Why Riverdale's Sex Scenes Make It A Perfect Teen Drama

Photo: Courtesy of the CW.
It’s still unclear why Wednesday wasn’t a national holiday, as it marked the heralded return of the CW’s buzziest, darkest show, Riverdale. But whatever the reason we didn’t get an entire day off from our traditional responsibilities to reflect on the ridiculous, soapy majesty of season 1, the Archie Comics adaptation still brought its signature level of madness for season 2. There is a brand new murder victim! Multiple dream sequences! A Cheryl Blossom hair flip to end all hair flips! But, of course, the weirdest, most Riverdale-y moment of season 2 premiere “A Kiss Before Dying” is the shower sex scene between Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), and Veronica’s infamous pearl necklace, which she unadvisedly keeps on for the extremely wet encounter. While the entire internet is melting down over the teen socialite’s bizarre choice, Ronnie’s sexssorisation is one piece of the puzzle that proves Riverdale is a pitch-perfect teen drama.
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Look, the entire shower sex scene is absurd. Archie is only in the shower because he’s washing his on-death’s-door father’s blood off of his very buff body. Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) essentially bled out before getting to the hospital — just think about the river of blood in Pop’s — so it’s not like there is a little bit of gore on Archie. Instead, it looks like the high schooler first took a shower in OB-positive, and now he needs to fix that mistake. And yet, Veronica simply cannot be deterred from seducing her boyfriend, mid-suds, despite all the red still pouring down the drain. This is the same young woman who didn’t even tell Archie to swap his blood-drenched tee for something a little less gore-splattered while walking his dog Vegas. The appearance of Veronica’s pearl necklace and dainty bracelet in the shower is only the mind-bogglingly over-the-top addition to the already crazy sundae.
Teen shows can’t work without this kind of madness. Where would Gossip Girl have been without its impossibly luxe parties, couture dresses, and expensive bars, which were all literally owned or operated by high schoolers and recent Constance Billard-slash-St. Jude’s graduates? Try to imagine Teen Wolf minus the fact Beacon Hill High School’s library was wrecked nightly by a different supernatural threat and rebuilt by the time homeroom began the next morning. Try to imagine Teen Wolf without the EDM-tuned supernatural creature showdowns, which were always in warehouses. Why does a sleepy town like Beacon Hills have so many warehouses? These are the kind of wonderfully baffling details that get viewers hooked and tweeting, helping shows become social media catnip. This is why “Kiss Before Dying” is still up on Twitter Moments.
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But a series can’t just devolve into a string of extra, barely-tethered-to-reality soapy set pieces. If a teen drama is going to survive, you actually have to care about the characters. That’s why even I, someone who entered the Pretty Little Liars world with the series-ending season 7B, cried when Alison DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse) and Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell) got engaged during the most romantic date ever. This fact is what makes the way Riverdale handles sex during the rest of the season 2 premiere so important.
Although Varchie’s hookup could easily be inserted to the likes of The Young And The Restless or General Hospital (which are daytime soaps for everyone who didn’t grow up watching their mum’s “stories” like me), Betty Cooper’s many conversations about almost having sex with boyfriend Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) for the first time ring very true-to-life. In the season 1 finale, “The Sweet Hereafter,” Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead nearly sleep together before they’re interrupted by the Southside Serpents, who very much want to welcome Jughead into their gang. In “Kiss Before,” which takes place the next day, Betty’s mum Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) grills her daughter during breakfast about what happened in the Jones trailer. With Alice's signature level of overreaction, she asks if “that beanie-wearing cad defiled” Betty. While many parents wouldn’t use such a word as harsh as “defiled,” it is the kind of question a mum would realistically ask her teen daughter after she visited her boyfriend’s parent-free home. Thankfully, Alice proves she understands teenagers have sex, adding the realistic request of, “At least tell me you were safe.” Condoms, people — TV shows need to talk about the importance of condoms.
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Betty’s next conversation about nearly sleeping with Jughead also sounds like a real thing actual human people would say. At the hospital, Kevin Keller asks Betty for the details on her possibly sexy post-jubilee hangout with Jughead. “We didn’t… Jughead and I didn’t do it, if that’s what you’re asking. He told me he loved me,” she tells her best friend with genuine joy in her face. Kevin could not look more excited for Betty, saying, “Jughead Jones said, ‘I love you’? Mister ‘I’m Weird, I’m A Weirdo?’” When Betty explains Jughead might now be a Southside Serpent, Kevin is rightly concerned for his longtime BFF’s wellbeing. This is the kind of chat that one would hear in a real-life school cafeteria, not General Hospital’s Port Charles. Now we all feel invested in what happens next for Betty and Jughead in the bedroom since it seems less like an attention-seeking plot point, and more like a multifaceted situation that could pop up in a close friend’s life.
Riverdale season 2 is already fulfilling its promise that this year will be an even sexier ride for the denizens of its eerie, shockingly murder-y town. Considering just how well the teen drama is balancing all of these hormones with the kinds of stories all viewers can relate to, things can all get better from here. So it's probably time to start counting down the minutes until Bughead gets their own Twitter meme-worthy sex scene — it's only fair.
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