When “Riverdale” debuted on The CW, it was understandable for viewers to expect the main focus of the show to be Archie’s famous love triangle with his best gal pals Betty and Veronica. And this triangle did play out in the first episode, with Betty asking Archie if he loved her and Archie sharing a kiss with Veronica at Cheryl’s party. That was all put to bed surprisingly quickly, though, as Archie went from Betty to Veronica to Miss Grundy to Val in quick succession, while Betty ended up falling for the surprise boyfriend of the season, Jughead.
Catching up with the press at WonderCon earlier this month, both Cole Spouse and Lili Reinhart had a lot to say about Betty and Jughead’s relationship, how they’re both struggling to hold onto some kind of nostalgia for the better days of Riverdale and how that has brought them together, despite their differences.
Asked if Reinhart thought Betty was with Jughead because she was seeking comfort from everything going on in the town, she said, “I think they’re both romantics and being put in a situation where they’re solving a murder kind of brings you close to someone. I think they have a deep appreciation for each other, I think it’s real and it’s there.”
Betty and Jughead shared their first kiss together in episode six after Betty learned that Polly had been sent away not because she was crazy, but because she was pregnant. Archie was dealing with the talent show that week, so Jughead was more than willing to step into Archie’s shoes and comfort Betty.
“They both have this love of a purified state of Riverdale that drives them to seek and discover what happened in this critical event that made it [Riverdale] something dark and ominous,” Sprouse said. “That kind of romanticism lives within both of them and their shared investigation is the right petri dish for that to bloom.”
Their shared investigation began during the second episode of “Riverdale,” after the body of a murdered Jason Blossom washed up at Sweetwater River. They have since spent every episode together, following leads, investigating the Blossoms, rescuing Polly, and even staying in touch with Sherrif Keller. This Nancy Drew/Hardy Boy adventure has definitely brought them closer.
So far, Archie hasn’t expressed jealousy or concern over Jughead and Betty’s relationship. Of course, his own love life has been pretty messy since Miss Grundy, A.K.A. Jennifer Gibson, left town in episode four. Asked how Jughead is going to feel when Archie re-enters the mix, Sprouse replied, “That’s going to be one of the questions of the narrative. That’s something that the audience is going to have to react to as well. I think in the following episodes, Jughead stops being some sort of perfect, joyous, thing and the two of them start to investigate ‘can these personalities actually be compatible?’ Jughead is kind of the loner of Riverdale, intimidated by intimacy, and that gets explored. Betty is this perfect person who’s outwardly striving for perfection and that also gets explored, so it gets complicated but understandable and real and hopefully, it seems organic and not something forced.” These complications were most evident in last week’s episode 10, where Betty’s attempt to throw Jughead a birthday party turned into a disaster.
Many of Jughead’s insecurities stem from his relationship with his father. We know Jughead’s mother took his little sister Jelly Bean and left Riverdale, but we don’t yet know why. Did Jughead suffer some kind of trauma at the hands of his father?
Sprouse explained some of Jughead’s motivations, including why he’s willing to give his father a chance, despite being hurt by him in the past. “The goal as an actor in playing a character like that is always empathy and understanding, and to following a logical pathway of a kid who has experienced trauma of a very specific kind. “How does that inform these decisions,” Sprouse said. “How do I inform my actions in a way that takes into account people who have truly lived these experiences? It’s a challenging thing and it’s risky and you have the opportunity to do it a disservice, but ultimately the challenge and the risk is what makes it rewarding and something that sort of demands it’s presence, especially in this kind of representation, and for an audience as young as ours typically, it’s good to have an audience like that.”
Sprouse continued to highlight Jughead’s troubled relationship with his father, F.P. Jones, “Skeet [Ulrich] is an amazing actor, to work across from someone like that who is also so severely talented, it falls into place. Jughead has a fondness and truly his weakness is a yearning for the goodness in people that allows him to put his faith, even in liars and heart breakers and people who do the town wrong, just because he wants to give them the benefit of the doubt.”
Lastly, Sprouse and Reinhart were asked about their reactions to Jason’s killer, who will be revealed next week in episode 12, “It was also one of those things where our time up in Vancouver was us exercising theories about everyone who made an appearance. One of them had to stick and one of them did,” Sprouse said. “It could have gone any way,” Reinhart added. “We didn’t know where the writers were going to take it, it was truly a surprise.” Reinhart continued, “We all read the script at the same time at our table read when we got it, so we all were experiencing it together and that was really kind of amazing. I remember when we were done, we were like, ‘this room’s really hot,’ there was a lot of energy.”
The heat she may be referring to is that one of “Riverdale’s” couples will go all the way by the end of the series. Perhaps it will be Betty and Jughead, perhaps Archie and one of his many Riverdale girlfriends? Whatever the case, the fate of Betty and Jughead will be revealed, along with Jason’s killer, in the coming weeks.
Airing on the CW network weekly on Thursdays at 9 p.m., “Riverdale” is a modern take on the Archie Comics universe starring K.J. Apa as Archie Andrews, Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones, Marisol Nichols as Hermione Lodge, Luke Perry as Fred Andrews, Casey Cott as Kevin Keller and Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom.