It begins with a murder. Five words that one wouldn’t think would be the focal point of the first season of Riverdale, The CW’s lurid, provocative adaptation of Archie Comics. Like its twisty teen mystery predecessors Pretty Little Liars and Veronica Mars, with more than a dash of Twin Peaks, Riverdale opens with bang: the death of one of its most famous teenagers, Jason Blossom.
Jason Blossom mysteriously died in Sweetwater River on the morning of July 4th. The only witness present was his twin sister Cheryl Blossom. Sharing a rowboat with Jason, Cheryl dropped her glove in the river. Jason reached for it, capsized the boat, panicked, and drowned. Riverdale Police dragged the river but didn’t find the body. It’s only at the end of Riverdale‘s pilot that we learn Jason didn’t drown. His corpse washes to the shore with a bullet hole in his head. This was a murder!
With that shocking reveal, Riverdale immediately transforms into an intriguing Whodunit?, and we have a town chock full of suspects. So, who killed Jason Blossom? Let’s look at the possible culprits based on the evidence the first episode, “Chapter One: The River’s Edge,” provides us.
Before we get to the suspicious folks in town — though Riverdale presents nearly everyone as suspicious for varying reasons — we can begin by ruling out those in town who right now lack motive or were physically unable to have committed the murder most foul.
The names currently not under suspicion for the Blossom Murder are Archie Andrews, Miss Geraldine Grundy, Veronica Lodge, Hermione Lodge, and Dilton Doiley. Let’s also say for now that Pop Tate, Fred Andrews, Coach Clayton and Smithers are off the list.
Archie has a rather ironclad alibi for not being the murderer. Yes, he was at Sweetwater River on the morning of July 4th, but he was there having a sexy secret rendezvous with his music teacher Miss Grundy. The fact that Archie and Miss Grundy heard a gunshot that morning causes them tremendous consternation. Yet, they can’t reveal what they know without outing that a Riverdale teacher was having an illicit affair with a minor.
Veronica and her mother Hermione Lodge are newly arrived at Riverdale the night before the school year begins, so they’re ruled out. They spent the summer in New York City dealing with Veronica’s father Hiram Lodge being sent to federal prison for heading a Bernie Madoff-like pyramid scheme. It’s possible one or both of the Lodge women made a trip to Riverdale over the Fourth of July (maybe to secure their posh apartment, the Pembroke), but there is yet no evidence of such, so for now, they’re not suspects.
Dilton Doiley was leading the Riverdale Boy Scout Troop at Sweetwater River on the morning of July 4th, but unless the Blossom Murder was some kind of grand Boy Scout conspiracy — again, no evidence — he’s not a suspect. As for Chock’lit Shoppe proprietor Pop Tate, Archie’s dad Fred Andrews, Riverdale High football Coach Clayton, and Smithers, the Lodges’ loyal butler, there is as of yet no reason to suspect any of them had reason to hate Jason Blossom and precipitated his murder.
Suspect number one: the evil twin sister. Cheryl Blossom was the only one who witnessed the murder. Her story has holes bigger than the one in her twin brother’s forehead. She dropped a glove in the river? Who wears gloves on the 4th of July? Most importantly, the gunshot wound in Jason’s head seems to immediately disprove her story. If the autopsy shows Jason was shot at close range, Cheryl, being the only other person in the boat, is toast.
As for motive, why would Cheryl off her twin? At the Riverdale High assembly in his honor, Cheryl called Jason her “soulmate,” which sounds uncomfortably close to Game of Thrones‘ Jaime and Cersei Lannister. The wealthiest teen in Riverdale besides Veronica Lodge, Cheryl Blossom somehow bizarrely wields a huge amount of social power and intimidation over her peers. She even controls the Riverdale High cheerleading squad — and she’s only a sophomore. Cheryl seems to have it all, but perhaps her brother’s “love” is the one thing denied her, and that was enough to pluck her twin Blossom.
Which leads us to our next group of suspects…
Archie’s next door neighbors, the Cooper clan, are not as All-American, sweet as apple pie as they appear. Betty’s parents Alice Cooper (no, not that Alice Cooper) and Hal Cooper were present at the riverbank as the Riverdale Police searched for Jason’s body that fateful morning. Alice coldly wished Jason “burned in Hell.”
Why such ire? We learn that Jason Blossom “ruined” the life of Betty’s sister Polly, who has since left Riverdale and had to be hospitalized. Though Hal speaks not a word and is only briefly seen in the pilot, Alice Cooper has plenty negative to say about Jason Blossom, and thus has plenty of motive. But if she did have a hand in killing Jason, what if Alice didn’t do it alone?
Sweet Betty Cooper has a secret: she takes Adderall. Her mother even fills Betty’s prescriptions without being asked. Adderall treats narcolepsy and attention deficit disorder. Could Betty be an unsuspecting sleepwalking murderer? A Manchurian Candidate girl next door? And what of Polly Cooper herself? Did she murder her ex-flame Jason and then skip out of town?
Could the family next door be the murderer(s) next door?
Kevin Keller, the “gay best friend” of Betty Cooper, turns out to be the one who discovers Jason Blossom’s corpse at the conclusion of the Riverdale pilot. Kevin was shocked — but what if this shock wasn’t just about finding a dead body?
Kevin’s ties to Betty could point to his complicity in the murder. After all, he seems intensely loyal to Betty, and thus would have been well-aware of all the drama going on within the Cooper clan involving Betty’s sister Polly and Jason. Or what if, like Kevin discovered with Big Moose, there was more than one side to Jason? Regardless, Kevin seems to know everyone in Riverdale High’s business. There seems to be a lot more to Kevin Keller than meets the eye. Does that include murder?
Josie and the Pussycats
Admittedly, this is a bit of a stretch. The way we’ve been introduced to Riverdale High’s hottest all-girl band Josie McCoy, Melody Valentine and Valerie Brown thus far, there’s no evidence to suggest they had anything to do with Jason Blossom’s murder. Or is there?
Well, no, there isn’t. Murdering a classmate is a terrible way to build a rock brand. Or is it?
Reggie Mantle and Big Moose Mason
Why is Reggie on this list? Because he’s Reggie. In Archie Comics, Reggie Mantle has always been the nexus of every foul deed in Riverdale High. He’s no good, that Reggie. Thus far, when we meet Reggie, he merely seems to be a bro and his biggest sin is trying to get Archie to confess that he “tapped some cougar” over the summer (unaware that Archie actually did). We don’t yet know if any rivalry existed between Reggie and Jason Blossom, though it’s reasonable to believe there might have been. Still, when bad things go down in Riverdale, never discount the possibility that Reggie’s involved.
As for Big Moose Mason, where Reggie goes, Moose seems to follow. Moose is hiding at least one secret that Kevin Kelly discovered – that he “plays for the other team.” Moose also discovered Jason’s corpse along with Kevin. He seemed surprised, but not shocked. Just because he seems big and dumb, it doesn’t mean we should count Big Moose out.
All of this brings us to Forsythe “Jughead” Jones. Archie’s estranged former best friend is Riverdale‘s noir-like narrator. All through the pilot episode, Jughead lurks in the shadows or from behind his laptop at the Chock’lit Shoppe, casting disparaging looks upon his peers. Suspiciously, Jughead was shown on the banks of Sweetwater River the morning of Jason’s death. Was he just there among the many other townspeople as a curious observer or could he have been at the River earlier?
Now, Jughead is writing a novel about Jason and all of his fellow Riverdale High classmates. Jughead possesses a rather uncanny omniscience of everything happening in Riverdale, even things he couldn’t possibly know. So what if the aspiring novelist Jughead needed something to write about, something juicy, something that will sell — a murder? What if all of this is Jughead’s doing all along?
Whether or not any of this speculation hits the mark, the murder of Jason Blossom casts a river of doubt over the denizens of Riverdale. It should be fascinating to see how this murder mystery plays out. One thing Riverdale makes entertainingly clear is that now, anything goes with Archie.