Ten years ago, a Riverdale in which Archie and the gang were mixed up in things like sex and murder seemed like an unthinkable prospect. But that was before the creative reawakening of Archie Comics gave us Life with Archie: The Married Life, Afterlife with Archie, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Those three publications had a bold message for the world which was this: Archie Comics ain’t like they used to be.
While the traditional stories live on in the various Archie digests, the aforementioned high-profile publications are the ones which have been grabbing the headlines of late. So it was just a matter of time before the buzz translated into the next phase of Archie’s burgeoning multimedia empire. Thus, The CW’s Riverdale was born. We’ve been covering this project since it was initially announced as a potential series for FOX back in 2015, and it continues to sound absolutely wild.
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Archie’s Chief Creative Officer and the man responsible for bringing zombies to Riverdale and reviving the long-dormant Sabrina property), the pilot episode of the series will be full of mystery and romance…or, at the very least, shirtless Archie (newcomer KJ Apa). The show premieres on the CW on January 26th at 9, and we’re going to break down the newly released teaser for you.
If for some reason you haven’t seen the trailer yet, take a look below and then we’ll dive in to what is going on here.
ARCHIE: YEAR ONE
“From a distance, it presents itself like so many small towns all over the world: Safe, decent, innocent. Get closer though, and you start seeing the shadows underneath.”
These words from Jughead narrated the first look at the series back in the summer, and while the narration has been replaced in this trailer with Of Verona’s evocative “Paint the Pictures,” the message is still the same — this is unlike any Archie you’ve ever seen before. The first image we see is a car — probably the series’ take on Archie’s trouble-prone jalopy — crossing a bridge to symbolize how fans of America’s Typical Teenager are venturing into unknown territory with Riverdale.
Or we are probably just reading too much into this, but hey, cut us some slack as we need to take a break from over-analyzing Westworld for a few minutes.
Anyway, the scenery has a very Pacific Northwest vibe, lush and green with plenty of mystery to go around. And mystery is one thing Riverdale will not be lacking.
MEET CHERYL BLOSSOM
Like it’s spiritual predecessor Twin Peaks, Riverdale seems to be driven by the central mystery of how/why did a character die. This seems to be the framework upon which the series is built upon, but there is much more than just this core event happening here. The trailer indicates that the pilot will be a sort of origin story for all of the Archie Comics characters, taking cues from not only the moody atmospherics of the recent comics, but also from the current Archie run written by Mark Waid, with art by a host of brilliant talents.
We first meet series bad girl, well, one of them, Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) sitting on a shoreline looking distraught. It isn’t too much of a spoiler to inform you that the narrative thrust of Riverdale’s first season will involve the death of her twin brother Jason (Trevor Stines). Given the creepy Flowers in the Attic vibe to the Blossom siblings’ twincestual storyline in the the Afterlife with Archie comics (also written by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa) we have to wonder if the series will take this route with these characters as well? If so, it’s going to have to be told in flashback because Jason is quite dead.
GUEST STARRING ARCHIE’S ABS
Archie is sexy now. This is very important, because if this trailer is any indication, this is going to be a very big aspect of the show. Here’s Archie cooling down after working for his dad’s construction business. His dad is played by former teen heartthrob Luke Perry.
To quote Roxette, “and it all begins where it ends, and we’re all magic friends.” The circle of life people, this is how it works.
JUST LIKE THE OLD MAN IN THAT BOOK BY NABAKOV
That sound you just heard? Archie purists around the globe fainting and hitting the ground at the relevation that Riverdale‘s Miss Grundy (Sarah Habel) is nothing like her comic book namesake. On TV she will be young and vibrant and having an affair with Archie. How this will interfere with the Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle remains to be seen.
ARCHIE’S RIVERDALE RUN
Insert joke about cheesecake being the hottest selling menu item at Pop Tate’s Choklit Shoppe here. Did we mention how Archie is sexy now?
THE GRABBING HANDS GRAB ALL THEY CAN, ALL FOR THEMSELVES, AFTER ALL IT’S A COMPETITIVE WORLD
Whose hands are these and why are they bloodied? Or is that a stigmata? YOU GUYS ARCHIE IS JESUS! Al Hartley, your day of redemption has come at last.
THE GANG’S ALL HERE
We don’t see too much of them in this teaser, but the supporting characters from the comics — Dilton, Big Moose, Kevin Keller, etc — will all be featured in Riverdale. Which means three words: SEXY POP TATE.
BETTY COOPER BETTY COOPER
Especially in Archie comics of the ’60s and ’70s, Archie had a tendency to be fairly horrible to Betty Cooper (played here by Lili Reinhart). Ahem:
It looks like some things never change in Riverdale, as Betty seems quite upset as Archie, complete with his letterman jacket, because, again, Archie is pure sex now, looks distracted.
WILL YOU WAKE FROM A DREAM WITH A WOLF AT THE DOOR REACHING OUT FOR VERONICA?
Enter Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) looking very Little Red Riding Hood-esque in her Cloak of Mystery. Fuck it, I hope she’s in some kind of rich girl death cult in this show.
Why not? Why not go mad? Trump’s in the White House. Ghostbusters tanked. Nothing makes any sense anymore anyway.
MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING
The smart, er, money says that this bag full of cash will be shown to none-so-subtly illustrate how wealthy either Veronica or Cheryl is, and they carry this around as spending dough. But might we suggest another wrinkle? Perhaps someone finds this satchel of loot, and it is revealed during sweeps that Mr. Weatherbee is actually D.B. Cooper. Because that would be the absolute best.
SO NO ONE TOLD YOU IT WAS GONNA BE THIS WAY
SHIT JUST GOT REAL. Archie is fighting who appears to be Reggie (Ross Butler). In the left corner you see Jughead (complete with a variation of his trademark hat and played by Cole Sprouse) either trying to break it up or himself getting involved in the melee. As the series opens, Jug and Arch are estranged, so honestly this could go either way.
Related: We cannot wait to see this show.
BE AGRESSIVE, PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE
Ladies and gentleman, your Riverdale High cheerleaders.
TEACHER, TEACHER, TEACH ME LOVE
Miss Grundy gives Archie a seductive look before a quick cut of her reaching out for his hand. Because he is, after all, quite sexy.
MOVING IN STEREO
A swimsuit-clad Veronica laughing as she walks away from something. Reading the complaints in the Archie Fans forum perhaps?
INTRIGUE, THY NAME IS RIVERDALE
Wrapping up the trailer are a series of quick shots, including Jason Blossom’s body being recovered, several of our leads (including what appears to be our first look at Stranger Things‘ Shannon Purser as Big Ethel) walking ominously down a hallway, a memorial to Jason Blossom at his locker and, Hot Archie looking pensive, probably because he knows something about Jason’s death that he can’t tell the authorities for various complicated and, no doubt, sexy reasons.
Goddamn we are in love with this show already.
Will this series deviation from the source material offend the hardcore Archie faithful? As a lifelong fan and Archie historian myself I can say a hearty no. This show looks weird and exciting, and knowing how stunning of a talent Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is I have no doubt that the pilot will be beautifully written. Honestly, he is my only question mark about this whole project. Partially due to his commitments to Riverdale, both Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina experienced major delays. It is unclear what Aguirre-Sacasa’s commitment to the show is post-pilot now that it has been picked up for a full season, and how this will impact those books and the Archie Horror imprint in general. This will become clear by the time Riverdale debuts in January, but for now it is a huge question mark looming over two of Archie’s flagship titles.
As for the show itself, it looks beautifully shot with some fresh new talent and an inventive spin on the characters. Will it connect with mainstream audiences who don’t know or care about the comics? That may be the show’s biggest obstacle, one that if this trailer is any indication can be overcome easily.
Chris Cummins is a writer and Archie Comics historian who desperately wishes the 1970s Archie variety show pilots would resurface online. He also cannot wait to watch the living shit out of Riverdale. Follow him on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.