'Riverdale': Is Jughead a Reliable Narrator?

Riverdale is a story about a town -- but it is a story told through the lens of narrator Jughead [...]

Riverdale is a story about a town -- but it is a story told through the lens of narrator Jughead Jones -- and one has to wonder just how reliable a narrator he is.

While Jughead and his girlfriend Betty have been instrumental to bringing Jason Blossom's killer and the Black Hood (we think) to justice, he has done so by flaunting journalistic norms, drowning his readers in noir-inspired purple prose, and being one degree of separation removed from everyone he writes about.

Jughead writes from a perspective that Riverdale was a perfect place, recently corrupted -- but every time the story of Riverdale begins to delve into the past of the parents, or that of the larger community beyond the core four Riverdale High students, it is evident that the town has had significant problems for years -- decades.

Jughead's narration comes from an interesting place: it is told in the past tense, suggesting that at least he makes it out of this fine. It is, however, often presented as being the text of his articles for the Blue and Gold -- which would suggest that the rules of tense are being played fast and loose with.

Similarly, he tends to be fast and loose with long-term storytelling. This may be more a product of the medium -- serialized TV -- than a creative choice by the writers.

(That, by the way, is the claim here -- not that Riverdale is sloppily written and full of plot holes but that the writers may be intentionally constructing a narrator whose perspective is skewed.)

Still, it could be by design that he tends to make things sound resolved when they are in fact not. Certainly for a person who speaks in such dramatic terms, there is appeal to "closure."

The problem here is not so much whether you can trust him when he gets flowery, but whether that propensity for flowery and dramatic language could suggest that he bends the truth for dramatic effect.

Similarly, in season one the South Side Serpents were the baddest badasses in town, and were commonly understood to be up to no good. In season two, Jughead IS a Serpent, and now the show frames them as generally heroic, honorable, and able to settle their own internal squabbles. Things only get really bad when others from outside of the Serpent organization get involved.

Curious, that.

This is hardly the first time Jughead's credibility has come under some scrutiny; throughout much of season one, actor Cole Sprouse used to say (joke?) that he thought or hoped that Jughead was Jason Blossom's killer, and that everything he was doing and saying to both the other characers and the audience had been a lie.

Riverdale returns on March 7. The series airs on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.