The success of the revamped Archie comics was a phenomena few could have predicted, but was more than welcomed. The much-needed overhaul of the kiddie comic from the ‘40s brought the straight-laced, skirt-chasing teen and his peachy-keen friends into modern times, plunging the redhead and his buddies straight from formulaic tales of teenage woe into the modern misfortunes of the 21st century.
Up until the mid-’00s, life was pretty much the same in Riverdale since Archie was first introduced in 1941. Betty and Veronica still fought for Archie’s attention, Jughead and his jaunty whoopee cap still quested for the perfect burger, and Reggie was still a jerk for whatever reason. And at the center of all the G-rated hijinks was Archie Andrews. Archie was the lead singer of the band, the prom king, the quarterback and the school president. He was the crowned prince of Riverdale for over 60 years.
Unfortunately, after 60 years, it got a bit boring.
However, thanks to recent books such as Life with Archie, Afterlife with Archie, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and the bold, new face of flagship comic Archie, the classic characters have been given new paths to travel. The iconic squad have new conflicts to contend with aside from school dances and summer jobs, such as marriage, gay rights and the occasional battle the zombified-version of Mr. Weatherbee.
It was only natural that the small screen was the next frontier.
With the launch of CW’s Riverdale, Team Riverdale was given the chance to step out of Pop’s Chok’lit Shoppe and introduce themselves to the Teen Wolf crowd. It is the first real outing for Archie and his buddies as a live-action serial drama (1990’s To Riverdale and Back Again doesn’t count as it never made it past the TV movie phase), and so far, everything is on track. Part Twin Peaks, part Gossip Girl, and brimming with enough smart pop culture references to keep the average Nerdist fan happy, everything seems to pop for Riverdale.
So, why is Archie Andrews taking a backseat in his own vehicle?
After a reintroduction of the classic characters and their now-tragic backstories, the muscle-bound Andrews (KJ Apa) got a great start out of the gate with his role in the whole “Who Killed Jason Blossom?” story arc.
Warning! Spoilers Ahead!
As it turns out, our boy Archie was nearby when rich kid Jason went missing on the banks of the Sweetwater River, but since he was there to have a secret tryst with Riverdale High’s Vixen of the Violin Miss Geraldine Grundy (Sarah Habel), there was nothing he could say or do.
Note to fans of the comic: Riverdale scribes have aged down Ms. Grundy by at least six decades and given her a taste for teen boys. And while it makes the steamy, backseat jalopy scenes between Arch and Geraldine slightly less traumatic, one can’t help thinking that it would have added a whole different dimension to Archie’s character had they kept her an octogenarian hellcat. Chew on that one.
After the truth of their affair surfaced, Archie was left on the sidelines and kept to his own storylines. Instead, Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) took the lead, as they Encyclopedia Brown’ed their way to finding out about Jason’s secret life.
As the drama progressed, more and more characters began to unfold as major players in the small-town murder case. Except for Archie.
While Betty and Jughead were discovering the real reason why Betty’s sister Polly (Tiera Skovbye) was sent away, Archie performed at the school talent show. While Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) lit torches and sharpened pitchforks via Twitter to hunt down Jason’s killer, Archie struggled with his role on the football team. And while Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) made out with bikers, Jughead became a homeless teen and Dilton Doiley (Major Curda) armed himself for an oncoming apocalypse, Archie fell in love with a Pussycat.
Around him, Riverdale and its citizens fell into disarray as murdered teens began to float to the surface to nearby rivers and bikers began to make land deals. Yet Archie remained the same.
In some dramas, it might hinder the progression of the story to ignore a main character so thoroughly. But in Riverdale’s case, it works…for now.
In the comic, Archie was a best friend, a potential BF, an occasional athlete and overall nice boy next door. And that is how he remains. Not growing in character, unless you count muscle mass.
Like the straight man in a comedy sketch, he’s the norm that holds down the fort when chaos ensues. While he isn’t relegated to a second fiddle position like Reggie (Ross Butler), but he is not part of the central story arcs. He’s not solving murders, he’s not helping convicted daddy figures and he’s not battling every authority figure in his life.
Archie is just good kid. End of sentence.
There is nothing complicated about Archie. What you see is what you get. He represents all that Riverdale once was before murder, mayhem and mischief took root. He was, and is, your average red-blooded, red-headed American teen.
At least for now.
Be patient. While Riverdale’s most famous citizen might be its most boring, he can’t stay shadowed by his pals forever. Riverdale’s golden boy might still get his time to shine. The season ain’t over yet.