In the season’s second-to-last episode, Riverdale heats up faster than Chuck Clayton in a Jacuzzi, held underwater by the toe of Betty’s stiletto. F.P. Jones has been arrested for Jason Blossom’s murder, although Archie and Veronica are sure that the (figurative, not literal) smoking gun was planted in his trailer.
Devastated by his dad’s arrest, Jughead calls up his mom from a payphone at the bus station to tell her he’s coming to visit, but it’s clear from his side of the phone call that she’d prefer he didn’t. He exchanges his ticket for whatever early-morning bus is leaving next, but his friends, bearing both an apology and a firm belief in F.P.’s innocence, find Jughead nursing a lonely cup of coffee at Pop’s before he can skip town.
Despite what the Scoobies may think, F.P. confesses to Jason’s murder. He explains to Sheriff Keller that Jason had approached him that summer, in need of cash and a getaway car. In exchange, he’d make a “delivery” — hence the weed Jughead and Betty found stashed in the trunk. But when F.P. realized that this kid’s father was Clifford “Serious Money, Ridiculous Hair” Blossom, he saw an opportunity. F.P. says he grabbed Jason when he crossed Sweetwater River. He tied him up in the basement of the Whyte Wyrm, the Serpents’ bar, then informed Mr. Blossom that his son was being held for ransom. When Jason tried to escape, F.P. tells the sheriff, that’s when he killed him. He also oddly cops to stealing Sheriff Keller’s file on the murder, even though we know Hal Cooper is to blame for that. Who is F.P. protecting? Why lie?
With this break in Jason’s case, the Blossoms seem thrilled — or as thrilled as they can be, given that their son is not suddenly alive again — but Cheryl doesn’t feel particularly relieved. Veronica, for her part, is still worried about her kingpin father’s relation to this whole sordid affair. What if he hired another Serpent to plant the gun?
Betty and her mother — who, naturally, has a handgun at the ready — are awakened by the sound of Hal rummaging downstairs. He’s come to destroy the files he stole from Sheriff Keller, and with them, any possible link between the Cooper clan and the murder. See, the ties that bind their family and the Blossoms are, well, tighter than what he’d originally led Alice and Betty to believe. Hal’s grandfather wasn’t just murdered by a Blossom — he was a Blossom. When one brother killed the other, their branch of the family tree willfully severed itself and took the name “Cooper.” This means Jason and Polly were blood-related.
The Coopers proceed directly to Thornhill for some good old-fashioned pajama yelling. They demand that Polly return home (Hal, why were you not on top of ensuring your daughter’s safety weeks ago?) and accuse the Blossoms of killing their son to cover up the incest. Penelope in particular is scandalized by this allegation, if not by the prospect of some light eugenics. “Nothing could be more purely Blossom than those babies,” she insists of her unborn grandkids.
At the police station, an emotional Jughead lays into his dad. The possibility of sharing a wholesome life together had meant so much to him. “Never come back here,” F.P. orders from behind bars, in his own Harry and the Hendersons moment. But a lifetime of being lied to by his father has taught Jughead when F.P. isn’t telling the truth. Deep down, he knows not to believe him.
Strangely enough, F.P. used his one phone call to contact Joaquin, the Southside Serpents gang member who’s dating Kevin. Joaquin reveals to his boyfriend & Co. that, late on July 11, he was summoned by F.P. for a “clean-up job” in the Wyrm’s off-limits basement. There, he saw the corpse of Jason Blossom with his own eyes and even helped F.P. stash it in the freezer. No, Joaquin didn’t explicitly ask Jughead’s dad if he did the deed — but, um, it doesn’t look great for him.
He leads the Nancy Drew crew to a sketchy motel room to see a fellow Serpent named Mustang, who might know something about Hiram Lodge’s possible involvement with the gang. Too bad Mustang is dead, having overdosed in his bathtub. (Reminder: Never allow any part of your body to make contact with a sketchy motel bathtub.)
Once the authorities (and a lot of understandably upset parents) arrive, the sheriff finds a bag stuffed with cash under Mustang’s bed — a bag, he pointedly notes, that bears Hermione Lodge’s initials. Veronica can’t restrain herself from observing that those are also her dad’s initials, and did you know that he was doing business with the Serpents? Hermione lightly suggests they wait for their lawyer before further incriminating their family. Kevin puts Joaquin on a bus out of town (headed for San Junipero, a truly adorable Black Mirror reference) with a good-bye kiss.
Meanwhile, Cheryl presses her mother about the argument Jason had with her father before he disappeared. Why were they fighting about the family business? Was the Blossom Maple Farms’ supposed heir unable to handle it? Cheryl asks if Jason was running away from something or someone close to home. Enraged by the implication that she or her husband could have been involved in Jason’s death, Penelope drags Cheryl into the barn. “There’s the sticky, dark, dirty truth,” Penelope says, indicating the barrels upon barrels of maple syrup lining the walls. Ooooookay.
On a tip from Joaquin, Betty, Veronica, and Kevin find a sack hidden near where Jason’s would-have-been getaway car was found. Inside is Jason’s varsity jacket. How is this supposed to help F.P.’s case? It’s unclear until Betty discovers a hole in the pocket. A USB drive is tucked into the jacket’s lining. The kids plug it into a laptop (excuse me, but that is not cybersecurity best practices) and are utterly aghast at what they see onscreen. Betty calls up Cheryl and tells her to get out of the house. Cheryl, her face streaked with tears, finds her parents eating dinner. “You did a bad thing, Daddy,” she says. “And now everyone knows.” Protect Cheryl Blossom at all costs.
Alice Cooper turns the USB drive over to Sheriff Keller and Mayor McCoy. We finally see its contents: Footage of Jason tied to a chair in the bar basement. Mustang taunts him before none other than Clifford Blossom appears. He takes Nana Blossom’s engagement ring from his son’s pocket, then shoots him.
We don’t yet know exactly why, but we finally know who killed Jason Blossom. Unless we don’t. But it seems like we do. (But do we? I think we do. But you never know. But maybe?) So why did F.P. confess? Because Clifford Blossom came to see him the night he was arrested and threatened to kill Jughead if he didn’t take responsibility for the murder.
Also, Hiram Lodge is officially coming home, and Archie’s mother — that is, Molly Ringwald — is officially heading back to Chicago. But there are more important matters to attend to first. When the cops drive through Thornhill’s gates, Cheryl and Penelope point numbly toward the barn. Inside, Clifford Blossom is dead, hanging from a noose. A barrel has been knocked over, spilling plastic bags of the mysterious brown material that we’ve been well-trained as TV viewers to recognize as Very Serious Drugs.
If you’ll permit me one last loony theory before the season wraps up next week: “Cooper” is the traditional name associated with the profession of barrel-making. Maybe another Riverdale family has something to do with those Very Serious Drugs?