WHODUNNIT? Bluebeard, the (Ex) Serial Killer: The Wolf Among Us

bluebeard copy3I just love that – “ex” serial killer. Oh, no worries, it was a college thing. I stopped butchering young women when I got my first job and became a real adult. I’m a new man now, babe, I promise. Marry me?

It’s even worse that he has sweet Lee’s deep voice. (Run Clementine! Run!) He probably lulls his prey with that smoky timber and then POW! Head detached from body. This man is Danger, with a capital D, but not in the same way that Bigby can be. This is the Lex Luthor to our muscular, but slightly clueless, Superman, and he’s already making a power play.

Ransacking Crane’s room? Roughing up Flycatcher? This man has a penchant for violence and something to hide. That is why he’s on our suspect list.

Bluebeard comes from a French literary fairy tale about a man who murders his wives if they open the secret room in his house. The secret room happens to hold the bodies of his former beaus. He has a blue beard which disturbs everyone profoundly, even his soon-to-be wife…. who quickly gets over it when she finds out how stinkin’ rich he is. Still, as a safeguard she makes her weapon-competent brothers promise to come running if she ever calls.

Bluebeard then runs off to deal with business, entrusting his new wife with the house keys, but making her promise to not use one golden key to open the small room beneath the house.

Naturally, she goes and opens it right after he leaves.

Turns out, she isn’t Bluebeard’s first wife: in fact, he’s had slews of them – they’re all hanging from hooks on the walls, dead. Horrified, she drops the gold key into the pool of blood, staining it so, when Bluebeard comes home, he knows exactly what she has done. Time to get a new bride!

The soon-to-be-dead wife pleads for time to say her prayers and, when granted it, promptly locks herself in the highest tower, where she screams her head off for her brothers to come. Smart girl.

Bluebeard’s not a fan of this and tries to break the door down, only to be stopped by the weapon-proficient brothers, who dispatch of him. And they all live happily ever after!

Now, this is the “mundy” version of the story: as Bluebeard appears to still be kicking, it must have ended differently in the Fables universe.

What can we take away from this? First, Bluebeard definitely has the constitution to murder someone, particularly women who enter into a sexual relationship with him. More importantly, it reveals something about Bluebeard’s nature: he likes to manipulate people.

In light of the Fabletown murders, it should also be noted that in the most famous rendition of Bluebeard by Charles Perrault, Bluebeard attempts to kill his most recent wife by beheading her.

Both Lily and Faith’s heads have been detached from their bodies – and Lily’s happened during what was, most likely, a sexual situation. On the other hand, Faith, like Bluebeard’s wives, defies her orders and attempts to reveal (or in the wives’ case, seek) the truth.

The bodies in both the fairy tale and TWAU are handled and displayed in demeaning and grotesque ways: Bluebeard’s wives are stung up on hooks like meat, while Faith and Lily’s heads are put out as a spectacle. In Faith’s case, her ribbon has been stuffed into her mouth, showing both disrespect and disgust. Most likely the ribbon’s placement is a nod toward her loose tongue.

Yet, while the type of murder and some of the handling fits Bluebeard’s M.O., there are several aspects of the crimes that do not:

Why it isn’t Him

Bluebeard is a predatory animal that likes to play with his food. All of his wives die because they open the secret door – because their curiosity gets the better of them. Bluebeard doesn’t just want to kill women, he wants them to, from his own, twisted viewpoint, implicate themselves in their murders. If only wife #3 hadn’t opened the door, why, then Bluebeard wouldn’t have had to kill her at all!

Take for instance, Bluebeard’s perception of the murderer: “[Crane] has the stones to kill prostitutes, like any common, sex-frightened serial killer, and not face a real challenge.”

Bluebeard did not kill these women because there wasn’t any “fun”  or “challenge” to it. The “real challenge” is the manipulation: the foreplay, if you will, to Bluebeard’s bloody finale. Where’s the difficulty in killing a friendless, unsuspecting prostitute?

Furthermore, while Faith’s and Lily’s beheadings seem very similar to how Bluebeard’s wife nearly died, there is another, more likely literary origin to this:

In Ep. 1, Bigby asks Faith what is going on and soon after that she presses a hand to the ribbon tied around her neck. “Do you like my ribbon?” she asks, and Bigby is so, so confused. (Oh, Bigby.)

This symbol hearkens to “The Green Ribbon,” a story from In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories, by Alvin Schwartz. In the tale a young woman named Jenny wears a ribbon around her neck which, when removed causes her head to fall off.

TWAUribbonsEvery single prostitute at the Pudding & Pie wears a ribbon around their neck. Faith, Vivian, Nerissa and Lily. And, Faith’s ribbon was stuck in her mouth when Bigby and Snow recovered her head.

We know the prostitutes already have spells on their tongues (“My lips are sealed”) and by emphasizing the ribbon Faith exposes another key part of her enslavement to the Sheriff. This is why the ribbon is on her tongue: she broke the rules.

What this indicates is that whoever killed Faith has a vested interest in keeping her lips sealed – her killer is involved in the Pudding & Pie business. While Bluebeard is a suspicious figure (and definitely up to no good) we have no clues, as of yet, to associate him with the strip club.

And besides, if the ribbon-pulling really is the way Faith died we know it most likely is not Bluebeard who pulled it. He likes to get his hands dirty. (Ask Flycatcher.)

On a narrative level, Bluebeard’s guilt seems equally unlikely. I mean, the man is best known for brutally murdering women – it’s not much of a real mystery if he actually did it. His interference with the Fabletown government and his ransacking of Crane’s apartment reek of political or monetary interest, not of Bluebeard’s guilt.

Placing the killer in mystery fiction is one of the most difficult things for the creator(s) to do. On one hand, you want the audience to go back and say: “of course!” On the other, you don’t want them to say “well, duh,” when the killer is revealed. The problem is, Bluebeard is too obvious, too blatant for the narrative to work. Bluebeard could never be our killer because, frankly, he is always Suspect #1.

Besides, y’all, he’s an ex­-serial killer.

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