From Veronica Lodge to Blair Waldorf, from Archie Andrews to Nate Archibald and Jughead Jones to a rough-around-the-edges version of Dan Humphrey, Riverdale is exactly what Gossip Girl junkies like me have been waiting for. Gossip Girl finished in December 2012, with what I have to admit was an extremely rushed and slightly unsatisfying end to possibly the most addictive television series ever. I have re-watched the episodes enough to be able to quote almost every line and tell you scene by scene what’s going to happen. As I’m sure is now pretty obvious, I was in need of a fun and sexy TV drama, littered with young attractive characters and tinged by shadows of sinister drama that would fill the void created by the end of my favourite television series to date. Well, CW answered my unspoken prayers and one lucky evening a couple of months ago, I stumbled across the first episode and have been tuning in to watch every week since without fail.
Riverdale is set in the town that gives the series its name. It’s small and somewhat close knit in the sense that everybody either knows everybody or knows of everybody. The first episode appeals to young adult audiences immediately, with its hint of romance, a school dance, a new girl and a plot seed that leaves viewers like me eager to keep watching. KJ Apa is undoubtedly the reason that many of us kept our eyes on the screen in the first place, but I’d be lying if I said he was the only reason I continued watching up until the season’s finale. Although the plot seemed superficial during some episodes throughout the season, towards the end everything suddenly seemed to pull tightly together and the drama, volume and atmosphere of the show was amped all the way up.
The season as a whole establishes itself as a kind of teen detective drama, where four friends (Betty, Jughead, Archie and new girl Veronica Lodge) assign themselves the duty of discovering who killed Jason Blossom. There are a lot of characters and a lot of different plot trails to follow, so I’ll recap as concisely as I possibly can. And just so this is crystal clear, I know that the show is based on some comic book, but I’ve never read a comic book in my life and couldn’t tell you anything about that side of it!
The Blossoms are the ridiculously rich, enviously beautiful family who live at Thornhill in Riverdale. Thornhill is their mansion, of course and it has a kind of alluring gothic appeal to it. They have a well respected family business selling maple syrup. Its inhabitants consist of Cheryl and her parents Penelope and Clifford. When the series begins, Cheryl’s brother Jason is already dead. The opening scene is deliberately set up as incestuous, with the two Blossom twins Jason and Cheryl standing by the edge of Sweetwater River together as if they are boyfriend and girlfriend. At least that’s what I thought anyway….
Until we later find out that they are twins and that Jason was actually seeing Betty’s older sister Polly before he disappeared and was found dead. Oh and Polly has been mysteriously banished by her parents, Alice and Hal Cooper – which we later find out is because they wanted to keep her “safe” from the evil hands of the Blossoms, who they didn’t trust being around their pregnant daughter. Yep. Polly was carrying Jason’s child when she was banished to The Sisters of Quiet Mercy – a strange institution full of nuns that keep Polly locked away.
Meanwhile, hot guy Archie is busy kissing every girl that meets his eye, including his music teacher, and nobody really cares because he’s… well, he’s hot. While his father is busy cosying up to Hermione Lodge – new girl Veronica’s mum. Which seems sweet but is actually rather controversial because Hermione has a husband, Hiram Lodge, who is currently in jail awaiting trial for several counts of fraud and embezzlement. And if I remember correctly, Fred Andrews is currently in the process of divorcing his wife – so is also still married. But then again, Hermione and Fred were childhood sweethearts so there is one redeeming quality to their canoodling. However Hermione is actually still doing Hiram’s dirty business for him on the side, with The Serpents. So maybe not so redeeming after all…
Who are The Serpents? None other than the beautiful and endearing Jughead Jones’ father FP’s (yes his name is FP) rogue crew. They sell weed and hang out on bikes and have a rebellious edge to them. If anything goes wrong in Riverdale, then the incompetent sherrif and his team just assume that it was at the hands of The Serpents.
So that’s pretty much all the basic, important information you need to know. Although there are some extremely superficial moments in Riverdale – and I mean, eye rolling, cringe-worthy, unbelievable scenes – it does come together overall as a highly addictive show. I got into the habit of waiting for the episodes to be released every Friday and then downloading them to watch on the coach journeys I make back and forth for work. There’s a seriously seductive quality to it and it just makes you need to watch more. Even though there were moments when I found myself rolling my eyes or sighing at the sheer unbelievable aspects of the plot, I still came back for more. And we have to excuse it for now, because seasons one and two of Gossip Girl are sprinkled with seriously cringe moments too!
By the end of season one, we’ve discovered a few key things:
- Cheryl Blossom is not just the high school mean girl. She’s in desperate need of love and attention because she’s so neglected at home. There’s a ghostly quality to her movements as she drifts around her incredibly large house, hearing whisperings of the secrets her parents are keeping, but constantly having the door slammed in her face about everything. The only place she can really establish any authority is at school, so that’s exactly what she does.
- Betty’s sister Polly wasn’t just exiled because she was pregnant. As Hal reveals, the Coopers are actually also Blossoms. It was a feud between brothers that forced one of them to change their name, thus creating the Coopers. So, when Polly and Jason got together and Polly fell pregnant with Jason’s baby, it was actually an incestuous high school relationship – not just the innocent mistake of young, childhood sweethearts who were planning to run away together. Disgusted by this, Hal wanted Polly to have an abortion. Oh and the Blossoms didn’t actually care about the incest – as Penelope said, the child would have been a pure Blossom and they therefore had no reason to despise it.
- Almost everyone’s parents went to school together. FP overheard an argument between Betty’s parents Hal and Alice, when they were younger, about the fact that Alice was pregnant. With a baby boy who she was forced to give up for adoption because Hal convinced her to – an act she considers to be the worst mistake of her life.
- Veronica’s mission to incriminate her dad in every bad going on in Riverdale was just a childish game at finding meaning for grown up things she didn’t really understand yet. Clifford Blossom framed Hiram Lodge to make it seem like he was involved in Jason’s murder, when he actually wasn’t. The only thing he did do, was hire The Serpents to decrease the value of the land at the Twilight Drive-In, so that his company Lodge Industries (like Bass industries) could purchase it at a lower price. Oh and he did of course, send those guys to trash the Andrews Construction site because he figured out his wife was getting busy with her childhood flame!
- Hermione becoming a shareholder at Fred Andrews’ construction business was a bad idea and now she wants to try and buy him out of the business because Hiram is coming home. However Fred refused her deal.
- Childhood sweethearts Fred Andrews and Hermione Lodge will now see their children becoming childhood sweethearts, as Veronica and Archie form a “soulmate” romance that I don’t believe will last because Archie has wandering eyes. Other note worthy romances are Betty and Jughead who I just adore!
- The gunshot that Archie heard the night of Jason Blossom’s death, while he was out in the woods with his music teacher Miss Grundy (I know!) came from Clifford Blossom – who arranged for his own son to be tortured by one of The Serpents and then shot his son Jason himself.
- Why? Because the so called maple syrup business was just a huge cover up for the real family trade – cocaine. And when Jason found out what his father was really trading, he threatened to expose him and his father shot him in the head. Like the true control freak Clifford Blossom was shown to be, in a tape where we get to see him watching his son being tortured before he pulls the trigger, Clifford then hangs himself to avoid being caught.
- Cheryl, after trying to commit suicide by drowning herself in the lake and then being rescued by Archie and the gang, finally settles for setting fire to Thornhill. However, I’ve read that only half of it actually gets burned down…
- Jughead’s situation is intervened in by a social worker. As his father is now in jail, facing something like 20 years for having helped aid the clean up of Jason Blossom’s murder, Jughead has no family. He can no longer stay with the Andrews because Fred got a DUI and has no money, so has been deemed unsuitable. He is therefore sent away to a foster family, but comes back when Betty goes to find him. In one of the last scenes, Betty and Jughead are back at FP’s trailer making out, when they get a knock on the door from The Serpents who tell Jughead that they have his back and hand him a Serpents jacket – much to Betty’s obvious dismay.
- Someone, most likely men working for Hiram, walks into Pop’s and shoots Fred Andrews. I can’t think of it being anyone but Hiram, who obviously knows about the little romance that went on between Fred and his wife and who might also be aggravated by the fact that Fred refused Hermione’s deal to buy him out of the company. It could potentially also be something to do with Clifford Blossom’s men, who may be angry that Archie was so involved in the exposure of Clifford as Jason’s killer, but that theory isn’t strong.