With the MTV Movie & TV Awards fast approaching, it’s time to take a deeper look at the nominees for the most amorous category: Best Kiss. Two nominees are beloved couples hailing from highly regarded CW shows, Camila Mendes and KJ Apa, as Veronica and Archie from Riverdale, and Gina Rodriguez and Justin Baldoni, as Jane and Rafael from Jane the Virgin.
Although every relationship is a unique snowflake, contributing fresh ideas of love to the zeitgeist, it’s worth exploring: how different are these two nominees, anyway?
Sure, Riverdale is a twisted take on the long-running comics, and Jane is a satirical remake of a popular Venezuelan telenovela, but the teen drama seems to have taken more notes from the exotic soap opera than it has from the original happy-go-lucky Archie characters.
Just look at our two sets of lovebirds! Jane, our naïve heroine, fell for our tall, dark, and handsome, billionaire former playboy, Rafael, and Archie, our innocent hero, fell for our lean, dark, and beautiful, billionaire former socialite, Veronica.
Both couples overcame love triangles, navigated around their crime magnate families (which neatly ties together our heroes and villains), and survived kidnappings and hostage situations to reach their ultra-romantic, Best Kiss-worthy bliss.
For those keeping count, there are eight classic telenovela tropes in that description — and the comparison extends beyond these two couples. More Jane-esque characters, relationships, and plot twists are sprinkled throughout all of Riverdale.
Character-wise, both casts offer cunning frenemies, evil mothers, secret twins and evil twins, long-lost family members, and estranged family members. Relationships are all tinged with melodrama and every interaction is punctuated by intense emotion — be that positive or negative. As for the story line, gratuitous murder (20+ deaths in Riverdale over two seasons!), family feuds (Coopers versus Blossoms!), incest (Coopers with Blossoms), and unexpected pregnancy (Polly disappeared in Season 1 because she was what?!) are all tropes that have permeated both shows.
If it's not enough for the people and actions to be similar, let’s examine their storytelling techniques — both of which, of course, are aided by their all-knowing narrators, Riverdale's Jughead and Jane's Latin Lover Narrator, whose identity is yet to be revealed.
There are cliffhangers — Michael is alive?! Archie is arrested?! — and dream sequences that explore, "What if?" — don't say you weren't sweating when Jughead dreamt up his funeral after he miraculously survived that Ghoulie beatdown. "He wasn’t breathing when we left him," Penny Peabody said of Jughead's quick return from the dead. (Another common identifier of the telenovela is miraculously returning from the dead, but I digress.)
Riverdale even used the funny telenovela faux pas of replacing an actor without so much of a, "Did you get a haircut? You look different." (Ross Butler and Charles Melton look alike, but they're not twins.) And is their Spanglish infusion with the Lodge's frequent mijas an intentional nod to their story's Latin parallels, or just a happy coincidence?
We can go point-for-point all day, comparing Rose and Hal’s "You'll be back!" vows from behind bars, analyzing the over-the-top drama of Cheryl's Little Red Riding Hood wardrobe change to begin the Black Hood’s takedown, and dissecting the true romance of Toni breaking into the Sisters of Quiet Mercy through a conveniently intact tunnel in the woods to save her one true love from gay conversion therapy, culminating in their grand first kiss — but instead, here's one example that fully embodies Riverdale's easy use of the classic TV genre that Jane so informatively brought to the network.
Remember when the Blossoms — heirs of the Blossom Curse, which states one Blossom twin will often meet their demise at the hands of the other — held a public will reading after family patriarch Clifford Blossom's (alleged) suicide, and out of nowhere, in walks Clifford? Then Cheryl fainted, and the show cut to a commercial break, only to come back to reveal that, actually, this man was Claudius, Clifford's estranged twin that his own daughter didn't know about. To borrow a phrase from the Latin Lover, that was straight out of a telenovela!
All of this is to say, don't be surprised when absolutely everything we learned at the end of Riverdale's second season gets turned upside-down — but don't worry, because this crazy, twisty, dramatic route can only lead to one place: "And they all lived happily ever after." It's the telenovela way.