Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Riverdale Season 7, Episode 7
Since the beginning of The CW’s Riverdale, Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) has been a relatively divisive character. The first season really seemed to understand the character from the famous Archie Comics, depicting him as the heart of the town and a good-natured boy trying to do his best and, often, failing. Following this season, though, there were only glimpses of the Archie we knew and loved throughout his arc with Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) and afterward, such as in the late third and early fourth seasons when Archie wants to turn El Royale into a community center. Otherwise, the series had no idea what to do with Archie. Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) became focused on their romance and solving the many mysteries in town, while Veronica (Camila Mendes) had her all-or-nothing story with her parents about how far she would go in the criminal underworld. For Archie, the series took a turn with the character that was filled with violence and gratuitous shirtless scenes but ultimately offered little to get fans on Archie’s side. This slowly changed in the seven-year flash-forward, but now in Season 7, Archie has once again become the star.
The Comics’ Archie Andrews Has Come to Life in ‘Riverdale’ Season 7
The seventh episode of Riverdale Season 7 is a prime example of how fantastic Archie has become. Rumors are circulating about classmate Kevin Keller (Casey Cott), as we know him to be gay and currently dating fellow student Clay Walker (Karl Walcott), but Kevin is deep in the closet due to the ‘50s setting. As Kevin’s dad begins to speculate, fueled by the discovery of a “bodybuilding” magazine in Kevin’s room, he talks with Archie’s uncle, Frank (Ryan Robbins). They scheme to get Kevin on Frank’s basketball team at Riverdale High, where Archie witnesses his teammates, notably Julian Blossom (Nicholas Barasch), ganging up on Kevin, challenging his status as a man, and setting him up with a sex worker at the local motel — which, we later learn, Julian was asked to do by Kevin’s dad. Throughout the ordeal, Archie tries his best to support Kevin without knowing exactly what’s going on. Frank is making comments left and right about how Kevin isn’t “normal” and trying to clue Archie in, but it’s Betty who gets through to him after she learns of what Kevin is trying to force himself to do at the motel. Following that conversation, Archie bursts into the motel to “save” Kevin from making a mistake, even if he doesn’t fully understand what’s going on yet.
Afterward, while Kevin quits the team, Archie still steps out of his comfort zone and goes out of his way to help Kevin feel more normal and included. He asks Kevin to have lunch to talk about all of the things — music, movies, etc. — that Kevin is shamed for enjoying simply because he isn’t your typical “all-American boy” like Archie. It’s truly one of the most heartwarming stories we’ve ever seen from Archie, showing how much this one teenage boy offers to his town and community. It also helps that Kevin and Archie aren’t very close, or rather weren’t very close before this, so it doesn’t matter who needs help for Archie to do everything in his power to offer it.
The Underutilized Side of the Character Takes the Spotlight in ‘Riverdale’ Season 7
This story, while not the only story to do so, highlights all of Archie’s best qualities. He’s not perfect, but he tries to be the best person possible. He’s driven by his good nature and kind heart to help others, especially those who feel ostracized for one reason or another. Archie is goofy and clueless, but still possibly the kindest person in town. While having a mostly sheltered life, his best qualities are his ability to empathize with those around him and the need to step in to offer a helping hand. Additionally, KJ Apa has also never given a better performance on Riverdale, seemingly stepping into this “new” version of Archie with ease and outshining nearly every one of his fellow castmates in capturing the essence of the ‘50s setting.
This side of Archie presented itself earlier in the season with Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch), too. At the end of the third episode, Cheryl told her family that she and Archie had slept together (well, not exactly, but it was implied). In the fourth episode, though they didn’t actually sleep together, Cheryl explained to Archie that she needed him to go along with this lie as it would help her immensely, though she wasn’t at liberty to say exactly why. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what Archie did. He even agreed to marry her as their parents were pushing on them because he wanted to help. It was against his own self-interest, but Archie didn’t care. He’s a good guy with a heart of gold, who can’t stand to see someone in need of help without extending his hand. That’s the type of person Archie is, which has always been present throughout the show but was drowned out by Archie’s tendency toward violence and anger as his war with Hiram persisted for far too long.
Now, the seventh season has finally and rightfully given this side of Archie a chance in the spotlight, which has done nothing but improve the quality of the show, stories, and especially the character. It was rough going at first with Archie torn between Veronica and his growing feelings for Betty, but since then has shown what a fantastic character Archie is and always could have been. It’s just disappointing that it took so long — and a uniquely Riverdale time-traveling opportunity — for the writers to understand exactly what fans have wanted to see from Archie since the very beginning. This is what we always should have been seeing from Archie, rather than his vigilante gangs, boxing, and time in the army. Archie has always been so much more than his ability to fight.
Riverdale Season 7 continues Wednesdays on The CW.