(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if you haven’t watched Thursday’s episode of “Riverdale”)
Thursday’s episode of “Riverdale” gave us our first real glimpse at the dark side of Betty Cooper, a surprise given the character’s traditionally wholesome image.
The innocent blonde reveals a vengeful side when she teams up with the other girls of Riverdale High (including Ethel Muggs, portrayed by “Stranger Things” breakout Shannon Purser) to destroy the jocks who have taken advantage of them in exchange for bragging rights and points in a “playbook.”
When Veronica finds herself the latest victim, Betty is the one who ends up taking the revenge a little too far, slipping into what appears to be a dissociative episode, and nearly drowning someone in the process.
“My jaw dropped,” Reinhart told TheWrap, describing reading the scene for the first time. “When you read something that crazy, you’re still sort of recovering from that shock for like an hour afterward … I just wasn’t expecting it so early on in the season.”
But as the season went on, she said, the reasoning behind the writers’ decision to give a glimpse of Betty’s dark side as early as the third episode started to become clear.
“It’s a big plot point throughout Season 1,” Reinhart said. “It makes sense that it has to happen early, so that the audience can see that she’s dealing with this alter ego. An aggressive bad-girl side.”
“That’s important to keep in mind with Betty’s character — she’s constantly battling this one demon. Her suppressed aggressiveness,” she continued, adding that the character is more likely to lose control when she “succumbs to all of her anxieties.”
Those issues aren’t being helped at all by the character’s complicated home life. Betty is singularly driven by her desire to find out what really happened to her sister Polly while she was away for the summer. And Reinhart says the character isn’t willing to just believe her parent’s story.
“She knows that something’s wrong, because her sister wouldn’t just abandon her without any explanation. She knows that her parents are hiding something from her,” she said, describing her actions throughout the first half of the season as that of a “little sleuth.”
Betty is driven to find out what really caused her sister to be sent away — and how her very public breakup with Jason Blossom factors in — in defiance of her parents, especially her mother, Alice.
“Alice is a very aggressive, overbearing mother … But you come to find out that there’s a lot more to Alice than meets the eye,” Reinhart said. “She herself has a lot of demons, and there is a reason why she’s so overprotective of her daughters.”
“[She’s] extremely manipulative, and Betty was kind of able to confront that manipulation in a way that Polly wasn’t,” she said.
The tension between Betty and Alice will have to come to a head eventually, in a clash that Reinhart describes as a “battle” in an ongoing “mother-daughter war.”
“Betty is very much struggling with anxiety and the need to be perfect, and the need to have her shit together all the time,” she said. “She feels like she can’t break down, or she can’t show weakness, especially in front of her mom.
“Riverdale” airs 9 p.m. Thursdays on The CW.