Last summer–in the wake of George Floyd’s murder which triggered yet another conversation in America about the treatment of Black people across industries–Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa promised Vanessa Morgan and Riverdale fans that he and the writing team would do better by her, the character Toni Topaz, and the other actors and characters of color on the show.
Now that we’ve reached the highly anticipated seven-year time jump in season 5, it’s possible to keep track of how well the writers are holding to that promise. In terms of Toni, it’s actually going rather well.
In a promo teaser for the time jump, Morgan expressed her enthusiasm for Toni’s next journey, stating:
Yeah, I’m so excited to evolve my character with this seven year time jump. I feel like she’s always had a desire to help people. My character is going to be pregnant this season, [but I can’t] give the details on who the father is or what the deal is there. Toni kind of has to face some friction between her and Cheryl.
But Morgan’s statement is just a taste of what’s going on with Toni in the rest of season five. The couple of episodes we’ve seen so far directly align her with both the mission to save Riverdale and the building mystery surrounding the Lonely Highway Abductor (disclaimer: that’s the name I’ve given the culprit not what the show is calling this person).
The Riverdale writers are doing right by Toni Topaz
Toni is going to be integral in a manner that not only sets her up to have her own storylines but also involves her perspective and opinions in substantial and impactful ways. And we’re already seeing that happen. Toni is Archie’s means of understanding the Riverdale he left behind, how it became the desolate town he’s witnessing, and it’s through her that he’s able to start enacting change.
But, thankfully, the Riverdale writers didn’t make the mistake of having Toni be the bearer of exposition, there to update Archie and do nothing else. As he says himself in “Chapter Eighty: Purgatorio”: “You’re as much a part of this as any of us.”
It’s not a throwaway line. Toni has been in Riverdale for the past three years doing what she can to help those around her. She’s a guidance counselor at Riverdale High, co-owner of the White Wyrm with the Serpents, owner of a trucking company that employs her gang, and is Serpent Queen.
Toni also organized the effort to save the high school, came up with the idea to turn it into a private school, and secured funding for it. She’s a boss in every sense of the word, and she certainly isn’t waiting for anyone to save her, her people, or the things she cares about. It’s exactly the kind of writing fans have been wanting for her for two seasons, and we’re finally getting it.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, my expectations have not only been met but surpassed. Riverdale fans referring to the show as “Tonidale” feels apt. At this point, she’s tied more closely to the town than the Core Four.
With the way Toni’s been written, there are so many possibilities for her character. The teaser hinted at her becoming the cheerleading coach for the River Vixens. With Hiram stepping down, maybe she could run for mayor. We could learn more about her trucking business since the traveling serial killer Betty was investigating could be a trucker passing through Riverdale.
Perhaps she’ll be the one able to get Alice to talk about what Polly’s been up to since they seem to have a relationship now. Toni might have employed Squeaky or at least know of her. There’s also the impending reveal of her baby’s father and how that might shake things up as well as the “will they-or-won’t they” of a Choni reunion.
As a fan of Toni Topaz, it’s so exciting to see her flourishing on Riverdale with the promise of more to come.
How do you think the Riverdale writers are doing with Toni Topaz’s character? Serve up your thoughts in the comments below!