CW’s latest “whodunnit” drama shares a lot of similarities to the Freeform favorite, Pretty Little Liars. For one thing, both series are adaptations of books (Riverdale deriving from comics and PLL from a series of young adult novels.) With Riverdale just in its freshman season and PLL halfway through its final, the newbie series has a lot it could learn from the Freeform drama. PLL‘s got some secrets, let’s see if Riverdale can keep them. Here’s everything PLL has done to keep audiences captivated that Riverdale definitely needs to adopt.
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1. Give Us Relationship/Friendship Goals
One of the best things about PLL is how genuine the friendships and relationships feel. We watched all the Liars develop such a great back and forth over the years, and their love relationships are so heavily shipped because of how well they were crafted. We saw extremely significant moments in each of the Liars’ most universally adored relationships, so fans beg for these couples to end up together.
If anyone is expected to ship, say, Archie and Betty, we really need to see some history between the two. We’ve gotten a couple cute stories from the days of “Lil Archie,” but we need more than that. If not the past, at least let us see them be there for each other in the wake of something truly tragic. More than that, show us that they work well together. Witty banter, steamy love scenes, whatever it takes. That goes for any relationship we’re expected to get behind on this show.
2. Flashbacks Are a Show’s Best Friend
This lesson could actually tie in to the chemistry one. One thing we loved in the early days of PLL was how heavy it was with flashbacks. Since Ali was “dead,” we didn’t get to see what she meant to each of the Liars, or anyone else in town. Through flashbacks, we learned that things weren’t as perfect as they seemed. Most people hated this girl, and each had their own reason. We also saw more intimate moments between her and the Liars (and we’re not just talking about the classic Emison makeout session), which reinforced why these girls were even friends with her.
Riverdale has the perfect opportunity to do something similar to this. Like PLL, this show is centered around the mysterious murder of a teen from a seemingly perfect life. We already know there’s some dark history (and some sketchy sexual tension with his sister), so let us explore that. Show us what it was that the people of Riverdale loved so much about Jason Blossom, what exactly was his relationship with his sister and what motives could people have for killing him. These are all things we’d love to see, while also seeing firsthand what the guy was like when he was alive.
3. Don’t Let Someone’s Death Be Permanent
A death in PLL is virtually meaningless. Even when we see the body, there’s somehow an explanation for it when we later find out that they’re alive — resurrection drugs, an amazing mask, whatever it may be. What worked well about this in Pretty Little Liars was that it always kept us guessing. Did that person really die? How are they alive? What didn’t work was when it just didn’t make any sense.
Riverdale can learn both good and bad from this. Bringing back a character believed to be dead can add a lot to the story. We get to spend time learning where they were, why they faked their death and what it means for other characters too. However, it can also have negative effects. If it’s done incorrectly, it can feel like a cheap plot device This is especially true if the explanation for their return is impractical. Don’t be that show, Riverdale.
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4. Make the “Big Bad” Hit Close to Home
All of the Liars went through so much in Rosewood. They each lost people close to them or had their family seriously threatened and torn apart. As sad is it was during all of these moments on PLL, it’s what made the show so good. We got addicted to that tragedy because it was raw, and it shaped the characters even more. They all had to grow from these traumas in different ways.
If Riverdale wants to make a “dark Archie,” we need to see things get darker. Yes, the death of Jason Blossom was pretty grim and all that, but come on. That was the pilot. Things haven’t really gotten scarier than that. What makes us connect with a show is seeing our favorite characters go through something traumatic. With Jason’s killer still on the loose, it might make our jaws drop to see him or her make a serious threat against anyone who gets close to solving the crime.
5. Don’t Get Lost in Plot Holes
This is one thing PLL is actually notoriously bad at doing, and we pray to the TV gods that Riverdale doesn’t fall victim to it too. Pretty Little Liars had a habit of throwing huge twists at us just to keep us guessing, but often, it didn’t make sense and was inconsistent to canon. For the most part, the writers had an explanation for those plot holes, but they never really felt genuine or planned out. We’ve got nothing against Riverdale throwing major twists at us (in fact, we encourage it), we just recommend making sure those twists don’t go against something we already know to be fundamentally true in the story.
Granted, it may sound like this last lesson is contradictory to “don’t let someone’s death be permanent,” but that’s where a show has to pick its battles. If it makes sense to bring back a character, don’t do it with someone who we’ve seen physical proof of being dead (aka Jason Blossom.) We just ask that, if you have any feeling a character could return, don’t show us a body.
6. Sarcastic Relief Is Important
Both Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars have characters with some sardonic, dry wit — PLL has Spencer and Caleb, Riverdale has Jughead. These characters are important because when things can seem over-the-top ridiculous (which, trust me, they will), these characters point it out immediately with a little dark humor. PLL offered this in spades with more than one character, so as the Riverdale universe expands, we hope to see more people with Jughead’s sense of humor pop up.
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Are there more things you like about PLL that you’d like to see on Riverdale? Share them with us in the comments below!
Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW and Pretty Little Liars‘ final season returns Tuesday, April 18 at 8/7c on Freeform. For more news, like our Pretty Little Liars page on Facebook!
(Images courtesy of The CW and Freeform)