After Riverdale’s finale, we’ll miss Cheryl the most

Riverdale -- “Chapter Ninety-Two: Band of Brothers” -- Image Number: RVD516fg_0019r -- Pictured: Madelaine Patsch as Cheryl Blossom -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Riverdale -- “Chapter Ninety-Two: Band of Brothers” -- Image Number: RVD516fg_0019r -- Pictured: Madelaine Patsch as Cheryl Blossom -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

The CW just announced that Riverdale is coming to an end after its upcoming seventh season, and, along with the loss of the intoxicatingly fun madness every week, Cheryl Blossom’s absence will hit the hardest.

Ever since the pilot of the series, Cheryl has always been one of the show’s most interesting characters, especially with her brother’s murder being the central mystery surrounding the first season. From the onset, she presented as a mean-girl cheerleader stricken with grief about her brother, seemingly without much substance beyond that. But, as the episodes began to unfold and her storyline fleshed out, she became more and more interesting.

During the show’s second season, Cheryl came out as a lesbian and eventually started a relationship with Toni Topaz. The relationship between Cheryl and Toni wasn’t always perfect or even treated well by the show all the time, but it was beyond impactful to have one of the most in-demand teen dramas of the past decade include an interracial relationship between a lesbian and a bisexual character.

Notably, the musical episode for season 3, “Chapter Fifty-One: Big Fun,” put the relationship between Cheryl and Toni on equal ground as the once-dominant Bughead, even splitting an iconic duet between the two relationships on “Seventeen.”

Additionally, the love scene between Cheryl and Toni during episode 15 of the third season marked a high for sapphic representation on The CW, giving them an extended scene with decent lighting, on par with the (Broadcast equivalent of) explicit scenes between the straight couples on the show.

When other CW shows wouldn’t even allow their sapphic couples to wake up in bed together (I’m looking at you, Supergirl…), Riverdale never shied away from allowing Cheryl and Toni to express their love for one another on-screen.

Even after Cheryl and Toni broke up, Cheryl continued to be an incredible lesbian representation, especially in the most recent season. The first half of season 6, which consisted of the Rivervale five-episode event, featured an entire episode dedicated to Cheryl’s lesbian ancestry through her lesbian-witch foremother Abigail.

Outside of Rivervale, Cheryl’s latest love interest is her middle school sweetheart. In the 14th episode of season 6, Riverdale gives Cheryl a slight reprieve from her witchy duties to spend time contemplating whether or not she should reach out to Heather, said middle school sweetheart, through the guidance of a Magic 8 ball. Even in the midst of all the RiverdaleAvengers ridiculousness, the show still finds the time to highlight Cheryl’s lesbian identity and make it extremely relatable.

Even something as small as Cheryl’s use of the word lesbian in the series is inspired, particularly in season 3 when she calls herself, “Riverdale High’s first openly lesbian Student Body President.” In many instances, the word lesbian and bisexual are often avoided on-screen, but Riverdale, or actress Madelaine Petsch, never shy away from saying the L-word.

Cheryl’s journey on the show has been nothing short of incredible, and her presence on the show has been so important for LGBTQ representation both on the network and beyond. Though, Cheryl’s in-universe journey isn’t the only reason why her character is so special; Madelaine Petsch has been an incredibly outspoken ally, advocating for the lesbian representation her character provides since the first season.

According to Petsch, Cheryl’s journey with her sexuality wasn’t something that was originally planned for the show, but instead something she brought to showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa during the first season. On an episode of The Drew Barrymore Show, Petsch said:

"I actually called the showrunner during the pilot and said, “I think Cheryl’s a lesbian, she doesn’t like men.” And he was like: “Great, let’s unpack that, let’s talk about it.” Sure enough, we had her come out in season 2, and I think that’s the coolest thing I’ve gotten to do as an actor so far, is have my art touch somebody’s life like that."

She went on to say that she just “knew in [her] gut,” that Cheryl was a lesbian after her character kissed a man during the first season. She applauds Aguirre-Sacasa for the open dialogue between the actors and himself, and says that they were trying to create a show that was “representative of what the world looks like.”

Petsch’s outspoken and thoughtful approach to ensuring lesbians felt seen within the world of Riverdale cannot be understated, and feels timely as the calls for only queer actors to play queer roles get louder and louder.

With the exception of trans characters needing to be played by trans actors, Petsch is the perfect example of allies becoming instrumental in queer representation, which will eventually open even more doors for queer voices to be seen and heard on screen and behind the scenes.

Overall, it’ll be extremely sad when Riverdale finally comes to an end in the spring of 2023 and we have to say goodbye to the epic highs and lows of high school football, but especially to the incredible queer representation, we’ve witnessed over its seven-season run. Cheryl’s presence will be missed on our screens, and Petsch’s allyship will be missed behind the scenes as she steps into the next phase of her career.

light. Related Story. How are Riverdale’s new villains affecting the show?

Riverdale airs on Sundays at 8/7c on The CW and streams the next day free on The CW App.