Review, Riverdale CW, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE CH.16, “The Watcher in the Woods”

Riverdale’s residents are playing with fire.


 Grade: A-

Before we get to the Kevin Keller of it all, let’s dive into this episode. Everyone in Riverdale seems to be entering dangerous territory: Archie’s deep in the Lodge lion’s den, Juggie is trying to navigate the gang-riddled waters of Southside High, Alice is facing a dangerous proposition and Kevin’s literally cruising in the woods.

At his new school, Jughead is at ground zero for gang violence and drugs (Jingle Jangle, which is such a stupid name that it veers out of stupid and into acceptable). Because he’s a better and more driven journalist than I’ll ever be (I spent my high school career stalking this one hot guy during free periods) he approaches his English teacher (after learning about Fahrenheit 451) to restart the Red and Black, Southside’s answer to the Blue and Gold.

Also at Southside, Jughead meets Toni Topaz, who I LITERALLY love already. She’s a Serpent as well (everyone cool is a Serpent, I want to be a Serpent). It seems that they’re positioning Toni as a way of complicating Bughead, but I would like to posit another theory. Allegedly Cheryl will be getting a love interest in Season Two. Could she be into Toni? The only man we know she’s had feelings for is her brother, and he’s dead, and also her brother and also dead. I don’t know which is a greater barrier for their love: honestly, it might be the dead thing.

Side note: Toni said, “Have fun in your safe space, snowflake,” to Jughead re the Red and Black. So Trump exists in the same space as Riverdale? Who did everyone in Riverdale vote for?

Moose and Midge actually did not die, so I feel like I’ve lost some sort of bet, and (boring) Midge wasn’t even shot. Moose shielded her body with his. This serial killer is actually not a killer; he’s barely a manslaughterer! This is the third person the Green-Eyed Man hasn’t killed.

Despite sucking at killing, the Black Hood leaves a package on the stoop of the Coopers. It contains Ms. Grundy’s glasses, Mr. Andrews’ wallet and a letter. Per my fav serial killer (I think I’m enthusing too much about serial killers; I’m not a serial killer) the Zodiac Killer, he’s using media to get his message across. So much for it being a dying industry!

The Black Hood is purging Riverdale of its sinners: Mr. Andrews, the adulterer; Ms. Grundy, the child predator —

THANK YOU FOR SAYING WHAT NO ONE ELSE WOULD…wow I’m really on the side of the Black Hood

Moose and Midge, druggies and sexual deviants. This also has a healthy dose of Se7en, where the killer targeted people he felt were guilty of the Seven Deadly Sins. I love this idea, of the killer coming out of the shadows. Rather than make him less mysterious, it actually ups his creep-factor: he wants everyone to know that he’s targeting their deepest, darkest secrets.

So I realized something: Archie is an honest-to-god dumbass. He did nothing to find Jason’s killer last year, yet simply because he was in the Sleuthsters he is claiming credit. So he has no credentials for catching the Green-Eyed Killer. Last episode he got a gun and this week he’s starting a Gay Gangbang Vigilante Justice Group that he named after a COMIC. I like the meta nature of it (Riverdale being inspired by a comic, and all) BUT SERIOUSLY. The only good thing that he did this episode was get the entire football team into one room and convince them all to take their shirts off. Hot. But having your face being the only one uncovered is not dealing in secrecy and fear, per Hiram’s advice, it’s literally so dumb.

Before we talk about Kevin, we need to talk about the Lodge family. I’m going to need some major clarity on the Lodges. Hermione spent the entire second season being horrible and rude and drunk, and I don’t like it. There’s no motivation. Why did Hermione let Hiram back into their life if she’s cautioning Veronica against him. And why is Veronica so eager to get back into his good graces? Is she indulging her evilness? She obviously knows Hiram isn’t trustworthy, because she basically dared Hermione to admit it, so why introduce him to Archie? And why is Hiram giving a fifteen-year-old rum and advising him to take aggressive precautions against a serial killer?!

Now onto Kevin. I had multiple evolutions of emotions towards Kevin this ep. At first, I was like Fuck get this kid out of cruising mode. I’ve voiced my discontent towards the portrayal of Kevin before, and it just felt like more of that, the perpetuation of that myth that all gay guys want to do is cruise for sex after-dark. Like Moose and Kev are cute, but their conversation about that’s what guys like “them” need to do was dark as fuck. And it wasn’t until Kevin actually told off Betty for her judgmental judginess that I felt like he was telling me off too.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Kevin going cruising. I mean, there actually is because he’s meant to be fifteen, but let’s put that aside. If Kevin is consenting, and wants to do that with his time, then that’s good for him. If Betty can go Dark Betty and it be empowering and sexy, then Kevin can do what he wants. It’s only “alarming” because he’s gay and because his sexuality is being shunted to the side. It’s also “alarming” that Betty drowned Chuck Clayton, but no one talks about that!!

However, there is something inherently wrong with the fact that the only times we see the only gay character, the scenes are centered around sex. Whether it’s on riverbanks, in dark woods, or against chain-link fences, queer intimacy is relegated to the dark and discouraged. This is the only portrayal of queer sexuality, as well as queer life, on this show. There’s no nuance to Kevin. He’s either the Sassy Gay foil to his straight female friends, or he’s engaging in risky sexual behavior. For a show that’s uncovering layers and facets to other characters, it’s glaringly obvious that Kevin Keller is not treating with the same care. And when you’re up against the Cheryl Blossoms of the world, it’s a rough dichotomy.

Kevin is entitled to do what he wants, with his body and his time and his life, but Riverdale’s queer fans are entitled to more than just the sidelines. We deserve more breadth of portrayal. Give me a more nuanced Kevin! Give me a queer Cheryl!

One more stray thought: The Matchelorette??? Grindum!!
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