Last night Riverdale unrolled chapter nine “La Grande Illusion,” an episode full of scathing Cheryl Blossom remarks (“I was joking you hobo!”), dripping in maple syrup, overloaded with blood-red formal wear, and topped off with a new suspect to the Jason Blossom murder case: Hiram Lodge.
At this point, Riverdale has pitched so many potential killers in our path you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed. So let’s do a rundown of all the possibilities, exploring motive and likelihood.
Alice and/or Hal Cooper
Suspected early on by their daughter Betty, these childhood sweethearts definitely had motive, several actually. First off, Hal—who goes from “milquetoast” to maniac faster than you can say “sticky maple”—has revealed that the Coopers hold a generations-long grudge against the affluent Blossom bunch, who were once business partners with great-grandad Cooper. And—according to Hal—he was murdered because of it, “blood feud” style. Suspicion was sparked when Betty realized that Sheriff Keller’s home office was ransacked while most of Riverdale was attending the drive-in’s farewell screening, but her dear old dad was not. So, Jason could have been some brutal and long-delayed payback. The high school jock’s has hit the Blossom’s business pretty hard (“a PR debacle” Cheryl tells Archie) because Jason was to be the “heir apparent.” Cheryl’s considered a loose canon because she cries and is female, so killing Jason could well tank the Blossom’s legacy and wealth.
However, it seems less likely Hal or Alice would be thinking that far ahead when they were so blinded with fury over their precious first-born daughter Polly getting knocked up but that Blossom boy. After all, Hal did consider pushing Polly to get an
abortion appointment with a doctor to nip that pregnancy in the bud. And Alice forced Polly into hiding so she could have her shame baby without disgracing the Cooper name. But if they were already doing all this, why bother slaughtering Jason? It seems like overkill.
Still, we can’t ignore that Jason wasn’t shot until a week after he went missing. Meaning that the Cooper’s being busy getting Polly committed on Independence Day (oh the irony!), doesn’t give them an alibi for his murder. Still, I feel like we’ve run the course on the Coopers, as Alice is driving hard down a redemption track, rebelling against her body-policing husband. And having Hal become a killer seems too easy in light of all the other twisted tracks this show’s unearthing.
Once a stand-up guy and former business partner with Archie’s dad Fred, Jughead’s deadbeat dad is all kinds of bad news. He’s the leader of the biker gang the Southside Serpents, who we know hired Jason to transport drugs for big money. Drugs he did not deliver. Because of the letterman jacket that FP mysteriously decided to keep instead of set ablaze with Jason’s getaway car, we know it was he—or one of his Serpents—who set the fire, and sent much evidence up in smoke. And we know he’s got the sultry Joaquin plumbing Kevin Keller for information about his sheriff father’s investigation, though which investigation is unclear. It seems FP—whose unemployment and drinking chased off his wife and daughter Jellybean—has his dirty fingers in a lot of pies. And I’m sure we’ll learn more unnerving reveals here. But as I’ve said before, it’s too too obvious to have Riverdale’s most obvious dirtbag being Jason’s killer.
Another criminal who could be tapped for more trouble is the music teacher/child predator who was with Archie that fateful day on Sweet Water River. Betty suspected her because Miss Grundy owned a gun and had one-on-one music lessons with Jason. Was he another of her victims? If so, could it be that she killed him in fear of getting caught? It’d be very Veronica Mars of Riverdale. And yet I doubt it.
Grundy is an absolutely shady character, a liar and rapist. But even if she abused Jason before Archie, we have no real reason to assume she’d kill him. When Archie considered revealing their relationship (and I hesitate to use that word because it was one of grooming and rape) to the cops, she didn’t respond with threats, but with manipulation. Violence doesn’t seem to be among her crimes.
Miss Grundy’s Mysterious Ex
When justifying her stolen identity to Archie, Grundy laid out a story about being a battered wife. And this has spurred some Riverdale fans to suspect that her unnamed ex is the true killer of Jason. Maybe it’s because he suspected Grundy had sex with Jason, maybe because he spotted Grundy and Archie together that day, and then mistook Jason for Archie. After all, people on the show keep commenting on how the two redheads look so much alike. However, I don’t think a random outsider will be the answer.
For one thing, it’s a pretty cheap move to spend all this time setting up a small town that’s cheerful façade covers corruption, resentment, and potentially murder, and then be like “it’s this wacko from out of town that did it!” That’d be bad story telling. And as someone who’s been devouring show-runner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Archie comics (Afterlife with Archie and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, I expect far more from his Riverdale.
Beyond that, I wager Grundy was full-on lying about the violent ex to gain sympathy, just as she did when she claimed she cared for Archie, and just as she feigned shame and demureness when she got caught by Alice Cooper. She’s a liar. Thankfully, I suspect she—and her bullshit stories—won’t darken Riverdale’s doors again.
This theory is scant and is basically based entirely on how inept the sheriff seems to be in actually tracking down Jason’s killer. But look, if this story had a skilled investigator in the police department, we wouldn’t need amateur sleuth Jughead. The sheriff’s ineffectiveness seems more plot convenience than plot pot. Besides that, Keller has zero known motive, and his only appearance on the show seems to be to suggest Riverdale does actually have a police force, and that Kevin’s arc need not be one of family-inflicted homophobia.
In short, Sheriff Keller is less of an entity on this show than demented, gypsy-blooded Gramma Blossom.
Speaking of those rich weirdos, Archie took us deep into the depravity of Thornhill this week, being Cheryl’s escort/Jason fill-in for a pair of posh events. And amid vermillion eleganza, he tripped on some family drama and dirt. In a wonky waltz with captive Polly, he discovered the pregnant teen is undercover in this cryptic mansion, searching for skeletons in the walk-in closets. Polly might be mad at her parents, but more than anything—even her own safety—she’s dedicated to uncovering who killed her red-headed Romeo.
“The Blossoms had something to do with Jason’s death,” Polly whispers. “I’m sure of it. They threatened him. And I’m going to prove it.”
Problem one: we’re still working out how keen a grasp on reality Polly even has between the trauma of her parents’ locking her away in a cold convent, her pregnancy, and the murder of her first love. Problem two: there’s no apparent motive for Penelope or Clifford Blossom to kill off their son.
By all accounts—even Cheryl’s bitter one—he was their “golden boy,” and the Blossom born to rule over their maple empire. It’s very patriarchal, very Game of Thrones, especially in this episode where a bunch of red-headed vultures flew in to circle the grieving family for signs of weakness. While his parents surely didn’t want him with Polly, killing him seems a bizarre strategy. Because if they were willing to murder to end the teen trysts, wouldn’t they have targeted Polly instead?
This is the show’s new favorite suspect, the unseen and imprisoned father of vivacious Veronica. Though he’s never appeared on the show, we know quite a bit about this deceitful dad. We know he’s a Bernie Madoff-style baddie whose swindling annihilated others’ wealth, pushing poor Ethel’s dad to a suicide attempt. We’ve been told that it was Hiram who sent a crew to rough up Moose and wreck Fred Andrews’ construction site, because he’d heard his wife Hermione was fooling around with the blue-collar dreamboat (Luke Perry). We also know the Lodges and Blossoms are business rivals. And while escaping a hands Cheryl, Archie overhears Clifford claim responsibility for Hiram arrest.
Admittedly, it’s unlikely Hiram would swing by Riverdale to murder a rival’s son in cold blood. But he clearly has a crew of criminals willing to do his nefarious bidding, even when he’s behind bars. So, here’s a theory that would tie-in all this business intrigue into the series’ main murder thread: Hiram and Clifford had some deal going, probably concerning the drive-in property. But Hiram double-crossed Clifford, and the Blossoms—proud vengeful people that they are—would not let that stand. So they maybe slipped some evidence over to get the police on Hiram’s scent. Hiram finds out, and responds by sending someone to kidnap their beloved son, maybe to get the Blossoms to back off, maybe to extort them for the wealth Hiram feared he’d lose.
Perhaps the twins were followed that Independence Day they went to Sweet Water River. And once Jason left his clingy sister’s side, he was intercepted before he could reach his getaway car. He was held by the kidnappers, who might be Southside Serpents. And then, something went wrong. Maybe Jason tried to escape. Maybe the kidnappers panicked. But we know from the autopsy, he died seven days after he went missing, and was found in the same clothes he wore that day. So what if instead of waiting for Polly in the wood’s in his glistening white prep wear, he was being held captive, and then was killed.
Here’s where I circle back and say maybe FP Jones knows more than he’s letting on. It could be one of his crew that was the trigger man. And it could be FP knows that could be trouble for the whole gang. Or Hermione Lodge could be complicit, and perhaps called on her ever-loyal butler Smithers to handle the family’s dirty work. If so, season two could see Hiram and Hermione both behind bars, and Veronica pulling a Jughead on the canopy beds of her gal pals. Which would feed into this poor little rich girl’s repentance arc nicely.
One of Archie’s Friends
No. For one thing, this show is a teen drama, so the theme of “parents are deceitful” is strong, and likely formative to its central mystery. But beyond that, there’s little int he way of plausible options here:
Archie: No motive. Also, he’s friggin’ Archie. As much as we might be bored to tears with his “oh music or football!” narrative, he is firmly at the center of the franchise.
Jughead: You could spin some wild fan theory that Jughead—distressed over his family’s shattering and pushed to the edge by Archie’s ditching him—went out to the woods with a gun, and some bad intentions. Perhaps he murdered Jason thinking it was Archie, the bff who betrayed him. But that’s a big stretch that would demand audiences believe Jughead would confuse the kid he grew up with with a pale and preppy pretty boy who was wearing all white in the woods. (I can’t deal with those outfits guys. I can’t.) It’d be bad writing, being less unreliable narrator and more full-on bullshit as the show comes primarily through Jughead’s perspective. Plus, Cole Sprouse is a standout on the show. They’d be insane to write him out of it.
The no motive crew: Betty, Veronica, Kevin, Josie and the Pussycats. Veronica hadn’t even arrived in Riverdale yet. And though Kevin found the body, that’s the only thing that makes him suspect. Plus, I doubt Riverdale would allow it’s lone gay character of note be a killer.
The who cares club: Dilton, Moose, Reggie, and Big Ethel are all barely there are characters. So it’d be an astonishingly lame twist to make the murderer any of the above.
Cheryl Blossom: Okay. Cheryl could be a suspect. She did know Jason wasn’t drowned on the 4th of July, so she could come back and killed him. Perhaps she found out about Polly from their dodgy grandma, who gifted Jason her heirloom wedding ring. Maybe learning about her pregnancy, and how Jason planned to leave was more than this spoiled princess could handle. Maybe she went back to the woods, found her twin, and killed him. After all, the bullet between the eyes could suggest it was someone Jason trusted, someone who could get that close, even when carrying a gun.
While this would mean she’d lied to the police and her classmates, her grief could still be real. Being (vaguely to very) twincesty in love with her brother, she might have felt deeply betrayed by his interest in Polly (such a Cersei). I could even be convinced that her parents praising him while reviling her could have fostered a deep resentment that consumed them both. What I can’t accept is that Aguirre-Sacasa would create such a fascinating, fashion-forward, gothic-pop mean girl, only to collar her for a crime that could get her banished from season two. Now THAT would be criminal.
So with four episodes of season one to go, where does this leave us? The most likely suspects right now are The Blossoms and The Lodges. But as this series is very much about how this Town with Pep is more ripe with sinister secrets than maple syrup, I suspect more than just one person will be tied to Jason’s murder. Right now, I’m leaning hard on the Hiram/Hermione/Smithers line. But next week Archie’s mom—played by former teen dream Molly Ringwald—will grace Riverdale. And with her could come some disturbing dirt about the Andrews clan…
Did we overlook your prime suspect? Add to our yarn wall in comments.