Pop Culture Intervention

The 7 Most 'Riverdale' Moments From 'Riverdale'

"Riverdale" is a way of life.

At A Plus, we're addicted to pop culture, and Pop Culture Intervention brings that obsession to the soapbox. Through this series, we'll recommend what you should be watching, reading or listening to; explore how arts and entertainment affect us; and interpret the important messages contained within various works.

If you have yet to watch Riverdale on The CW, we have some advice for you: do it! The series, loosely based on the Archie comics, has now reached the midpoint of its second season and is everything you could ask for in regards to a juicy and engaging teen drama. 

Don't believe us? Let us explain.

Riverdale isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination but, before you know it, you'll be sucked in and wondering what's going to happen next. It's dark, brooding, and sexy — all the things that make any CW show great. Archie Andrews, played by Kiwi actor K.J. Apa, may be the central character, but the rest of the cast is lovable. You'll find yourself identifying with Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), and the rest of the gang just as much as the red-haired lead.

I myself got obsessed this past summer when, thankfully, the entire first season arrived on Netflix (the only place to catch it from the beginning). It was super binge-worthy and kept me on the edge of my seat until it returned this fall. With another break coming up where one could catch up or start from scratch, it's our duty to tell you why you should watch. And if you're going to ask if you need to be a fan of the Archie comics to watch the answer is a resounding no. Not even by a long shot.

Here are just seven reasons why you should be watching Riverdale:

1. It doesn’t take itself too seriously — specifically with music.

As we mentioned, this show can be both dark and brooding — and don't forget sexy. Luckily, though, it balances this out by never taking itself too seriously. It never fails to lean into the camp factor that it exudes so beautifully. There is no better example of this than the music it features. We're not talking about the songs that play in the background like any other show — or those bops that Josie and the Pussycats (with Ashleigh Murray as Josie McCoy) or even Archie deliver. No, we're talking about another musical moment.

Remember jamming to "Milkshake" by Kelis circa 2003? I do ... I was in middle school. Originally written for Britney Spears, "Milkshake" is an overtly sexual song that was written by The Neptunes, nominated for a Grammy, and reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This is long before Josie and the Pussycats performed the song with Cheryl in a performance that has been heralded as one of the show's top moments (by me and my tasteful friends), and takes the R&B feel and turns it into a sexy nursery rhyme — as if those are even real things.

Honorable mention goes to a recent cover of "Mad World" by Archie and Veronica with Betty taking over midway through. This is another moment where we shake our heads, tilt them to the side, and go "hmm" — kind of loving it while simultaneously not knowing what to think about it.

2. It (sometimes) has Barb from "Stranger Things."

Photo Credit: Diyah Pera / The CW
Photo Credit: Diyah Pera / The CW

Everyone who watched the first season of Netflix's Stranger Things immediately fell in love with Barbara "Barb" Holland (Shannon Purser) before the character met an untimely end — don't lie and say you didn't. That's why, when it was announced that Purser was joining Riverdale, we got excited. Luckily we have yet to be disappointed by Purser, who plays the role of Ethel Muggs and has been the center of some important storylines.

We first met Ethel during Riverdale's first season, when she came forward with a story of sexual harassment regarding a fellow student by the name of Chuck Clayton. She joined forces with Betty and Veronica to take down this creep after going on the record to tell her story. As it goes with Riverdale, it was up to the teens to deliver justice because the adults are pretty useless. Chuck got punished and, upon returning back to school, apologized to Ethel.

3. It tackles timely issues surprisingly well.

One of the most important storylines Riverdale has done thus far is one from this season in which Cheryl is nearly sexually assaulted by rich boy Nick St. Clair. In a scene that was really intense to watch, Nick spikes Cheryl's drink and leads her away from everyone — notably back to his hotel room. Cheryl is completely unconscious when Nick climbs on top of her and nearly has his way with her before Veronica, Josie, and the Pussycats (who all just sang a song from Rent) burst in and beat the crap out of him. Like, seriously. He gets *stomped* hard.

While this rape could have been seen through the male gaze, as Nick was the only one in the room not blacked out, the show turned it into a female empowerment moment. With this moment — and the storyline that followed (with Veronica coming forward about a similar experience with Nick when they used to date) — we saw a teachable moment to young men (and women) that this was not OK, victims need to be heard and believed, and that justice can be served.

With this being an important topic in a post-Harvey Weinstein world, Petsch made a PSA that went live after the episode to take situation highlighted in a fictional TV show and use it to address things that happen every single day in the real world.

4. It features friendship — not competition — between female characters.

Credit: GIPHY
Credit: GIPHY

If there's one trope of teen dramas that gets overplayed it's drama between female characters — usually in regards to the love and affection (or lack thereof) of a male character. This was explored a little during the first season when both Betty and Veronica squabbled a bit over Archie, but more or less this show has promoted strong female friendships. Betty and Veronica are super tight, and they have come to the rescue of other women such as the aforementioned Ethel and Cheryl. This central friendship is great because, while Betty is more of the "girl next door," Veronica is somewhat of a new character type — the "reformed mean girl." These two ladies come from different backgrounds but still stick together in this crazy world.

5. It has cool moms — not just regular moms.

Moms don't always get the love they deserve on TV, that's a fact. Sure, there have been some excellent mom characters throughout the years but, often than not, they fall into a passive role because we're more focused on what their kids are doing. While this does happen on Riverdale, one mom has had a few moments to shine and we have loved it. Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) is the editor and co-owner of the local newspaper, and is always inserting herself into other people's business. While it seems Alice has everything together, that's not true by a long shot. It's this imperfection that makes Alice a dynamic character.

Another thing that makes Alice so intriguing is the fact that she has some very controversial thoughts about the South Side (the rougher area of Riverdale) despite being from there. Alice may reside in the North Side (the "better" area of Riverdale) now, but we have gotten to see the darker side come out a time or two. Alice is complex and has this underbelly of darkness beneath a generally perfect exterior, something typical mother characters don't get to express. Plus, she can slay sometimes.

6. It embraces its characters of color.

Photo Credit: Diyah Pera / The CW
Photo Credit: Diyah Pera / The CW

Riverdale is a pretty diverse show and the best part is that it's effortlessly diverse. To drive this point home, we're going to focus on two examples: Veronica and Josie. Mendes, who is of Brazilian heritage, plays Veronica and the Lodge home is definitely a Latino household. They — with mom Hermione (played by Marisol Nichols who is of Hungarian, Romanian, and Mexican descent) and dad Hiram (played by Mark Consuelos who was born in Spain and is of Italian and Mexican descent) speak Spanish regularly. While Veronica was White in the comics, it seems as though this is diverse casting that feels natural and not forced.

Also playing someone who was White in the comics is Murray as Josie. Josie — whose real name is Josephine, inspired by the late singer Josephine Baker — is the daughter of a father, Myles, who is a musician and a mother, Sierra (Robin Givens), who is the mayor of Riverdale. Both of Josie's parents enforce "Black excellence" and prefer for Josie to solely recruit ladies of color when it comes to the Pussycats. This is a Black family who is excelling and they are paying homage to their roots while helping the next generation get to a good place.

While there are other examples to discuss, the main idea here is that diversity is embraced, treated in a positive way, and shows that people of color exist outside of major metropolitan areas.

7. It doesn't apologize for having a gay character.

Photo Credit: Katie Yu / The CW
Photo Credit: Katie Yu / The CW

We love LGBTQ representation on TV — especially when it's done well. We're not saying the character Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) is a perfect one, but it's one that doesn't necessarily get caught up in the tropes usually associated with gay characters. There was no coming out moment. There hasn't been any real bullying. And the parents seem totally cool with everything. Kevin gets to have a boyfriend (a bad boy at that), sex isn't treated as a taboo topic (ahem, Betty), and he is a bit more than the "gay best friend."

Things came to a head this season when we saw Kevin cruising (which means looking for sex in public places) in the woods and being encouraged to find guys on "Grindem" (the show's version of Grindr, a hookup app). Betty tries to interfere with Kevin's situation and he ultimately reveals that he feels lonely in Riverdale — a small town in which he is one of few gay people — and is willing to put himself in danger to not feel that way. This is something many gay people in the real world feel when watching their straight friends constantly in relationships — a heteronormative society where homosexuality is viewed as "other." Kevin could have been slut-shamed in this moment but, instead, it was a moment of reflection of a complex issue.

Cover image via Marc Hom / The CW


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