Hot Take: The Musical Episode of Riverdale Is the Only One Worth Watching
It's legit bonkers
If you’re still watching the CW’s Riverdale than you deserve a maple treat from Blossom Maple Farms. If you’re still watching Riverdale and actually enjoying it…then you’re probs on fizzle rocks.
The show, which is based on the Archie comic series and purports to follow a group of small town USA teens (though the buff bods of the male leads would suggest otherwise), has in its four season gone from mildly implausible to absolutely bonkers. Are you into underlying twincest vibes and a teenager who keeps her brother’s stuffed dead body in the family chapel? They have it! Are you down with not one, but two, serial killers on the loose at the same time? In spades! Do you want to see some levitating babies then never have that plot point addressed again? You’ve come to the right place! But most importantly: Have you ever longed to see Chad Michael Murray dressed in what looks like a child’s astronaut suit from Toys “R” Us try to launch himself into space to escape persecution for his cult? Welcome to Riverdale!
Like I said, bonkers. And nothing is more off the rails than the show’s annual musical episode. Previous seasons have seen the teens of Riverdale High take on iconic musicals like Carrie and Heathers (with a side of murder, obvi). And this season is no different. On January 28, showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa took to Instagram to reveal that season four’s musical will be Hedwig and the Angry Inch. “It’s happening!! #Riverdale meets Berlin!,” Aguirre-Sacasa wrote alongside an image for the episode art. “Our musical this year is the iconic HEDWIG and the ANGRY INCH! Hope to do these amazing songs justice!!”
And while fans and haters of the show may have responded with a collective groan (I mean, the amount of emojis used in this announcement do not bode well), I for one am *thrilled*—because TBQH, the musical episode is the only episode worth watching. Here’s why.
The musical episodes are pretty much everything that is wrong—or right—with Riverdale
The main reason that the musical episode is the best is the fact that it’s emblematic of pretty much the whole show: a hot mess mess. The plot lines *never* make sense—Are we supposed to just believe that every single person that lives in Riverdale can sing? Even Jughead?! The copious amount of dairy that enters his body via cheeseburgers and milkshakes can *not* be good for his vocal chords. And what about the fact that in season 2’s Carrie, Alice Cooper (a.k.a. Betty’s mom) had a major role? She shouldn’t be on stage; she should be behind the scenes working the concession stand with the rest of the moms! Or, potentially the most egregious plot point of all, when Kevin used his job as director to essentially turn Heathers into a recruiting centre for the local cult/organ harvester? Wild.
Literally, these plot points make zero sense, and in that, they make complete sense for the show. Because absolutely nothing makes sense. So far, every musical episode has been a true clusterf*ck. Remember when Cheryl ordered her ex Toni to find another school because she deigned to wear the same signature colour as everyone’s fave Blossom sib? (It was red, FYI.) In the same Heathers episode, Toni also came within inches of having a threesome on the school’s theatre stage, all told through song, of course. It was A LOT.
Funnily enough, the show is *so* campy on its own that it isn’t that difficult to pair musical songs to the character’s bonkers storylines. Considering *SPOILER ALERT* Archie is mauled by a bear like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant in season 3, watching Archie and Josie singing “Fight For Me” from Heathers in a boxing ring actually works, as does a stressed-out Betty and Jughead crooning, “Can’t We Be Seventeen?” (they were, after all, hunting down multiple serial killers at the time while most of their peers were sipping milkshakes at Pop’s).
This show is already wild enough, so why not throw singing into it?
Riverdale’s musical episodes introduce audiences to iconic musical theatre productions like Hedwig and the Angry Inch…
Besides being a straight up trip, the musical episode actually does serve a somewhat educational purpose, introducing all the millennial and Gen Z watchers to some pretty cool musicals. Chances are that many viewers haven’t heard, or at least don’t know that much about, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. For those who don’t know much about it, the rock musical is about an East German transgender woman who, after her songs are stolen by an ex lover who becomes famous off of them, follows said lover with her band while pursuing a copyright lawsuit. The audience is given a glimpse into Hedwig’s history and complicated gender identity through flashbacks.
The musical is Tony Award-winning, but it’s probably safe to say that a lot of the young Riverdale demo probs isn’t super familiar with it—and now they will be! In a time when ’90s nostalgia is at an all-time high, it’s the perfect time to resurface these retro musical faves for the newer generations.
As a former semi-theatre kid, educating the youth on the beauty of the theatre is thrilling. It’s culture, people!
It is important to point out though, that no matter how excited I may be, there are some hesitations to the CW show tackling this specific musical—and they’re entirely justified. As Teen Vogue pointed out, reactions to the announcement have been largely mixed; with some on the internet voicing concern that Riverdale won’t be able to handle the nuanced subject matter of Hedwig sensitively and with the respect it deserves.
Hedwig isn’t just about drag, it is about a trans character dealing with trauma and performing and sharing her life story to let her anger out and achieve a sense of closure. Riverdale isn’t remotely subtle enough of a series to tackle it.
— hayley “spongebob coldplaypants” st. james 👽📻 (@hayleystjames) January 28, 2020
Which is so fair. With this musical in particular, the show isn’t just putting on a popular sing song about bullied girls (like in Carrie and Heathers), but dealing with content that addresses an often stigmatized, stereotyped and marginalized group—members of the transgender community. So it’s important that Riverdale handle this musical with extra care, and ensure that they depict the character, the community and their experiences thoughtfully—especially if this is younger viewer’s first introduction to the trans community.
And countless certified bops
Let’s be honest, Glee walked so Riverdale could run (straight into utter insanity). I would be lying if I didn’t say that the musical episode—no matter how cringe-worthy—hasn’t introduced me to some legit bops from the past. Raise your hand if you too have both the Riverdale renditions of the Carrie soundtrack and Heathers soundtracks on your iTunes right now. Do I tend to skip over every song that features Veronica belting out a show tune? Yes. But that’s beside the point! There are some truly beautiful songs on these albums (tell me your heart didn’t break hearing Betty and Jughead—played by IRL couple Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse— singing “Can’t We Be Seventeen?”). And inevitably I end up downloading the original song, too. Which is probably the reason I have about 800 versions of “Landslide” on my phone right now (thanks, Glee!).
My only qualm with Riverdale’s newest musical foray? You just know that Veronica is going to sing “Sugar Daddy”…to her daddy. *Shudder*
What can we say: