Riverdale Season 1 Analysis and Review and Season 2 Speculation


Overall, this has been a great season on Riverdale, with a complex overarching plot and characters. I’ve enjoyed recapping it and keeping up with all of the literary references, which added a fun depth to the show. I now jump every time someone makes a reference on any show I watch, and assume it will have importance that spans the rest of the season. This doesn’t always pan out.

The cast are all amazing, especially Lili Reinhart, Cole Sprouse, Mädchen Amick, Skeet Ulrich, Madeleine Petsch, Marisol Nichols, and Luke Perry. They all dominate the scenes they are in. Even though Fred Andrews is one of my least favorite characters, Luke Perry is still a great actor. All of these actors, and many of the others, have given their characters mystery and nuance, even if they didn’t necessarily get much screen time, in the case of some that I didn’t list, like Ashleigh Murray, the actress who plays Josie McCoy.

The Gothic strand of the show’s story seems to be over, but I hope they keep the Noir aspect for the entirety of their run, and add in other genres to explore. This show would be so much less interesting if it was just about a group of small town high school kids. The creepy otherworldly atmosphere, the dark, seedy Noir lighting, Jughead’s voiceovers, read as if from a murder mystery novel that’s steeped in his existential alienation, and the costumes and sets that seem to be from someplace frozen in time, are all what make this show feel so unique.

This year was all about a film noir detective story and an Edgar Allen Poe Gothic Horror Romance. I have a feeling that next year will be something along the lines of The Wire, since Jughead told Kevin it wasn’t The Wire, and a Dickensian story of social injustice, classism, poverty vs wealth, crime, punishment, villainy, and cruel revenge.

This season, we focussed on the newspapers and a murder mystery. Next season, the focus will be on the drug conspiracy, with Jughead at South Side High and a Serpent. Betty and the rest of the Scooby gang will be at Riverdale High and Betty will be interning at the mayor’s office. FP will possibly be the inside man investigating the prison drug trade. Veronica will finally make use of her mafia princess status, with Hiram at home and taking his place as Riverdale’s Godfather.

Archie will be involved in some way, since the producers have said that Fred getting shot is his “Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben dying/ Bruce Wayne losing his parents” moment. That sounds like he’ll become some kind of heroic vigilante, which is a little scary based on the Archie we saw this season. Season 1 left me feeling like the world would be a better place if the two Daphnes Archie and Veronica stuck to music and continued to mostly stay on the periphery of the mystery solving business.

We may move into a larger exploration of organized crime and crime families, more of The Godfather, or The Sopranos, and also more Jane Austen style family relationship/romance drama and humor, as we move away from the themes of season 1. Social class has been an important theme in this show, and has only grown more important. Both organized crime shows and Jane Austin also explore those issues, as does Dickens.

Jane Austen, in particular, loved to play with the differences between the real person and the public perception of the person, something this show has also played with. FP and Fred remind me of Darcy and Wickam from Pride and Prejudice, with one being the person who actually takes care of other people in his own way, but doesn’t care about appearances and social norms, while the other one seems like a nice guy on the surface, but is very careful to maintain his public image, even at the expense of others. It’s not as clear-cut between FP and Fred as it is between Darcy and Wickam, but Fred isn’t as good as he seems, I’m sure of that.

The baby Alice gave up for adoption in high school is likely to be one of the major stories in season 2. There’s a strong case to be made for the baby actually being FP’s, and that child turning out to be Joaquin. FP either contacted the Sisters and kept in touch with the adoptive family, or he is listed as the father on the birth certificate, so he exercised his parental rights and kept the baby. Alice may have been told that the baby was adopted by strangers, or may be keeping it secret that FP kept him. FP may have paid another family to raise Joaquin for him, which would explain his hospital bills, and why he’s always had money issues. Supporting a child starting in high school is a big financial burden. Much of the supposedly terrible stuff FP did, like getting in deeper with the Serpents, could have been to help support Joaquin, just as Mr. Darcy was protecting his sister. Or, maybe FP was Fantine from Les Miserables, and the foster family were the Tenardiers, taking financial advantage of a young, naive parent.

Joaquin has black hair, like Jughead, though it could be dyed as a disguise, and big, very blue eyes like the Coopers. In episode 10, when Alice saw FP and Joaquin at Jughead’s birthday party through the binoculars, she was very interested in him. FP wanted Joaquin to date Kevin, but didn’t seem to like him mixing with the high schoolers at the party. Maybe Joaquin doesn’t know who his mother is, or FP doesn’t want Alice to figure out who he is. Joaquin also takes a bus to San Junipero when he leaves town, an episode of Black Mirror in which the main characters pretend to be younger than they are, and partially conceal their identities.

FP may have always kept an eye on Joaquin, and have taken Joaquin under his wing. But, FP may not have ever told him who his father is. In episode 11, Alice definitely doesn’t know that Joaquin is her son, if he is (she calls him “that gay greaser Serpent”). FP tells Jughead and Betty about the fight that he heard between Hal and Alice the night of their homecoming dance, that was about a life or death matter, then Alice tells him to shut up. He tells her to stop jerking him around in front of his son (Jughead). FP uses that phrase a lot- My Son- around Joaquin and Alice, as if he’s hinting at something.

The theme of the adults’ homecoming dance was Castle in the Clouds, from Les Miserables. The song is sung by an orphan girl who is rescued from an evil foster family (the Tenardiers) by her adoptive father, Jean Val Jean, who is an ex-convict and escaped parolee, but a good man. Whether the baby was his or not, and whether it’s Joaquin or not, FP has been keeping tabs on him.

It’s always struck me that FP treats Joaquin like a son: sharing secrets, having him in his trailer when no other Serpent is ever there, assigning him sensitive jobs, calling him from prison. To explain the situation using tropes, Joaquin seems like the “dirty”* son who is destined to follow in his father’s criminal footsteps, trained as his successor and right hand man, while Jughead is meant to be the “clean” son, kept away from the family crime business, meant to escape and be above all of that. Sometimes the “clean” and the “dirty” son switch places. Is that what’s happening here?

But it also seems like, while Joaquin is involved with the petty crime aspects of the Serpents, he might be sexually inexperienced. Has FP kept him protected? Kevin kept regaling Joaquin with stories of his sexual exploits, and Joaquin seemed so surprised. Was it because he wasn’t as experienced himself, or just that he was surprised that the sheriff’s son would be that adventurous? He really seemed to think that going to the river was racy, though.

Veronica declared that Baby Boy Cooper’s situation was Dickensian: Which Dickens character is he? If Joaquin is the baby, then he and Jughead could be Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger. Not sure which will be which. Joaquin is older, and already in the gang, so he should be the Artful Dodger, but Oliver thinks he’s an orphan, then discovers that his mother and her family are alive and want him. That sounds like Joaquin will discover that Alice is his mother. It also makes sense for Jughead to be tempted by the Serpents, but not get in too deep, so he would end up being the Artful Dodger. Jughead is also David Copperfield, the orphaned novelist who is the veiled subject of his own book. Dickens has enough orphans to go around, though.

If Joaquin isn’t Baby Boy/Blonde Adonis Cooper, then my next guess is that the newest Cooper will be played by the actor who plays Jason Blossom, to continue the Twin Peaks homage. Mary Andrews will come back to town with an adopted nephew or intern in tow who just happens to look exactly like Jason and turns out to be Polly’s long-lost brother, to up the creepiness factor again. But that might be further toward fake incest than the CW is willing to go.

If Baby Boy Cooper isn’t Joaquin, FP could be involved in his life in a Great Expectations situation, where FP has sponsored the child’s education in some way, but the child thinks the money came from someone more respectable and rejects FP when he discovers the truth. FP is a convict now, so the set up is there for that story. The Jason Blossom clone could come to Riverdale to find his benefactor and thank them, adding another mystery for the gang to solve next year.

That would give Penelope and Cheryl a chance to play Miss Havisham and Estella. Cheryl will be wreaking her revenge on the town in some way. Starting with someone who looks like the brother who meant to abandon her sounds perfect. Chances are they’ll find some way for Penelope and Cheryl to play Miss Havisham and Estella, even if they don’t go in this direction. Maybe Archie or Jughead will be the ones who mysteriously receive funding from an unknown source.

One does have to wonder if the remaining Blossoms will even have the money to fund someone outside of the family. What about the Blossom’s business and assets? Shouldn’t the Blossom’s business and assets have been seized by the Feds, the same way that Hiram Lodge’s assets were? Or was a lot in Penelope’s name? Will Cheryl be poor next season? Will she live next door to Veronica in a condo and share the long-suffering Smithers? Can we start shipping Smithers and Gypsy witch Nana Rose now? Between the two of them, they know everything that happens in town.

Cheryl was always in Jason’s shadow, and didn’t really know who she was, other than his bitchy sister who was never good enough. Now that he’s gone, she’s realized that she’s the smart and strong one. She wants to break free of the Blossom legend that was holding them all back. So she spends the season running around looking for control, and in the last episode she takes ultimate control, trying to end her life, then burning down the mansion to reset her family and get rid of its ghosts.

Cheryl and Jughead served as mirrors of each other over the course of the season. He started the season homeless, and she ended it that way. She starts with an intact family and extended family, while Jughead’s family is broken. By the end, her family is almost gone, but Jughead has renewed his relationship with his dad and found an extended family in the Serpents. Cheryl starts out ruling the school, the HBIC, out in front at every event. By the end, no one notices she’s making a goodbye suicide tour. Jughead is a nearly invisible loner at the beginning of the season. At the end, he has a close group of friends who rush to rescue him from his potentially dangerous new school, but he’s already become a popular kid who’s holding court in the cafeteria. For both, their clothing defines their social status, but they are at opposite ends of the social spectrum. In the last episode, Cheryl passes her iconic spider brooch on to Jughead, and the Serpents give him his jacket, acknowledging that he’s the HBIC now. Both lose their opposite sex parent and sibling, but Juggie strengthens his relationship with his dad, while Cheryl and Penelope are at an all time low. Jughead is welcomed into his family’s business, while Cheryl’s family business is destroyed, and she’d been denied entrance before that.

It’ll be interesting to see where they take the characters next season. Jughead doesn’t like to be in the spotlight, and Cheryl doesn’t like to be out of it, so it’s hard to imagine that either will allow the current situation to last long.


One mystery solved: Reggie has been recast with Charles Melton, who has had small roles on American Horror Story: Hotel and Glee in the past.


References to Other Works from Each Episode:

(This probably isn’t everything. Sometimes I get into the show and forget to take notes for a while. And some quotes are obscure. If you know of any I missed, let me know!)

The title of each episode is a Film Noir movie, in case anyone missed that.

1- Twin Peaks/ Ronnie called herself Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Riverdale ‘In Cold Blood’/ she also mentioned Our Town/ Grundy wears Lolita glasses

2- Edgar Allan Poe, especially The Telltale Heart and the Fall of the House of Usher/ Ronnie also brings up Romeo and Juliet to Betty/ Hermione refers to herself as Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce/ Jughead refers to Ronnie as Raven-haired; Poe invented the detective fiction genre, Jason’s death declared a homicide and official investigation started

3- Film Noir/Body Double/ Alice calls Betty a Lois Lane type (Because Lois can’t figure out obvious secrets)/ Making a Murderer/In Cold Blood/ Oscar Wilde or Diablo Cody/ Full Dark, No Stars is a Stephen King collection of novellas with the theme of retribution/[SPOILERS for Stranger Things S1] The actress who plays Ethel also played a character on Stranger Things who was murdered, and then forgotten, early in the season. Stranger Things is heavily influenced by Stephen king. The Full Dark, No Stars mention is a reference to her character, Barb, and to Stranger Things.

4- Hitchcock, especially Hitchcock Blondes, Kevin and Joaquin are Romeo and Juliet/ Rebel without a Cause/ Alice refers to Grundy as Mrs. Robinson, from The Graduate/ Veronica says her mom isn’t Fantine (no, Alice is), from Les Miserables/ Grundy wears her Lolita glasses again and sucks on a Slurpee while wearing pink lipstick and short shorts (her look from episode 1 when she picked up Archie, and a totally different look from teacher Grundy)

5- Gothic Romance with Cheryl Blossom as the Gothic Heroine

6- Shakespearean Tragedy, especially Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, The Yellow Wallpaper

7- Wes Craven Horror/ The Metamorphosis/ Juggie’s also reading Huck Finn by Mark Twain/ Veronica refers to Jughead as Riverdale High’s very own Holden Caulfield, icon of misunderstood teen angst from John Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (Thanks, Mildred!)

8- The Stepford Wives/ West Side Story

9- Shakespeare-Twelfth Night

10- The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers/ Teen Wolf/ Animal House/ Long Day’s Journey Into Night/ Seth Rogen movie/ so many mentions of control vs chaos that I felt like there must be a specific reference I was missing

11-The Bible, Psalm 23 (Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death)/ The Raven

12- San Junipero/Black Mirror/ Jane Eyre

13- Agatha Christie/ the Godfather/ Gothic Literature-Horror-Tragedy-Romance/ Macbeth/ Streetcar Named Desire/ Judy Blume- Forever/ The Wire/ Veronica refers to Betty’s brother’s situation as Dickensian


Grade for the season= A


*”Dirty” and “Clean” in the sense of whether or not they are guilty of crimes or have a clean record.

2 thoughts on “Riverdale Season 1 Analysis and Review and Season 2 Speculation

  1. In episode 7 you missed Veronica referring to Jughead as Riverdale High’s Holden Caufield – Catchet in the Rye


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