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Riverdale: The Complete First Season
Score: 85%
Rating: Not Rated
Publisher: Warner Brothers Home
                  Entertainment

Region: 1
Media: DVD/3
Running Time: 555 Mins.
Genre: Drama/Mystery/TV Series
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

Features:
  • Featurettes:
    • Riverdale: The New Normal
    • Riverdale: The Ultimate Sin
  • Musical Pieces:
    • I Got You
    • These Are Moments I Remember
  • Riverdale: 2016 Comic-Con Panel
  • Gag Reel
  • Deleted Scenes

Riverdale: The Complete First Season artfully shows that you can take well-established characters, put them in a modern context, and tell an interesting new story while still mostly keeping the core of what those characters are. In the case of Riverdale, the classic characters are those from Archie Comics, and the new context is a modern teen-drama surrounding a season-long murder mystery, all with a noir storytelling-style.

Riverdale is a quiet town, and until the events just prior to the show's first episode, nothing really happens there. Well, as it turns out, a lot has happened, it's just kept low-key and hush-hush. When a prominent teenage boy disappears and is presumed dead, the ripples will not only reveal many of these secrets to the younger generation, but it will also put certain snooping students at Riverdale High in some dangerous situations.

The event in question is the death of Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines). One summer day, both Jason and his twin sister, Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) took a boat into the nearby Sweetwater River. When Cheryl was found some time later by a scout troop, she was soaking wet and explained that the boat had tipped and Jason had drowned. Unfortunately for Cheryl, some of the events of that day aren't quite adding up and the town starts to wonder if Jason was murdered. When his body appears with a bullet hole to the head, even more questions start to fly. Could Jason's twin be responsible? Why would anyone kill the scion of the richest family in Riverdale? Does this have anything to do with Jason's recent breakup with his girlfriend?

As Cheryl mourns Jason's death and the school and town reflect on what his murder means, several of Riverdale High's students start digging for answers in the wrong places and the secrets they will uncover will not only change the way these teenagers look at their town, but also their own families.

Archie (K.J. Apa, A Dog's Purpose, Shortland Street) is starting his sophomore year, and thanks to his summer job at his father's construction company, he has buffed up quite a bit - which is great for his high school football career. Unfortunately, the events of the summer means he is starting off the school year with a few secrets as well. For one, a secret summer romance with the school's music teacher, Miss Grundy (Sarah Habel), has inspired him to become a songwriter, but can he focus on his music, maintain his football schedule, and keep up his school work? To make matters worse, Archie and Miss Grundy were at the lake the day Jason died, and they could have vital evidence in the case, but revealing it could put Miss Grundy in a very bad situation.

Meanwhile, Betty (Lili Reinhart) is Archie's neighbor and has been crushing on him for many years. While she hopes to grab Archie's attentions, she is also having a hard time, since her sister Polly (Tiera Skovbye), has been sent to a mental health facility after Jason broke up with her. With Jason's death and the consequences that could mean for Polly, Betty becomes determined to track down exactly what happened the day he and Cheryl went out on the water. To add an additional complication into the mix, there is a new girl in town.

Veronica (Camila Mendes) and her mother Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols, 24, GCB) have moved away from New York City back to the town where Hermione and her husband grew up. With Veronica's father in jail due to some high profile white collar crimes, Hermione decided it was best to distance them from the NYC life and lay low in quiet Riverdale. While Veronica and Betty quickly become friends, the new girl in town also sets her eyes on Archie, and the classic love triangle settles in place. Of course, neither Betty nor Veronica know about Miss Grundy, and that only complicates matters even more.

Rounding out the main teenage cast is Jughead (Cole Sprouse, one of the twins from The Suite Life shows and Big Daddy) who serves a very important role in Riverdale. He sells the noir feel by being the narrator as he types out a story woven from the events surrounding Jason's death and the fallout that it brings. At the start of the season, Archie and Jughead, long time friends, have become estranged since Archie's father, Fred (Luke Perry, Beverly Hills, 90210, The Fifth Element), had to fire Jughead's dad, F.P. (Skeet Ulrich, Scream, The Craft, Jericho), from the company. When Jughead isn't writing at either Pop's Chock'lit Shoppe or going to school, he is working, and even living at, the old Drive-In Theater. Unfortunately, that theater is on the verge of closing and someone appears to be secretly buying the land for a project that is being kept on the down-low.

Other prominent students at Riverdale High include Kevin (Casey Cott), Betty's best friend who happens to be the son of Sheriff Keller (Martin Cummins, Dark Angel), and the local band, Josie and the Pussycats, led by, well, Josie (Ashleigh Murray). Given Archie's new ambition, he tries to get to know Josie's band and hopes to learn from them, but he finds them a hard clique to break into.

Finally, there are another pair of characters that need mentioning, Betty and Polly's parents, Hal (Lochlyn Munro, Scary Movie, Freddy vs. Jason, Charmed) and Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick, Twin Peaks, Sleepwalkers). They own and operate the local newspaper and they also seem to be the source of Betty's investigative streak.

As the events surrounding Jason's murder become clear, sins of the previous generation also start to come out. Relationships between F.P. and the Coopers, or Hermione and Fred get hinted at, as well as a possible link between F.P.'s biker gang and the Lodge family business. As the teenagers dig more, they start to learn that their parents are far from perfect and some truly unexpected bits of family history start to come to the surface.

Riverdale: The Complete First Season comes with two interesting special features. One focuses on taking the classic Archie Comics setting and characters and giving them a modern feel with a noir treatment. The other talks about the decision to make the central focus of the season to be about a murder and how that starts to reveal the other mysteries hidden in the town.

The DVD release also comes with clips featuring the two songs Archie sings in the season, as well as a gag reel and a good number of deleted scenes. There is also the 2016 Comic-Con panel that, while short, gives some interesting tidbits of information about the cast and crew.

Riverdale's first season did a great job of reshaping these iconic characters and putting them in a town that is considerably darker than the one portrayed in the comics, or even on the surface in the show itself. By kicking off the series with a murder, it also sets up a particular tone that is evident throughout. While I never felt as pulled in by Riverdale as some other programs currently on-air, it is still a good series to watch and I'm curious to see where the first season's final scenes take the show.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a copy of the DVD. The opinions I share are my own.



-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer
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