Warning: Spoilers follow for season two of Riverdale.
Ever since its announcement, it’s been clear that Riverdale isn’t your daddy’s Archie show. But even though the first season included murder, gangs, and some seriously creepy family drama, season two has managed to get progressively darker. We’ve seen the arrival of Riverdale’s very own serial killer, a war brewing between two sides of the town, and in the most recent episode we see Veronica’s old beau, Nick St. Clair, arrive in the small town and quickly reveal himself as an attempted rapist when he drugs Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and tries to assault her.
Including assault can often be a way for shows to further the arcs of male protagonists or just to exploit the bodies and trauma of the women involved. Riverdale did neither of those in “When a Stranger Calls,” instead using the attempted assault to bring the women of the cast together, giving them a chance at some surprisingly violent and cathartic retribution. On our recent set visit, we spoke to the cast about how it felt to portray such a vital and relevant story, one that they’re clearly passionate about.
Josie and the Pussycats play a large role in episode five’s retribution, and for Ashley Murray, who plays the Pussycats’ leader, it was a vital moment. “It meant a lot to me. We all know what’s going on right now. Our society tends to preach politeness and staying quiet. I think that–and the fact that girls are often pitted against each other–means we don’t stand up for each other. I think that it spoke volumes for all of us to get together to go and save Cheryl the way she needed to be saved. I think oftentimes that doesn’t happen, and I’m happy we got to show that strength,” Murray said.
She continued, “I’d never advocate violence in any case, but sometimes you’re in a situation and you have to make a choice. I think the way we handled it was good. It gave us this girl power, especially because we were in our performance outfits and our heels and we’re f**king this kid up. It was great, cause he deserved it. He deserved to get that ass whooping. I really enjoyed that scene; it was empowering and it showed a camaraderie and togetherness that women don’t often have, especially young women,” Murray smiled, as she shared her inspiring words with us.
Though Betty has been distracted with her experience with the Black Hood, it was still something that Lili Reinhart felt strongly about and that set her up to make a colossal decision at the end of the episode. “It wasn’t exactly my story to tell, it was Madelaine and Cami’s. But it’s such a topical issue right now, unfortunately. I think it’s weirdly strange timing, and I guess it just goes to show it exists and that it’s out in the open and people are talking about it,” Reinhart said thoughtfully.
Though the episode is rightly centered on the female characters, it had a huge impact on the whole ensemble, with both K.J. Apa (Archie) and Casey Cott (Kevin Keller) talking about how the storyline impacted them. K.J. saw the intense and powerful story as a chance to create an authentic representation and shed light on the realities of sexual assault. “I think it’s a really cool storyline to show, that all these characters are here for each other and that they back each other up. When we read that storyline, we were really happy to put it out there for the fans, and I think it’s a really meaningful storyline. There are people out there who can relate to that story. People can learn a lot from it by the way we play those kinds of scenes,” Apa told us emphatically.
For Cott, the episode was a chance to showcase the strength of the women in the show. “I think the beauty of that story is watching all the characters come together and help someone who’s in a pretty intense situation, and to me that was really beautiful. I think there are really strong girls in our show, and I’m really proud of how they played that. I think it’s going to be great,” Cott emotionally stated.
Images: The CW
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