Warning: Riverdale spoilers ahead.
Cheryl Blossom had a huge moment on Riverdale two weeks ago when she came out of the closet. Well, that was the implication, at least. Viewers were surprised (or maybe not so surprised?) to see Riverdale High’s resident mean girl open up to Toni Topaz, a South Side Serpent, about how she was in love with her middle-school best friend, Heather. Toni, who’s bisexual, had been gunning for Cheryl’s attention—just as friends—the entire episode, and things reached a fever pitch at Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe toward the end, where Cheryl told this story in excruciating, emotional detail.
Which included mother Penelope’s reaction to Cheryl’s pubescent crush. She wasn’t pleased, to put it lightly: Cheryl said Penelope caught her and Heather sleeping in the same bed one night and called them “deviant” because of it. The homophobic implications here aren’t exactly subtle, and they carried on to last night’s episode, where Penelope acted cold and rude toward Toni at Clifford’s will reading and later at dinner.
A quick refresher for those who missed the episode: Clifford’s hidden will revealed that Cheryl inherits half his fortune and Penelope only gets Thornhill, which was burned to the ground last season. We were also introduced to Clifford’s twin, Claudius, whom the family lost contact with decades ago but has now returned for sketchy reasons only Penelope knows.
More on that later, though. For now, let’s focus on Penelope and Cheryl’s tense relationship, which, surprisingly, isn’t rooted in just homophobia. Nathalie Boltt, who plays Penelope Blossom on Riverdale, says her character is acting out mostly from fear of losing Cheryl.
“I think when Penelope sees Cheryl with Toni, that’s her child gone, you know?” Boltt told us earlier this week. “So, whether she actually believes that a gay relationship is right or wrong, I think, is separate to the fact that she sees her daughter leaving her. Toni is huge threat to her losing her daughter, so Penelope’s way of acting out is by calling her deviant and hurting her again.”
Hurt, Boltt says, is how Cheryl and Penelope communicate. Even though their family is in dire financial and emotional straits, the mother-daughter pair just can’t seem to come together.
“[Cheryl and Penelope have] had a really rough previous year, but at the same time, they can’t just say, ‘Please help me, I love you,’ or, ‘You’re the only thing I have in this world, can we be kind to each other?’ Instead they express themselves by acting out, and the acting out just gets worse and worse,” Boltt said.
The battle between Cheryl and Penelope will continue to next week’s episode, as well. Boltt says Penelope doesn’t take very well to Cheryl coming into her sexuality.
“Oh, unfortunately [Penelope] doesn’t evolve in a kind and compassionate way at all,” Boltt told us. “In true Penelope style, she will just use [Cheryl’s relationship with Toni] as a way of scheming against Cheryl and getting what she wants. Remember, Penelope wants back on top, she wants what she believes is rightfully hers, which is her inheritance. This week, we see that she inherited nothing, or thinks she inherited a burnt-down house, and everybody else got everything else. So, this is the worst possible thing that could happen to Penelope.”
How the Blossom matriarch retaliates is pretty heinous. “[Penelope’s] lost everything, and now she’s lost the one thing that she thought might bring her back, and so when she sees Cheryl behaving in a way that she can describe as deviant, that gives her an excuse to do her next chess move and kick her off the board, essentially, by taking her to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy and getting rid of her.”
She continues, “I think Penelope does have some bad feelings about this, but she overrides them because she’s so driven to just hate herself, she’ll even take her daughter out in the process. Or maybe she thinks she can make up for it at some later stage, in Penelope’s twisted mind. She’s doing what she needs to do for now, and Cheryl can just deal with it. That’s how Penelope thinks. It’s so wrong.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg for the Blossoms, too. They still have Claudius’ return to worry about. “I did not see that coming at all, but it does kind of feed into just how completely nuts the whole Blossom household is, and the fact that the Blossoms live in their own little world, where anything can happen,” Boltt said.
And “anything” might include this theory we tossed at Boltt during our talk: What if Clifford Blossom killed Claudius, made it look like a suicide, and assumed his identity?
“I wouldn’t put it past the Blossoms,” Boltt said. “I would not put it past them. Also, in the way Riverdale is written, it’s so rich, and there’s so much information and unexpected action that happens, that it’s definitely what keeps people on the edge of their seats and completely binge-watching and addicted to the show. You may have a point, you may have a theory that is as implausible as it is plausible.”
Regardless, though, Boltt assures us what happens next is “completely mad and quite hilariously twisted,” which, for Riverdale, is saying quite a lot.
Riverdale airs Wednesday nights at 8 P.M. ET on the CW.