After the first season of Riverdale, Archie’s character becomes very single note. He is a hero and will always act heroically. In later parts of the show, his character arc is more about his abs than any meaningful character development. Archie’s story is held back by the limitations of the narrative.
Riverdale is a show with very little consequences and danger for the main characters. This would not be a problem if the show isn’t constantly trying to prove to its audience that it is a dark show. People die and monsters exist, but they only go after the characters with very little impact to the plot. A successful hero story is one that has real dangers and consequences and a journey to over come them. You know that whatever problem Archie faces will be solved by his fists. Problems that are not solvable through fighting, although rare, he will get help. It’s not interesting because the fights aren’t fun to watch. If they wanted to go with the fighting narrative, they should have choreographed fights. Especially when it becomes the only character trait that defines Archie in later seasons.
Knowing that Archie cannot die dulls and nullifies any tension and suspense for his arc. If this show wanted to go for this dark drama that it is desperately trying to define itself as, it cannot be afraid of harming the main characters. Yes there are moments when the main characters are harmed, but the injuries are inconsequential and Archie doesn’t learn from his mistakes. Archie is constantly putting himself into these extremely dangerous situations, but the states aren’t high so what’s the point? He gets into a fight club, he goes up against mobsters, gangsters, and murders but no one is going to hurt him.
You can’t have a hero who is perfect at everything, who is blessed by the gods with luck, and who doesn’t learn from mistakes. Even Superman has died. If they wanted to make Archie have a hero’s story, they should have had moments where he doubts his strength. Moments where he is outgunned and truly humbled by his inexperience. Moments where he learns and grows to become a better hero, not just this extremely white savior persona that he takes on.
My biggest issue with Archie is his savior complex. In the first season, you get some of it but he is also struggling with figuring out who he is. In the fourth season it turns into this racist white savior plot. In the fourth season, Archie opens his boxing gym and makes it a community center for the underprivileged. That alone is a noble act. He is taking something in the community through government corruption and giving it back the people it was stolen from. Had they left it at that, I wouldn’t see a problem. But they over complicate this in true Riverdale fashion by having the south side terrorized by this gang. Archie of course takes it upon himself to go after the drug king pin and save the town from the violence and drugs that he helped bring into that community in the first place.
I think a lot of what Archie does in later seasons is to help get rid of the guilt he feels for helping Lodge take over the town. I have a few issues with this plot point in general. There is the obvious racist one where the only salvation for the disenfranchised is a white male from an decent family. It is a bit insulting that the show simplifies the solution to such a big issue to a single white male high school kid who goes out at night and fights crime like batman. I hated this plot point.
If you do not take into account the racism, this plot point has a lot of buildup with no pay off. Archie takes it on himself to clean up the streets of the south side. He spends his nights fighting drug dealers. You have this kid who single handedly takes out a crime organization. They also have the deputized serpents who are also from the south side but do little to help. His final battle with the boss is a prime example of what is wrong with this show. Archie has taken down this drug operation that was plaguing this south side. The drug king pin, who I will not name because his existence has no impact on the story what so ever, has a gun pointed at Archie. Archie acting accordingly challenges him to a fist fight and the king pin agrees. The dude has nothing to lose at this point. The drug dealer was about to leave and disappear. He could have shot Archie and disappeared and the rest of the season could have been about Archie dealing with getting shot, his mortality, being humbled by a fucking bullet. People get shot in Riverdale all the time, especially where Archie’s gym is. They even have a scene where the drug dealer shoots a kid for no reason and yet somehow here, he can’t? It would have been a lot more interesting to have Archie in the hospital, no longer able to perform as this masked hero. Even if they had him struggling with the fear of getting shot, something to ground this perfect ideal as a tangible character in the narrative. But this whole journey ends in a boring fist fight.
It’s clear at this point that Archie is fan service. All his scenes will always lead to him being shirtless. As a strictly superficial character I shouldn’t expect any depth from his character, but his actions have so much influence in the narrative that is hard not to. He just doesn’t fit the narrative because there are no stakes for anyone important. One of my biggest issue with this show is how big of a narrative they are trying to fit into this small town. You have drugs, violence, corruption, murder, monsters, all sorts of mayhem in a sleepy midwestern town and it doesn’t work.
There is so much I want to say about this dumb show, but I don’t want to overwhelm you guys. I will continue my rant on Archie next time, stay tuned!