Avast! Spoilers ahead for Seasons 1 & 2 of CW’s Riverdale television series. If you care about spoilers, away with you! Now!
The creators of the CW series Riverdale are genius. Not only have they created an entertaining live-action television show based on the Archie Comics characters, they created a hat for Jughead that stays true to the comic version but is not absolutely ridiculous. 1
The television version is much darker than the comic books we remember. And that is why it works. It is reminiscent of a cross between Dawson’s Creek and HBO’s True Detective. One of the reasons I love it, of course, is, like season 2 of True Detective, it shows the symbiotic relationship between government and organized crime.
“Oh, Dave!” the statephiles will cry, “it is just a TV show!” Indeed it is. But good fiction is good because, at some level, it mirrors real life. Good nonfiction gives you information. Good fiction gives you truth. And there is not much bigger truth than the complete entanglement of government with crime.
In Riverdale, Veronica’s parents, Hiram and Hermione Lodge, are in organized crime. It turns out they are secretly buying property in town so they can build and operate a privately run prison.2 The thing is, the land they are purchasing is owned by the City of Riverdale! Oh my gosh! How are they doing this? Well, by secretly bringing bags of cash to Riverdale Mayor Sierra McCoy! 3
What?! That is bribery! That would never happen in real life! It is outrageous!
Actually, it really is not. It may be a bit simplistic, but Jack Abramoff, the Reagan era mega-lobbyist who went to prison for some of what he did, describes how it actually works in his book “Capitol Punishment.” 4 It happens everyday. Riverdale is small time, but what do they call it in Washington, D.C., when something like this happens? They call it a “weekday.”
But that was just the beginning. Later, Hiram and Hermione 5 use their money and influence to install a new sheriff. Now, they own the law enforcement. The new sheriff, among other things, helps them dispose of two bodies in their expensive flat by moving them and officially reporting them as victims of a Riverdale riot that was going on at the same time.
How convenient, right?
But that would never happen, right? Police are never controlled by criminals, right?
Yes, sometimes, they are.
Just like mayors, and congressmen. And County Commissioners and DEA agents. 6
Not ALL of them. No one is saying that. 7 Just enough of them to matter.
And another law or regulation or commission or oversight committee or whatever is not going to matter. Because when there is something of value, like government power, someone will buy it. The more illegal it is, the more it costs. The more it costs, the more vicious the law-breakers will be, and the more the law-breakers will fight it out. The most violent and most corrupt will win. During Prohibition, gangsters killed each other in the streets over the illegal market. Since Prohibition ended, Jack Daniels and Johnnie Walker exist peacefully. They do not shoot each other.
If you do not see this, look harder.
All you really have to do is pay attention to a CW television show based on the Archie Comics. And understand why the show makes sense. It makes sense because it mirrors reality, even if you do not want to look in that mirror.
- Riverdale has two complete seasons and has been renewed for a third.
- The irony of the mob running a private prison is hilarious. In an incredibly sad way.
- Portrayed by 90’s television icon Robin Givens. So that’s cool.
- Get it? “Capitol?” Like the government building, not “capital,” like the phrase is usually used? OK. Nevermind. I like puns.
- Let me note that Hiram and Hermione and their daughter Veronica are of Hispanic descent. They sprinkle their conversations with words like “mija” and “abuela.” Yet,I think “Hiram” and “Hermione Lodge” may be the least Hispanic names one might imagine. They sound like a rich white couple who might have taken a three-hour tour and gotten stranded on an island. But I digress.
- Well, that one is obvious. Duh. No one disputes that one.
- Well, except maybe for the DEA. Yeah, we can probably say that.