Spoilers ahead for IT Chapter Two.
After years of patiently waiting, IT Chapter Two has finally hit theaters. Andy Muschietti's horror sequel follows up on the Losers' Club 27 years after (temporarily) vanquishing Pennywise the Clown as kids. Muschietti assembled a killer cast to play the adults, with Bill Hader playing Finn Wolfhard's Richie Tozier. The character had an unexpected plot twist, and I think it was one of the most effective aspects of the sequel.
Bill Hader's Richie was the undisputed scene-stealer of It Chapter Two, constantly jabbing his friends with A+ quips. But he also had an emotional story that played out in a slow and deliberate way. It was revealed that Richie's constant sexual jokes were a front, as he was hiding his same-sex attraction, particularly when it came to fellow Loser Eddie Kaspbrak. It's a twist that differed from the original Stephen King novel, one that I believe is one of the most effective aspects of the long-awaited sequel.
Richie's coming out story was subtle at first, eventually becoming clear in the movie's third act. After a flashback showed a young Richie being bullied and called a gay slur, we jump back to the present day. Pennywise claims he knows Richie's big secret, helping to terrify the adult Loser in the process. The character's true intentions are revealed in the film's epilogue, as he mourns Eddie and re-carves their initials as he originally did as a kid.
The plot twist revolving around Richie's sexuality gave the character vulnerability, after Bill Hader spent the majority of the movie spouting out one-liners and serving as the main comic relief. But aside from providing an emotional gut punch, it also gave IT Chapter Two a cyclical feeling, as the movie's horrifying opening sequence showed a homophobic hate crime in Derry. By comparison, Richie gets a happy ending, and is celebrated for who he truly is.
IT Chapter Two's opening sequence is truly difficult to get through, and that's before Pennywise The Clown even appears onscreen. The sequel shows a gay couple in Derry, who are the subject of a brutal hate crime. Don and Adrian are assaulted by homophobic Derry youths, with the latter character getting the brunt of the abuse. He's beaten within an inch of his life, before being thrown over the bridge and eventually meeting a grisly end by IT himself.
For me, this was a triggering scene that I had a hard time getting through. Killer clown aside, it's turn of events that many LGBTQ folks have thought about or experienced in their lives. And it's a scene that's extremely hard to sit through and possibly more upsetting than any of the clown-related scares in the movie.
But Adrian's fate helped make Richie's story all the more powerful, and kept the opening scene connected to the events of IT Chapter Two. While Adrian was beaten and then killed by both human and Pennywise, Bill Hader's character and the Losers gained his strength from letting go of their fear. That's what helped them destroy the demon once and for all, and Richie is able to finally accept who he is, and how strong his feelings toward Eddie truly were.
Overall, the choice to explore Richie's sexuality made IT Chapter Two a better film in my opinion, while also making the disturbing first scene feel more purposeful. Two gay characters weren't the subject of a hate crime arbitrarily, but to help mirror the experience of one of the movie's biggest characters.
You can judge for yourself now, as IT Chapter Two is in theaters now. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.