Forget Betty and Veronica in The Archies, Reggie and Dilton deserve their own spin-off
The Archies is too obsessed with the formulaic love triangle of Archie, Veronica and Betty and sidelines the most interesting arc of Reggie and Dilton.
Zoya Akhtar's The Archies is out on Netflix this week, and it looks like the return back to the Riverdale universe isn't that sweet after all. Let the campaigns rest, the illusion is over. Much of The Archies is bland and forgettable, held together with an ensemble cast of fresh faces aka star kids making their screen debuts. As disappointing as the storytelling gets, most of all, its the conscious and annoying degree of attention given to three specific members in the entire cast that informs how The Archies falls prey to the nepo baby problem. But one thing is crystal clear- Reggie and Dilton remain criminally underutilized. (Also read: The Archies: Why this nepo-kid fest will disappoint vintage Archie Comics lovers)
The dilemma of Archie Andrews
The glossy, sugar-coated framework of The Archies introduces the cast one by one, but mere minutes in, and the mood feels predictable. The narrative rests primarily on Archie (Agastya Nanda), Veronica (Suhana Khan) and Betty's (Khushi Kapoor) love triangle, with the rest of the young cast barely getting an arc of their own. Much of the time is wasted in serving the dilemma of Archie who cannot choose who he loves more, and goes around building a predictably annoying confusion. Meanwhile, the Lodge family has decided to build a hotel at the heart of Riverdale, the Green Park. It promises more opportunities for the locals, they say. These two plot points do not intersect well at all, but by the film's tepid denouement, it more or less becomes clear that this is a film whose politics count only if they are safe and agreeable. And so they are.
Reggie and Dilton's arc demands attention
Which is to also say that the other members of the group- Jughead (Mihir Ahuja), Ethel (Aditi Saigal), Reggie Mantle (Vedang Raina) and Dilton Doiley (Yuvraj Menda) play supporting fiddles in a film that refuses to acknowledge their myriad dynamics. Yet, there's no doubt in admitting how delightful and interesting these faces are in comparison to the trio the film is obsessed with. The standout is the painfully ignored dynamic between Reggie and Dilton- crammed into one scene midway.
The scene in question- that appears, (thankfully) sans any unnecessary song and dance in-between, shows the amount of love and care the two characters share for one another. Dilton is taken aback at the truth or dare game a while ago and returned to his bed, guilty of having spoilt the mood of the vacation altogether. Reggie understands the hurt, and chooses to confront that pain because he genuinely cares for him. I will always be your friend, he tells him, even if knows what Dilton feels a little more for him. The writing here is beautiful- never hammering about the subtext. There's a sense of muted compassion between the two; between two childhood friends. No words are required. A gentle tap, and that gesture of reassurance is enough.
Reggie and Dilton deserve a separate spin-off of their own, if chances are taken again with the Riverdale universe. Its frustrating how multiple songs erupt needlessly to contribute to the love triangle but none of the other leads receive an extra minute of spotlight for their stories to take shape. Make no mistake, there are only three faces which The Archies is really interested in. I was surprised why the aspect around Reggie's insecurities was merely hinted at, never taken further. Reggie might look self-assured and a wisecracking prankster from outside, but there are things he is scared of. And unlike his other friends, he is quietly developing how to go about the immediate crisis at hand. Even as the screenplay does not provide a proper peak into his process, Raina infuses enough will into his performance. His is the performance that is the most
The Archies lacks the much-needed zest and texture of a musical- none of the songs land. In the midst of two intersecting storylines, I was left wanting more of the quiet heartache that sparked from the Reggie-Dilton dynamic. I wonder how much more interesting The Archies could have been if the writers trusted their stories a little bit more.