad’s construction company bulked him up to Hemsworth-in-high-school proportions. Everyone notices Archie’s sudden abdominal arrangements—including one of the school’s teachers, MISS GERALDINE GRUNDY, who, it should be noted, looks like this in the comic book. So, yes, God bless Riverdale. As token gay friend Kevin puts it to Betty, “Game-changer! Archie got hot! He’s got abs now! Six more reasons for you to take that ginger bull by the horns tonight.”
Beyond obsessing over his forbidden love, Archie’s secondary dilemma is that he and Grundy were picnicking near the river when they heard a gunshot the morning of Jason’s murder. The problem is, they can’t tell anyone what they heard or why they were together, as Riverdale doesn’t exactly Mary Kay Letourn-up with statutory rape.
So, big secret and taboo crush notwithstanding, Archie also heads into his sophomore year galvanized by Jason’s premature death to pursue his own dream of music lest he, too, be remembered as nothing more than the sum of his extracurriculars. Lying to both his father FRED (who wants him to work at the sexy family construction company) and his football coach (who wants him to play varsity, sexily), Archie instead turns to the school’s hottest band for musical advice and convinces Miss Grundy to meet with him for private music lessons. One of Archie’s fatal flaws may be his tendency to people-please, as by the episode’s end, he’s basically agreed to fill his year doing all three: construction, football, and music, two of which sound absolutely miserable.
Four, if you count girls. Well, technically, five.
NEXT: Enter Betty. Then, enter Veronica.