The Choni ship has officially sailed, Riverdale fans, 133 days since viewers first got a taste of the much-buzzed-about couple in “Death Proof.” Yes, I went and counted exactly how many days it’s been since Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) told Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan), “Not today, Cha-Cha,” and everyone’s dream Riverdale relationship was born. And now, 19 weeks after Toni fully checked Cheryl out in front of two hot rods, the pair had a grand, macabre rom-com-worthy kiss in Wednesday night’s “The Noose Tightens.”
While everyone can agree tossing heavily-traumatized Cheryl, who recently came out as bisexual, into a gay conversion plot is both upsetting and disturbing, the ill-advised storyline did create the concrete proof Choni’s love story is far superior to the Varchies and Bugheads of the world.
Riverdale season 2 is often accused of paling in comparison to the heady, wild ride that was the CW soap’s taut first season. Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa) is in the mob for a near unknowable reason, the Black Hood mystery’s conclusion was either a long-con fake-out or a simple disappointment, and very few things are as exciting as the twisty search for Jason Blossom’s (Trevor Stines) murderer. Yet, Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) and Toni’s claustrophobic hunt for Cheryl in the Sisters Of Quiet Mercy House Of Horrors, and the trio’s subsequent horror movie-style escape, was unquestionably the series’ most thrilling sequence in months.
It’s impossible not to feel emotional as Toni literally kicks down a door to find Cheryl trapped in “movie night,” crying while watching some propaganda film about cheerleading. Obviously, as Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) says earlier in voiceover, Cheryl was thinking about the life and friends she had before she was forced into a veritable cage by her own mother (Nathalie Bolt) over her sexuality. At this point, Cheryl is convinced her greatest fear has come true: she truly is without love. It’s not like anyone is there to save her from hateful films or cruel, homophobic manual labour and gaslighting. Then Toni bursts in to announce, “We came to rescue you.” When Cheryl asks, “You did?” you can tell she barely believes someone would put in that kind of effort for her.
Then comes the kiss, which is a cathartic moment for every single person who’s been shipping these two since mid-November. It’s romantic, and cinematic, and, most of all, proof to Cheryl that someone loves her — she isn’t actually alone. Their mad dash from the convent tunnels further proves this point, as a Twitter user noticed Cheryl waited to grasp Toni’s hand before running into the night and away from her prison. It’s a beautiful, subtle signal of how deep this relationship runs.
As I pointed out with Cheryl’s coming out story earlier this season, Riverdale works best when it plays off of its characters' histories and emotions rather than whatever will supposedly shock audiences. “Noose” takes that reality a step further with Choni, and that’s why the pairing feels so revelatory. So much of Cheryl’s storyline has been about her desperately grasping for whatever love she could find after the death of her twin Jason, whom she very adorably called “J.J.”
That’s why she immediately took to Veronica, who attempted to comfort Cheryl following her panic attack in “Touch Of Evil.” Or why she so desperately wanted Archie’s affection in “La Grande Illusion.” It’s even why she drew those “Tales From The Darkside” images of Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) after the singer was the first kind face Cheryl saw following Nick St. Clair’s (Graham Phillips) sexual assault. Still, none of those relationships went the way she had hoped.
Essentially, Cheryl has been stuck in a lengthy, losing game of Are You My Mother for a year, with maternal warmth swapped out for any warmth at all. Now, Toni has finally given the traumatised young woman the love she has been craving, unconditionally. Toni, is willing to kick down doors for Cheryl.
While Toni’s interest in Cheryl is far less explained than Cheryl’s interest in Toni, it seems to be as simple as the fact the Southside Serpent recognised a kindred spirit in the only living Blossom kid. As Toni’s portrayer Vanessa Morgan explained to Refinery29, “Toni loves that challenge [of Cheryl] and I think she sees through Cheryl’s walls that she put up. She can relate to the fact they’re both from a broken home.” And, after their instantly crackling chemistry in “The Hills Have Eyes,” it’s no surprise Toni can’t quit Cheryl.
Please compare this tableau of emotional and psychological depths to the couple we all know as Varchie. Riverdale friends, I honestly could not remember off the top of my head when Archie and Veronica got together. The pearl-laden shower sex? Very memorable. Archie’s bizarre devotion to the Lodges? Unforgettable. Their relationship-starting makeout during “The Lost Weekend?” A faint memory compared to these two iconic GIFs, which also hail from that episode.
Bughead, on the other hand, is genuinely compelling, since “The Noose Tightens” proves Jughead is also willing to kick down doors for his beloved, Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart). Yet, with all the Falice sexual tension afoot, Betty and Jughead always give off the faint whiff of either doom, or a mere Gen-Z reboot of their own parents' love story.
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