Riverdale fans knew they would need a box of tissues—and a litre of water for re-hydration—heading into the season four premiere of the dark teen drama. Wednesday night’s premiere served not only as the on-screen goodbye to the beloved TV father figure, Fred Andrews, but as a tribute to the late actor who played him, Luke Perry. Cue the waterworks and consider this your spoiler warning.
Showrunners have been clear since Perry’s passing in March that they wanted to give his character a send-off worthy of the late actor and they did just that. Early into the premiere, Perry’s TV son, Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) receives the news that his father was killed in a hit-and-run while he was stopped at the side of the road helping a woman who was having car trouble. Typical Fred, helping someone—anyone—in need.
In a sweet reveal later into the episode, it turns out the woman Perry’s character stopped to help was his former Beverly Hills, 90210 castmate and real-life friend, Shannen Doherty. Ahead of the show, Doherty shared a photo with the cast including Apa, Cole Sprouse, Lili Reinhart and Camila Mendes with the simple caption, “Miss him.”
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The story goes on to complicate the situation when the person who hit Fred comes forward, offering Archie the opportunity for a confrontation (something he should maybe stop doing). Ultimately, the situation is diffused with the revelation that the person who committed the hit-and-run was actually the man’s son for whom his father was taking the fall—something Fred Andrews 100 per cent would have done for Archie. Oh, don’t mind that sound, it’s just us sobbing into a pillow.
Fans also got the therapeutic scene of Fred’s funeral and a tribute parade amid scenes of the cast pulling together in support of one another. It’s all very bittersweet and showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa told E! future episodes in the season will further explore grief, especially how Archie and his mother, Mary Andrews (Molly Ringwald) are dealing with the loss.
“Fred casts a long shadow. He’s always been our kind of moral centre,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “Archie wants to live up to that… But Archie’s still going to be Archie, and I think he’s going to struggle with grief and struggle with how to live up to Fred’s memory.”
We love and honor you every single day, Luke. #Riverdale
— Lili Reinhart (@lilireinhart) October 10, 2019
And it’s clear the entire cast feels that same loss on-set. Lili Reinhart tweeted that it was “the most important episode we’ve ever filmed” and live-tweeted as it aired, adding little behind the scenes tidbits like the fact Perry loved to show her pictures of his dog between takes. Madelaine Petsch (who plays Cheryl Blossom) shared that the whole cast and crew put their “heart and soul” into the episode. We could definitely feel it.