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“RuPaul’s Drag Race”/”Untucked” Season 9 recap: Give a cheer!

RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9| Episode 2 | “She Done Already Done Brought It On” | Aired March 31, 2017

Oh, Jaymes Mansfield. I had such high hopes for you. We all had high hopes for you. If there was ever a time to use that Tyra Banks “We were all rooting for you” .gif, now would be the time.

I’ve recently become a fan of Jaymes Mansfield from her YouTube page, and after seeing how lively, bubbly, energetic and knowledgeable she is on her channel, it’s a shame none of it translated to the Drag Race stage. Jaymes already knew she was in her head too much, but she just couldn’t shake whatever shellshock she had. I’m not knocking her for it, though. As an introverted person, it sometimes takes a while for us to get used to a new environment, and in the meantime, we’re left looking and feeling like a shell of ourselves. That’s what happened to Jaymes here. All of the girls (well, almost all of them) seemed to understand that and tried to help her out as best they could, but ultimately, the real challenge was up to Jaymes and she just couldn’t get out of her own way enough to really shine. She’ll be fine, though–she’s got tons of fans, and she’s garnered even more after folks sympathized with her during her short time there.

However, wouldn’t it be amazing if Jaymes got the Trixie Mattel save and was brought back for a second chance? That would be spectacular!

Speaking of second chances, how great is it to see Ms. Cucu, Cynthia Lee Fontaine, back again! I’m a big Cucu fan, so I’m excited to see her energy on this season. It’s especially great to see her healthy after her liver cancer bout. I’m glad she was able to overcome this serious disease and come back to her full vigor.

This challenge was all about vigor, since it was a cheerleading challenge, but not where the queens just had to look like cheerleaders–they actually had to perform real cheerleading moves. As Nina said during Untucked, that was the most strenous challenge yet on Drag Race. I’m almost surprised they let that one be a challenge period, much less the first challenge, since it requires skills not everyone has, like doing splits and cartwheels and stuff.

However, like true professionals, everyone rose to the challenge and did what they had to do. Even Jaymes, who did some really athletic-looking tumbling. However, I have to say that while Valentina gave great Overcaffinated Cheerleader Face, Shea Couleé really gave me Real Girl Cheerleader. I didn’t go to a black school (unfortunately), but I feel like I would have seen cheerleaders like Shea Couleé at the black high school of my dreams.

She was also a very strong contender to win; in fact, most of the girls thought was going to be Shea Couleé’s win, what with her living out her Dominique Dawes childhood fantasy with a ton of flips and splits. Also, her White Party look was really strong, too. But the win ended up going to Valentina, who mesmerized the judges with her zany cheerleader persona and stunned them with her bridal look, which is based on her own mother’s wedding video.

Since I’m talking about the White Party Looks, let’s just get into my favorite looks, which are a lot. All of the looks were strong; this might be the first season in which all of the first runway looks for competition were this strong.

Shea Couleé

As the judges (which included the B-52s this week) said, this was a very Barbarella moment. It’s executed flawlessly, and she looks like a supermodel in it.

Valentina

Again, another flawlessly-executed look. If Michelle Visage hadn’t pointed out Valentina’s nude shoes, I don’t think anyone would have even noticed. At least, I wouldn’t have noticed. In any case, if that’s all she had to complain about, I think that’s a clear win for Valentina. Besides, this is ode to her mother and her parents’ love. You can’t really get too mad at her for this, especially when it looks not only amazing, but expensive and luxurious.

Cynthia Lee Fontaine

Cynthia really gave us a My Fair Lady moment with this outfit, and I think it’s the perfect outfit to use as your comeback dress. I feel like we’re going to see a lot of fun, gorgeous stuff from Cynthia this season.

Trinity Taylor

Trinity Taylor is someone I haven’t mentioned a lot, but I’m rooting for her as hard as I am other queens. She’s a Birmingham, AL queen who has made it to the national stage, and even though she’s repping Orlando on the show, I have to keep an eye out for a hometown girl. So far, she’s done the city proud and she’ll keep doing it if she’s consistently turning out looks like this. If there’s one thing I can say about Trinity is that she has an extremely high level for commitment to an uncomfortable look. If you’ve seen her Season 9 premiere party performance (and I’m sure other performances out there), you have seen how severely she tucks, to the point where it looks like she has a va-jay-jay. She’s not called “The Tuck” for nothing. This look continues that throughline of commitment, because this is all vinyl. How she can stand it, I’ll never know.

Nina Bo’nina Brown

This is giving me a “Storm at a P-Diddy White Party” vibe, which I’m a big fan of. She looks amazing, and that hair color is really something special; I’m glad she went with an unexpected gray.

Jaymes Mansfield

Jaymes might have gone home this episode, but I think he had one of the strongest runway looks. Who doesn’t like a well-done late ’50s/early ’60s pinup look? I love it, since this is Jaymes Mansfield at her most Jayne Mansfield. The judges are also right that Jaymes is one of the best padders (is that a word?) in the race.

Charlie Hides

I really like the detail in this dress, particularly that faux-two-piece look. I love a high-waisted skirt or pant, and I love to see it especially when it’s executed expertly.

Also, let’s talk about how the commenters are ablaze with love for Charlie for telling Eureka to shut up in Untucked. I think some of it was Charlie’s own frustration at being in the bottom and his fear of being ousted because of his age, but I also think he was genuinely frustrated with Eureka and has been for some time. I’m not going to get into severe Eureka discussion right now, but Eureka is quickly becoming this season’s hated queen, if the comments are anything to go by.

The bottom two were Jaymes and Kimora Blac, who had to lip synch for their lives. I thought Jaymes would be able to get something out of this performance, since she’s campy and the B-52s are nothing but pure camp, especially their most iconic song, “Love Shack.” But instead, she copied Kimora, who, if her Season 9 performance is anything to go by, isn’t the best performer. But I have to hand it to Kimora; she gave the judges personality and a palpable desire to stay, and that’s what RuPaul was trying to coax from Jaymes. Darn it, Jaymes!

It was sad to see him leave the show; his Untucked departure was particularly tough, seeing how torn up he was about his performance and how he felt his dreams came undone. This is why I feel like we’re in for a surprise with Jaymes. I seriously think she’ll be back.

Final thoughts:

• Hearing Peppermint’s story about finding acceptance after a horrible high school ordeal and Cynthia’s story about battling cancer are the reasons RuPaul’s Drag Race has an Emmy. I love when the show decides to get real and give viewers an insight into the real lives of these contestants. It’s not always about glamour and fabulosity; sometimes, it’s about overcoming bigotry, finding acceptance, and overcoming what seem like insurmountable obstacles. It’s moments like these that show how much of a role model drag queens are.

• I’m glad I was able to being somewhat professional with this recap and not make it a pure gush-fest over Valentina. I’m torn between idolizing Valentina as a woman and harboring a crush on Valentina as James Leyva the man. It’s a battle of emotions right now. A result of that is screencapping a ton of Boy Valentina images.

The beautiful people of the world can be really frustrating, can’t they?

• Last, but not least–we’ve got the first RuPaul in Drag moment!

I thought, oddly enough, that this was demure and covered-up for RuPaul. Not that she’s always naked or something, but something about the dress looked understated, even though it was a loud cyan-teal. In any event, it’s not RuPaul’s Drag Race without RuPaul as The Monster, and it’s good to see her continue the tradition.

What did you think of this episode? Do you think Jaymes will come back? Give your opinions below!

“RuPaul’s Drag Race”/”Untucked” Season 9 recap: Mother Monster has arrived

Vh1

RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 | Episode 1, “Oh. My. Gaga!” | Aired March 24, 2017

First, I’m SO GLAD RuPaul’s Drag Race is back! This is one of my favorite shows of all time, and even though I’ve never really recapped it because, frankly, I was selfish. I wanted to keep the magic and the glamour of the show to myself and just have something fun for me to enjoy. BUT, I also feel it remiss to not recap it when Season 9 looks to be the most polished season yet.

By now, most hardcore fans have seen the first 18-20 minutes of the first episode, so we already know that Lady Gaga walked into the workroom with the rest of the queens as one of them until she took off her mask. She’s inspiring to the queens, yada yada yada. I’m not trying to sound flippant about it; it’s just that I’ve seen the first 18 minutes about three to five times before the episode aired so that part of the episode is already passé for me.

Instead, let me show you the video of how Eureka was moved to tears by how Gaga helped her in her darkest times.

Since we’re talking about Eureka, why is she living out all of her insecurities through mild bitchery? If there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s when a big queen inadvertently plays into the “bitter big woman” stereotype. I think Eureka is funny and I’m sure she’s a lovely, witty person, but come on, girl, stop cutting people down right out of the gate. Also: stop with the “I’m a big girl” jokes. Again, another thing that annoys me is when a big queen makes all of their comedy based around their insecurities about their fatness. It makes me sad and, frankly, uncomfortable, if I’m being honest. Speaking from a personal place, I know what it’s like to have body insecurities. I think a lot of us get that. But for me, if you’re a big queen, you’ve got to show that you’ve got more up your sleeve than self-deprecating jokes. Rant over.

So the theme of the episode is a Gaga-centric Miss Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent Pageant Competition! The queens had to give two looks: one repping their home town, and the other one being their favorite Gaga look. Also: No queen is getting eliminated this episode! Hooray! We get to know the queens more!

So let’s get into my favorite looks.

Hometown

Shea Couleé–Chicago

I like how, even though she’s a beauty/makeup queen, she still gives you humor. Her reference to Mystique Summers’ “Bitch, I’m from Chicago!” line and her sexual hot dog jokes, coupled with that headpiece and the commitment to the Chicago-style hot dog theme really set her apart for me.

Aja–New York City

I know several reviewers hated this look, particularly since she and Peppermint both dressed literally as Lady Liberty and Alexis Michelle had the Statue of Liberty on her peacock fan-thing. But I just like this look. Maybe I’m just being biased, but it just looks cool to me, and I like the idea of seeing an edgy Lady Liberty wearing an orange wig.

Valentina–Los Angeles

The sombrero, the hair, the makeup, the flowers, the thigh-high garter-belt boots that are also tights??? I don’t need to say much more about this, do I? The look speaks for itself. It’s all so expensive, and that’s what I love about Valentina’s aesthetic; it’s rich and luxurious and I want to live that life.

Nina Bonina Brown–Atlanta

Again, do I really need to explain why this is amazing? JUST LOOK AT THIS PEACH HEAD! IT’S MADE OUT OF CARDBOARD! It’s simultaneously the freakiest and most creative, artistic thing I’ve seen on this show. I like the way Nina’s mind works.

Lady Gaga

Nina Bonina Brown

What I love about this look isn’t just that it’s clearly Gaga; it’s also the winning look. Eureka thought this wasn’t going to win Nina the pageant crown, and lo and behold, it did. I think what Gaga identified with was the originality that still came through Nina’s looks despite having to adhere to a theme, especially one as limiting as dressing as someone else. However, Eureka’s look was also one of my favorites.

Eureka

It’s very clearly Telephone, and it’s very well made. What Eureka does best is give body queen looks, showing you don’t have to be skinny to wear skin-tight or form-fitting clothes. I do like Eureka’s aesthetic and what she’s trying to do with her drag.

Aja

Kimora Blac was saying that picking Gaga’s red carpet looks were boring, and that she wanted to do one of Gaga’s everyday looks. Well, this is how you do one of Gaga’s everyday looks. While Kimora picked yet another black strappy number, Aja chose one of Gaga’s more daring silhouettes. For me, the Commes de Garcons look played very well into the Aja brand, which is simultaneously about pushing the boundaries and just being fun and accessible.

Valentina

I’m used to seeing Valentina in elaborate wigs, so this wig was kind of a letdown for me. But, the look is still one of my favorites because everything is so put together and fashion modely. Her walk was catwalk-ready.

Sasha Velour

It’s funny that Sasha Velour is already being clocked for being the artsy queen, as in that perhaps she’s probably relying too much on artsy-ness. Perhaps it’s the Brooklyn in her; I only visited New York for about a week, but for the time I was in Brooklyn, I definitely got the sense that it was an enclave all about art and expression. Also, having been in the art world for most of my teenage life, I know this type of artist all too well. I’m not saying she’s not great; she’s one of my favorites of the season. But I can already tell that her biggest challenge will be if she can switch from niche artsy-ness to clsasic drag camp. Versatility, if you will.

Having said all of that, I think the ARTPOP look suited Sasha to a T and she sold it expertly. However, ARTPOP itself also suffered from being too artsy, so it’s kinda ironic that Sasha would pick a look that shows both the strength and flaw of being the Artist Queen.

Final notes:

• Poor Jaymes Mansfield. I’ve seen her on YouTube and she’s great on her channel. But she’s coming off as shellshocked on this show, and it’s understandable. But I hope she’s able to get herself together through the season. I really don’t want her to go home early. She’s got tons of talent, and I think she has the potential to go far. But if I can get into my Untucked review, the biggest part I hated about the first Untucked episode is that Eureka decided to come for Jaymes just because she’s quiet. Unlike the other queens, who seemed actually genuine in their concern about Jaymes’ emotional state, Eureka just seemed like she wanted to cut at the person she felt was the weakest. Again, I feel a little personal about this because I’ve been cut at for being quiet or shellshocked in some situations. Not everyone’s got a loud personality and it seems like Charlie was among the queens who understood this. In fact, it was Charlie who inquired about Jaymes in the first place. Perhaps its because he’s acquired tons of wisdom, since he is, in fact, the oldest queen. But Eureka needs to chillax on this and let Jaymes gather herself.

• Gaga needs to become the Tim Gunn of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I feel like she has a deep respect for the art of drag as well as for the lives of drag queens themselves, and I like that she put herself on the mat when it came to discussing the line between appropriation versus appreciation. I know she gets a ton of flack for what she does for the gay community because to some, it comes off as weaseling her way into the a life she doesn’t understand. I admire that she discussed her own hesitancy to appear that way and her sincere desire to uplift the community, not try to selfishly insert herself as one of its members. I think that bit of self-awareness is refreshing, since I’ve also wondered about Gaga’s intentions on that front. I don’t think we see a lot of music celebrities exhibit that kind of self-awareness, and I responded well to it. I also came to admire how she told the queens how she felt about their looks to their faces during Untucked and not just keep it all nice on the runway, then kill them behind their backs. She kept it 100, but she also kept it encouraging. I like that. Good show, Gaga.

• I’ve listened to several reviews as I wrote this recap, and I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one not getting Kimora Blac. Do I think she’s snatched and beat? Yes, of course. But do I think she’s got a limited range as of right now? Completely. As other reviewers have said, she hasn’t varied her look much, if at all, and I feel like she could give us a lot more. I think she’s got the potential to do that; she’s just stuck in a rut.

• I know Peppermint is a seasoned performer, so it’s kinda astonishing to me how she let herself go out there on the runway with her lacefront visible like that. Sure, they don’t have a lot of time backstage, but everyone else had their wigs together! As Gaga said, it’s the details that Peppermint has to focus on, and her lack of focusing on the details seems to be consistent, from what I’ve seen of her in the “Meet the Queens” segment, her RuPaul’s Drag Race premiere red carpet look, and the looks she’s given us in this episode.

• My mom doesn’t watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, but if she did, her clear favorite would be Valentina. When I showed her Valentina’s entrance into the workroom, she said, “She’s gorgeous! And her body looks good, too! That’s amazing!” I completely agree. For your consideration, Exhibits A-D:

• I’m also going to just say this now: I’m a huge Valentina stan, so there might be some favoritism in this recaps, but who isn’t biased when they’re writing recaps of shows? I just love Valentina so much. Can they make a Valentina Barbie? I’d buy that right now.

• I’m also an Aja stan, and I can’t wait for a challenge that will allow her to dance her competition into the ground. As I showed in my predictions article, Aja can dance to literally any music you put before her, and she said as much in this episode. There’s a reason she’s the number one name in Brooklyn; she’s so exciting to me. And the fact that she gives big ups to John Leguizamo is awesome too. It must be true that sexuality is a construct since I’m attracted to Leguizamo both in and out of drag. (Heck, the only reason I liked the terrible Super Mario Brothers movie was because of how cute Leguizamo is in it.)

• I’m also a big Nina Bonina Brown stan as well. I love her originality, and I really identified with her statement in Untucked, in which she revealed that she was at her lowest point when she auditioned for what was going to be her last time. Everything she said about doubting if your dream is something that is actually meant for you hit home, so it encourages me to see that if Nina can make it and achieve her dream after crippling doubt, then I can, too.

The mystery queen!

The internet is saying it’s Cynthia Lee Fontaine, which would be major if that were true, because I, like tons of people, love the Queen of Cucu. Also, the hair, the covered-ness of the outfit, and the closeup on the queen’s butt seem to point in Cynthia’s direction. But some other guesses floating out there include Lynesha Sparx, Coco Montrese, and Jasmine Masters. All we know is that the queen is either Latino or black, has a big booty, and loves short hair, which means it could be any one of these queens since they all fit the bill. Who do you think it is? Vote here:

 

Who is the mystery queen?

Lynesha Sparx
Coco Montrese
Cynthia Lee Fontaine
Jasmine Masters

Poll Maker

What did you think of the inaugural Season 9 episode? Who gave you your favorite looks? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

“Into the Badlands” Season 2 recap: Quinn’s back and creepier than ever

Sunny needs to get back to Veil as soon as possible! Antony Platt/AMC

Into the Badlands Season 2 | Episode 2, “Force of Eagle’s Claw” | Aired March 26, 2017 

Let’s start at the ending this time around: Quinn is a creepy mo-fo.

I don’t think I have words that express just how twisted Quinn is. He’s like any twisted plantation owner turned up to 11. Heck, I think he rates even higher than 11. Quinn has serious problems and he needs some help. But at the end of the day, I don’t think he wants help: I think he’s forgotten about the existence of his soul for decades and now all he uses to fill his empty space is power. Right now, that power comes from having Veil and baby Henry at his side. Veil and Henry feed his ego and that empty, sad space inside him much more than all of his loyal clippers and revenge plan do, which says a lot about the power and strength of Veil herself, but it also says a lot about how, as twisted as Quinn is, one thing he seems to desperately want, in his own way, is a family to call his own.

This duality is probably why Martin Coskas loves playing Quinn; there are always a lot of layers to explore with the evil characters because the challenge is finding their humanity. I’m no actor, but I know that to play or write a good villain, you’ve got to find and honor that small kernel of humanity they still have somewhere.

Enough of my Actors Masterclass. Let’s get back to talking about how creepy Quinn is. What’s upped the creep factor this go-round is just how much he’s into Veil. Look, Veil is a woman everyone who’s in their right mind should love. I’ll even go so far to admit that the lengths Quinn will go to protect Veil and the baby is…cute?? Maybe I’m the one going a bit out of my head right now. Don’t get me wrong; seeing him kill that dude through his eye was horrifying. But seeing Veil taken care of, whether by Sunny or by Quinn, hits at a place in my mind that realizes that black women aren’t usually put in this kind of damsel position. That alone is something noteworthy. HOWEVER, Quinn’s adoration over Veil is just as unwanted as it was to see Scar make Sarabi his queen in The Lion King (or, for the Broadway fans, see Scar lust over Nala, which was even creepier since he watched her grow up). Sunny can’t come back for his woman soon enough.

Meanwhile, Veil’s just gotta bear it. She’s got tons of resolve, I’ll tell you that. But I sincerely hope she uses that sunroom as an escape. She needs get her climb on and get out of there ASAP!

Also, let’s talk about the fact that she’s the one that saved doggone Quinn in the first place. I mean, there’s a reason he’s head-over-heels for her; after all he’s done to her family, she still found it in her heart somewhere to save him. While that’s really frustrating for us as viewers who want nothing more than for us to see Quinn dead in the ground, that also says a lot about her character, and I don’t think Quinn takes that lightly. Again, she feeds his soul in a way absolute power can’t; she’s the light he’s probably been seeking for longer than he can remember or even realized. He wants to do whatever he can to keep that light around, which includes him hoping that he can keep her captive long enough for her to start having feelings for him. But Beauty and the Beast this is not. She’s going to escape. It’s just a matter of time now.

Speaking of a matter of time, Sunny’s doing his best to make it back to the Badlands, despite having his “ball and chain” Bajie stuck with him. While Sunny’s journey is at the crux of this show, this episode was much more about where everyone else is in their own personal journeys. We know Sunny’s going to make it back to the Badlands; wherever Veil is, he’s going to make sure he’s there. But aside from Sunny and Bajie’s escape from the head slave fighter, it was a little uneventful on the Sunny front. The one thing of note from his and Bajie’s time in the outskirts was that out of everything’s Sunny’s been through, out of every neck Sunny’s cracked and every heart he’s stabbed, the one thing that freaks Sunny out is having a dead rodent wiggled in his face, as well as the idea of eating said rodent. Really, Sunny? I mean, we all have our phobias…I’m afraid of butterflies, for example, but don’t really mind bees. But if you’re a killer, seems like your fear for things like rodents would be the last thing going on in your mind. But it’s funny, so it’s yet one more fact we know about our favorite Clipper. If you want to defeat Sunny, just throw a hamster in his face.

Antony Platt/AMC

Meanwhile, poor M.K. is battling himself, literally. The Master is taking him under her wing because she knows he’s a special boy, the one who will answer everything. What exactly he’s “the one” for, I’m not sure yet; I don’t think we’ve been told. But he’s special, and in order for him to leave the Master’s care, he’s got to do battle with and conquer himself. However, his dark side is a force to be reckoned with, and he doesn’t give up easily. In fact, right now, he’s capable of killing M.K. The Master has to bring M.K. back before his dark side kills him. M.K.’s got a long way to go before he defeats himself.

One thing I like about M.K.’s time in training is that it highlights how his constant training isn’t so much about being able to defeat others; it’s about being able to bring the mind in concert with the body. I’ve been taking meditation more seriously, so I’m sure these platitudes are things others have known forever, but the art of movement is less about the external and more about the internal. What M.K.’s learning on the outside is supposed to help him on the inside, and usually, all of that training just results in learning that in order to calm the mind and really conquer it, you have to just let it do it’s thing. You can’t fight the mind; you can only observe it and accept it for what it is. That’s all M.K.’s learning—how to become one with himself.

Antony Platt/AMC

Okay, my Iron Fist moment is over.

Finally, we see Lydia’s Baroness past come back to haunt her when she has to defend her father’s religious enclave from attackers. However, her father is acting very ungrateful. Or is he?

I mean, he is acting ungrateful from our point of view, but he’s also a staunch believer in his way of life, and that includes letting things happen as they are wont to do. If it was his destiny to die that day, he was ready to meet it. He also doesn’t believe in killing, something he said is a privilege only allowed to the gods. So, Lydia has struck out on two fronts, all because she tried to save her father. Kinda messed up.

She tries reasoning with Ryder to have him protect his grandfather’s people, and he…agrees?? In any case, he definitely doesn’t want Lydia’s help in his life anymore. According to him, he’s a great baron and has lasted longer than Lydia gave him credit for. But I’d say he’s only lasted as long because of whatever help he’s received from Jade, who’s crafty in her own way. He’s not ruling things all by his lonesome. I say we can expect a truce to happen between him and his mother at some point. He’s going to need her help at some point, and I can’t wait for the groveling to happen.

Final notes:

• Can we talk about how attractive Sunny looks as a wanderer?

Antony Platt/AMC

Between the Clipper look and this look, I’ll take this look any day. I’ll also take this look with the durag.

Antony Platt/AMC

Knowing Daniel Wu’s intense love for hip-hop culture, did he have any say on the this sartorial decision? There are several types of head coverings people wear when working in boiler rooms or while doing ironwork, and Sunny just so happens to be wearing the durag version? Interesante, show. Muy interesante.

Of course, I won’t say no to a clean-cut Sunny, either. But he could clean up and keep the hair. That’d be great.) All of the men look good on this show, though, even Quinn (yes, I said it).

• I hope M.K. sports his monk-trainee hair for the rest of his life. I need to learn how this hair is done.

• Do you think Sunny would ever make a pact with The Widow once he figures out what she’s trying to do? I think he’d go along with a Baron-free world after everything he’s been through.

• There was a wall at the end of the episode. Does this mean that America finally built Trump’s wall after all? Or has Into the Badlands been set in China all this time?

What did you think of the episode? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

“Into the Badlands” Season 2 premiere is a masterclass in inclusive TV

Daniel Wu as Sunny (Antony Platt/AMC)

It’s already a cliche to say this, but Into the Badlands Season 2 showed up Iron Fist in nearly every way possible. If there Hollywood needed an example of how to make an inclusive martial arts-based action show that doesn’t appropriate cultures but actually respectfully melds cultures together into something new and original, then Into the Badlands is that much-needed example.

Did that sentence confuse you? Let me just break down what I’m trying to say in some bulleted points while telling you what you need to know about the jaw-dropping Season 2 premiere.

• The beginning didn’t linger. 

 

I hope you had your Into the Badlands DVDs or On Demand players handy to catch up on the first season, since the show didn’t waste any time jumping back into the story and the action, and that’s great, because while the show’s story is fantastic, the biggest selling point are the extensive, thought-out, creative fight scenes.

We’ve  dropped in on Sunny (Daniel Wu, who is also one of the show’s executive producers) after being transported to a slave colony to work in the mines. Gone are the days of being a Clipper (aka an upper-tier slave), and now, all Sunny cares about is getting out of the mines and back to Veil (Madeleine Mantock) and his new baby. And hopefully to get back on the right terms with Veil, since his role in her parents death is…dubious.

(Look, let’s get this out of the way right now in this huge aside; Sunny didn’t kill Veil’s parents. BUT, he did stand by while Quinn (Martin Csokas) killed them with Sunny’s sword. BUT, Quinn also threatened to kill Sunny. BUT, Sunny can totally take down Quinn, and he didn’t. BUT, Sunny was just waking up to the system as it is and he didn’t realize he was a slave until he realized he wanted more for his life, particularly because of his relationship with Veil. As you can see, the circular argument can go on and on. But bottom line is that he didn’t kill Veil’s parents, but he didn’t stop Quinn due to self-preservation and, to be blunt, selfishness. He wanted to be around to be with Veil, and he didn’t really think enough about Veil’s parents to realize he needed to stop Quinn from killing what could have become his own extended family. However, how did he think he could go explain this to Veil??? Not to be glib, but he didn’t think the “I’ll stand by like my hands are tied” thing through at all.)

At any rate, Sunny wants to get his family back and find his redemption. Right now, it seems like he could and he couldn’t; his new bunkmate frenemy Baijie (newcomer to the show Nick Frost) sold him out in order to try to secure his own freedom, but Sunny already had a plan before Baijie ratted him out; Sunny wants to try to take out the big wrestler of the group in order to become the new head of the slave food chain and, possibly, get his chance to escape.

HOWEVER, before we even get to Sunny making a plan, we immediately see Sunny try to escape from the first few minutes of the show. IT WAS INTENSE! THIS IS HOW YOU START AN ACTION SHOW!

• The diversity and badassery of the Into the Badlands‘ women

I can honestly say that this is one show that treats its women with respect. (Except for that one woman Baijie straight-up punched unconscious just to get a ring to buy his freedom. Baijie should know better than that.)

Overall, the women on Into the Badlands have thoroughly impressed me, even more so this season. One criticism that some, including Mediaversity Reviews, pointed out is that despite the presence of Veil and the awesomeness of The Widow, the show was centered around white feminism. (Li of Mediaversity Reviews also breaks down just how diverse the main cast is, which is that it’s pretty diverse and more multicultural on an individual-by-individual basis than I initially gave the show credit for. For instance, Mantock is black, Hispanic, and white, not just black as I alluded to in my recent Into the Badlands article. My bad.)

However, one of this season’s mission statements seems to be to correct that oversight, since this season, we’re seeing a much more diverse range of women, including The Master, played by Chipo Chung, who is Asian and black and the most powerful person on the show, period. As many online have noted, the show seems to be a masterclass for Marvel on how to 1) create a show with a POC Iron Fist and 2) how to simultaneously make an Iron Fist with Asian heritage and a proper female Ancient One that doesn’t appropriate the culture she’s supposed to be a part of (and, again, is an Ancient One with Asian heritage). She’s everything we wanted both Iron Fist and the Ancient One to be.

Chipo Chung as The Master  (Antony Platt/AMC)

And Tilda (Ally Ioannides), who was just The Widow (Emily Beecham)’s daughter, has now been elevated to Regent. And her crew is also amazing.

And another upcoming new baron, Baron Chau, looks like she can f*** some people up good-fashioned. I can’t wait to see her fight scenes, especially if she has fight scenes against The Widow. (She’s got to have some fight scenes against The Widow.)

• A diversity masterclass for other shows

Yes, the show’s Season 2 premiere had a serendipitous moment by coming on during the same weekend as Iron Fist‘s premiere, simultaneously one-upping it and showing it how it’s really done when it comes to the martial arts game. But the show is a masterclass for any new series looking to infuse cultures together without appropriating or otherwise offending its audience.

This is something that was taken seriously last year, as evidenced by the whole spiel Wu had about rewriting Romeo Must Die through Sunny and Veil, but this year, the crew has taken their commitment to diversity even more seriously than before. We have the examples of the women above, but we also have just the worldbuilding in general. In every scene, you have a multicultural world which reflects the show’s multicultural audience. The world itself doesn’t particularly rest on whiteness as a default or as a power play, something I originally thought the show was using in the first season with Quinn’s family, coupled with the fact that Quinn and The Widow were the only barons we saw until the introduction of Edi Gathegi’s Jacobee (I still wish we saw more of Jacobee).

We’re also getting yet another baron; along with Chau, we’re also getting Baron Hassan, and the two of them together have opened up the baron game in the vein of Jacobee; anyone can be a baron, and knowing that anyone can attain that kind of power is refreshing, and in its own way, subversive, since the power everyone’s battling over is the same original sin that started America in the first place–slavery. It’s interesting that even though the America Into the Badlands inhabits is a post-apocalyptic type of America, it’s still a country that wrestles with the concept of power through owning others.

• Surprises on surprises on surprises

We had the surprise of the Master being who she is, the surprise of The Widow upping her game this season (her big set piece was amazing to view, and I could watch that over and over again), and the surprise of Veil finally having her baby. But the biggest surprise was seeing QUINN AS VEIL’S CARETAKER! What kind of Frankenstein nonsense is happening right now?! We all thought he was dead! What is he doing with Veil and Veil’s baby?! Also, is he trying to seek redemption as well, or is he trying to regain his power to take on his son Ryder (Oliver Stark), who is now the new baron?

Overall, I’m PUMPED! I can’t wait to see where the rest of this season is taking us! What did you think of the first episode? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

“Riverdale” react: Veronica and Jughead get dramatic

This photo is kinda misleading, since the rest of the Pussycats don’t really factor into this episode. Good composition though. (Katie Yu/The CW)

Riverdale, Episode 7 | “In a Lonely Place” | Aired March 9, 2017

I’ll give Episode 7, “In a Lonely Place,” this: there were some real moments of touching sentimentality. Some genuine moments of feeling and disappointment were palpable among Veronica and Jughead, and finally, some parents were held up to some consequences, even if it was only for a little while.

First, though, before we get into the sentimentality, let’s talk about the elephant in the room once again: Jughead and Betty’s relationship. The more I see it flaunted in my face, the more uncomfortable and upset I get. Jughead has never been a character that desired romantic relationships. Even when Archie Comics tried to put him in his own triangle (in a misguided effort to keep people from thinking the rumors of the character being gay were true) it didn’t work out; the fans wanted Jughead to remain Jughead and not become some Lothario like Archie. Was Jughead and Betty as an item floated by several Archie Comics writers/artists? Yes. If you go back to the ‘40s, you’ll find Archie covers with Betty flirting with Jughead (with Jughead not falling for it) and throughout the years, you’ll find Jughead show a little warmth towards Betty, not just because he pitied her for always pining for Archie (who was always chasing Veronica instead of her), but because she was his friend and he knew she deserved someone nice and caring in her life. He was the only person to recognize Betty’s worth even when Betty herself didn’t recognize it. (He certainly knew she deserved better than someone like Archie, and he’s Archie’s best friend!) In one comic, Jughead even went as far as to say that if he did like girls like that, he’d definitely consider Betty over anyone else.

But, keep in mind, he said “IF” he liked girls like that. Despite all of the behind-the-scenes shipping the Archie writers and artists had when they took over their own strips or stories, Jughead has remained girlless. Instead, he’s always been a good, close friend to Betty, an enemy to Veronica, and scared of Ethel (who loved him despite the horrible treatment he’d put her through to escape her). Being above the fray of relationships has been Jughead’s distinct hallmark as a character. That was definitely understood when Chip Zdarsky made Jughead canonically asexual. It fits Jughead’s personality and characterization to a T.

But to make Jughead not asexual, or at the very least averse to being in relationships regardless of his sexuality, shows  distinct misunderstanding of Jughead’s character. There’s a lack of understanding of what makes Jughead great. The fact that Riverdale is written in part by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who is a self-professed Archie mega-fan, should mean that Aguirre-Sacasa understands what makes the characters tick. He should know what makes the characters who they are. Making Jughead part of the muck of relationships shows a lack of understand about who the character is and where the character is now in terms of our current discourse about sexuality, representation, and diversity. Making Jughead just like everyone else makes him a completely different guy who just so happens to be wearing the classic whoopee cap. (Well, it’s a knit version of the classic whoopee cap, but same difference.)

Also, in the dream sequence scene, in which everyone is done up in classic Archie drag, Jughead dreamed of Betty wearing a wedding band. Again, we’re taking Jughead further and further away from what makes him him. STOP IT, SHOW.

Okay, back to the touching moments of the show.

Overall, this seemed like a half-filler, half-substantive episode, but what stood out to me were Veronica and Jughead’s problems with their parents. First, Veronica’s mom Hermione wrongly forged her name to the contract allowing Fred to get the construction job at the old drive-in. Why a mother would do something like that, I’ll never know. Why it needed to be done with this particular thing, especially since Hermione already has Mayor McCoy in her back pocket, is kinda weird to me. Couldn’t the both of them just collude to forge an entirely new document or something? I don’t know. But Veronica has every reason to be angry with Hermione, and while I’m not sure how clubbing works with getting back at your mom, Veronica’s monologue about how Hermione took the last thing that belonged to her—her name—was a deep moment for this character in particular.

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The other moment of the night was Jughead dealing with his dad F.P. F.P. is going through it and has been since Fred fired him. But F.P. was already doing some shady dealings anyway—maybe with the Serpents, perhaps?—but now F.P. is a drunken mess and his wife left with Jellybean, leaving Jughead behind to fend for himself. We find out in this episode that ever since the drive-in closed, Jughead’s been living in a school supply closet.

Finally, Archie got out of his own issues long enough to find out that Jughead’s not at home, and ultimately, he and Fred give Jughead a place to stay so he won’t have to stay with his dad. But until we get to that point (which involves Jughead getting pulled into the sheriff’s office for having the sheriff’s murder board), Jughead actually does go back home long enough to talk F.P. into working for Fred again. Archie does what he needs to do to get his dad to give F.P. another chance, and for the most part, things are as smooth as they can be between two Fred and F.P., two former best friends.

When we get to the part of the episode where Jughead gets pulled out of the sheriff’s office thanks to Fred covering for him by saying Jughead was working for him (which means Fred’s now technically a criminal too, since he’ll have to forge timecards for Jughead), we finally get to some ACTING. Not to say folks haven’t been acting before, but if we’re going to be a melodrama, let’s actually get to the DRAMA, not the shenanigans and antics. Jughead wants to trust his dad, who has broken his promises to get his act together over and over again, but F.P. looks so sorrowful and pitiful that Jughead, who is clearly angry with his father, still decides to give him another chance. I thought that was a great moment for a character who naturally leans towards the more soulful mindset anyway.

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I know I’ve skipped all around Polly and the baby and the Blossoms and the Coopers–frankly, I’m caring less and less about this baby and Polly. If Polly ends up being the killer, then I’ll end up being intrigued in her life once again. #Sorryaboutit.

(And yes, I’m planning on recapping/reacting to this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. As a superfan, it’s a show I should have recapped/reacted to long before now.)

Other things of note: We had our first sighting of Ginger Lopez!

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Will we see more of her? I hope so.

Also, we’ve seen some more of Reggie!

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I can’t wait for his storyline to open up. Since the show has the Season 2 greenlight, they’d better give us more Reggie (and possibly Josie/Reggie).

Lastly, I really did like the dream sequence. I know it’d be a sexist storyline, but if the show was literally a hyper-realistic version of the old-school comic book, I’d watch the heck out that. The dream sequence art direction was really nice. Check it out:

What did you think of that episode? Are you sick and tired of Betty and Jughead? And why are fans calling Lili Reinhart “Daddy”? (I legitimately want to know that question.) Leave your comments and answers in the comments section below!

“Riverdale” react: Let’s talk about Jughead’s sexuality

How do we feel about Jughead and Betty as an item? (CW)

Riverdale Episode 6 | “Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!” | Aired March 2, 2017

As I wrote before, love was in the air on the latest episode of Riverdale, Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!” and maybe it’s just me, but one of my early criticisms of the show thus far is that it is trying wildly hard to impress as the new pulpy, soapy teen show on TV, so much so that it overshoots its mark on several occasions. The first two were involving Chuck and Ms. Grundy, the third being how ridiculously evil the parents of Riverdale are towards their kids (as explained by Black Girl Nerds’ Chelsea A. Hensley). The fourth mark against the show is how Jughead’s sexuality has been treated.

For those of us in the know (which includes a lot more kids and teens than I gave Archie Comics credit for despite being a fan of the comic when I myself was a preteen, which means its rebranding as a fresh new comic book franchise has paid off in dividends), Jughead has been officially canonized as asexual. We don’t have to speculate over his sexuality anymore (although, I have to admit that creating your own headcanon for Jughead was kinda fun–there was one point early in my Archie Comics fandom that I would swear that Jughead and Betty would hook up, then I felt like Jughead and Veronica could make a good opposites attract pairing that clearly wouldn’t last long but would have huge fireworks, then when Kevin came along, I would swear that Jughead and Kevin would be together through their shared love of burgers and competitive eating.)

In any event, Jughead being clearly defined as asexual (and maybe, in an unspoken fashion, also canonized as aromantic seeing how he hates the idea of relationships outside the realm of close friendship) put a lot of Jughead’s behavior and preferences into focus. It all made sense. Why wouldn’t Jughead be asexual? In fact, he’s always been asexual, even though the 1940s didn’t have a name for it yet. What’s even better about the current run of “Jughead” though–aside from the sharp wit and seriously laugh-out-loud moments, is that Jughead is portrayed as a confident, imaginative, semi self-absorbed teenager whose priorities include loafing, playing video games, eating, and hanging out with his best friend Archie. Everything and everyone else can kick rocks, especially Reggie, Jughead’s historic nemesis-now-turned-frenemy. In short, Jughead has become even more Jughead-like, and part of that is due to cementing his sexuality.

Now, though, that positive step towards representation and sexual diversity has been shortchanged by “Riverdale” making Jughead kiss Betty, thereby starting a romantic, sexually-implied relationship. Now, of course, there are various types of asexuality, which does include kissing, but as a character, Jughead has never shown an inkling towards liking kissing, let alone willingly engage in it. This TV characterization of Jughead goes too far—it has begun erasing the core of what made Jughead great.

I wrote a little bit about my feelings about Jughead and Betty’s moment as a Twitter moment:

Of course, as I say in my Twitter thread, I am not asexual so while what I have to say may be well-intentioned, it certainly isn’t the end-all-be-all of opinions. Enter Jordan Crucchiola, who wrote “An Asexual’s Defense of Jughead Kissing Betty on Riverdale” for Vulture. She writes that Jughead is allowed to be a character who is still discovering his own sexuality.

An important thing to consider is that Jughead’s preferences are being reduced to whether or not he is asexual, which takes away from the nuance of the asexual spectrum, which is wide and varied. Some of the better articles discussing Jughead’s orientation point out that he might not necessarily be aromantic, even if he is asexual. I, for example, identify as a pan-romantic gray asexual. That means I’m capable of having nonsexual crushes on anyone, regardless of gender or sex, and that my asexuality isn’t written in stone. There’s that “gray” area where I’m philosophically flexible. I am not motivated by sexual desire, and have never had any sexual partners, but I do experience deep love through my friendships and have experienced many instances of “crushing” on people I take a strong liking to.

I am also a very affectionate person, and many asexual individuals appreciate, enjoy, and seek out physical feedback from others, just like gay, straight, or bi individuals do. The ultimate end game just looks different than we’ve been taught to expect in health class, on TV, and in the movies. It’s about setting the correct boundaries with people in your life who are comfortable sharing such closeness without it leading to a sexual relationship. It takes some searching for the right people, but it can be done.

Again, I’m not asexual and I highly respect Jordan’s view on this subject. With that said, though, let me just say this: Jordan states at the end of her article that she hopes that the writers are going in the direction of eventually making Jughead understand and realize his sexual orientation, and I certainly hope so as well. But the one thing that irks me the most is that while Jughead might be given the “let him find his way” scenario, Kevin, who is also in a similar boat as far as sexual representation goes, is never portrayed in that way. Kevin, on the other hand, gets the straight-up (no pun intended) confident gay teen storyline, a storyline that would have been the “let him find his way” storyline just 10 years ago or less. The fact that Kevin being gay is played as passe while Jughead’s canonical sexuality seems, at least on the surface, is ignored, is a sticking point.

Some of this is addressed in a thread by Twitter user TheShrinkette, who states in her Twitter profile that she identifies as gray aromantic asexual.

Cole Sprouse, who portrays Jughead in the series, gave his his opinion on the controversy, showing his in-depth Jughead knowledge in the process. First, according to Bleeding Cool:

I think, first and foremost, this conversation deserves more time than something that we can quickly do here. There are two forms of representation Jughead has received over time. In [Chip] Zdarsky’s Jughead, he’s asexual. That’s the only Jughead where he is asexual. He’s aromantic in the digests, which is a different thing but deserves attention as well.

But what I found when I was really diving in — because once we started putting Jughead and Betty together, I started doing research to see if that was a narrative that even existed in the digests, and it turns out it is. It’s a narrative that’s existed for a long time. There are a handful of digests in which Jughead would say things like, ‘Oh, Betty, if I did like women, I guarantee you would be the one I would marry outright. You are the best person around.’ He would say these things that are really romantic and cute with an appreciation for Betty and I think it’s become clear to me now that Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] has taken off with that trend.

While I think that representation is needed, this Jughead is not that Jughead. This Jughead is not Zdarsky’s Jughead and this Jughead is not the aromantic Jughead,” he said. “This Jughead is a person who is looking for a kind of deeper companionship with a person like Betty and Betty ends up being this super nurturing, caring, care-taking person that with Jughead’s screwed-up past they end up diving into each other and it ends up being a beautiful thing.

How are people going to respond? Truthfully, they’re probably going to be quite incendiary about it at first. Do I think that’s ill-placed? No. Do I think they should give it a shot? Yeah, I do, because I think now — after filming thirteen episodes — it makes sense to me and, if it makes sense to me as the person who’s dumping so much time and especially so much argumentation into trying to represent Jughead correctly, if it makes sense to me, it will make sense to other people as well.

Also, here’s what he said to Glamour before the show in February:

So, the day I was cast was actually the same day he was announced as canonically asexual. It wasn’t in the digest—it was in Zadarsky’s universe, so it was in one of the newer comics that was written. But Jughead’s always been a romantic in a way that he, in the earlier comics, stayed away from girls and put his attention toward his food fetishism. So he’s always kind of had this narrative, but when I started doing my research into Jughead’s sexuality specifically there’s always been little areas where he got close enough to potentially suggest that he might like either Betty or Ethel, or even some comics where he gets kissed by Veronica. I don’t think it was really cemented in the digest too much what stance Jughead took.

I think, in this show, he’s not a romantic and not asexual. I argued in the beginning, creatively, that he should be both, but in this show, he’s kind of a tortured youth that ends up finding a comfort and a resonance with another person who’s going through a lot of trauma. They end up forming this kind of beautiful, honest union, and I think that, to me, is a narrative that works with this universe of Jughead. But I think that kind of asexual and a-romantic representation is really important. If it ends up finding a place in Riverdale and in future seasons, then hopefully we’ll do it with tact and in a way that respects what it is and how it resonates.

It should also be noted that Sprouse did fight for Jughead to be asexual and, as far as I believe—and from what his quotes suggest—is still fighting for Jughead to be asexual.

With all of this said, what do you think? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

“Riverdale” react: Love is in the air for Archie and Valerie

Archie and Valerie are canon! (CW/screengrab)

Riverdale Episode 6 | “Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!” | Aired March 2, 2017

Love is here! But love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be some cases. And by “some cases,” I’m talking about Jughead and Betty. Jughead “Archie Comics’ first asexual character” Jones. Read more about the controversy behind that kiss here.

In other news, Archie and Valerie are together! Whoo! Canon seems to stay around when it’s involving traditional sexual couples! The double standard between utilizing new canon featuring Archie and Valerie’s relationship and disregarding the new canon stating Jughead is asexual is…fascinating. And by “fascinating,” I mean “annoying.”

But for what it is, I’m glad Archie and Valerie have finally tied the knot, as it were. They were circling each other like sharks for two whole episodes. I was hoping the tension wouldn’t be drawn out indefinitely, because I don’t really need to see the triangle gain steam, as much as it was trying to with Veronica’s jealousy peeking its head. Thankfully, she didn’t have long to focus on Valerie, since her mother and Archie’s dad are smashing now and Veronica can’t take her mother’s infidelity. The threat of Archie and Veronica possibly becoming stepsiblings has killed the romance. (I hope. Don’t let this become like the ending of Clueless, writers.)

In the comics, Valerie was good for Archie and in the live-action version, Valerie is still good for Archie. She supports his dreams with a gentle, guiding presence. In both the comics and Riverdale, Archie seems to respond to that approach the most (dare I call it a motherly approach, which could lead to some possible Oedipal stuff since in Riverdale, Archie’s own mother isn’t in the picture). Since Valerie has given so much of herself to Archie, Archie in turn starts to give a lot of himself to her, mainly by stopping his selfish tendencies to hoard everyone’s attention and time. He realizes that Valerie feels lost without the Pussycats, despite her own decision to leave after fighting with Josie. Instead of keeping this knowledge to himself and simply using Valerie for her talents, he decides to get her back in the group so she can be her best self. He wants to see her shine. He cares!

Now, the question is how far and how monogamous are the writers going to keep this relationship? Is Archie going to eventually go full f*ckboy on Valerie, as he does in the comics just once, and is Valerie going to have to get him in line like in the comics? (Hopefully not with a slap, as in the comics, but she’s gotta pull some non-code-switching Black Woman Strictness at some point if she wants Archie to actually be a good boyfriend who doesn’t try to chase both Betty and Veronica at the same time.) I’m intrigued. I hope, though, that live-action Archie is a lot sweeter and less dickish than comic book Archie. He seems like a sweet guy; I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

What did you think of Valerie and Archie finally kissing? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

“Riverdale” react: We’re getting Archie and Valerie!

“Riverdale” Episode 5 | “Heart of Darkness”| Aired Feb. 22, 2017

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This was a fascinating episode. Not just for the drama-filled funeral for Jason (which provided us more backstory on Cheryl and her awful parents), but it also gave us the beginnings of the canonical Archie/Valerie relationship!

In the comic books, Archie writer/artist asserted his own headcanon that Archie actually ends up with Valerie, with Betty and Veronica finally coming to terms with the new monogamous relationship (of course, Valerie actually has to slap some sense into Archie, literally, to make him realize that unlike Betty and Veronica, she will not be played with). Looks like we’re getting into that canon, and I’m excited for it.

Personally, I have to admit that I’ve been rooting for Josie and Archie, mostly because Ashleigh Murray looks like how I’d envision Valerie to look and act in real life (dark skin, more coily hair, can back up her talk with her walk). Of course, I’m not saying that the actress playing Valerie, Hayley Law, is terrible. In fact, it was great seeing another black girl other than Josie finally get more than one line of dialogue in this show. But I hope that the show doesn’t pull a colorism thing in which the darker-skinned girl ends up with nobody and the lighter skinned girl with the blue eyes gets the hot, sensitive guy on the football team. That wouldn’t be cool. Since it looks like Josie’s not ending up with Archie, let Josie and Reggie become a thing. Murray would certainly co-sign it, for sure (and Ross Butler, too, since he retweeted her tweet about her lusting over Reggie).

Since Valerie’s becoming a bigger player in the show, her brother Trev is also getting more shine as well. And here I thought we’d never see him again after he was used as the Anti-Chuck in his inaugural episode. It seems like the Trev/Betty dynamic (also part of Parent’s Archie canon) is being set up as well, but Betty seems way too conniving right now to actually be interested in Trev seriously. I mean, she certainly think he’s cute and all, but she’s way more interested in the information he has and how she can use him to her ends than actually dating him. Meanwhile, he seems to be way more interested in her romantically. Poor guy.

One thing I did like about this episode in regards to Cheryl is that we finally get some more clarity as to why she’s always a bitch. Turns out her whole family is that way, especially her mother, who has a serious death wish for her daughter. Everyone in that family seems to have clung to Jason in an absolutely ridiculous way, and now that the Golden Child is gone, everyone in the family (except for the grandmother) is pinning all the blame on Cheryl, who has always been the black sheep, apparently.

Also, the only reason Cheryl has exalted her brother so highly is because he was the only one to treat her like a human being. Now that Jason isn’t around to protect her, Cheryl’s getting messed with all the time at home, to the point that she’s not even allowed to go to Jason’s funeral. Of course, with Veronica’s help, she still ends up going, but all of this blame being put on Cheryl isn’t fair. Turns out she’s only a bully at school because she has to work out her aggression on somebody. Is it healthy? No. But it brings some much-needed characterization to an otherwise static and stereotypical character.

Lastly, let’s talk about Betty’s dad. Turns out the mom might not the only loose cannon in the house. We learn that Betty’s dad’s family and the Blossoms have a blood feud, starting the day Grandfather Blossom killed Grandfather Cooper over their maple syrup business. First, I know people can make a killing off of maple syrup, but it just sounded ridiculous coming out of Betty’s dad’s mouth. I thought he was going to say something like “real estate” or “paper” or “oil” or something. Anything but “maple syrup.” Second, Betty starts putting two and two together and realizes that her dad, the only person who wasn’t present at the last night of the drive-in, was the person stole Sheriff Keller’s clue board. That means Betty’s dad could very well be Jason’s killer.

Speaking of the drive-in, where is Jughead living nowadays? We learned some startling truths about him, mainly that his dad is the head of the local gang, something must have happened to Jughead’s sister Jellybean (is she dead?), and now that the drive-in’s closed, Jughead is now…living on the street? Where is he taking shelter? And why hasn’t any of his friends come to his aid? Or has he not ever told his friends that he’s living in the drive-in? And where’s his mom? Where are any of his relatives (because if you’ve read the comics, you know he’s got a few zany ones that pop up every now and then)? So many questions, and no answers.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Give your opinions below!

The only romance on “Riverdale” I’m rooting for is Kevin/Joaquin

Riverdale Episode 4 |”The Last Picture Show”| Aired Feb. 16, 2017

Joaquin and Kevin are the only relationship I want to see succeed on this show (so far). (CW/screengrab)

After discussing the horror that is the Ms. Grundy/Archie “romance” subplot, let’s cleanse our palettes a little and talk about a more appropriate romance. I’m talking about Kevin and his new boo, Joaquin.

I’m all about living vicariously through Kevin and Joaquin’s romance. It hits all of the classic “teen romance” buttons to a T, as well as provide some progress in the realm of TV representation. Let’s talk about them in bulleted form.

Joaquin’s the bad boy with a heart of gold

Joaquin is the perfect high school “bad boy.” (CW/screengrab)

There’s nothing that gets to teens quicker than falling in love with the guy who seems like (or actually is) the guy you shouldn’t have anything to do with. Joaquin’s that guy; not only does have the “tall, dark and handsome” thing going for him in the looks department, but he’s also a member of the Serpents, the local gang (whose leader, surprise surprise, is Jughead’s father). With Joaquin being a gang member, Kevin literally should stay far away from him. But he didn’t know that before he started snogging him, so now the danger is being treated as an added bonus to their relationship.

However, despite Joaquin’s “You’re not so strong without your beard” fakeout, it seems like Joaquin might not be such a bad dude. In quite a few ways, Kevin seems like the male Betty—he’s the classic “boy next door” type—and whether or not he has secrets to spill later on in the season, it seems like Kevin’s one of the few characters with his head on straight. If Joaquin is attracted to that, as well as to Kevin’s penchant for boldness (such as when he shushed the Serpents at the drive-in), then there’s got to be some goodness in Joaquin at the end of the day. At least I’m hoping that’s the case; I don’t want Kevin getting hurt.

Joaquin and Kevin = Romeo and Juliet

The lovebirds from two warring factions is such an old trope, but it’s a trope that always works. The push and pull of whether the couple in question will make it is what keeps us entertained and enthralled. Usually, the couple doesn’t work out. But we always hope for the best with each new Romeo and Juliet-esque couple. Joaquin and Kevin are no different. Once we learned that that they were going to be together, the questions began to circle. How are they going to keep this relationship up? What happens when the Serpents and/or Kevin’s dad, Sheriff Keller, find out about this relationship? I hate to think about the worst possible scenarios. Let’s hope that, somehow, Joaquin is able to get out of the gang and these two are able to happily ride off into the sunset together.

The fact that it’s treated as a normal romance

These guys weren’t given a salacious storyline; they were treated just like any other couple on TV, which is great. (CW/screengrab)

Thanks to the Shondaland-centric TGIT block on ABC, we’ve seen a lot of normalizing of same-sex relationships, which is great. I’m not completely sure as to how much of that we’ve seen on a teen-skewing network like CW, but it seems like there hasn’t been much, which is highly ironic. If the CW is all about listening to what the teens want, you’d think there would have been a show with a high-profile same-sex relationship by now. But I guess the network is skewing more towards what they think straight teen girls want to watch.

In any case, the CW is finally in the arena with Joaquin and Kevin’s relationship. Thankfully, it’s not treated any differently than any relationship Veronica, Betty, or Archie might have. Even more refreshing was how Sheriff Keller treated his son. There wasn’t any familial drama about Kevin being gay, and his dad didn’t have any stereotypical “I’m a good dad but I’m still getting used to my son being gay” qualms about himself. Seeing Kevin’s dad worry about him and tell him not to run off with any boys at the drive-in was very sweet. It’s a shame that seeing a parent act like a parent toward their gay son is such a rarity on TV, but let’s hope that we get more scenes with Kevin and his dad in the future, as well as more scenes of supportive parents on TV in general.

It’s fun drama

At the end of the day, Riverdale is nighttime soap, and what better way to up the soap factor than to have a character in a relationship with a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks? You can’t help but love storylines like that.

What do you love about Kevin and Joaquin? Are you excited to see more of them? Give me your comments below!

“Riverdale” react: Let’s hope Ms. Grundy never comes back

Riverdale Episode 4| “The Last Picture Show”| Aired Feb. 16, 2017

This image is not cool. This storyline was never cool. (CW)

It’s been a week since the episode “The Last Picture Show” aired, but I’ve been sitting on this gripe for too long, and I’ve got to let it out now, even if it might be old news. Ms. Grundy can never come back, because that plot line was the worst thing ever.

Let’s go over why it was the worst thing ever: Chiefly, it was because Ms. Grundy (or whatever her real name is, since the actual Ms. Grundy died years ago) is a full-fledged predator. Technically, she’s a ephebophile, someone who is attracted to “pubescent or post-pubescent youths,” but regardless, she’s a predator taking part in illegal activity. As a character, Archie has always been 16 years old, and as such, he’s clearly under the legal age for a relationship with an adult. So when Mrs. Cooper did her darnedest to get Ms. Grundy arrested and sent to jail, I applauded her for it. Ms. Grundy deserves to go to jail.

Throughout she and Archie’s “relationship,” Ms. Grundy has always been creepy, to say the least. Not only was she having an illegal dalliance with an underage teenager, but she used that relationship to emotionally control him. I’d go so far as to say that she emotionally abused him. She kept him from telling anybody about what he knew about the gunshot heard on the day of Jason’s death, and then she kept him from questioning her about her false identity too much by revealing how her ex-husband had abused her, a story I don’t believe. It was all too convenient, and anything she said that was supposed to get us on her side went out the window once she stared those muscular guys (who looked like either old-looking, muscular teens or just muscular young 20-year-olds) as she was getting in her car to leave town.

Overall, the handling of the plotline was quite irresponsible and excused criminal behavior as just a “lapse in judgement or a “bad decision.” Ms. Grundy not only had sex with a minor (which I again remind you is a jailable offense), but she also stole another woman’s identity. On top of all of that, she had a gun in her car, possibly evidence in the Jason Blossom case. There’s literally no way Ms. Grundy should be able to escape town on literally no charges.

There could be an argument made of this being a case of “white woman sympathizing,” as in Ms. Grundy being allowed white privilege by the script (consciously or unconsciously) in order to escape going to jail. But I think it’s more likely just overzealous writing. It was a case of trying to get every kind of “OMG”moment in the show instead of judiciously picking the types of moments that actually advanced the story. The Ms. Grundy-Archie plotline might have made for eyebrow-raising headlines in order to get people to tune in to the pilot, but once that plot played its only card, it was over. It quickly became a meandering and ultimately squandered story.

Riverdale writers: You overreached mightily on this one. The show is already an edgy teen drama; you guys don’t have to go overboard to try to convince us of this show’s juicy dramatic qualities. I mean, this show is a freaking murder-mystery—there are tons of secrets to uncover. All y’all have to do is just tell us the story in a fun, sometimes campy, yet convincing way. That’s all I require.

Above all, please don’t let Ms. Grundy come back. But, if she does, then she has to go to jail. If she’s able to escape scot-free a second time, I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it at all.