Published on — January 17, 2017 | Written by Russ Burlingame

When reviewed the Riverdale pilot, one of the elements we specifically called out was the dynamic between Camila Mendes’ Veronica Lodge and Lili Reinhart’s Betty Cooper.

It’s a dynamic that starts strong out of the gate and, in the first few episodes of the series, only gets better. Their back-and-forth is fascinating and the fact that they don’t start by fighting over Archie Andrews means the pair have a chance to establish a dynamic that’s all their own, and not reliant on the love triangle that defines their characters in so many of the comic book stories from which the series is adapted.

When Veronica comes to Riverdale in the show’s pilot, she’s recovering from a family trauma and is a very different version of the character than fans recognize from the comics — more approachable, more humble. And while she’s not shy to wield her popularity and her innate ability to be mean as a cudgel, she’s trying to pick out the right targets in Riverdale…and Betty isn’t one of them.

“I think she sees all this potential in [Betty] that is being pushed down because of her mother,” Mendes explained during a recent visit to the set of the drama, which debuts next week. “[Betty’s] mother really has a negative effect on her life and I think Veronica recognizes that and is trying to bring all the strength in Betty out so that the world can see it.”

“They’re a lot closer in this version,” Mendes added. “Throughout the season, they’re always going to be working on their friendship. Whatever rivalry happens, is going to happen because of Archie, but it’s never going to get in the way of the essence of their friendship.”

In fact, she says, the love triangle is teased and toyed with in early episodes just a bit, but it’s not a major part of the story in the show’s early episodes — specifically because Veronica wants no part of making Betty’s life any harder than it already is.

“I think she will start to suppress [her attraction to Archie] a bit, especially for the sake of her friendship with Betty,” Mendes said. “But there’s always a scene here or there where Veronica and Archie do connect and you can feel the electricity between them. But [the writers] are doing a really good job of letting that build rather than rushing it. We all know the triangle’s coming, so we’re trying to gradually get there rather than starting with the triangle.”

Of course, as almost everyone interested in the series knows by now, Archie also starts the series engaged in an affair with one of his teachers — and that will throw a wrench into anybody getting the boy’s attention right away.

“For a few episodes, Veronica or Betty can’t really get to Archie because he’s distracted,” Mendes said. “I think that’s part of what makes Archie, Archie: that he wants everyone. It’s not even just Betty or Veronica. He wants Cheryl, he wants whatever. Any girl who comes his way that gives him every slight bit of attention, he’s going to want to receive it.”