Heroic actor of the week (12/2): Madelaine Petsch

In the latest installment of Heroic Actor of the Week, we take a look at how Madelaine Petsch moved us with her emotional offering in this week’s Riverdale.

It’s been quite the week for comic book-inspired television hasn’t it? The CW’s Arrowverse shows set the Crisis in motion (an event that will be explored in the five-part crossover Crisis On Infinite Earths), the second season of DC Universe’s Titans came to an end and Angela Abar learned some more truths on HBO’s Watchmen.

However, in a rather surprising turn of events, this week’s strongest performance didn’t come from any of those shows and, instead, took place on a surprisingly subdued episode of a different comic book series.

That series, is none other than Riverdale.

Madelaine Petsch – Riverdale

Riverdale is known for its eccentric and off-the-wall characters – many of whom feel really at home around its eccentric and off-the-wall environment. One of those characters is undoubtedly Cheryl Blossom – the vivacious captain of the River Vixens who relishes the opportunity to powerfully strut down every hallway she crosses and stare daggers at the first person to get in her way.

Cheryl’s erratic personality constantly allows Madelaine Petsch to set the screen alight with a deliciously charismatic and campy performance that is every bit as larger-than-life as the character herself. But this week’s installment required something a little different.

A more serious offering “Chapter Sixty-Five: In Treatment” saw a number of students interviewed by guidance counselor Mrs. Burble (Suits and Pearson‘s Gina Torres) and it was this that prompted Cheryl to open up about her mental health – something fans had been wanting to see happen since she began exhibiting particularly disturbing behavior earlier this season.

Now, don’t get us wrong, the segment was full of glorious trademark Cheryl Blossom insults, as she even called her guidance counselor a Succubus, but eventually, the surface wall cracked – and it was this that allowed Petsch to truly shine.

Revealing that she talked to her dead brother Jason and that she was being haunted by a doll of her other supposedly dead brother Julian, Cheryl emotionally broke down in that moment and eventually asked the question she had been avoiding for so long: Was she fractured?

A poignant moment, Petsch delivered a moving performance that somehow, in a world as wacky as Riverdale, remained admirably grounded. It’s power lay in how subdued it was – and this not only made it more authentic, it made it much easier to empathize with Cheryl and ultimately root for her because she was doing the right thing.

We’ve seen Petsch turn in emotional performances before, but there was a quiet urgency about this one that made it that much more heartbreaking. A surprisingly subtle offering from a character that is anything but, this may have been the talented actress’ finest performance to date.

Next: All you need to know about Crisis On Infinite Earths

Riverdale‘s midseason finale airs on The CW this Wednesday. Come back next Sunday to find out who our next Heroic Actor of the Week will be.