When CW announced Riverdale would be a dark-noir twist on the classic comics, the show’s biggest mystery went from being how many burgers Jughead could eat to who killed Jason Blossom. Riverdale critics describe the series as a Twin Peaks/Gossip Girl hybrid, but the CW show also categorizes itself with shows like How To Get Away With Murder, MTV Scream, and Scream Queens. These shows rely on a murder and the mystery of the killer to drive their plot lines, whether it works for them or not. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if viewers dislike the characters or find the storyline dry, they still tune in for the unknown. The mystery of A kept people tuning into Pretty Little Liars for years.
Something Riverdale has going for it that many shows don't, however, is their characters.
These aren't strangers to most people tuning in every Thursday night. When Archie appears on the screen for the first time it's like seeing an old friend for people who grew up reading the comics and watching the cartoons. Which means the killer is not only an unknown variable but probably someone Archie Comics fans have grown up with.
We have had two weeks to get over the initial shock of seeing Archie, comic book goof, in a modern-day murder mystery and happily screwing the youthful music teacher, Ms.Grundy. While many of his fellow characters stay true to their roots, there's no denying their worst qualities are on full display.
Betty is one bad day away from taking someone out and who can blame her, with a mother who has already gone off the deep end herself? Veronica is doing everything in her power to keep her inner mean girl at bay, but it's only a matter of time before she's unleashed. Oh, and Jughead? He seems to be the only one grasping the fact that there is a murderer on the loose, but his unrelenting tone of sarcasm certainly doesn't show it.
However, Jughead does a good job of reminding the audience what they are really watching for. Jason's death might take a backseat to Betty and Archie's squabbles, Cheryl's various shades of lip gloss and pep rally musicals, but his murder is the real story Riverdale intends to tell.
So, it's time to start answering the question this show will continue to ask over the course of its 13-episode run: Who actually killed Jason Blossom?
The better question to ask is: Who didn’t kill Jason Blossom? Archie, being the lead — and the comic equivalent to Oliver Queen — clearly is not the killer. Veronica and Betty are off the list as well. That leaves side characters like Josie’s band and Kevin Keller, who already play separate but important parts in the show’s plot. Josie’s band being the only platform for music until Archie can get his footing and Kevin being the token gay character at the moment, it’s unlikely they were the ones to pull the trigger. Betty’s mother has the motive and Cheryl practically has her brother’s blood on her hands, but both are obvious choices right out of the gate. With an entire season to go, it’s possible the killer hasn’t even been introduced yet.
So herein lies a show like Riverdale’s problem: The killer has to be an established character from the comics, but not important enough they will leave behind a hole when they are ultimately killed. After all, when was the last time a killer actually made it to trial?
While I would love to see someone like Kevin Keller turn his stereotype on its head and prove he is just as cunning as he is good at flirting with Moose, I don’t have that much fate in CW storylines. This is why I turn to someone already guilty in the eyes of the viewers.
Yes, you read that right. Ms. Grenadine Grundy. Initially too grossed out by the inappropriate relationship she was having with one of her students, Archie Andrews, I hadn't even considered her to be a suspect. However, it's Ms. Grundy's "forbidden love" with Archie that might very well be what ousts her. If she's willing to commit statutory rape, what's to say she isn't willing to kill as well? Slippery slope, Grenadine, slippery slope.
Up until the last minutes of "Chapter Two: A Touch of Evil," Ms. Grundy had an alibi. She was at Sweetwater River with Archie when they heard the gunshot go off that killed Jason. However, fooling around with a student isn’t exactly an airtight alibi and Ms. Grundy knew this, so she swore Archie to secrecy.
None of that mattered though when Jughead let us in on a little secret at the end of the episode, something he has come accustom to doing as the show's narrator. Despite what initial reports thought, Jason Blossom was not shot that day on the water with Cheryl. In fact, he did not die until over a week later.
This means the gunshot Archie and Ms. Grundy heard was not, in fact, the gunshot that killed Jason. So, Ms. Grundy might not have been present when the initial incident went down, but she’s no more innocent than the rest of Riverdale. This is 2017, if How To Get Away With Murder has taught us anything about television, it's killers always have accomplices — always.
The Missing Gun
Ms. Grundy would have to have some kind of evidence that linked her to the murder, like the missing gun that killed Jason. The authorities have yet to find the murder weapon, but evidently, someone will.
In one of the first trailers Riverdale released leading up to the premiere, Betty is seen holding a gun as she sits in the passenger’s seat of what looks to be Ms. Grundy’s blue 1965 Volkswagen Beetle. She and Veronica are dressed all in black as they rummage through the compartments, suggesting they broke into the music teacher’s car with some assumptions of their own. The clip, while a valuable piece of evidence, is over in seconds, making it hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Now, if you are wondering why someone would know what the inside of Ms. Grundy’s car looks like, let me remind you: Archie and Ms. Grundy screwed around in that car all summer — a fact Riverdale has felt obligated to share with us on more than one occasion. Everyone with a subscription to Netflix probably knows what the inside of that car looks like by now.
In the trailer, the windows behind Betty are oval shaped and the simple steering wheel is one you would find in an older car, both features unique to a classic Volkswagen. Even the very window Archie can be seen leaning into as he flirts with Ms. Grundy in the pilot episode looks like it belongs to a VW beetle.
All signs point to this being Ms. Grundy’s vehicle and gun, at the moment. Yes, this is America, where owning a gun is as common as owning a toaster. However, Riverdale is a television show and if a gun is found, chances are it's the gun that killed Jason.
Her Killer Personality
Other than having a terrible moral compass, does Grenadine have the personality of a killer? She's not outgoing, sociable, or particularly reckless despite her relationship with Archie. However, Ms. Grundy isn't the timid teacher she lets on to be. Up until Archie confronted her about coming clean, she refused to pursue a romantic relationship with him any farther.
"How would we explain why we were together at Sweetwater River at 6:00 A.M. on the Fourth of July? And you're right. We didn't say anything. We're both going to have to live with that choice. Do you understand? I think you should pursue your music, but not with me."
— Ms.Grundy to Archie
Grenadine purposely avoided him, keeping herself at a safe distance when they spoke (like she should have done in the first place). Once Archie told her he could no longer keep their secret because the guilt was eating him alive, the music teacher’s demeanor changed completely. She closed the distance between her and Archie, holding his hand and begging him to keep quiet. She explained that they could never be together if someone found out about Sweetwater River. Then, the two kissed passionately.
Ms. Grundy used her status as an authority figure to dictate what Archie could and could not do, but when that was no longer enough she had to go back to being his lover to keep him quiet. Up until that scene, she was adamant with him that they would never be together. Archie is so wrapped up in his feelings for her that he doesn't see she is manipulating him. It is worth noting that Ms. Grundy only seems to show off her worst qualities when the details of July 4th are brought up.
Jason and Polly (Betty’s sister) had a falling out over the summer. Cheryl reminded Betty of this, hoping she would tell the head cheerleader if her sister had anything to do with Jason's death:
"I keep thinking that maybe Jason said something to her or she said something to him. I mean, didn't the have a big fight this summer, or..."
A fight bad enough to send Polly off the deep end and into the nearest mental facility, supposedly. While a number of things could have triggered their fight, the timing of it all is no coincidence. After all, it was one day in the middle of the summer that Ms. Grundy drove by the construction site Archie was working on. At the time she seemed rather OK with the idea of hooking up with a student, going as far as to initiate the relationship with Archie.
So maybe Archie wasn't her first fling and maybe he wasn't her first fling with a student, either. If Polly found out Jason was having relations with their music teacher it would be enough to warrant a fight and a nasty breakup.
That intensity and panic Grenadine shows when Archie brings up the fact that they are accessories to murder is enough to make her manipulate the young boy's feelings. Who's to say Jason didn't threaten to go to the principal or even the local law enforcement and expose their relationship? Who's to say Ms. Grundy didn't lose her cool and try to stop him on July 4th? Jason had ligature marks on his wrists from being tied up. Ms. Grundy could have tried to talk him out of coming clean and when the boy refused, she felt she had no other choice than to kill him. Of course, this could all be part of a bigger story, one where Ms. Grundy is caught up in something much worse than inappropriate relationships.
This week marks the premiere of Riverdale's third episode, titled "Chapter Three: Body Double." With Cheryl Blossom now in custody, it's only a matter of time before she comes clean about what she saw on July 4th. After all, she told Veronica her brother was to come back at the end of it all. We are also introduced to Ethel Muggs (played by Shannon Purser a.k.a. Barb) and Betty asks Jughead to help her investigate Jason's murder.
It is unlikely Ms. Grundy will be involved in this week's episode, what with a shame book circulating and the Taste of Riverdale event happening. It will most likely be Jughead's insightful words at the end of the hour that shed light on the show's next suspect and maybe, just maybe, Ms. Grundy's killer personality.
If Riverdale has managed to delivered on anything so far, it's plenty of milkshakes and murder. But is that enough to warrant a second season? Like the mystery behind Jason Blossom's death, only time will tell.
Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9/8c on the CW and is available to stream on Netflix the next day. Let me know in the comments who you think the killer is.