The show this program reminds me the most of is, weirdly enough, Twin Peaks. The bright colors, the weird events, the small town setting, some weird sexual undertones, not to mention finding a body in a body of water, the diner as a central meeting place, how it meanders to weird subplots — it all fits into that same weird niche. And we, for some reason, follow a group of teens around even though the adults tend to be more interesting and nuanced, if only because they were the focus of the comics. As the season progress, it manages to keep that same vibe, which is impressive.
The show is weakest in terms of the dialogue and character. Cheryl Blossom is the most apparent example of this — she comes off at this air-headed, overly vicious mean girl with some very sparsely added emotional baggage. There doesn’t feel like there’s a real character hiding in there, it just feels like a totally superficial portrayal. Veronica, Jughead, and Betty seem the most fleshed out, with complex motivations, hidden resentments, and generally reacting to events like a normal person would, though sometimes with some cheesy dialogue. Archie himself, however, tends to be a big bag of bland — wanting to be a jock and an artist, only really caught up in his own personal pursuits and having the rest of the characters doing the plot-heavy work. That said, I don’t think the acting itself is bad, but that’s a discussion for when I review this first season.
There’s also the very disturbing aspect that I think might actually hurt it in the long run, because I foresee this being a larger narrative problem. Nothing seems to be taken too seriously. I mean, sure, the murder is taken very seriously, but a sexual predatory being allowed to leave the city without any real consequences, a teenaged girl’s body autonomy and parental rights are ignored and she has to flee, all of which takes 2 episodes, forging signatures, perjury, breaking and entering, shady money dealings, etc. Here’s the problem — when you have these big, dramatic plot points that don’t eventually led up to anything or set up stakes that have no payoff, the world just feels kind of superficial and thoughtless.
So, as an exercise in re-branding, does this work? Well, yes and no. Reviews have been generally positive, if somewhat middling, and ratings having been fair, putting it within the average range of a CW show but not beating out any of the highly popular Arrowverse shows. In this way, you can say it’s a success because it didn’t fail — so far, the ratings are holding pretty consistently and it is likely to be renewed. However, I think it’s a success in the sense that it did what it wanted to do — recreate the image of Archie and in the process, grab new fans, and if the online fan communities count as a solid metric, it’s done that quite well. Sure, it’s silly, a little melodramatic, and could use some help in the plot department, but it’s solid, more solid than its premise would imply. All I can say is I’ll be waiting up to the bitter end.