Chemistry and History: Why Barchie deserve to rise on Riverdale

Riverdale season 4 episode 18 "Chapter Seventy-Five: Lynchian" -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW
Riverdale season 4 episode 18 "Chapter Seventy-Five: Lynchian" -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW /

Let the record show that while I acknowledge the majority of Riverdale fans want to see a Bughead reunion, there are those of us who would like the show to take a different path. As in, Riverdale fans and viewers who have been waiting for the show to make good on their teasing of Barchie. It has been four long seasons of crumbs and, in spite of the chemistry KJ Apa and Lili Reinhart have as Archie Andrews and Betty Cooper, Riverdale has never stuck a Barchie landing.

These two characters have circled each other for years. They’re a point of insecurity for their seasons long on-and-off again partners, Veronica Lodge and Jughead Jones. Aside from those insecurities flaring up, a fake dating scheme, and an unfortunate cheating plot, Barchie have never been given the chance to be a viable option for each other.

It’s a fact that makes some Bugheads crow, but it’s been disappointing and frustrating for me and other viewers who enjoy the pair. Speaking from my own perspective, I have liked the dynamic between Archie and Betty since I was a child flipping through Archie comics in the exchange and asking for my mom to buy the digests in the grocery line. I once had an entire moving box full of Archie, Betty, Jughead, and Veronica’s misadventures in Riverdale.

So, the show being brought to life for The CW was exciting for me even though I was surprised by the grimdark element overcasting the canonically sunny town. When we were first introduced to these characters in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s iteration, Betty and Archie were close, best friends even. But Archie wasn’t in love with Betty and didn’t believe he was good enough for her. It was the classic tale of a girl’s heart being broken by a boy she’d be pining over for years as soon as a new, mysterious girl enters the picture i.e. Veronica.

Will Barchie ever happen in Riverdale?

Over time, Betty fell in love with Jughead. A surprising turn for comics fans that blew up into a well-beloved ship with a weak spot. The “what-if” of Barchie has always hung over Bughead and while Varchie has never been as popular the same can be said for that relationship. Why? It’s as simple as shared history.

Archie and Betty have been best friends and next-door neighbors since they were kids. Riverdale is full of cute anecdotes and flashbacks of their childhood together. Their dynamic would fit the “best friends to lovers” trope if it ever went romantic canon. There’s a joy and a fondness they both exude when talking about the memories they share from listening to records together to Archie’s proposal to Betty in second grade and her promise to accept it when they’re 18.

It’s an intimidating bond so much so that the Riverdale writers have been careful and strategic about how they wield it. Granted, I’m going to sound tin-hatty when I say this, but I’m already going against the grain. I might as well go all in and say there’s an argument to be made that part of the reason Barchie haven’t had a wealth of scenes in Riverdale is because they’d pull focus from the relationships the show was pushing: Bughead and Varchie.

By that I mean, there’s both the reality that there are 70+ years of comics history that enters any scene they’re in together by virtue of who their characters are and an undercurrent of “will they-won’t they” tension. It can’t be helped considering whether viewers have or haven’t read the comics, it’s well known that Betty and Archie are supposed to have a romantic connection. And whether you ship it or not, it’s clear that they do in Riverdale.

It’s been years since Archie broke Betty’s heart in front of her house after the homecoming dance. Since then, they’ve gone their separate ways romantically, but they keep circling back to each other. Their season 4 kiss while singing together wasn’t the first they’d shared. They’d kissed in season 2, as well. When alone, and left to their own devices, in times of heightened emotion they gravitate toward one another, seeking comfort and understanding.

There’s been more than one inappropriate window scene between the pair full of longing as they pine for one another and non-verbally communicate their feelings. While the narrative has often moved past these scenes, rollicking toward the next ridiculous plot point of an off-the-wall mystery, they’ve still woven a tapestry of romantic beats between Barchie. Enough so that their fake dating plan meant to help Jughead turned into an emotional affair.

Betty herself stated that she’s been in love with Archie for 10 years. Cheryl countered that Betty’s been in love with the idea of Archie for 10 years and that she and Jughead are meant to be. She even goes as far as to say that they’re endgame.

In one way, Cheryl’s point is valid. Betty has never had a romantic relationship with Archie and her idea of it is romanticized by childhood nostalgia and an idyllic fantasy of what their life could be together. However, Archie hasn’t been cast in amber or frozen in time, and this isn’t a conversation about a boy that Betty no longer knows and has only recently been reunited with.

Betty and Archie have both been there for each other’s ups, downs, disappointments, and triumphs. If Betty believes there’s a part of her still in love with him despite her love for Jughead, then that “what-if” hanging over their relationship is mighty powerful and has not been deterred by time or the pitfalls of their lives.

In fact, while Betty told Archie they couldn’t pursue anything together because she loves Jughead and he loves Veronica, the trigger for that discussion is her memory of listening to one of Archie’s songs after he broke her heart. The difference now is that he was singing a song he wrote about her, a song she didn’t hear in its entirety until Veronica sang it, mistakenly thinking Archie had written it about their relationship.

But it’s clear from the lyrics that Archie was writing about a new experience, not a settled love:

"There’s no warning when everything changesYou let down your guard and I saw something strangeI thought she’s not made for this world and neither am I‘Cuz you make me want to be stronger than I amAnd maybe I’m reaching, this place that I’m feelingThere’s no way to know but to try so give me tonight"

Also, he was potentially listening to some Jeff Buckley because the opening melody sounds a lot like the opening guitar chords of “Lover, You Should Have Come Over,” but I digress.

In any case, Betty stopped Archie because she was afraid he’d hurt her like he had a few years ago. She said that they feel safe together, that they always have, and these feelings they have for one another are due to everything changing not anything that’s real or permanent. Basically, she ran. One, because their timing is god awful, and two, she didn’t want to hurt or lose Jughead, and three, she didn’t trust that Archie’s feelings were anything more than him finding a safe haven in her because she doesn’t know he’s struggled with jealousy concerning her relationship with Jughead over the years.

So that left Barchie unresolved at the end of their high school era. Now, we’re jumping seven years in the future which means anything is game. Who are Betty and Archie as twentysomethings? Did they meet up with each other a year later like they assured each other they would? We know they didn’t go to Pop’s like they promised, leaving Jughead by his lonesome, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t seen each other or didn’t keep in touch.

Apa told Entertainment Tonight that he’s had more scenes in season 5 with Lili than he’s had in the past, stating:

"“It’s very fresh and new. I feel like Archie and Betty really haven’t had an opportunity to — just because of the other relationships they’ve had with Veronica and Jughead — to really dive into their relationship…And it’s just interesting because it’s like, ‘Oh, this what it’s like to work with Lili every day!’ You know? It’s a completely different vibe, it’s amazing and it’s fun because it’s different.”"

An encouraging statement for those of us looking for more than crumbs for Betty and Archie. It’s up there with Aguirre-Sacasa saying the following about Barchie:

"I think that that’s one of the dynamics we haven’t played is the idea that Archie and Betty together romantically. I think in a teen show that if we somehow went seven years in that and never saw that, I think it would be a failure. So ‘maybe’ is what I’ll say."

Will Barchie finally rise this season? I certainly hope so. This is, after all, a soap opera built on an iconic comic series and Barchie has yet to happen in any real way. If they aren’t meant to last, fine, but never giving them a chance would be a waste of chemistry and history.

We’re about to make a seven-year time jump in season 5 which is interestingly the same time frame in the above Aguirre-Sacasa quote. Make of that what you will. I’m resetting by Barchie hourglass. Your move, Riverdale.

Next. Riverdale season 5 release date, cast, and more. dark