In 2017, Riverdale, a teen drama ‘crime’ series began airing. I, a teen at the time, was engrossed. It had the makings of a post-Pretty Little Liars series: high school drama and romance alongside a genuine murder-mystery plot. The strangest part back then was the cast of characters taken directly from Archie Comics, and the ambiguous time-setting: laptops coexisting with retro aesthetics and landline phones. In the four years since it has changed somewhat.
A show which once had a whole season devoted to the murder of one teenager would now call a death-free episode a dull week. Plotlines across the five series have included drug rings, organ harvesting, two bear attacks, an underground fight club in prison, necromancy, and a ‘Gargoyle King’ serial killer who uses a form of Dungeons and Dragons as his modus-operandi. Chad Michael Murray attempting to escape the FBI on a rocket is a far cry from plotlines about cheerleading squads and whether Archie will choose football or music. It should be terrible. And it is – the scripting sometimes seems like it has been written by somebody who has never heard a real human conversation and there is a whole YouTube subgenre dedicated to ‘Riverdale cringe.’ But, somehow - it works.
In an Instagrammable retro Americana, Riverdale blends teenage drama stereotypes (and a cast of parents from predecessors like Twin Peaks and Scream) with references to cult film classics - Archie goes to ‘Shankshaw’ prison and there’s a whole Breakfast Club themed episode. It has reached a level of insanity so as to become self-aware, a camp classic where jumping the shark would be an absolute understatement. It’s the ‘bad writing’ which makes it so great, the hilarity of the insane plot twists alongside a seasonal tradition of a musical episode which keeps me wanting more.
Unlike many shows which release whole seasons to streaming services in a bingeable lump, new episodes of season five are weekly, keeping us on our toes. The new season, after wrapping up the plots interrupted by Covid-19 restrictions (Who is made the mysterious murder video tapes? Prom!), jumps back in with a seven-year time skip, bringing our aged-up cast back to teach at their old school – and probably solve/commit some murders, right? The new season of Riverdale offers some escapism from the world outside. Forget logic and coherent plotlines, sit back and enjoy it for what it is: ridiculous.