Think back to a time before Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) was a part of a major FBI investigation, Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) was a biker gang revolutionary, or Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) had a possibly homicidal surprise brother sleeping in the room next door on Riverdale. Think about when all we knew about the CW murder soap was that two extremely pale, red-haired twins went out on a lake in matching outfits while holding hands and one of them didn’t come back. Didn’t it seem like there was something a little Jamie and Cersei Lannister about those two, if you catch my drift?
Ever since we first met Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines), the question of sibling-on-sibling incest has always hung over the Blossom family tree. But, Wednesday night’s “The Wrestler” suggested there might be a very different incestuous pair hailing from the house of Gothic horrors that was Thornhill Manor: Penelope (Nathalie Boltt) and Clifford Blossom (Barclay Hope).
If you were paying close attention to the singlet and “webcam gigolo”-filled episode that is “Chapter Twenty-Four,” you likely noticed a very bizarre conversation between Cheryl and her mother, who hypothetically joined the wealthy clan by wedding the late Clifford, in front of the General Pickens statue. Penelope talks about the Blossom family history as though it’s her own personal lineage as opposed to a tradition she married into.
Cheryl is aghast at the new allegations the original Blossoms had an entire Native American tribe slaughtered in order to steal steal their land. “How do you think we got started in the maple syrup business?” Penelope asks. She doesn’t say “your father’s family” or even “the family.” No, “we,” as though she has known the true Blossom story her entire life because she was born into it.
If that were the only questionable familial comment Penelope makes through this “Wrestler” exchange, we could possibly write it off as her complete assimilation into the Blossom hive mind, but it’s not. She continues, “Back in those early days, we had a hand in everything. Building the railroads, operating the saloon, and, yes, even a brothel. The old ways die hard, it seems.” Not only does this mini monologue again hint Penelope has the kind of veneration for Blossom history only someone raised with it could muster, she also suggests the life of a madam is in her blood.
Since Riverdale returned from its midseason break, Penelope has began entertaining the lonely men of our titular sleepy burg as “a woman of the night,” as Cheryl describes her mother’s new profession. Despite the teen’s shade, Penelope couldn’t be prouder of her growing enterprise, explaining it’s “not that different” from her youth, when she enjoyed the attention of countless gentleman callers lining up for the privilege of her company. Now, she’s claiming this new calling is the “way” of her family, like the tendency is in her DNA. No one talks about their family-through-marriage in such a dramatically reverential and personal way — not even on Riverdale.
Bizarrely, when you really think about it, the CW drama hasn’t done anything to prove Penelope isn’t a Blossom by birth. It’s well established she grew up in Riverdale and was high school rivals with Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols). Despite Penelope’s serious Riverdale roots, we’ve never seen or heard of her having a single non-Blossom family member or even a possible maiden name. Rather, we only see the widow with her supposed “mother-in-law” Nana Rose Blossom (Barbara Wallace), including after the shocking loss of both Penelope's son and husband. If your biological mom was in town, wouldn’t she check on you after that kind of tragedy? The answer is either “no” or “yes, and her name is Nana Rose.”
On top of all of this, we can’t avoid the simple fact Penelope looks like every single other Blossom in the world, as evidenced by the massive Blossom horde that ascended up Thornhill in “La Grande Illusion.” Try and convince yourself Penelope doesn’t fit in at that biological family-only bash to an undeniable level.
Although Riverdale hasn’t commented on how Clifford and Penelope ended up together just yet — did they fall in love in high school or the crib? — it has proven incest isn’t unheard of in the Blossom family. In “Anatomy Of A Murder,” local terrible dad Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro) reveals Betty’s great-grandfather was actually a Blossom who broke away from the syrup-making family. This confession meant Betty’s sister Polly Cooper (Tiera Skovbye) was actually carrying twins conceived by accidental incest; she and her late boyfriend Jason were distant cousins.
When the Coopers show up at the Blossom House Of Horrors to take Polly, who was being held semi-captive at Thornhill, Penelope was nonplussed by the incest accusations. “Nothing could be more purely Blossom than those babies,” the grandma-to-be offered, to everyone’s disgust. Clifford was equally okay with incest, adding, “Will you spare us the middle-class morality?” Even though Cheryl literally sobs over the news, her parents aren’t exactly freaked out by incest.
In fact, Cliff explains, a relationship between “third cousins” is nothing to worry about. So, even if Penelope and her husband aren’t direct siblings, it’s plausible they would be unbothered by entering into a relationship with a comfortably removed relative.
So, Penelope is talking about Blossom lore like it was her favorite childhood bedtime story, has no other family to speak of, and is cool with vague incest? You know what they say, if it walks like a Blossom from birth, talks like a Blossom, and schemes like a Blossom, it's probably a Blossom.
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