Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why

Eagle-eyed fans of 13 Reasons Why and Riverdale have noticed a lot of similarities between the two shows. This leads them to believe that they take place within the same universe.

Two of the biggest shows on Netflix, 13 Reasons Why and Riverdale, were released within a mere two months of each other earlier this year. Both shows have had enormous success, and were quickly renewed for second seasons. Yet, whilst both shows have obvious similarities due to both being aimed at teenagers and young adults, fans of the shows have noticed that they actually have a lot of parallels. Fans are suggesting that they could actually be set within the same universe.

Both shows use death as a major plot line

Clearly, teens these days have a very morbid fascination with death. Both Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why use death as a major plot line. Both shows revolve around the untimely deaths of high school students.

Season One of 13 Reasons Why revolves around the suicide of Hannah Baker, a high school student, who- on the outside- seemed to have no reason to harm herself. The first season of Riverdale opens with the death of Jason Blossom. This is quickly revealed to be a murder. Both shows create an air of mystery that shrouds both deaths with doubt and confusion; Hannah Baker records tapes explaining why she chose to commit suicide, and Riverdale creates a ‘who-dunnit’ theme throughout the first season.

The Voice of Reason

Every teen show needs at least one character who stands as the voice of reason. Someone who showers the teen characters with wisdom and important information. Usually, the voice of reason is an adult whom the group feels comfortable with- a parent, or a teacher, maybe even a librarian, in the case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why turn this stereotype on its head by having a teen take on such a role.
13 Reasons Why’s resident wise old owl is Tony Padilla; initially, he seems like a wallflower character, as he is introduced as Clay’s friend. Yet as the series continues, it is revealed that Tony’s role is much more important than we initially believed. One of the rare innocent characters, Tony is ridden with guilt after Hannah’s death as he is under the belief that he could have stopped her. When Clay becomes overwhelmed, Tony coaxes him into a calmer state thus making him the voice of reason.

Jughead is a fan favourite in Riverdale, and not just because of his adorably floppy hair. As the shows narrator, he opens and closes every episode and therefore seems to be most involved with the plot. He keeps a clear head and often talks his friends down from overly crazy schemes, despite being personally affected by Jason’s death due to his father’s suspected involvement. Like Tony, Jughead looks out for his friends incessantly.

Confusion of time periods

One of the biggest parallels that fans have picked up on is the mutual confusion of time periods within the shows.

13 Reasons Why’s plot revolves around Clay listening to tapes left by Hannah, which explain her reasons for killing herself. Hannah’s decision to record her story on tapes is reminiscent of the 80s, when teens would record their favourite songs on tapes. This form of technology has become somewhat obsolete in the past few decades, as technology has improved dramatically.

Yet, in contrast to the old-fashioned tapes, Hannah and her classmates make frequent use of modern technology, especially social media. The merging of the old and the new confuses the time period of the show, with some fans wondering whether 13 Reasons Why is set in a parallel universe, or whether Hannah Baker just enjoyed the nostalgia of tapes.

Whilst technology is not a huge part of Riverdale, there is still some confusion with time periods. Some aspects of the show seem outdated to viewers, such as the hospital (where nurses are seen wearing dated candy stripe uniforms) and the popular Pop’s Diner, which has a 50s feel.

Small Town Charm

Both Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why are set in small fictional towns, where everybody seems to know each other’s personal business. Whilst this isn’t unusual for teen shows (Gilmore Girl’s Stars Hollow still seems like a dreamy place to live) both Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why focus on the darker side of such enclosed spaces.

13 Reasons Why is especially explicit in its denouncement of community as a killer. Hannah’s tapes force a group of teenagers together, creating a tense sense of paranoia as they watch each other’s every move. The entire group are involved in Hannah’s death, and they are seen frequently pressuring each other to keep the truth of Hannah’s suicide a secret.

Jason Blossom’s murder sends the small town of Riverdale into turmoil, blowing apart the façade of innocence, safety, and decency that the locals have tried so hard to create. Like 13 Reasons Why, Riverdale revolves around a group of high school students; only in this instance, they are coming together to uncover the truth, rather than to hide it.

Whilst some of these similarities are quite obvious, and traditional tropes of teen dramas, there is a lot of evidence that points to the possibility that 13 Reasons Why and Riverdale are set in the same fictional universe.