TELEVISION REVIEW: "Riverdale" Gets Good by Embracing its Campy, Gothic Aesthetic [PREVIEW]

This review contains spoilers for the end of Riverdale's first season.

Perhaps some of you will recall that I did not like Riverdale's pilot episode. But sometimes it's good to be proven wrong, because I do like to like things. What began as a deep-fried Twinkie of a guilty pleasure show grew in leaps and bounds over its thirteen episodes, eventually settling into a chocolate-bar guilty pleasure, to continue the metaphor. Perhaps it was me fully suspending any sense of fidelity to the original comics that allowed my opinion on the show to change. Perhaps it was the tangled plot lines and the lush visuals finally driving themselves into my brain.

Or, perhaps, the show slowly developed a rhythm and charm all its own, for the most part successfully transporting some version of the classic characters into a Shakespearean tragedy crossed with a Gothic horror novel, infused with a massive dose of typical CW-soapness. Brothers killing brothers out of greed, decades-old dynastic blood feuds, one quasi-incestuous secret romance, a town divided between the haves and the have-nots, and a fabulously ornate mansion literally called "Thornhill," where terrible truths trap its inhabitants as surely as the mansion's gates--there's something for nearly everyone with a taste for campy drama.
Indeed, once I had accepted that this Riverdale wasn't the Riverdale I knew by any stretch of the imagination, it was all the more enjoyable to see the little bits and pieces of the comics did make it into what is basically a high-budget mystery alternate universe fanfic. Namely, the performances of KJ Apa (Archie Andrews), Camilla Mendes (Veronica Lodge), and Lili Reinhart (Betty Cooper) manage to elevate the material when it flags, thoughtfully maintaining a good bit of this classic trio even as their friendships and relationships diverge so wildly from the usual love triangle...

This review can be read in full on PopMatters.