Over the course of Riverdale's freshman season, Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) has received a bit of flak from critics and viewers alike for perhaps being portrayed as a little too dumb. (In fact, we're guilty of having a bit of fun at the character's expense.)
Based on the way the character is written in the beloved comics upon which The CW series is based, a certain level of gullibility or naiveté is to be expected. But given the way everything has panned out thus far, we have to wonder, is Riverdale leaning too heavily on this single attribute of its leading man?
According to executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who spoke with reporters during a recent press screening, when the show's writers set out to revamp the comics' iconic characters for TV, there were several characteristics they felt were essential to keep when making the jump to the small screen. For Archie, it was his inherent goodness and willingness to trust those around him.
"[A fundamental thing I felt was essential for] Archie was a basic optimism and a basic belief in the fact that people are good," Aguirre-Sacasa says. "So when Archie goes to join the Blossoms [in "La Grande Illusion"], and everyone else is like, 'Archie, don't go into the haunted house!' Archie kind of believes it's as simple as, 'Oh, they're just asking for a favor. And I'm just getting a favor.'"
"I think [his naiveté] is associated with the problems he's dealing with," adds Archie's portrayer, KJ Apa, noting that for most of the show's first season Archie's problems haven't been on the same level as those of his friends, Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) and Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse).
And Apa's right, of course. This season has seen Archie largely focused on having sex, playing football and following his dreams of becoming a serious musician. Meanwhile, Betty was lied to by her parents about the whereabouts of her sister, who was revealed to be pregnant with Jason Blossom's baby; Veronica's wealthy father has been making deals from prison and her mother might be equally untrustworthy; and Jughead has bounced from makeshift home to makeshift home while struggling to reconnect with his own deadbeat father (Skeet Ulrich) and investigating Jason's murder.
Cole Sprouse, who plays the introverted Jughead, believes the decision to portray Archie as a little more simple than his peers makes sense given the gravity of his situation compared to the rest of the core cast's problems. He also believes it was the right decision to allow Archie's problems to be a little less heavy.
"Archie is the figurehead of the Riverdale universe. We're going in a brand new direction with Riverdale as a universe, and something like a Jughead storyline placed upon the Mario or the SpongeBob of the universe could be perceived as a much more unpalatable immediate reaction to a universe-builder as something alternative," says Sprouse.
"Also, reading the Archie comics, Archie is kind of a klutz," he continues. "I think in that way, Archie maintains a very fundamental tether to the characters of the comics as well in which he sort of ends up in these situations and is totally unequipped. I hope that people catch that sort of storyline and catch that old tether as well. We try to keep all of those tethers to the characters when it's Betty or Veronica or Jughead or Archie's clumsiness or naiveté."
Although Aguirre-Sacasa says we probably won't ever see Archie tripping or breaking things, he is adamant about one thing: maintaining Archie's inherent goodness in a world that's threatening to lead everyone into darkness.
"I do believe that Archie is the hero and not the anti-hero of Riverdale," he says. "I think he's the hero, and there's a little bit of an innate goodness and a little bit of an optimism in there that could be perceived as earnest or naive. But ... I'm glad he's out there."
Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)