Dark Betty appearing in Riverdale season 2 is unsurprising. Her existence is probably one of the most intriguing parts of the show and she gives us more than what meets the eye, including mental health.
When Riverdale premiered this past January, it was initially looked at as a progressive, although subtle, teen drama. But to be perceived as something is different than actually going through with it.
Announcing that Kevin, the featured queer character from the revived comics, would be added to the famed trio cannot count as being progressive when the character seemingly fell off the face of the Earth sometime during the latter part of the first season. Nor is putting Jughead’s asexuality on the back burner when it could have easily been implemented from the start. Suddenly the elements that would have helped make this show more progressive were gone and we were left with a run-of-the-mill teen drama.
That is why Betty’s mental health cannot be something for later. You might argue to let the show breathe, let the show develop. It’s only starting its second season, give it a chance.
That’s true, but it’s also not an excuse. Like most illnesses, putting it off to deal with later only makes it worse.
The exploration of mental health on television is few and far between. But, to be fair, mental illnesses have been cropping up on television in recent years. Having a character struggle with a mental illness and watch them be proactive and seek appropriate help would be wonderful for The CW show, especially for their teen viewers. After all, murderers don’t have to be the only monsters lurking in Riverdale. Betty’s inner demons crave the spotlight and rather than let them fester, why not explore getting help? Being proactive is certainly within Betty’s natural personality.
Betty’s family is a mess at the moment and her inner demons are about to burst out. We’ve seen Betty turn into the Dark Betty persona that engages in dangerous behavior while also exhibiting anxiety and prescription pill use. Clues for season 2 allude to seeing more of these behaviors of Dark Betty, and fans are cheering.
Dark Betty is no doubt a fan favorite, and exploring Betty’s inner demons in a therapeutic fashion does not mean the natural badass within Betty needs to go. Both story lines can exist side by side. Betty can seek help while also emerging from that perfect daughter prison.
This past July Betty actress Lili Reinhart posted on Instagram a picture from one of the supernatural Archie spinoffs Jughead: The Hunger, where Jughead is a werewolf. Supernatural rumors for the show have existed pretty much since the beginning. From a zombie apocalypse to witchcraft (fellow comic strip favorite Sabrina the Teenage Witch is (possibly) planned to make a visit). Riverdale has a host of supernatural possibilities at its fingertips.
While Lili might simply be catching up on some comic book reading, my concern is Riverdale might take the easy way out and use supernaturals as an excuse for Betty’s behavior. With filming for the second season is well underway — season 2 premieres Oct. 11 — the Riverdale actress notes Betty’s mental health in an interview with Glamour:
“Roberto and I have already talked about doing that [exploring Betty’s mental health] in season two, possibly Betty seeking treatment or seeking help. Because it’s not something you brush under the rug. Certainly for me, I came to a point where I told my parents I wanted to see a therapist and a psychiatrist and see if there was medication I could [go on]. I was very proactive, and I think showing a strong young woman who is willing to seek help…you don’t see that.”
Reinhart herself has suffered from low grade anxiety and depression and sees the importance in exploring it in a proactive way. Normally I would take this as a sure sign mental health will be addressed, but with the way the show has so far handled Kevin’s presence and Jughead’s sexuality, I can’t help but worry that this too will go on the back burner for later.