When Riverdale first appeared on our screens, it was wonderful and weird. Dubbed a teenage Twin Peaks, it mixed high-school melodrama (reminiscent of The O.C. and Gossip Girl) with eerie murder mystery. The kitsch Archie comic books the series are based on were given a moody makeover thanks to some gothic-horror cinematography and a load of wild storylines involving illicit affairs and a centuries long family feud over maple syrup.
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It was great fun and knowingly silly, but in among the bombastic plotlines, cheerleading sequences and musical numbers, showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa smuggled in some highly-emotive moments. The first few seasons carefully covered peer pressure, mental health, date rape and suicide, generously giving the narrative time and space to unfold properly.
Since then, what made the series stand out from a growing crowd of teen dramas has been lost. The ongoing mysteries surrounding the Gargoyle King (a fictional villain from a Dungeons & Dragons–style came called Gryphons & Gargoyles) or the cult of ‘The Farm’ dragged. It took the farfetched moments too far. Hell, at one point, organ-harvesting cult leader Edgar Evernever (Chad Michael Murray) tried to escape in a rocket he’d built himself, while donning a white jumpsuit that made him look like Evel Knievel. It was mad shit.
So, when Lili Reinhart, who plays girl-next-door Betty Cooper, announced that for season five – which they’re resuming filming next month – there would be a “seven year time-jump”, it piqued my interest, as this could be exactly the breath of fresh air that Riverdale needs.
Appearing on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show, Reinhart said: “I’m really psyched about it, I think it’ll be nice to play an adult… but I also really appreciate that Roberto, our showrunner, was like: ‘Yeah let’s revamp, so we’re not just stuck in high school for seven seasons’.”
A revamp could be what saves Riverdale. Even the enjoyable elements of high school from earlier seasons (bitchy classmates, cheerleading, the teenage parties) are wearing thin, and there’s only so much interesting material from this time in the characters’ lives that can be gleaned. Giving the show the space to innovate and explore new storylines may just give it the boost it obviously needs.
It’s a chance to tie up all the loose ends and then get rid of them completely – and start afresh. Riverdale’s young characters have always been intriguing. Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) is wickedly vicious with her array of prickly put-downs; Betty’s sleuthing has seen her go from innocent girl-next-door to powerhouse young woman; and cheerleader Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) might be very annoying, but equally entertaining. The characters aren’t what needs changing. A shake-up of the timeline, though, could be ideal. In seven years, Betty could have her own private detective firm or be a hot-shot journalist, and just imagine Cheryl dominating college students with a campaign to become sorority president. Even better, Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) might finally have finished his bloody book by then so we won’t have to see him working on it constantly.
Sometimes, a show needs to be put out of its misery. But just like when you forget to water your housemate’s pot-plants during lockdown, all a TV classic needs is a bit of love and careful attention to come storming right back.