What the new ‘Riverdale’ episode says about the appeal of trash television

A television reboot of a 1940s comic series started off as a group of high school friends investigating a mysterious death in their small town. Now in its sixth season, “Riverdale” has turned vaguely supernatural and makes just as little sense as you’d expect. 

From the murder of Cheryl’s twin brother to Betty’s dad becoming a serial killer, to a deadly IRL version of Dungeons & Dragons, to an organ harvesting cult and that one random musical episode of “Heathers,” the plot of “Riverdale” becomes increasingly ridiculous and confusing across seasons, especially with its various loose ends.

After a time jump in season five, these actors in their mid-twenties and early thirties are no longer playing high schoolers. That’s growth! Jughead has since lost his stupid weirdo hat (his words, not mine), and Archie is no longer dealing with the epic highs and lows of high school football

Now, at the true start of season six, a bomb that Veronica’s dad supposedly planted underneath Archie’s bed explodes, leaving him and Betty virtually uninjured and with superpowers. While Archie becomes physically indestructible, Betty can now see people’s bad vibes in a glowing aura around them. Even Archie’s dog — also in the house during the explosion — magically heals from four broken legs in only three days. Poor Jughead is deaf after the whole ordeal, with no swanky powers — at least not yet.

Believe me when I say there’s way more to this episode, but since I know all of you are dying to go watch, I’ll refrain from spoiling any more details. The episode’s title is “Unbelievable,” which is a fair hint of what the plot entails.

I doubt there’s any person left who can argue in good faith that “Riverdale” is great television. Calling it decent, even, would be a stretch, which feels hard to say since the actors aren’t half bad. In fact, their full devotion to the script — despite alluding in the past that it makes no sense to them — makes the writing come across as even more comically absurd. Evidentially, “Riverdale” is the epitome of camp. 

And that’s all part of the appeal, even if people don’t realize it. The more outrageous the storyline, the bigger reaction it gets out of the audience. If I hadn’t seen all the comments dragging the new episode of “Riverdale” on Twitter, I probably wouldn’t have watched it at all. 

Everyone has an opinion on everything, especially when it comes to music and entertainment. And thanks to social media, people can share these opinions to the world in an instant. Although the intentions behind writing comments of praise and of critique are clearly opposite, there exists a greater difference between the two. This is where “Riverdale” as shitty TV (for lack of a better descriptor) comes in.

Offering praise online often leads to echo chambers. Most Marvel movies and shows like “Bridgerton” and “Queen’s Gambit” received an overwhelming positive response upon their releases, and people’s contributions to the conversations were all fairly similar. The cinematography, the actors, the costumes and the storyline are all great. Yet, the bigger the audience, the more viewers who aren’t familiar with the production process might not be able to articulate the specifics of what makes these shows so great.

The criticisms that “Riverdale” receives are different. It’s easy to point out a unique absurdity in the production because there are so many obvious examples to choose from. Plus, if we’re being honest with each other, it can be fun to make fun of things, and giving critiques often makes the audience feel like they have something over the professionals. 

It’s almost as if people watch and post about this show to gain Twitter clout, a good chuckle  and a moment of self-reassurance that if they were to write a TV show, it would make much more sense. 

But then again, that’s where a lot of the success of “Riverdale” has come from over the last few years. Someone (me) will see the conversations online, watch it to see for themselves (me, last night) how weird it is, then post about it (me, via the Chronicle). And the cycle continues — contributing to the show’s surprisingly long run.

With that, I present to you (with as little context as possible) quotes from this episode that made me pause my computer and wonder if I was hallucinating at 2 a.m.:

  • Veronica to Reggie: “I am reaching out to the underworld and putting a bounty on my father’s head.”
  • Archie to a literal gang: “Does anyone want to tell me who put a bomb under my bed, or do things have to get messy?”
  • Cheryl to Nana Rose: “To free Britta, do we have to perform an exorcism?”
  • Betty to her work ex: “Congratulations. You’re now the subject of an FBI sexual harassment violation. Now, fly away, little bird. Fly away.”
  • Archie to Betty: “If you really want to be with an unemployed, non-unionized construction worker with a mortgage that he can’t afford, then who am I to say no to that?”

After watching “Riverdale” this week, I have absolutely zero hunch about what this new episode could be about. Will I cave in and watch it? Perhaps. Will I admit to that in writing? Absolutely not. Are you going to click this hyperlink, just because you’re curious? I won’t tell anyone if you do. Pinky promise. 

Anna Rebello | Recess Editor

Anna Rebello is a Trinity junior and a recess editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.   


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