The root of “anatomy” is the Greek word “tome” which means to cut, or to break. To sever. And in “Anatomy of a Murder” the cutting open and apart is not just the murder of Jason Blossom, but the fabric of Riverdale itself.
Everything about this episode was so deliciously drawn-out that after it ended and the credits began, I sat there for a second and just breathed out—the air I had been holding inside of me for the last hour. Every actor, but particularly Cheryl, Jughead and FP, acted to the very edges of their skill.
Archie, Veronica and Betty (and Kevin? Was Kevin there? Who is Kevin?) spent much of this episode trying to prove that the gun found in FP’s trailer, the same gun that killed Jason, was planted in an attempt to frame FP. But as Mary Andrews, played by Molly Ringwald, who is apparently a “lawyer” their testimony is inadmissible because they broke into the trailer. Sorry hon. Side bar—Molly Ringwald looks amazing in black.
Before they can do anything else, FP confesses to everything. He confesses to the murder of Jason Blossom, he explains his motives, and even confesses to stealing the murder notes from Sheriff Keller. Wait, hold up, what was that last one? We know that Hal Cooper was the one to steal those notes. FP had nothing to do with it.
“Everything is tied up in a nice, little bow,” says Alice Cooper. “Too tidy, if you ask me.” She’s right, like she occasionally is, the truth is rarely tidy.
Hal sneaks back into his house to destroy those notes because, as he explains to Alice (holding a gun) and Betty when they catch him, he’s nervous that the connections between the Blossoms and the Coopers could be misconstrued as motive.
“That Great-Grandpappy (we need to discuss the familials in Riverdale—Mommy, Daddy, Grandpappy, Nana) Cooper was killed by a Blossom all those years ago?” asked Betty.
And then Hal is forced to divulge that that’s not just it. because, really, there never was anyone named Great-Grandpappy Cooper. He didn’t exist because…he wasn’t a Cooper. Betty’s great-grandfather and Cheryl’s great-grandfather were brothers, and Cheryl’s ancestor Cain-and-Abel’ed Betty’s. After the murder, the Abel branch of the Blossoms struck themselves from the family tree and remained themselves “Cooper.” That’s why Hal felt that the Blossoms had stolen the maple syrup business out from his hands.
That’s why he wanted Polly to get an abortion. Because she and Jason were third-cousins. And so it turns out that there is a little Blossom-loving going on, it’s just not between Jason and Cheryl.
Ew, even though I Googled it and third-cousins are totally kosher (and apparently actually kind of ideal for reproduction). Those Blossom-Blossom babies are gonna be superhuman and they’ll kill us all. The Coopers (the Blossom-Coopers? The Bloopers?) rush to Thorn Hill and take Polly back with them, who has just learned that she was fucking her cousin.
The Blossoms know this, and are pretty chill about it. Penelope even praises it a little bit, thus eliminating tentative incest as a motive for the Blossoms killing their son. Eugenics? More like Ewgenics!!
So with the knowledge that FP lied at least about the stealing, the Sleuthsters decide to explore other avenues. They discover that FP’s one phone call from jail was to Joaquin, the Serpent who is “dating” “Kevin.” Why would that be? Well, as we find out, because Joaquin helped FP dispose of the body of Jason Blossom.
This episode purposefully had us moving in circles because it’s confirmed, at least, that FP was on-site for the murder, and that it took place in a Serpent-owned bar. So part of FP’s confession, that he and Jason had struck a deal for Jason to smuggle drugs in exchange for a getaway car, and that FP realized that ransoming Jason would be a much more lucrative payoff, is truthful. So while things aren’t looking awful for FP, they’re still not looking great.
Joaquin, with a quick side-tour to an OD’ed Serpent named “Mustang” who had a bag full of Hiram Lodge blackmail money under his bed (Oops!), leads the Sleuthsters to FP’s “contingency plan” in the form of a certain murdered redhead’s letterman jacket. And in the Andrews garage, Betty makes Archie put on the jacket, because Archie looks amazing in blue. She runs her hands along the hard lines of his muscular torso until she finds a small hole in the lining of the pocket. She reaches in and fishes out one small silver hard-drive.
And they learn the truth about Jason’s murder.
The truth is twisted, like the convoluted roots of the Blossom family tree which fractured after a murder so many generations ago. The truth is messy, like the pool of sticky maple syrup spreading like infection on the Blossom barn floor. The truth is that Clifford killed his son.
The truth is often fruitless, because while one question has been answered, a thousand other ones pop up. Why did Clifford kill his son? What did Jason actually see that made him want to run away? What happened?
A murder destroyed the Blossom family tree all those years ago. And another murder has ruptured it even further. The poison root might be cut off at the surface, but there are other pieces in the earth that remain to flower in poisonous blossoms.
And the truth is often incomplete, because the one person who had all the answers now hangs from a rope in the Blossom family barn, while barrels of maple syrup have cracked open beneath him, spilling truth, maple syrup and strange brown parcels wrapped in plastic.
Next week: “The Sweet Hereafter”