If you forgot that Riverdale is a dark take on the Archie comics, Wednesday's (March 21) episode served to remind you.
Resident queen bee Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) managed to subvert her mother and uncle's attempts to kill her, but may have ended up with a far worse fate. Over the course of Season 2, Cheryl has slowly opened up about her feelings for women, something that stems back to her middle school days. Most recently, she's formed a strong attachment to Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan), a bisexual woman who has comforted Cheryl during her time of need.
Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt) was not happy about that potential romantic development and decided to have her daughter Cheryl committed. Not only does that make Cheryl unable to accept her father's secret inheritance, but the asylum also performs anti-gay conversion therapy. The closing scene of the episode saw Cheryl strapped down and being injected with a sedative in order to be brainwashed by the hospital staff.
Riverdale is a show of serial killers, mob bosses and maple syrup-inspired murders. It is no stranger to approaching things from out of left field, but this is an extreme take for a character just gathering the courage to come out of the closet. Two episodes ago the show took great pains to embed executive producer Greg Berlanti's film about a teenage boy coming out to his family and friends, Love, Simon, into the plot. It was used as motivation for Cheryl to explain her feelings to Toni. The episode even featured half a scene from the movie featuring Jennifer Garner telling her film teenage son that he gets to be exactly who he is once he came out.
Conversion therapy is a 180-degree difference from that initial approach to Cheryl's storyline and a bold move for a show that has previously been so careful with the treatment of its gay characters. Please see the handling of Kevin's (Casey Cott) "cruising" storyline for more details.
This isn't to say that bold moves are a bad thing, but it sets up an interesting debate about where Riverdale will take Cheryl from here. She was already nervous about coming out due to her mother's extreme reaction to her middle school crush. There's no doubt that conversion therapy will add a deep layer of additional trauma to Cheryl's psyche and it will take time for her to process that kind of torment. Is there hope for Cheryl to learn to fully accept herself under these circumstances? Time will tell.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies)