What the heck is going on with Cheryl in season 4 of Riverdale?! (Pictures)

Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) is unequivocally the best character on The CW’s Riverdale (all apologies to Dr. Curdle Jr.), but at the end of the drama’s third season, she made a bizarre choice. Presented with the unearthed, dead body of her brother Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines), she decided to take said corpse and store it in her basement. A weird decision (to put it lightly) for a character who has shown tremendous growth over three seasons, but based on some teases dropped over the past few weeks, it looks like Season 4 is going to get even weirder.

In case that opening paragraph seems like a bunch of inscrutable nonsense to you, first of all, welcome to Riverdale. Second of all, here’s a brief rundown that may provide some clarity. The kick-off for the entire series was the death of Jason, a mystery that broke both his twin sister Cheryl and the town of Riverdale. At the end of Season 1 we did find out the answer to who killed Jason Blossom: his father, Clifford Blossom (Barclay Hope). The revelation of that caused Clifford to hang himself and Cheryl to burn down her house. You know, normal stuff.

Things got rougher for Cheryl in Season 2, as she was left alone in a husk of a mansion with her maniac/hooker mother Penelope (Nathalie Boltt) and her aging grandmother, Nana Rose (Barbara Wallace). Ultimately she reached a breaking point when she met Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan), who helped her rediscover her homosexuality — leading to Penelope committing Cheryl to a conversion facility. Toni freed her, and over the next season and a half Cheryl’s soulmate has helped the broken girl heal, realize that love doesn’t always need to come hand-in-hand with pain, and grow into a passionate leader and deeply loyal friend.

…and then came The Farm, an organ-stealing cult that used drugs to dupe members into seeing their departed love ones. For Cheryl, that meant them digging up Jason’s body, mouth sewn shut in classic horror movie fashion, and making her believe that his surprisingly well-preserved corpse was her brother, back and alive.

At least at first, according to Riverdale showrunner, Cheryl was supposed to just let sleeping corpses lie.

“This is someone who’s been defined by her relationship with her brother,” Aguirre-Sacasa told Decider in an interview earlier this year. “That’s why she joined The Farm, was because she got to see him again. We really trusted that. We thought, ‘Okay, now she gets to see her brother again.’ Which, she really gave that up so quickly [in the episode] and we kind of thought, ‘maybe not.’”

Based on the scant teases we’ve seen, Riverdale is leaning into this “maybe not” choice in a big way in Season 4. Yes, Cheryl is still with Toni, which is great news for fans of the groundbreaking LGBTQ+ couple. And you’d think that would keep Ms. Blossom on the straight and narrow, but as usual with Riverdale, instead it seems likely they’re going in multiple directions at once.

The first clue that the whole “Jason’s body” plot won’t be dropped anytime soon came from Aguirre-Sacasa’s Instagram account on September 10, where he posted a photoshopped version of the Hereditary poster with Cheryl, a creepy sailor puppet, and a ping-pong ball.

“This season on #Riverdale. Horror is where the home is,” Aguirre-Sacasa wrote, followed by the showrunner’s usual assorted string of emojis. Later it was revealed that “Hereditary” is the name for the season’s sixth episode, so it stands to reason Aguirre-Sacasa dropped this tease while they were filming. Backing up that assertion? A blink and you miss it moment on Madelaine Petsch’s Instagram story showing a member of the crew walking through set with the sailor puppet.

For those who haven’t checked out Ari Aster’s 2018 horror film of the same name, there are, in fact, some creepy dolls. There’s also a major plot point about a family dealing with the death of their grandmother, leading fans to speculate that perhaps the character death teased for the season’s Halloween episode (titled “Halloween”) might end up being Nana Rose.

As for the Jason of it all, Petsch again posted on her Instagram story on September 17 (really, you all should check out this Instagram app, it’s fun stuff) a pic of her holding wax hands with the caption “Guess who my scene partner is today!” Since actor Trevor Stines wasn’t used for the body in the Season 3 finale, it stands to reason that Cheryl still has Jason’s body around by episode 7, “Chapter Sixty-Four: The Ice Storm.”

…and that brings us to earlier today, when Aguirre-Sacasa posted yet another head-scratching tease:

“The Chimera is coming. #Riverdale 408. Filming this week,” Aguirre-Sacasa wrote. The picture included a similar seeming sailor outfit to the puppet from “Hereditary” (the episode, not the movie), along with a definition for the word “chimera”: “A single celled organism that’s made up of cells from two or more ‘individuals’ – that is, it contains two sets of DNA due to a placental fusion in development.”

I’ll note that the word chimera carries a few other meanings with it. In Greek mythology, a chimera is a mash-up monster with the head of a lion, body of a goat, and tail of a snake That version of the chimera breathes fire. A chimera can also be used to describe something impossible, like, “My hope that Lili Reinhart will win an Emmy for Riverdale is a chimera.” But what Aguirre-Sacasa is riffing on here is the scientific definition of chimera (which is itself taken from the mythological definition).

So I repeat: what the heck is going on with Cheryl Blossom in Riverdale Season 4?

Given that — footage-wise — we’ve only seen less than a minute of the new season, plus a few photos from the premiere, which will be a stand-alone episode focusing solely on the real life passing of star Luke Perry, it’s definitely early to speculate. But if we were to put the clues together (and after a thousand words of wind-up, that’s what you’re here for, right?) it seems pretty clear that Riverdale Season 4 is leaning hard into the gothic horror aspects of the Blossom family.

At the end of Season 3, while Cheryl was hiding Jason’s body, her mother Penelope was revealed as the master-mind behind multiple plots to drive Riverdale into darkness. She was influencing serial killer The Black Hood (Lochlyn Munro), controlling Chic (Hart Denton), and has always been in charge of one of the town’s oldest evils, The Gargoyle King. It was also revealed in a flashback episode (“The Midnight Club”) that Penelope wasn’t born a Blossom: she was actually adopted by the Blossom family as a red-headed bride for Clifford Blossom.

My best guess at this point is that Cheryl is going to have an extremely hard time letting go of Jason’s body. At the very least, it seems to be still present through episode 7. So what if Jason isn’t just a sounding board for Cheryl like some sort of f-ed up therapy doll, but an active participant this year? One could venture a guess that while trying to get away from her dependence of the body, she subs in a creepy sailor puppet doll for Jason. And when that doesn’t work, or she’s ultimately confronted about keeping her dead brother’s body in the basement, she adopts the personality of the sailor puppet/Jason, hence the chimera tease.

There’s another possibility, of course, and that’s something left dangling by that Penelope reveal in “The Midnight Club.” What if Jason and Cheryl aren’t twins at all? Or what if either — or both of them — were part of some sort of bizarre genetic experiment conducted by the Blossom family?

Though time has purposefully never been Riverdale‘s strong suit, there was an early flub that seemed to imply Jason was older than Cheryl. Since then the production has been open about the mistake, and said fans shouldn’t worry about it. But what if, like with the choice to keep Jason’s body versus dumping him back in the graveyard at the end of Season 3, they leaned into the idea? What if Jason was actually older than Cheryl? Would that mean one of them was adopted? In the comics, there’s sometimes a secret, third Blossom triplet. Is that what’s coming down the road?

And then there’s the bigger question of what this means for Cheryl’s mental state. Fans of the character are rightfully concerned that Cheryl, who has dealt with loss, suicidal ideation, and conversion therapy might slide backwards for the sake of arch, gothic drama. There’s a school of thought that could note Riverdale is far removed from reality: for example, look at Betty Cooper’s (Reinhart) “serial killer gene” revealed last season, which is almost a real thing but in the realm of the show is treated as fantasy. For Cheryl, as an LGBTQ+ character many viewers look to for positive representation, making these sorts of choices means a whole lot more, and has a far greater impact. Cheryl’s three season long journey to self-acceptance and growth have included some of the series’ emotional high-points, and to potentially toss that for a few scares and buzzy weirdness would be alarming.

Notice I say, “potentially.” Like I mentioned earlier, we’ve seen less than sixty seconds of footage from the season, so pre-judging which way the story will go is premature. Additionally, it’s important to note that Petsch is extremely vocal about what Cheryl’s story means to her, and to fans. She’s as protective of Cheryl as the writing staff, and engaged with the fanbase. If they were going in a direction that would somehow damage that representation for a shocking storyline, in stands to reason that Petsch would speak out — and history shows that Aguirre-Sacasa and company would listen. To that point, Petsch commented on the chimera tease that, “I’m dying,” followed by six crying/laughing face emojis. That’s a lot of crying/laughing face emojis if the show was taking a controversial turn for Cheryl. As a related note, what am I doing with my life that I’m parsing emojis in Instagram comments from actresses on a CW teen drama? Honestly not sure!

Long story short, these sorts of head-scratching teases are meant to cause speculation, get fans worried, get them talking. Episode 8, which includes this “chimera” tease won’t even air until December, at the earliest, so there’s plenty of time to watch, enjoy, and then get upset if need be a few months down the road. And also trust that whatever happens to Cheryl, as bad as it gets, Toni will always be right there by her side to save her.

Riverdale returns to The CW on Wednesday, October 9 at 8/7c.

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