Riverdale Has Gone Downhill


The show Riverdale had a really promising future with a nailbiter first season. However, as the show kept running, it was quickly soiled by outrageous plots and confusing character development. Deranged serial killers, cult sacrifices, and gameboard demons scare viewers away from a horribly written teen drama. 

Riverdale is a show about four teens who are thrown into a new life of chasing serial killers, playing cursed games, as well as finding newfound romance. After unmasking the killer of high school student Jason Blossom, Betty, Archie, Veronica, and Jughead must learn how to survive as new challenges such as gangs and the supernatural present themselves. What started out as a simple mystery turns into a fight for life and death. 

Season one was really good because it stuck to one main plot of Jason Blossom’s death, and the writers did a great job of drawing the viewers in and making the ending unpredictable. However, the plotline got stranger as the seasons stretched on into confusing stories that are incredibly stupid like a board game demon named the ‘Gargoyle King’ coming to kill them. Gryphons and Gargoyles, inspired by the real-life game Dungeons and Dragons, was first played by the main four characters. They soon told their friends about it, and the game spread to the entire student body. Little did the four of them know, it was a game played by their parents when they were younger and it released a demon who went on a killing spree. The Gargoyle King proves to be all-powerful as it has a hold on the whole town. There were many ‘unmaskings’ of the true identity of the Gargoyle King such as Veronica’s father, and a boy impersonating Betty’s long lost brother (another plotline that was introduced to add to the confusion). 

Considering the King takes on so many faces and is constantly unmasked, it only makes the plot tangled and hard to follow. Especially as Betty is later committed into a mental health institution and the once unknown game suddenly rules over all of the patients and nurses. Jesse Hassenger, a critic of the show says, “Even on a stylized teen soap, it’s hard to become invested in characters who are constantly jerked around by a nonsensical master plot.”

Sketchy plotlines aside, the series does a good job of developing characters with multiple layers. Towards the later seasons, characters show tremendous growth and none of them conform to one set ‘box’ or character trope. Betty, who was depicted in season one as ‘the girl next door,’ shows to be a ruthless detective who has a bit of a darker side. Cheryl Blossom, shown in season one to be ‘the mean rich girl’ turns out to be a deadly archer who now affiliates with the local gang, The South Side Serpents. 

Even though the characters change over time, they are generally depicted in an inappropriately mature way, including one character becoming involved in a teacher-student romantic relationship. This plot point essentially glorifies an abusive relationship, and the show could’ve gone without this substory considering the main plot was a murder mystery. This relationship was added for shock value when in reality it promoted dangerous relationships to young viewers.

There is also romance between students, however, their relationships are depicted in mature ways. Riverdale consistently oversexualizes the teen characters and while sometimes the scenes make sense for the plotline, like Archie and Veronica getting trapped in a closet together which in turn causes a fight between Betty and Veronica, other times they are unnecessary. Gianluca Russo, writer of the article Riverdale’ Oversexualizes its Teenage Characters says, “While shows are entirely within their right to acknowledge the fact that yes, teenagers can be sexually active, it’s worrying that storylines would dive into these themes without moving the plot along in a meaningful way.”

At times it seems that the writers are running out of content and are just trying to stretch the seasons on. Starting in season two they started a ‘tradition’ of writing a musical episode in each season. However, the musicals in the show take away from the main storyline and make no sense. For the first two seasons, both episodes featured a musical that was the school show for that year so as the characters interacted with one another, it was like the audience was watching a rehearsal. However, in season four, the characters were going about their daily lives and would randomly burst out into song and dance. Across all musical episodes, instead of viewers gaining information about the main plotline, the important information was pushed back because of the musical numbers. Hannah Shaw-Williams, writer of the article Riverdale Needs To Stop Doing Musical Episodes explains, “The only things that happen in ‘Wicked Little Town’ that remotely move the story along are Betty and Archie kissing each other (cheating on Jughead and Veronica in the process), and Jughead receiving a tape that features an apparent murder and creepy masks of himself and Betty.”

Riverdale is a show that started out with a promising future, but the writers took turns no one would’ve expected nor wanted. However, if you like the basic idea behind Riverdale, consider watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix. The show is written by the same writers as Riverdale, however, it has a consistent well-written plotline and in-depth and unique characters.