Here is the moment we've all been waiting for: the Heathers: The Musical episode of Riverdale...
Gabriella: Full disclosure, I've never seen Heathers: The Musical. I have seen the original film, however, so I was not really prepared for this episode — which I'm kind of glad about because I surprisingly really enjoyed it.
The one pet peeve I have with all filmed musicals is the lip syncing, and I really had to force myself not to pay attention to how bad it was in this because I wanted to have fun. That being said, I'm glad they just kicked it off with a bang with that first group number. Even though last season's musical was Carrie: The Musical, which also takes place in a high school, Heathers somehow fit better with the aesthetic of Riverdale so I bought it. Also, having them actually spending time in their high school helped the episode feel tight, despite the same insane amount of plots going on.
Mary: Yes! I hate lip syncing, too, though it’s a necessary evil. Starting with a group number was absolutely the right choice, and it set the tone for the rest of the episode.
I haven’t SEEN the Heathers musical because I don’t have great access to musical theatre, but I have listened to the soundtrack many, many times, and it’s one of my favorite musicals to come out in the past few years. The writers honestly did a good job with meshing the musical numbers and plot. One thing I noticed was that a lot of the lyrics are different from the show. Apparently they’re from a high school adaptation of the musical? Wild.
Kelli: That makes sense about the high-school-adaptation-censorship. I was like, there is no way they just used the word ‘frickin.’
I was really pleasantly surprised by how well they did with this episode compared to how poorly-done the Carrie episode was. I haven’t seen/listened to Carrie: The Musical OR Heathers: The Musical (though Heathers is one of my favorite favorite favorite movies), but after watching both of these episodes I’m going to go ahead and say that the music in Heathers is just… better. Which might be one of the reasons why this episode worked so much better than last season’s musical special.
For once, every part of this episode felt like it existed in the same universe, which is why I think this episode works not just as a musical ep but as an episode overall. Things tied together neatly, and the transitions between scenes actually seemed relevant and made coherent sense. Admittedly, the bar is low at this point, but I’m still pretty happy.
Gabriella: The drama between Cheryl and Toni was one of the main driving forces of this episode, and I found it kind of tiring and Cheryl's antics made me more annoyed than anything else. But her behavior was in line with her character, and with the musical, so it helped to blend the two quite well. Cheryl’s freak out when Toni wore that insane red outfit felt way too absurd, even for Cheryl and Riverdale. And the musical number Toni followed it up with was confusing as fuck. Was she gonna actually sleep with Sweat Pea and nameless-pretty-poison-girl-number-one on the stage? WHAT IS HAPPENING. Had they gone anywhere else but the stage I think I would have been able to accept the absurdity of it, but the fact that they wound up on the stage totally ruined the moment for me. I’m nit picking, I know.
Mary: I agree it got frustrating, but I think it was a sacrifice the writers had to make to shove the musical numbers in there. I think it fit a lot better than Carrie! The Pretty Poison in the potential threesome is named Peaches, and I hope she gets a lot more screen time. She seems cool! It is dumb and bad that they went to the stage, but teenagers are dumb and bad so it’s plausible I guess. I’ll buy it.
Kelli: I did feel confused by how quickly Toni went from being pissed as fuck at Cheryl to showing up at her house to beg for reconciliation… all because she heard Cheryl’s voice in her head as she was about to engage in a threesome? Some of the things Cheryl did and said to Toni in this episode were pretty unforgivable — at least in my book — and I was kind of taken aback that Toni decided to give Cheryl another chance so easily. I mean, Cheryl physically pushed Toni over during a musical number! That’s fucked up!
Gabriella: Meanwhile, Veronica is dealing with some family drama. I actually enjoyed her character this episode. I think because the scenes were short (given the songs needing airtime) I didn't mind watching her interact with people - plus the bombshell that her parents are splitting was a long time coming. But it was still nice to see some genuine teen reaction to that kind of news, given Veronica's usual response to the insanity of her family is a sort of dramatic resigned sigh.
Mary: WHO DIDN’T SEE THE SPLIT COMING?! Are we supposed to believe Veronica is dumb now?! Hermione and Hiram have been literally trying to kill each other for the past season, if not longer. I can’t believe Veronica is shocked. I do like that Veronica’s first reaction to the news is to bone down with Reggie—that seems like some reckless teen behavior.
Kelli: Wait wait wait, back up. Did Gabriella just say she “actually enjoyed” Veronica in this episode?
I actually liked that Veronica was surprised, because I think for her it’s like — her parents have been through so much shit together, at this point she just assumed they would never break up. I mean, it’s a pretty bad idea honestly, especially for Hiram, since Hermione has enough information about his illegal activities to straight up ruin him. I guess he has dirt on her too, though.
Also, when Hiram said to Veronica “do you want to know the real reason your mother and I are splitting up,” I swear to god I thought he was going to say, “we’re both fucking other people on the side.”
Gabriella: MEANWHILE... Betty is convinced Evelyn’s involvement in the musical is a rouse to recruit people for the Farm, which she’s right about and we all know. Evelyn attempts to dissuade her by throwing a big fun party which in my mind only proved Betty’s point even more. At the party itself, some ‘secrets’ were revealed, like Josie and Archie who to be honest I didn’t even realize were keeping their hooking up a secret.
But what was most interesting at the party was Evelyn DOSING KEVIN WITH MAGIC MUSHROOMS. Did y’all see that coming? I have to admit, I had forgotten about Midge until this episode, and to drag her up again as some kind of emotional tether for Kevin felt odd.
Mary: I mean, she’s not wrong and I wish everyone would acknowledge that Betty is right about many many things.
I totally believe Evelyn is dosing Kevin with drugs and that he’s gladly taking them. The Farm seems like the kind of cult that uses hallucinogens to manipulate their members. I’d be scarred too if a kid died during the play on my watch.
Kelli: Yeah, I think it makes sense to bring up Midge again - if they only do one musical a year, this becomes an anniversary of a tragedy. I’m glad that nobody died this episode, though. It means future musical episodes will be less predictable. (And we know there are going to be future musical episodes. Come on.)
Also, yeah, Evelyn is painfully transparent and it’s super weird that nobody seems to notice it as much as Betty does.
Gabriella: Evelyn decides to lead the actors through a sharing circle in which she essentially employs the same tactics her father uses to get people trapped in the Farm - tell us a secret you wouldn’t tell anyone. These kids have some lame ass secrets, though. Kevin confessing he saw Midge? Veronica talking about her parents’ divorce, though probably the most relatable teen moment was not really the biggest revelation. Especially considering how much shit she’s actually involved in. That being said, I’m glad the confessions were relatively teen-related. That was what made this episode work, was - exactly as they all sing - they were just being teenagers.
Mary: My secrets would be even lamer. I think it is beautiful that some of the secrets were like, WE HAD A FLING AND I WANTED MORE!
Kelli: Like, would I actually confess a meaningful secret in this scenario? Evelyn says ‘no matter how big or small’ the secret, so I’d probably be like, “I stole some lipstick from Walmart” or something. I certainly wouldn’t be pulling a Sweetpea and making myself look lovesick and pathetic in front of 10-15 other teenagers.
Gabriella: But not just teenagers because, don’t forget, they’re all part of some insane cult. So Kevin and Fangs are indoctrinated in some weird love ceremony that, to be fair, didn’t look that bad. At least no one was being drowned this time. But Betty thinks it’s serious so she takes surreptitious photos and brings them to the principal who, it turns out, is also in the cult! So everyone is in the cult, basically. But how does that tie into G&G? Does it? Am I the only one who still thinks about that?
Mary: I gasped when principal Weatherbee said the VERY OBVIOUS CULT CEREMONY looked like a play rehearsal. That is not in any part of the musical, sir!
I’m also curious how G&G is tied into The Farm (because you know it’s gotta be). This is something the show does that I struggle with: they drop plot lines mid season and then pick them back up and tie them together poorly.
Kelli: I do think it’s interesting that it’s Kevin and Fangs together - I don’t know if you guys remember this, but in the Carrie episode, Fangs and Midge were fooling around together. So, Fangs is missing Midge and entering a romantic relationship with Kevin, who feels responsible for Midge’s death. Not to mention the fact that Kevin was involved with Moose, who Midge was dating when she cheated on him with Fangs...
Anyway, I agree about the poor connectivity of the plot lines. I guess they do it this way because it would be unreasonable to have every plot featured in every episode - but that’s the problem with having seasons this long. They have to come up with so many plots to fill 20 hours of material, but then they only want to focus on 3-4 plots per ep so they have to keep swapping them out like a game of teen drama musical chairs.
Gabriella: In perhaps my favorite moment of the whole episode, Betty and Jughead find Jughead’s childhood home which has been stolen by Gladys and turned into a drugs lab. We actually got to see some character development and actual acting from Cole Sprouse in this moment as he reckons with his mother destroying his childhood - literally and metaphorically. As they sing “Seventeen,” the show became super self-aware and I loved it. It feels like Riverdale has finally shirked the supernatural aesthetic for what it always was, neon-soaked insanity, but insanity based in the human world.
Mary: “Seventeen” is hands down the best musical number of the whole show. There’s great acting and singing here! Cole Sprouse sings! This number also gently reminds us that these are teenagers, 17-year-olds, are involved in a lot of bonkers schemes that make no sense.
Kelli: Yeah, this was the musical number that probably worked the best for me. It also was finally a successful use of Riverdale’s favorite strategy, the musical montage with simultaneous plots. Cheryl and Toni singing “Seventeen” to each other makes as much sense as Jughead and Betty singing it to each other, because they all live in this town, so all of their lives are totally fucked.
Gabriella: Betty and Jughead show up at the musical all covered in soot, which instantly gave it away for me — they had stopped not to steal the trailer as Jughead had wanted, but to burn it down. I understand why the writers filmed it the way they did, but it felt unnecessary and sort of ruined the surprise of it. That being said, Betty is now a full-fledged pyro and I’m here for it. She also gives the BEST eyerolls.
Mary: Is Betty a bit of a firebug now? You can’t just set your problems on fire, Betty! At the same time, I’m loving her setting her problems on fire! It shows that she’s truly done with people's BS.
Kelli: I love Bughead so much. Obviously it helps that the actors are together in real life, but lawd, that chemistry.
I get why it’s annoying that they spoiled the little car-fire moment, but I did like to see them covered in soot because it was definitely a callback to Heathers (the movie).
Gabriella: The final moment of the episode was not the twist I wanted because I was spoiled on Twitter last night. But that being said, it definitely felt like a nice bow on the end of the episode. What left me confused, however, was whether the musical number was arranged in such a way to put the non-cult members in a trance, because NO ONE but the Farm people responded to the number. They just that while CHAD MICHAEL MURRAY aka Edgar Evernever led them in the strangest slow clap I’ve ever witnessed.
PHEW. What’s next. Who knows? But I’m actually excited now that the Farm seems to be taking centre stage.
One note I couldn’t fit anywhere else but needed to add: “FP - STOP CALLING HIM BOY.”
Kelli: Okay, I KNEW he looked familiar, but not until Gabriella said it did I realize that Edgar Evernever is played by THE. CHAD. MICHAEL. MURRAY. I could not be more thrilled by this casting decision, let me tell you. I love that they’re still casting former teen drama stars to play the adult roles on this show. It’s such a fun way to show self-awareness and to pay homage to all that came before this show, and I dig it.
Gabriella, I’m sorry to tell you but this FP “boy” situation has been happening for a long time and I don’t think it’s going to stop.
Mary: FP calling Jughead boy is a big mood for me. I’m very into it as a dad/son dynamic.
I thought the slow clap was very effective but I would have been MAD if someone spoiled it for me. I don’t think the other citizens were in a trance as much as they were freaked out. If an entire portion of the audience, dressed in all white, slowly stood and clapped in unison, I would also be silent. It’s a weird image and I imagine it’d be even weirder in person.
I am AMPED to see more of The Farm next week. What kind of dad will Edgar be? I don’t even want to guess.
This was maybe my favorite episode of the season so far. The developments were on point for me, the songs were appropriate and fun (have I listened to the soundtrack to this ep? Yes), and it left me wanting more!