The season premiere of Riverdale’s fourth season, titled “In Memoriam,” should’ve come with a warning: if you’re a big dumb emotional baby like myself, wait until you’re home alone to hit play on your CW app. The trailer from last month did nothing to spoil its premiere episode. From the looks of it, I was expecting a teaser of some impending disaster involving Jughead—it seriously looked like he was going to disappear and his pals were going to be responsible with disposing of his body. And whose to say that won’t happen in a few episode’s time? It, however, did not happen last night. Instead, the episode was a 42-minute celebration of Fred Andrews, Archie Andrews’ father, and by extension, the late actor Luke Perry, who died of a stroke in March of this year at age 52.
In the time between Season 3 and 4, the town of Riverdale had somehow managed to work through their cult-related collective PTSD and set their sites on celebrating the 4th of July for the first time in years. Good things don’t last long in their dark Americana, and Archie learned in the premiere that his father had been killed in a hit and run—he pulled over on the side of a busy interstate to help a woman with a flat tire when a speeding car struck him. The entire episode followed Archie as he navigated his immediate trauma—first attempting to confront the man guilty for his father’s death before realizing it was an idiot kid who was responsible for the accident, and then coming to the terms with the fact that he should be proud of his dad for always wanting to help people, even though it resulted in his death. The episode ends with fireworks, hot people and an Arlo Guthrie song, just as his father would’ve wanted.
Perry’s character on the show was almost a parody of what a good guy looks like—endlessly altruistic and soft-spoken, a wonderful final role for the actor where an over-the-top eulogy for the character felt appropriate for a real-life person that meant so much to so many. Without Perry, Riverdale will lose a concrete moral center, which is probably why his passing felt so devastating on screen. Who knows what will happen to these sexy teens in the future without Andrews to protect them?
I could feel the blisters of a hard day’s work forming on my fingers when Archie gave a speech about how his dad built the city. Also, Veronica’s dad paid for the funeral, so I’m excited to see how that plays out.
It’ll be interesting to see if Fred Andrews’ legacy colors the remainder of this forthcoming season. And even if it doesn’t, the premiere episode was a really beautiful way to pay tribute to such a central character—and talent—in teen television lexicon.
R.I.P. Luke Perry, indeed.