Okay, before we dive into the wondrous mess that is the second Riverdale musical episode, since there wasn’t a regular recap last week, let’s talk a bit about Cheryl and Toni in the last episode, “American Dreams.”
Tension has been brewing among our favorite gang-leaders-slash-gal-pals, and it’s kind of one of those situations where one small fight spirals into a much bigger one. Cheryl does have a tendency to react in volatile ways, and she’s certainly on edge with Toni throughout “American Dreams.” She’s not thrilled to find out that “work” for Toni means singing a duet of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” with Veronica at the speakeasy (gay). Cheryl turns her rage into an opportunity for one of her signature grand entrances, showing up at the speakeasy in a flowing red dress determined to fuck shit up. I love that Toni immediately clocks Cheryl casing the place. It’s a nice little callback to the fact that these two consider cat burgling a hot date, and it’s also evidence of how well Toni knows her gf.
But I’m really burying the lede here, which is that when Cheryl does return to the bar to rob it, they have hot, extremely The CW lesbian sex. There’s biting and tongues and blindfolds and panting and slow movements, and it’s all super stylized but extremely sexy in the way the other characters on the show are often allowed to be but that we haven’t seen from them yet. “That was hot… and nice,” Cheryl says. Agreed! And then like good gays, they do some emotional processing after sex. Toni admits that moving in may have been too soon, too fast, and she has a point! They are teenagers! They shouldn’t be living together! Cheryl, of course, doesn’t take this well, which definitely tracks for her. And she decides to channel her rage into… Heathers: The Musical, which brings us to…
THE BONKERS SECOND MUSICAL EPISODE OF RIVERDALE!!! “How on earth is a musical about teen violence and suicide a good idea in Riverdale?!” Hermione Lodge asks at the start, and she has a goddamn point. But of course, that’s exactly what makes it the perfect musical for Riverdale to take on. Admittedly, some of the story beats of the musical don’t really line up perfectly with the plot of musical, but that doesn’t really matter.
Now, I didn’t quite understand that Toni and Cheryl fully broke up last episode! I thought Toni just didn’t want to live with her anymore! They probably could have written the break up a little more clearly, but part of the issue is that the breakup just seems to be a plot convenience to get us to Heathers. But you know what, I’m pretty here for Cheryl and Toni processing their breakup and pushing and pulling each other… within a musical episode. It’s absurd, and it’s perfectly Riverdalean.
Kevin brings Toni in as his choreographer (sure!), and things heat up quickly. When Toni wears red to school, Cheryl tells her to basically delete herself from her life and go to a different school (big breakup mood!) and Toni reacts by almost having a threesome with Sweet Pea and Peaches, one of the very hot, queer Pretty Poisons. But Cheryl’s in her head, and she can’t do it. All lesbian breakups on TV should be told in song and dance in my opinion.
But thankfully we don’t just leave things there for Choni. Toni goes to Cheryl, and yep, we get some more gay emotions processing! Toni astutely wonders if Cheryl’s reaction is rooted in familial trauma, and oh buddy, is it! “It was all or nothing,” Cheryl says when Toni asks what love was like in her family. Cheryl says her brother was the only light in her life and when he died, that light went away until Toni showed up. Finally, we’re getting some really strong, cogent storytelling and character development for Cheryl and Toni that contextualizes their relationship and the way Cheryl has been acting. By the end, they’re back together. But that relationship whiplash all rings true, rooted in strong writing for both characters. Cheryl and Toni could probably, like everyone else on this show, use some therapy.
In other non-Choni news, the Lodges are getting a divorce (finally). Josie and Archie are full-on dating now (yawn). Evelyn is using the musical to recruit for the farm, and Betty is ON IT. Betty and Jug also do some cute arson together and burn down the trailer in an effort to thwart Gladys, who continues to be the new drug kingpin in town. And it wouldn’t be a Riverdale High musical production without a horror ending. In this case, no one’s murdered. But Edgar Everner (played by Chad Michael Murray) appears at last, along with a bunch of creepy Farmies in their cult robes. Everyone needs to start listening to Betty. The farm is up to no good.