The Riverdale season 7 premiere gave us a fresh, new start in an old, poodle-skirted package.
The year is 1955, and things in Riverdale look, at once, oddly similar, and completely different. While the hair is bigger and the jalopies are “hotter,” the timeless esthetic that Riverdale has always shot for transitioned effortlessly into this new era. Far less seamless, however, was the abrupt reset of the plot, which offered more twists than the Chubby Checker song! A 60s reference, I’m aware, but I think it still suits the scene.
Not only did the season 7 shift send all of the Riverdale characters back to 1955, but it also blasted them back to the hallowed halls of Riverdale High. As a firm believer that high school graduation may as well be a funeral for teen shows, I’m a huge fan of this! The high school structure is where we met these characters, and it’s a place where they all thrive. In a show like Riverdale where the characters have more agency than is healthy for any teenager, the school simply offers a common structure and a gathering place that brings characters together in a way that can be severely lacking in other settings.
Betty Cooper and her family, which includes only herself and two living parents, are the Riverdale media moguls that we once knew them to be. Betty is doing her best to make the Blue and Gold into something that really matters, and her parents host the revered RIVW nightly broadcast. In an interesting turn of events, Betty and Kevin are dating, although we’ll have to stay tuned for how that’s working, since the Riverdale season 7 premiere didn’t really get into it.
Toni and Tabitha are dedicating their time to the very current Emmett Till murder and subsequent trial. I loved how the Riverdale season 7 premiere immortalized this historic event and put it in front of a younger audience in a fresh way, and how the show elevated its black voices, and that of Langston Hughes with the “Mississippi-1955” poem. If Riverdale season 7 is going to be about bending the town toward justice, as we later learned, I think this was a great place to start!
Cheryl is living in Blossom bliss with her very-much-alive twin, although Jason is nowhere to be found and Julian is a lot more talkative and a little less creepy than we remember him! In other red-headed news, Archie is as sweet and simple as ever, living with his mom (since Fred was killed in the Korean wan), souping up his jalopy, and crushing on Veronica Lodge.
Speaking of Veronica, as has been typical in the last couple seasons of Riverdale, her re-introduction was my least favorite part of the season 7 premiere. While Betty was portrayed with strength, compassion, and intellect, Veronica was given the role of the vapid and manipulative starlet.
Considering the vilifying treatment she received in season 6, my fear is that this is another attempt at rewriting her history, one misplaced value at a time. While Veronica was certainly more worldly than her classmates when she arrived from New York in season 1, she always had a good heart and a great head on her shoulders. It would be a real shame if that was tossed aside in the final season of Riverdale.
As usual, there’s one character who’s on a more tortuous trail than most, and to nobody’s surprise, it’s one Forsythe Pendleton Jones. While everyone else remains ignorant, our faithful narrator remembers everything about their lives, “67 years ago, in the future.” Understandably, he’s pretty desperate to prove that he hasn’t gone completely insane and to reunite his friends with their former lives, starting with helping them all remember where they came from. His speech was excellent, with awkward jabs at Kevin’s lack of character arc and Archie’s absurd inclinations toward violence. His ideas, however, were not so excellent. Having Archie and Betty make out while they set off a bomb> I think this guy needs some serious assistance.
He thought his best chance would be with chronokinetic Tabitha, but unfortunately, she was firmly routed in the 1955 reality. I have to say, the Riverdale season 7 premiere made me feel so much for Jughead and Tabitha. I could really feel his pain when he called for her and saw no significant recognition in her eyes, and how happy he was to just talk to her when she later asked him for help. It was equally cruel when they were able to finally reunite at the end of the episode and Tabitha had to feel the same pain by taking away his memories. It was all really sweet up until the painfully awkward slo-mo kiss, but I’ll try to move past that.
Apparently, the super squad was unsuccessful in avoiding an extinction level event from Bailey’s Comet. Tabitha used all the timeline warping power she had to send her loved ones back to 1955, which is hopefully far enough in the past that they can make some changes that will be significant enough to save their futures. The real ask? To bend the moral arc of the timeline toward justice.
So far, I’m loving the 50s theme, complete with its heavy-handed conversations in high school gymnasiums, long shots of uphill bike rides to school, and dramatic dual frame poetry readings. The whole thing offers a really cool backdrop for Riverdale season 7 and pays homage to the show’s source material. You can also tell how much fun the cast is having with it, which always makes for the best episodes of Riverdale. I’m also into the fact that some of the supernatural elements of last season have stuck around, and that the stakes still feel really high for the season!
However, my hope for this season is that we get to play in this world for a while, but that things at least start to come back together before too long. The show’s narrative arc has been continuously upended since season 5, and I desperately want them to have time to get that back on track before the show rolls its final credits. These characters and their fans deserve a meaningful conclusion, when all is said and done.
Until then, I’m soaking up every last minute of this wild world we call Riverdale, beginning with the season 7 premiere. I can’t wait to see what’s next!