With Riverdale season 2’s Wednesday, October 11, premiere on the horizon, it’s impossible not to fondly look back on the CW blockbuster’s near-perfect freshman debut of soapy teen drama. In 13 episodes, the dark Archie Comics adaptation tackled slut shaming, teenage pregnancy, weird-boy tropes, and murder mysteries with a deft hand, turning the newbie series into a national obsession. Yet, there was one Riverdale subplot nearly no one could applaud: the extremely sexual relationship between many-abed high school sophomore Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa) and his adult teacher, Geraldine Grundy (Sarah Habel). And, yet, one thoroughly disproven Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines) murder mystery theory could have at least explained why the show included a strange exploration of statutory rape in its debut installments. The speculation ties together Miss Grundy’s abuse survivor past, her wildly inappropriate "relationship" with Archie, and Jason’s death in a way that makes forcing viewers to watch another predatory teacher-student relationship comprehensible. It’s the theory I’ll always wish could have been.
In Miss Grundy’s last appearance in Riverdale season 1, "The Last Picture Show," we finally learn the young woman’s true identity and reason for moving to the the titular, sleepy Anywhere, U.S.A. town. The music teacher’s real name is Jennifer Gibson, and she’s a 35-year-old Minnesota native hiding a gun in her car. But, Jennifer, isn’t a "sketch queen," as Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), puts it. No, she’s a domestic abuse survivor whose ex-husband would beat her so badly she was once sent to the emergency with broken ribs and a shattered collarbone. Jennifer-Geraldine — let's call her "Gerifer" — eventually fled her unquestionably dangerous situation and has been on the run ever since.
By the end of "Picture Show," this entire dramatic storyline is nullified. Betty Cooper's, er, very intense mom Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) finds out about Archie and Grundy’s relationship — by snooping through her daughter's bedroom until she finds that gun, which Betty (Lili Reinhart) stole — and decides to put the teacher on a verbal "trial" in Riverdale High School’s music room. Alice is the judge, jury, and would-be executioner if she got her way. Instead of letting the “wheels of justice take over,” as the very extra Alice prattles on about in a way that would make Scandal’s speechifer-in-chief Rowan Pope (Joe Morton) proud, Grundy agrees to quit her job and flee town. The next morning she gets the heck out of Dodge, taking her retro heart-eye sunglasses, even more retro Beetle, and continued sexualization of teen boys (as she gets in her car, she practically wolf whistles at two weirdly-buff high schoolers wearing RHS colors) with her.
Just like that, the entire romanticization of good-looking teens being statutorily raped by their sexy teachers is done, never, ever to be heard of again; for the rest of the season. In fact, the name "Grundy" is never even mentioned for the next 9 episodes of Riverdale season 1, which is bizarre, considering just how much attention this "romance" was given throughout the first four hours of the new series. It's a strange thread to lead with if the "relationship" would ultimately go nowhere. Showing a taboo relationship, and over-played trope, just for the sake of showing a taboo relationship doesn't feel like enough of a justification in 2017.
However, Riverdale would have given viewers a much bigger pay-off for watching the Grundy-Archie criminal trainwreck if they had tied the teacher’s disturbing and extremely detailed past into Riverdale’s disturbing present. Specifically, I’m talking about Jason Blossom’s murder. While it’s eventually confirmed the maple-syrup-and-(surprise!)-heroin heir was killed by his drug kingpin father Clifford Blossom (Barclay Hope), imagine if the murder had actually been committed by Geraldine-Jennifer’s abusive, unhinged husband… by accident?
Once you look at the facts, this theory isn’t actually so crazy. The unnamed man has already been characterized by his violent streak, and it’s hinted he could still be hunting down his ex-wife. Why else would she be living under an assumed name, picking up random dead old ladies’ identities as she goes, moving from place to place every year, and hiding a firearm arm in her car even with all of these protections in place? The only reason for this kind of off-the-radar behavior is Gerifer’s obvious fear that if her ex caught up to her, she could be in immediate fatal danger.
The other piece of this puzzle is Archie and Jason’s supposed physical similarities. The two women closest to Jason, his sister Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) and his own mother Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt), are both so deeply overcome by the pair’s likeness, they have visceral reactions to simply seeing the very alive Archie. "You’re so much like him," Penelope coos at Archie during her son’s funeral, straight up stroking the teen’s face and hair. Cheryl has an emotional breakdown just looking at Archie wearing her brother’s football number and is so freaked out, she has to run into a locker room to cry.
If two Blossoms could confuse Archie and Jason for a few moments, while knowing the latter so personally, it stands to reason a complete stranger could also confuse the two. Hypothetically, Miss Grundy’s ex-husband could have finally tracked her down to Riverdale, stalked her for quite some time, realized she was sleeping with a red-haired student with a football player’s build, followed her to Sweetwater River, and, in an act of vengeance, kidnapped someone on that exact body of water who fit Archie’s description — he just didn’t manage to capture Archie. The fact that Jason was kidnapped and tortured before his death also fits with this theory, considering the husband’s jealousy over his ex-wife’s new relationship. Of course Gerifer’s former spouse would have to kill Jason after realizing his mistake as a way to cover his tracks.
This is the twist that could have connected all of the discomfort we experienced watching Gerifer manipulate a 15-year-old boy and the general mythos of Riverdale. Instead, the reveal of who killed Jason came with an unexpected drug plot twist, a suicide, and Cheryl Blossom eventually torching the house of horrors known as Thornhill Manor, which, all in all, is actually very Riverdale.
Still, I raise a glass of maple syrup to you, bygone Jason Blossom murder mystery twist that could have been.
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