A lot of confusing stuff happens on Riverdale, but one of the show’s weirdest choices was always how it treated Josie and the Pussycats. The girl group is a massive part of the Archie-verse, and they played a pretty prominent role in the first couple seasons of the show... but then they suddenly disappeared. First, Valerie Brown (Hayley Law) and Melody Valentine (Asha Bromfield) vanished in the middle of Season 2; then, Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) left town at the end of Season 3. But now, at long last, the Pussycats got their time to shine in Riverdale’s “Return of the Pussycats” episode.
Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers from Riverdale Season 5, Episode 15, “Return of the Pussycats.” It was all about the music when Josie made her big return to Riverdale, and fans finally got to find out what long-lost Pussycats Valerie and Melody had been up to all these years. It turns out Jughead wasn’t the only prolific author to come out of Riverdale, as Melody found major success as a YA novelist. She still lives with her bestie Valerie, who works as a barista while aspiring to make it big as an actor or artist. The big success story, though, is Josie, who blew up into an international singing superstar in the years since leaving Riverdale.
The trio’s long-awaited reunion delivered tons of iconic musical performances, but the real treat was seeing Josie confront her high school classmates over how they mistreated her, and then seeing Valerie and Melody confront Josie over the same issues. When Archie, Veronica, Betty, Jughead, and Cheryl tried to convince Josie to put on a concert to save the town literal minutes after she reunited with them, she pointed out that they really were never all that close back in the day, so why should she save them? She recalled last seeing Jughead when he was putting her life in danger while robbing Pop’s, and how Cheryl traumatized her by gifting her a pig’s heart. But the real blow came when she got to Betty: “You and I have spoken all of, what, one time in high school?”
The moment was a clear callout of how poorly the show treated Josie as a character, but she was far from the only sidelined Pussycat. Shortly after that scene, Valerie and Melody confronted Josie for totally ghosting them when she decided to go solo back in high school. After that moment in the middle of Season 2, Valerie and Melody no long appeared on the show, and there was never really an explanation about where they went or why.
This Pussycats-centric episode is long overdue, especially after Vanessa Morgan called out Riverdale for representation issues in mid-2020, around the time of the increased visibility of the Black Lives Matter movement. Morgan, who plays Toni Topaz, was the only Black series regular after Murray left the show, and she called out the series for paying her less than her co-stars and tokenizing her in storylines. Law, Murray, and Bromfield all expressed similar sentiments around this time..
“[Our characters] stand in the background and we have a lot of attitude, or we don’t talk. Or, we’re only included when we are uplifting white characters,” Bromfield said in a June 9, 2020, Instagram Live discussion with Lili Reinhart. “I’m so much more, and Black people are so much more, than support systems. It becomes toxic messaging when we are perpetuating this idea that there’s any less validity to my own life than yours, that my sole purpose in this world is to support someone who looks like you."
Shortly afterward, showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa promised Riverdale would do better by its characters and actors of color moving forward. So far in Season 5, Toni has taken on a more prominent role (although many argue she’s giving too much to a town that doesn’t give her enough), and now the Pussycats are getting their due, too.
New episodes of Riverdale air Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.