The CW's latest spin-off is here to serve us high-fashion and even higher levels of drama.
Katy Keene — you might recognize her as one of Veronica Lodge's Big Apple besties if you're a Riverdale fan — is a 20-something aspiring designer working as a personal shopping assistant in a fancy New York department store. By day, she's fetching Chanel, Dior, and Versace pumps; by night, she's clubbing with her boxer boyfriend and a group of like-minded dreamers. Enter Josie McCoy, another Riverdale alum who's arrived in the city just in time to become friends with Katy and pursue her goal of a music career.
We're Jessica Toomer and Alyssa Fikse and we're here to suspend our disbelief just a bit to buy into this glam, dream-like version of city life.
Warning: This discussion contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 1 of Katy Keene.
Welcome to New York
Jessica: Alyssa, we're back! For anyone unfamiliar with the Archie Comic universe, the CW's newest series, Katy Keene, is basically a spinoff of Riverdale. It's got some familiar faces — hello, Josie McCoy — and plenty of drama, just less murder. At least, for now. We meet our high-fashion heroine this episode and honestly, life seems pretty damn good. She's got a hot boyfriend that promises her all the Coney Island hot dogs her heart desires, an apartment in New York that's bigger than the size of a closet, and an antique sewing machine. She's living her best. But she's still got dreams to chase, as does the rest of her group which includes a Broadway hopeful/drag star named Jorge (Ginger) and an "It" girl named Pepper. They party, they eat Chinese takeout, they love every bit of the city, even the morning commute. It's the picture-perfect version of Big Apple life, but y'all, it can't last forever.
Alyssa: I feel like I have to be honest: I have not seen Riverdale. Scratch that, I watched the first few episodes and decided it wasn't for me, but I did recently catch up on the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, so I guess I am going all-in on its spinoffs. The New York City of Katy Keene is definitely a fantasy, but that's why we watch shows like this, right? Everything really does seem to be on track in Katy's life, although I wish she would charge people for her dresses. It's 2020, girl! Get paid for your labor! While Katy toils away over her designs in the wee hours of the morning in her lush apartment, she spends her days at the department store Lacy's (much more glam than its real-life counterpart), trying to appease her mercurial boss Gloria while also dealing with a mean girl co-worker Amanda. It's all very Devil Wears Prada light and was definitely my favorite aspect of the episode.
Jessica: Gloria is a poor woman's Miranda Priestly but she's still a force to be reckoned with. She heads up the personal shopping division of the store which is the role Katy — and the 15 other assistants Gloria employs — is gunning for. There's something about watching Katy flutter around Lacy's, trying to find Versace pumps and Dior suits to appease the rich and apathetic while her boss scrutinizes her every move that really made me love her in an Andy Sachs kind of way. Except Andy couldn't tell the difference between cerulean and turquoise and Katy is over here designing her whole damn wardrobe — which is what eventually gets her in trouble, but we'll get to that in a bit. For now, let's enjoy the supportive friendship Josie and Katy strike up surprisingly quickly and Jorge performing a Moulin Rouge-inspired voguing set in a drag club.
Alyssa: Yes! Jorge crushes the stage as Ginger Lopez and we also meet Pepper, who appears to have a dozen jobs and namedrops worse than Tahani Al-Jamil without the sense of irony. Having a support system in a new city is absolutely critical, and it seems like Josie has really hit the jackpot with this crew. I loved the small scene where Katy and Jorge are rushing around the apartment getting ready in the morning and Josie wakes up to the hustle and bustle and looks completely enamored with her new life. It's a charm bomb. While Katy and Jorge scamper off to their thankless but still glamor-adjacent jobs, Josie meets a busker at Washington Square Park and the two of them perform a lovely song to a crowd of onlookers. In that crowd? Why, it's a music executive and he wants to sign Josie up and make her an international pop star! After one day in New York!
Jessica: As someone who's lived in New York for quite a bit of time, all of these lucky coincidences are really testing my ability to suspend my disbelief. But, it's the CW and Lucy Hale is so damn likable so I'll do my best. Josie hits it off with the billionaire record producer named Alexander Cabot — and why wouldn't she? He's gorgeous and he's got the hookup to Prince's favorite recording studio. Katy offers to play the role of manager, just in case this guy is sketchy and she whips up a banging red dress for Josie to shine in while she croons some tunes over the piano. Everything seems to be going quite swimmingly which is exactly the kind of thing you think before it all goes to hell in a handbasket.
I Get Knocked Down
Alyssa: Right. The good fortune that every character seems to be enjoying does an about-face about halfway through the episode. Jorge is a fantastic dancer but is struggling to get his big break because the cranky director for Mannequin: The Musical doesn't think he's "tough" enough, i.e. too gay. Katy gets her shot to impress her boss and get a personal shopper position, but of course, Amanda has to sabotage that. She doesn't inform Katy that the prince she will be dressing is also bringing along his commoner girlfriend, but Katy rises to the challenge. She connects with her because their moms are both named Martha they grew up on the same lower east side street, and she's able to find her the perfect outfits to suit her taste instead of the stuffy nonsense that Amanda collected for her. Not only that, but she lets her try on the dress that she made for herself, getting some high profile clout for her personal designs. Katy should be a shoo-in for that promotion, right? Wrong. She's too good at her job, you guys.
Jessica: Isn't that how it always goes. You're paling it up with a prince and his girl-next-door love interest one minute, banished to the stockroom the next? Katy was a little too quick to talk up her own designs, an apparent no-no at Lacy's, so Gloria punishes her by denying her a dream job and condemning her to a 9-to-5 under the harsh fluorescent lights. It's a real blow for our chipper Rachel Zoe wannabe, but she's not the only one struggling to reach the big leagues. In a shocking twist, Josie discovers that just because you hook up with a hot music producer, it doesn't necessarily mean you're guaranteed a signing deal. Waking up to views of Central Park is nice and all, but nothing can soften the blow of learning your sound just isn't special enough to warrant a high-profile contract. Even worse? The person stomping your dreams into the dirt is the sister of your new boy-toy who hints you're not the first girl hoping to land a record deal that also landed in her brother's bed. The claws, they're out, people.
Alyssa: Mixing business with pleasure is always complicated, but it's a real DO NOT DO THIS when you're just starting out. Alex is cute, Josie, but you know what's cuter? Achieving your dreams, and I do not trust this too handsome man to help you get there. Josie isn't the only one facing some romantic drama. Katy's longtime boyfriend K.O. is an aspiring boxer (subtle), and he's finally got the chance to train in his dream gym… in Philadelphia. He supports Katy's dream to be a designer, but he's pretty sure that she can achieve that same dream in Philly. As someone who has lived in Philadelphia: KATY, DO NOT MOVE TO PHILADELPHIA. Again, K.O. is very cute, but not as cute as getting your fashion designing dreams off the ground.
Jessica: That seems to be a running theme of this show so far. Hot guys are great, but fulfilling your life purpose is better. Also, Philly is a quick train ride away, don't be so damn dramatic K.O. Alas, even sweet Jorge is having man problems, although his take the form of a bearded, homophobic Broadway director. Katy gives him the idea to audition as Ginger, which would've been brilliant if it worked but the group severely underestimated this old man's penchant for arseholery. I'll never forgive Broadway for not letting Jorge realize his dreams of performing in *checks notes* a stage play based off a popular film titled Mannequin, but the second theme of this episode centers on finding new dreams and ways to realize them, so our crew doesn't stay down for long.
… But I Get Up Again
Alyssa: Everyone is feeling a little blue, and that means that it's time to go out, and Katy gets the brilliant idea to do some light B&E, letting her friends run wild through Lacy's after hours. This seems like a way to get actually fired instead of demoted, but again, we're dealing with a fantasy realm here. Katy's kindly coworker Francoise is working late because Gloria hated his original design for their new window display, so Katy kicks into helper mode and together they make a lovely display that pays homage to the art of making clothes. The whole thing is inspired by her mom, who was a seamstress who dreamed of one day designing her own clothes and taught Katy the timeless lesson that you don't have to be rich to have style. Remembering her mom's legacy helps Katy refocus on her real dream — becoming a designer — but because the window display is praised by Mrs. Lacy herself (Hi, Gram from Dawson's Creek!), Francoise offers her a job in his department because dreams don't usually pay the bills.
Jessica: As a writer, I can definitely attest to that. Look, Katy's going to be designing store fronts for her day job and designing haute couture at night. It's really a win-win. And Jorge has decided to pursue a path to drag stardom which, honestly, feels like a better bet than being a chorus member on Broadway. Still, even though most of the group got happy endings — K.O. decides Philly isn't worth it without Katy and proposes to her in front of a hot dog stand, which … cute, I guess? — a lot of things are left up in the air. Can Katy and K.O. really make it if he's forced to give up his dreams for her? Is drag going to be enough for Jorge, who seemed hell-bent on getting a part in the next Hamilton phenomenon? Where does Josie's music career go from here? And what the hell does Pepper even do — besides vacation with royalty and attend Art Basel with Childish Gambino?
Alyssa: Listen, this episode ended with a Carly Rae Jepsen (queen of my heart and Canada) cover, so they got me in the end. This episode was slight but charming, and I really like the cast already. I also like the idea of dreams vs. reality, and I hope that the show isn't afraid to make its characters struggle a little bit in the pursuit of their passions. Not too much, but it is New York. It can't all be candy coated and breezy.
Jessica: Right? Maybe I'm just jaded but I'd like to see them go through some things before getting their happy ending. And for the love of Chanel, please show at least one character braving the hellish transport system that is the NYC subway. I can't get down with anyone who claims to be a New Yorker and yet never has to suffer the indignity of being packed like a human sardine into a tiny metal train car.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors', and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBCUniversal.