Wednesday night’s Riverdale episode, “The Hills Have Eyes,” was hypothetically about our core four of Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), and Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), doing sexy, sexy things and drinking sexy, sexy jalapeño margaritas alone at Ronnie’s rich person cabin until a robbery-turned-murder occurs. There was light BDSM role play and an ill-advised Vughead kiss. Archie angrily chopped wood and heard get someone get executed by the mob. It’s all very Riverdale.
But, when fans look back on “Hills,” they won’t remember why a bunch of townies nearly bludgeoned all their faves to death or why Betty was wearing her favorite Betty Page wig again. No, they will remember “Hills” as the iconic episode where Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) came out as bisexual because that teary, emotional scene is Riverdale at its actual best.
The CW teen soap tends to throw out a lot of plot in a single episode. The season 2 midseason finale alone, “Silent Night, Deadly Night," included the reveal of a serial killer, a surprise kiss, a romantic reunion, a kidnapping and mutilation, identity theft, and awkward Christmas gifts. The problem with all of this constant plot generation is that it’s hard to care about much of it since all of the stories whiz by so quickly. Does anyone even recall it was Veronica who committed that Christmas episode identity thievery by impersonating her parents to pay off Fred Andrews’ (Luke Perry) exorbitant hospital bills? Likely no, since it was dealt with so quickly, without consequence.
However, Riverdale truly sings when it uses all of its melodrama and madness to explain a deeper truth of a character. That’s why the reveal of Cliff Blossom (Barclay Hope) as both a secret heroin kingpin and son-murderer was so thrilling — all of sudden, the litany of bizarre goings-on in Thornhill Manor made sense. The same can be said about Kevin Keller’s (Casey Cott) stubborn decision to go cruising amid a serial killer spree earlier in season 2. His desperation to track down the kind of connection best friend Betty can so easily stumble into as a straight young woman pushed Kevin from nearly-tokenized gay BFF to one of Riverdale’s breakout characters.
“Hills” follows this method of success by taking the things we already know about “Cheryl Bombshell” — like her mother’s unexplainable, unsettling hatred for her daughter or the fact the teen is desperate for any love at all — and gives the entire situation a believable explanation. As Cheryl tells Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) after seeing teen coming out movie Love, Simon, she, too, stopped being a carefree kid when she began hiding a secret about her sexuality.
“Everyone thinks I’m this loveless monster, and it isn’t true. I loved someone who loved me. And my mother destroyed it,” Cheryl says through tears to Toni, the lights of Pop's diner forming the bisexual flag behind them. “Her name was Heather. She was my best friend in junior high.” Heather used to have weekly sleepovers at Thornhill, but that all ended when Cheryl’s mom Penelope (Nathalie Boltt) found the girls sleeping in the same bed.
“She said I was ‘deviant,’” a devastated Cheryl explains. In a line we can all assume will be GIF’ed to infinity, Toni grabs Cheryl’s hand and reassures her, “You’re not loveless. You’re not deviant, okay? You’re sensational.”
After hearing this entire story, we can understand why Penelope, who can now add “homophobe” to her list of terrible qualities, and Cheryl have such a contentious relationship. The Blossom matriarch tried to instill self-hatred in her own daughter before she was even out of middle school, all because the tween was attracted to girls. This also explains why Cheryl was so gutted by the death of her twin Jason (Trevor Stines), who was also seemingly the only person who loved Cheryl unconditionally. Plus, this all but confirms Cheryl did (does?) have a crush on Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray), as Cheryl's drawings from “Tales from the Darkside” suggest.
This new side to Cheryl certainly creates the possibility of a romance between herself and the first person she’s opened up to in a while, Toni, who is proudly bisexual. If this much-hoped for pairing, nicknamed Choni on social media, gets even more involved, the coupling not only illuminates a lot for Cheryl, it also gives us unexpected insight into Toni.
It’s hard not to think of another Riverdale character when you hear which of Cheryl’s qualities Toni’s portrayer Vanessa Morgan believes could make Choni thrive. “Toni loves a challenge, and I think she sees through Cheryl’s walls that she put up. I think she can relate to the fact they’re both from a broken home,” Morgan told Refinery29 over the phone. “She can see Cheryl is in pain. Maybe they can relate in some way. I feel that instantly attracts Toni. She’s not falling for the tough exterior.”
Doesn’t that description shockingly sound a lot like Jughead Jones, whom Toni had a short fling with? Fellow Riverdale fans, Toni might have a type. Even Morgan agreed when the possibility was floated, laughing, “Yes, maybe she does with what you’re pointing out … You might think Cheryl and Toni are opposites, [but] I think that relationship would make sense.”
At this point it’s fair to say, all aboard the Choni ship before it sets sail without you.
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