Over the years, Riverdale has grown a reputation for portraying the absurd. Storylines evolved from a small-town murder mystery into much larger and far more outrageous adventures. Due to that, Riverdale works as escapism.
Diving into an episode of Riverdale, especially an episode of the most recent seasons, can not be compared to a day in ordinary life. Filled with murderers, deathly board games, organ-harvesting cults, and far more, Riverdale is one of the most dangerous places to live and thus home for a large amount of storytelling.
Unfortunately, escapism in Riverdale is a double-edged sword. It works in the sense of having the series grow to be as crazy as possible, allowing for the feeling that anything and everything is possible. But, on the other hand, the storylines can be so unrealistic that relatability is nearly impossible. When Riverdale wants to tell a story about something that should be considered with emotional weight, that is where things fall flat.
The problem is that Riverdale has become so impossible to relate to that any attempt the series makes to tell a story that should be given serious thought feels out of place. Riverdale treats nearly everything with the same weight, and it shouldn’t.
Dissecting the show
Season 5 is a prime example of how things can so easily spiral. Two of its main storylines are genuinely serious. Archie and his war buddy, Eric, deal with the aftermath and PTSD from their time in the war.
Although Riverdale never directly states what war this is or who it was against, it is clear that Archie and Eric’s storyline features the importance of how they need help and treatment to move forward and deal with their pasts.
As for Betty, the search is on for the Lonely Highway Killer. The Lonely Highway Killer is kidnapping young women and possibly killing them. Part of Betty’s motivation to solve the case comes from Polly having disappeared.
People being kidnapped and killed is another terrifying reality in the real world as well. But, the surrounding storylines of the show are treated with nearly equal importance of these two.
Events such as Cheryl beginning a new church with Penelope, Jughead’s writer’s block and Mothmen interest, Veronica’s new business venture and divorce, and the fate of the Riverdale High School football team should not all be of equal significance in the overall plot. There are simply too many things going on, and they are all so drastically different that the main characters are spread out in different directions.
Kevin’s claim that he doesn’t love his Teacher Of The Year Award because it reminds him of all the dreams he isn’t chasing is relatable enough. He is stuck teaching at his local high school in his hometown instead of making it big in New York. However, the series answers Kevin’s conundrum by having him join Cheryl’s church, which could be another cult in the making with Riverdale’s history.
Riverdale can be as crazy as it wishes, and outrageous plotlines have become as much a part of the integrated fabric of the series as any other element. So naturally, it is expected that any episode of Riverdale will feature something strange and unique.
Still, this system fails the series when it attempts to tell a story that should be told and viewed with genuine emotional weight, fear, or emotion.