As Riverdale heads into its second season, some changes are needed. While I was impressed with the majority of Season 1, the murder through-line has now grown tiring – including the new whodunnit mystery posed in the finale. The show is also still too far removed from the qualities that make the source material such a lovable ride.
There’s a certain wit and charm about the comics that the show hasn’t been able to emulate. The show went for its own, dark, stylistic approach – and I respect that – but when you pick up pretty much any of the modern Archie comics after seeing the show, you feel the pang of something lost. Something that you still want to see realised on screen, which The CW hasn’t really managed to accomplish.
The very best Archie run, in my view, is the 2016 Betty & Veronica 3-issue arc. Written and drawn by Adam Hughes, these lengthy issues tell a simplistic tale, but in a heart-warmingly fun and boldly unique manner.
To give you one small example: the entire story is narrated by Jughead’s dog, Hot Dog, who intelligently toys with the narrative like his favourite chew toy; knowing exactly how far it should be thrown and how hard to bite into it. This should give you some idea of the craziness inside Hughes’ vivacious trifecta.
I suggest some ways that Riverdale Season 2 could pull from this narrative and benefit for it. Expect spoilers for the Betty & Veronica 2016 run below.
Forging a feud – the battle for Pop’s
The entirety of Hughes’ arc revolves around an effort to save Pop’s diner, which is being bought out by the Lodge family so that it can be turned into something modern and industrialised. Ultimately: Kweekweg’s Coffee (the slogan for which is: ‘Thar She Brews!’).
Veronica is vehemently on the side of her father – seeking to bring an end to Pop’s – and Betty does everything she can to save it, which involves an effort to raise $60,000 within a tight deadline. This stand-off escalates into a raging war between our two leading ladies, which includes underhand tactics and even physical fights (on the cover of issue #2, the ampersand is torn away and in its place is a ‘vs.’, and for good reason).
Season 1 of Riverdale featured Pop Tate’s Choc’lit Shop a lot, so we already know Pop and his diner well. It’s a communal place of comfort and small talk for our core four. A quaint and homely retro setting that we’ve grown used to. This is the perfect time to tear Pop’s away from us – just as we’ve gown to love it. For Season 2, the writers would do well to place the murder content on the back-burner and focus on small town problems like this instead.
It reminds me of the current sub-plot in Twin Peaks where Norma is reluctant change the name of the Double RR diner. She resits because it’s part of their culture and because Twin Peaks wouldn’t be the same without it. Equally, the threat of removing Pop’s from Riverdale would have great connotations for our characters.
This threat would unite our group once more (bringing the surly, detached Jughead back into the fold) – even if it’s a union of division, with every character finding themselves having to either join Team Betty or Team Veronica.
They’ve already set-up Dark Betty – why not use her?
The feud in the comics really is wonderfully grandiose. Betty often loses her temper over Veronica’s sly comments or actions, and Veronica knows how to push Betty’s buttons. Towards the end of the comic run there’s a rather violent fight between Betty and Veronica, in which Veronica basically runs away, because Betty’s wrath is so monumental.
Season 1 of Riverdale already spent a great deal of time setting up Dark Betty. By which I mean the serious, sinister and often violent side of Betty seen in such moments as her attack on Chuck in Chapter Three. There’s always a seething anger just visible under her girl-next-door exterior – sometimes to the point where you seriously worry about her mental health. The writers did a great job of slowly raising this to the surface.
If you’ve got something that strong already set up, then why not use it? It would play into this battle for Pop’s perfectly and we would finally get to see Betty and Veronica truly go after one another, rather than being on-and-off-friends.
Hiram Lodge will also be in Season 2 (played by the excellent Mark Consuelos). This is ideal, because in the comics he and Veronica (his daughter) align to take down Pop’s and defeat Betty. In the show, Veronica seems to have a love/hate relationship with her father and his ideals, which is also perfect for this story arc.
If they hadn’t already set up Dark Betty in the show then making her veer towards such over-the-top fury now probably wouldn’t work. But they have set up Dark Betty and they’ve set her up thoroughly. An opportunity like this shouldn’t be wasted.
Bring in this kind of wit – it’s sorely needed
As mentioned above, this entire arc is told from the perspective of Hot Dog – Jughead’s pet dog. He comes across as something of an intellectual and speaks directly to the reader.
I’m not suggesting that the show adopts this too – it simply wouldn’t work. But I do think the show should take inspiration from the kind of adept comedy and sharp wit that Hughes crafts within this run.
One of my favourite lines is when Betty is praising Veronica. Betty states:
‘She’s like a general on top of a tank, with binoculars and a cigar!’
This line isn’t an outright joke, but combined with the expression on Betty’s face when she says it (aided immensely by Hughes’ glorious, beautiful art), it made me laugh hard.
The above image will give you another example of the kind of clever, tongue-in-cheek humour that Hughes sprinkles throughout his comic. ‘I’ll wait while you google Frisson,’ Hot Dog states, mid-introduction, teasing the reader for not knowing the word.
Another Hot Dog joke sees him point out: ‘We cannot run pages 19 and 20 because, well, they no longer actually exist. It would seem that I have *ahem* eaten them.’
Keep the ending – it’s perfect
As you reach the final act of this three-comic-arc, you’re hit with a considerable twist, so stop reading now if you don’t want the comic spoiled for you.
It is revealed that the entire feud between Betty and Veronica – fisticuffs and all – had been nothing but a meticulously planned act by the two girls, right from the get-go. As a reader, you were fully convinced that the fight was real and the citizens of Riverdale were fully convinced too (you should see Archie and Jughead’s faces when they find out that they’ve been duped).
But the girls had planned the entire thing (and acted it out to perfection), as a roundabout plan to ensure that Pop’s stuck around and that Hiram Lodge failed. As Veronica states:
‘I knew I couldn’t talk Daddy out of it, so I had to come up with a way to force him to stop the takeover. The only way to get my Daddy to change his mind is to cost him something. He hates that.’
If this arc was adopted for the show then I would strongly recommend keeping this reveal, which could be executed late into Season 2. Betty and Veronica are as much about friendship as they are about feuding, so – even though the civil war between them wasn’t real – this way we get the bet of both worlds, and we get that glorious friendship back at the end of the season.
I know the chances of this comic being implemented into the show are slim – the show is bound to keep doing its own, gloomy thing – but it’s fun to mull on the notion that a comic book run as great as this could be adapted.
In a world where DC are pulling from newer material (Injustice, Flashpoint), rather than old, I’d love to see Riverdale do the same with this 2016 run. Whatever they do, as long as they don’t mess up these two wonderful characters (like they kind of did with Jughead), I’ll be OK. Remember:
‘As long as you don’t mess with Team Bee N’ Vee, you’ve got nothing to worry about.’
Do you think this arc should be introduced in Season 2? Are you a fan of Hughes’ run? Let us know in the comments section below.
Image credits: Archie Comics, The CW