Riverdale recap: 'Chapter Twelve: Anatomy of a Murder'
Jason's murderer is revealed, along with a whopping secret about two of Riverdale's worst families.
If you’ve been following my rambling in these recaps, you know that incest is no strange theme in our discussions of the Blossom family. Only it turns out that the incest we’ve had a jolly time theorizing was right. Well, half right. Jason Blossom was one half of an incestuous relationship; it just happens to be true that the other half wasn’t actually Cheryl, but Polly Cooper.
The big bombshell — bigger, in my opinion, than the actual reveal that walking turtleneck Clifford Blossom killed his son Jason — is that all the historic mid-century maple syrup Riverdale Side Story gang war drama was actually borne from the fact that grandpappy Cooper was not just murdered by the Blossoms, but was a Blossom himself. After the murder, his descendants cut ties and changed their name to Cooper, which gives us a juicy new revelation about the roots of Riverdale as well as one of Betty’s best-delivered lines all series long: “I’m a Blossom!?” Simple, short, but wholly horrifying in the implications it has for next season. (A Betty-Cheryl bonding episode sounds legitimately worse than being shot and dumped in Sweetwater River.)
Of course, this Cooper-Blossom revelation leads to just one of several heated confrontations in this explosive episode, which plays more like a season ender but, thankfully, means we’ve got lots of new strings to set up in next week’s actual finale.
It starts with FP in jail, confessing to all sorts of things that are dubiously true. He says he ran Jason as a drug mule in exchange for a getaway car and some money for him and Polly. He says he found out Jason was a Blossom and hatched a ransom plot that went awry. He says he abducted Jason on the other bank of Sweetwater River, stored his body in a freezer, dumped it back in a week later. As it turns out, he actually did do all of these things. The only thing he didn’t do was shoot Jason, which is arguably the biggest no-no.
The discovery of this truth happens thanks to Archie and Veronica, still insistent that someone else planted the gun in FP’s trailer after they raided it. Because of their actual crime in breaking and entering, their parents forbid them from going to the cops and getting involved. (Hermione Lodge, particularly tweaked about the possibility of her Serpent ties being uncovered, even forces Veronica to pack an escape bag.) Yet the kids continue the hunt, adding in Betty and eventually even Jughead, who is a wild mess of despondence after his mother rejects his attempt to go stay with her in Toledo and his father banishes him from ever coming back to the jail. For all the Shakespearean horror Jughead goes through in this episode — being exiled by both his parents and beaten by his father’s victim’s sister — you’ve got to admire his ability to still laugh and maintain a relatively consistent beanie game even in the darkest of times.
The sleuthing foursome eventually toss Joaquin’s name into the mix of possible cover-ups, and Kevin’s boyfriend is confirmed as a bad boy once they all learn he was FP’s single phone call from prison. With some goading by Kevin, Joaquin leads the group on a literally dead-end excursion to a motel where Mustang, a Serpent with whom FP clashed, is found in the bathtub, dead of an apparent heroin overdose. (Unrelated for the moment but important soon enough: The cops also find a monogrammed briefcase full of money that conveniently and, even by Riverdale standards, absolutely ludicrously unbelievably, bears the initials of Hiram Lodge.)
Joaquin abruptly leaves town (for San Junipero, no less) but lets Kevin know where to find the duffel bag stashed with the second worst prop on Riverdale besides Jason’s wig: his letterman jacket. In a stroke of insane genius, Betty says something about losing chapstick in the lining holes of a coat and miraculously finds a USB drive with security footage — FP’s “insurance,” as it were. It shows Jason bound to a chair in the basement of the Serpents’ bar, shot point blank by Clifford. When the kids see the tape, Betty immediately calls Cheryl and warns her to get out of her house. But Cheryl, to her credit, instead goes to confront her father with a thoroughly chilling, “You did a bad thing, daddy, and now everyone knows.”
So, when the police do eventually find Cliff Blossom, he’s hanged himself in the maple syrup barn (which apparently is now a drug front?!). However, it’s far more interesting to assume that Cliff didn’t actually hang himself, and that either Cheryl, her mother, or all three Blossom women (if Nana Rose is feeling her “Cell Block Tango” vibes) decided to act during the time gap between Cheryl’s confrontation of her father and her morose directing of the police toward his swinging body.
There’s some other supporting drama that I skimmed through on the way: Cheryl slapping Jughead. Archie’s heated talk with Fred about living with his mom and sort of adopting Jughead. The reunion with Hal, revealing he stole Sheriff Keller’s files, and the big showdown between the Coopers and the Blossoms at Thornhill, wherein the former rescue Polly and presumably bring her back home — for good this time. But for now, it’s a relief that we’ll no longer have to worry about Jason or Cliff Blossom — a boy who we never really cared about, and a man whom we all should have just assumed killed his son anyway based on the sheer suspicion suggested by his turtleneck height alone.
As we head into the finale, the lingering questions seem to be why Cliff really did kill Jason, where Cheryl and Jughead will go next (FP did, after all, interact with a dead body enough to deserve at least some jail time), and what Hiram Lodge’s return mean for his daddy-disavowing daughter. Plus, next week’s teaser shows a few intriguing developments — Betty’s bloody fingers return, a fire looks to strike the Blossom house, and a cryptic “something wicked this way comes” could finally confirm the one thing that could make Riverdale go from insane to iconic: Sabrina the M———-g Teenage Witch.