This week Riverdale finally gave a storyline to the criminal underwritten Kevin Keller. This episode explored the questionable things he’ll resort to in order to meet other gay men. I definitely have issues with this plot. But, overall it was extremely powerful to see an episode of television where the unambiguous message is that growing up gay is fundamentally different than growing up straight. No one says “we’ve come along way” in this episode.
Kevin calling out Betty Cooper for daring to judge her experiences when she has the privilege of bouncing from one sweet teen romance to another felt vital and emotionally raw. I’ve watched many, many shows about gay teens and this episode really stuck out in a bold way. Even Queer as Folk, which focuses on a teenage boy sleeping with an adult man he just met, portrayed it in a very brushed over and romanticized way. That said, I wish this episode had pushed the realism a bit more. Because it’s Riverdale and style is the name of the game, Kevin’s encounters were all either tantalizing and mysterious or overtly scary faceless threatening men. I would’ve liked to see an overt portrayal of the kinds of men you put up with as a lonely teen, only to later realize how gross they are.
Still, the plot was striking. It was nice to see a show take on suffocating loneliness so directly. Most shows that deal with gay teens stick to a very vague sense of being an outsider. Kevin’s conversation with Moose in which they bonded over their desperation for a bit of understanding was tears-in-my-eyes powerful. I’m glad this show finally– finally –let them interact as something other than ‘generic gay friend’ and ‘closeted jock’ archetypes.
Meanwhile, Archie Andrews’ anxieties just got worse. Jugehad Jones compared him to Travis Bickle, which is a pretty accurate assessment of my poor little guy. He decided to throw together a vigilante task force made up of football players in order to protect the neighborhood. I’m really loving Archie this season. Last year he was incredibly removed from the most dramatic parts of the show. To the point where Betty and Jughead would leave them out of their murder mystery plots because he was busy getting ready for a talent show. Now he’s really in the midst of things and he’s making moves. Not smart ones, but moves nonetheless.