This article contains nothing but Riverdale Episode 1 spoilers!
Now that you’ve seen the first episode of Riverdale, we thought we’d take some time to break down all the Archie Comics-related shout outs that appeared in the premiere. Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is not only the mind behind this series, but the creator of Afterlife with Archie and a longtime fan of these characters as well (even earning the distinction of getting a cease and desist for a stage play he wrote years ago in which Archie was gay).
Due to his love and admiration for all things Archie, it was inevitable that some Easter eggs from the Archieverse would make their way into the premiere. Let’s take a look at the most memorable from the first episode.
“The Town with Pep!”
In the opening scene we learn that Riverdale’s motto is “The Town with Pep!” This is a quite obvious and deliberate homage to Pep, the comic Archie made his first appearance in book’s 22nd issue back in December of 1941.
Pep was published by MLJ Comics, an independently owned company that was best known for chronicling the adventures of characters like The Shield, The Fox, The Hangman, and The Black Hood. These characters have a rich and complicated history of their own, having been around in most cases for even longer than Archie and the gang (and several still live on in books currently being published by Archie’s Dark Circle imprint).
Archie’s appearance in the 22nd issue was a filler story that was printed at a time when fear about World War II gripped the nation. The wholesome fun and nostalgia immediately caught on with readers, and so a red-headed empire was forged. By 1946 MLJ was renamed Archie Comics, and life in Riverdale hasn’t slowed down since.
Chapter One: The River’s Edge
Each episode of Riverdale derives its title from a classic film, usually of the noir or drama genre. Fittingly, the show’s first chapter (after all, the story is revealed as Jughead narrates from the book he is writing) is named after the 1986 Keanu Reeves/Crispin Glover/Dennis Hopper drama River’s Edge. The movie is, to put it simply, about teens who get wrapped up in a murder involving one of their peers — something the characters on Riverdale can most definitely relate to.
Mildest of spoiler alerts: Future episodes will show that Jughead is a movie buff, so naturally he would name chapters in his book after films that share thematic links with the story unfolding in his own life.
Pop Tate’s Chok’lit Shoppe
For as long as we can remember, Pop Tate’s Chok’lit Shoppe has been the hangout of choice for Archie and his pals and gals. This is equally true on Riverdale, only on TV it exists at the edge of town unlike it’s comic counterpart, which is in the heart of the community.
The TV version of Pops’ is a neon-smothered nostalgic dream whose throwback American Grafitti feel is a subtle reinforcement of how the show utilizes American mainstays (like, say, 24/7 diners and/or Archie comics) but subverts them in a way that makes them contemporary. The fact that Veronica asks her mother what a Chok’lit Shoppe is reinforces how such a pure teen hangout is a mystery to the youth of 2017.
Archie’s beloved dog Vegas may have only made his comics debut a few years back (whither his former pooch Spotty?), but he already made a lasting impact on readers thanks his selfless sacrifice back in the fourth issue of Afterlife with Archie. If the rumors that story elements from Afterlife will eventually make their way to TV come true, then Vegas will have a crucial, if heartbreaking, role to play in episodes to come.
As for Jughead’s pet Hot Dog and Reggie’s devoted dog Vader, we wouldn’t rule out seeing them at some point either.
The spectre of Betty Cooper’s sister Polly hangs heavily over this first episode. Her relationship with Jason Blossom and subsequent breakdown are a large part of the reason that the hilariously named Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) is so high strung…though we’re willing to bet that there’s more going on with that character than her frantic performance suggests.
As for Polly, we’ll be seeing her later this season. She made her debut in the pages of Bob Bolling’s Little Archie as Betty’s adventurous older sister who, in mainstream Archie lore, works as a reporter in San Francisco. We’re not sure exactly what role she’ll play in the series, but we’re frankly just thrilled that such an obscure secondary Archie character will be featured on the show.
While giving Veronica her tour of Riverdale High, Betty mentions that the school opened in 1941. Which is a nice touch seeing how that was the year that Archie and the gang were created.
In what is arguably the biggest divergence from the comics that the premiere episode of Riverdale has to offer, it is revealed that resident jock Moose Mason (Cody Kearsley) comes on to Kevin Keller (the two discover Jason’s body while fooling around on the bank of the Sweetwater River). In the comics, Moose’s love for Midge — who is namechecked as Moose’s girlfriend in one of the four episodes provided to Den of Geek for review but has yet to appear — often causes trouble for him due to his brutal temper and hair trigger…and that’s not even getting into how it impacts Reggie’s frequent attempts to date Midge.
For decades Moose’s speech was punctuated with “Duh” sounds, both in comics and on the various Archie cartoons, making the character somewhat one-note. In the 1980s, it was revealed that Moose’s learning disabilities were a result of his undiagnosed dyslexia, and in the recent Life with Archie: The Married Life comic his scary temper forced Midge to leave him.
It will be interesting to see where the Moose storyline goes, as it really serves no purpose in the pilot other than to get him and Kevin to the water’s edge to move the story along.
Veronica’s nickname of choice makes a crowd-pleasing appearance in the debut when she coaxes him into attending the school dance with her and Betty.
Mr. Lodge’s legal woes
For longtime Archie readers, Mr. Lodge’s legal troubles in Riverdale (which include fraud, embezzlement, and the apparent ability to send massive purses full of money from New York despite being possibly incarcerated) are no big surprise. He long has been a thorn in Archie’s side, and has been portrayed in varying degrees of sinister in the 1990 TV movie To Riverdale and Back Againand in Life with Archie: The Married Life.
We fully expect that when he makes his inevitable CW debut that he will 1) be played by a former 1980s heartthrob and 2) will open up a world of pain for Archie. Delightful.
The Lodge’s long-suffering butler Hubert Smithers was given some much-needed character development in a crucial issue of Afterlife with Archie, and we suspect that his inclusion in Riverdale is more than just mere service. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is a writer who loves shining a light on seemingly unimportant characters, and we can’t wait to see what he has in store for old Smithers here.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments. And be sure to come back next week for our review of the second episode of Riverdale and a look at even more Easter eggs!