The CW loves musical episodes–and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Five different series have put out musical episodes in recent years. One of those, Riverdale, actually aired four–and that’s three too many.
But, since I watch most of The CW’s programming despite the constant cringe writing, I decided it would be interesting to watch all eight episodes and rank them. And let me be honest, it was rough getting through those Riverdale musicals because it’s just too wacky, even for me. Spoiler warning because I will be talking about how they incorporated musical numbers into the show.
8. ‘Riverdale’: “Next to Normal”
Let’s start this list with the worst musical episode The CW has aired so far. It’s also the most recent. Riverdale’s “Next to Normal” brought the Broadway musical of the same name to my attention for the first time in years, and I’m starting to wish it hadn’t.
Set off by Betty’s sister’s death, the gang burst into song all over town to describe how their lives are going. Betty grieves her sister and tries to bond with her mother again, Veronica and Archie break up again, and many other characters start new relationships.
While I barely got through most of the musical numbers, there was one that I enjoyed: “Superboy and the Invisible Girl.” And that’s only because Camila Mendes’ voice is beautiful, and I hope to hear more of it in future projects. Other than that song, I’d rather skip the episode altogether.
When it comes to integrating the musical episode into the season’s overarching plot, I don’t understand why the writers decided to do it at all. It felt extremely forced and not worth the time and energy they put into it. Why add music when it’s really hurting the plot?
7. ‘Riverdale’: “Wicked Little Town”
One season prior to “Next to Normal,” Riverdale did a Hedwig and the Angry Inch-inspired episode. And to be completely honest, I had never heard of the musical until watching this. I hope it’s better than Riverdale’s creation.
The Riverdale High variety show is coming up, and Kevin and his friends from The Archies want to perform one of Kevin’s favorite songs. After it’s canceled, however, Veronica puts it on herself away from the school. In addition, Betty tutors Jughead, Veronica and Archie fight about her father, and a person is killed by a mask-wearing couple.
I’m only putting this above “Next to Normal” because I did enjoy “Wig in a Box.” Something about the girls’ voices just made me like it. But let’s talk about “Wicked Little Town” and the reprise; KJ Apa and Cole Sprouse’s voices just didn’t mesh well with the song.
Much like “Next to Normal,” most of the music feels forced and hurtful to the plot. I also don’t get why this was added as basically a standalone episode until the last scenes. Nothing about “Wicked Little Town” felt suitable for the darker tone the show was embracing at that point in the series.
6. ‘Riverdale’: “Big Fun”
I had high hopes when “Big Fun” was announced because even though I stopped caring about Riverdale, I love Heathers: The Musical. That said, it fell flat for me so much (and not because of the music). The side stories were obnoxious. They should have just focused on the play instead of the characters’ lives.
Kevin is bringing Heathers to Riverdale High, all while the other students are fighting amongst each other and the Farm cult is attracting more members. The third season was already crazy, so adding in this episode just had me cringing so much.
My favorite song from the original musical is “Dead Girl Walking,” but Riverdale made me not want to hear it again. I honestly can’t come up with a specific song that they did well, but at least most of the actors’ voices were pretty good.
5. ‘Riverdale’: “A Night to Remember”
The very first of Riverdale’s musical episode had the teens putting on Carrie: The Musical. And while I don’t love that show as much as Heathers, the side stories were a bit less obnoxious in this episode.
The students at Riverdale High are putting on Carrie: The Musical with Cheryl in the lead role. At least before she was recast after multiple threats to Kevin and Jughead. The side stories fit in well with the season’s plot and brought back the Black Hood killer.
It was difficult to find a favorite song since I didn’t really enjoy the episode, but the choreography for “Do Me A Favor” was the least tragic to me. That said, all of the girls’ voices in the song “In” played off each other well and made that number somewhat okay.
4. ‘Katy Keene’: “Kiss of the Spiderwoman”
The Riverdale spinoff was much better than its predecessor. Why it was canceled while Riverdale endures is beyond me. With Katy Keene, not only was the story better, but most of the songs were, too. I honestly think The CW is only hiring actors who can sing nowadays for these musicals.
In this episode, Jorge wants to perform a solo drag performance of Kiss of the Spider Woman but ends up performing with Josie (from Riverdale). Katy also helps the fiancée of the man she slept with find the perfect wedding gown, while other characters go about their own lives.
While none of the songs really stood out to me, I did enjoy “Kiss of the Spider Woman” sung by Josie and Jorge. Out of all the songs from all of season one, though, my least favorite was in this episode: “Dressing Them Up” with Lucy Hale and Nathan Lee Graham.
Before I move on, I have to talk about the other songs in season one because I wasn’t expecting so much singing in a non-musical show. Whether you like musicals and fashion or not, you’re going to hear amazing voices left and right. Seriously, why did this get canceled?
3. ‘Supernatural’: “Fan Fiction”
Supernatural’s “Fan Fiction” is one of the most meta episodes in The CW history. But the stars didn’t do the singing in this one, so I knocked it down a few pegs. Instead of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles busting out some tunes, we heard from other characters. It feels like a lost opportunity.
Sam and Dean are investigating a teacher’s disappearance when they stumble upon a Supernatural-inspired musical being performed. The play shows how the brothers became hunters and includes many faces the show lost throughout the prior nine seasons. It was one of my favorite Supernatural episodes.
There were only three songs featured in this episode, but I don’t think anyone is surprised that the best is “Carry On Wayward Son” because why wouldn’t it be? And while I enjoyed the other two, “A Single Man Tear” takes the cake for the funniest song on The CW.
2. ‘Legacies’: “Salvatore: The Musical!”
Legacies is one of my guilty pleasure shows, and this episode makes it a little easier to say that. Yes, the musical and writing were a bit cringy, but at least the songs, choreography, and side stories were good. I could rewatch this episode hundreds of times and barely get tired of it.
Early in season three, the students at the Salvatore School decide to put on a musical based on the lives of The Vampire Diaries characters. Landon writes it while the rest of the students audition. In writing it, Landon uses Hope’s letter from her father, Klaus, and causes a big argument. We also get to meet Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream!
I absolutely loved every single song in this episode, but my favorite is definitely “Always and Tomorrow” sung by Danielle Rose Russell. A close second is “Hello Brother,” but all of the songs are perfect for the show and fit in with the narrative of the musical.
1. ‘The Flash’: “Duet”
The Flash seamlessly blended the musical genre with superheroes in this episode. It helped that so many of the actors from the Arrowverse are also experienced singers, even the ones you wouldn’t expect at first. I still tear up thinking about some parts of this episode.
At the beginning of the episode, Mon-El and Martian Manhunter rush in carrying an unconscious Supergirl. While there, Barry gets knocked out and sent to the same musical dream (or nightmare) as her, and they have to sing their way home.
I still can’t get over the voices of these actors. It brought together the two superheroes who were on Glee, added in another Glee alum Darren Criss, and included some Broadway singers Jesse L. Martin, Victor Garber, and Jeremy Jordan. What more could I have asked for?
The entire episode is full of original songs, two parallel storylines, and Broadway-style dancing. Not to mention the costumes the characters wear in the dream world are breathtaking. It’s hard to choose my favorite song, but one that makes me tear up is “Running Home to You,” which shows up a few more times throughout The Flash.