WARNING: This article contains spoilers from tonight’s episode of Riverdale, ‘Chapter Sixteen: The Watcher in the Woods.’ Read at your own risk!
Kevin Keller took a bit of a backseat in the final episodes of Riverdale’s first season as Archie and the gang raced to find Jason Blossom’s killer – he didn’t even get to say a proper goodbye to Joaquin! But three episodes into our return to the “town with pep!” and Kevin Keller finally got the major story line fans have been wanting for the boy Veronica once dubbed the “gay best friend.”
Kevin’s moved on from Joaquin and how! Following his abridged relationship with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks (read: Southside Serpent), Kevin has taken to cruising Fox Forest at night, continuing to date dangerously and live his love life on the edge.
“At the end of the day, Kevin is just lonely and looking for a companion,” actor Casey Cott tells EW of Kevin’s proclivity for bad boys and potentially life-threatening dating choices. “Everyone around him has a companion. He’s just figuring out whatever way possible to meet someone and that’s essentially what’s at the bottom of it.”
By episode’s end, Kevin hasn’t found his OTP, but that doesn’t mean he won’t see more romantic interest this season. Cott is coy when asked about a potential return for Joaquin and closure on that front, as well as new love interests in town. “It will be fun to see what happens with Kevin and what people pop up in his life, and that’s all I can really say about that,” he says.
He could perhaps find love closer to home. This episode featured a sweet scene between Moose (recovering in the hospital from gunshot wounds at the hands of the Black Hood) and Kevin, who previously discovered Jason Blossom’s body together during a midnight lakeside tryst. The pair share clear romantic tension despite Moose’s girlfriend Midge.
“There’s an unspoken connection there amongst the two of them,” says Cott. “It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens with those two – even if it’s a budding friendship that pops up. It is a really cool, at the moment, friendship on the show.”
We also learned a little bit more about Kevin’s past this week. Turns out Archie Andrews isn’t the only Riverdale High student who is (relatively) newly hot – Kevin Keller is too! As Cheryl Blossom tells it, “Kevin used to be a lonely, awkward, fat boy with acne – now he’s a smoke show.” Cott promises we’ll see even more of Kevin’s awkward, spotty past later in the season. “[We’ll] hopefully see a little bit more of where he comes from and his family situation. I don’t know if we’re going to flashback to young Kevin, but we’ll see,” he teases.
While Cott was previously unaware of Kevin’s acne-filled youth, he says the revelation was his favorite line of the night because it bears so much similarity to his own past. “If you look up middle school photos of me, it’s pretty dead on, that description,” he laughs. “So I was very excited when I read that line. I laughed really hard.”
Part of Kevin’s new “smoke show” status is due to his desire to try out for the Riverdale High wrestling team – a story line Cott says there’s a “definite possibility” we’ll see more of.
Cruising Fox Forest sparked two major events in Kevin’s life – a split with his BFF, Betty Cooper, and a stronger bond with his father, Sheriff Keller. Betty frowns on Kevin’s casual liaisons in the woods and fears for his safety with the Black Hood on the loose. Though Kevin rebuffs Betty’s concerns, insisting she can’t understand how difficult it is to be a gay teen in Riverdale, he has his eyes opened to the dangers of the woods when he crosses paths with an aggressive man in a car whom he imagines stabbing him to death (and we briefly believe Kevin is Riverdale’s latest corpse). Is this creepy guy in the woods the Black Hood?
“As every episode unfolds, you just learn more about the Black Hood and who he could possibly be, and that scary encounter is what’s just going to start happening amongst all the characters in town because there’s really a serial killer on the loose and no one knows who it is,” says Cott. “I’m personally very happy that Kevin didn’t die in episode 3. It could have gone a lot worse. You never know in Riverdale who’s going to drop off next.”
Kevin didn’t lose his life, but he did lose his best friend – the end of the episode saw him turning his back on a penitent Betty. Cott promises the rift won’t last long.
“For maybe one of the first times the ball’s really in Kevin’s court,” he explains. “Betty’s definitely sorry and Kevin knows that. He just needs a little time, and once he’s ready they’ll be right back to the best buddies walking down the hallway. It’ll just take a minute and then they’ll be back to their perfect friendship. You can’t separate Betty and Kevin. You can try but it’s not going to work.”
If he’s on the outs with Betty, Kevin has strengthened his bond with his understanding father after his close call in Fox Forest. The two shared a touching scene ending with an embrace that left Kevin moved to tears. “That scene is the beginning of a new chapter in their relationship,” says Cott. “All of a sudden the channels of communication are open. There’s an underlying kind of awkwardness that my dad is the town sheriff and I am trying to solve these murders with my friends and the town kind of revolts against the sheriff sometimes – that scene definitely just brought it back down to ground zero.”
Still, at episode’s end our trusty voiceover narration suggests Kevin has been fundamentally changed by his time in Fox Forest. “I want to say he was changed because he finally stood up to Betty in the woods and then when he came back from the woods, his dad really took him in,” says Cott. “I also think he’s terrified – the terrifying car encounter, all those things created a reality that he’s not invincible and anything could happen.”
So does this mean we’ll lose wise-cracking Kevin, who often acts as the voice of the audience by calling out just how bonkers some of the stuff in Riverdale is? Well, some things in Riverdale never change.
“One of my favorite joys of playing Kevin is that he really does call a spade a spade,” explains Cott. “It’s pretty clear what he’s thinking about certain things and when people are being ridiculous. He’s always kind of there when the weirdest things happen, and he does sort of push away the fog, so to speak, (no pun intended) and call it how it is. And I love doing that.”
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.