‘Riverdale’ Season 4 Premiere Delivers Unexpectedly Touching Tribute to Luke Perry

In the premiere of the fourth season of Riverdale, the gang of troublemaking teens, plucked from the pages of the Archie comics, take a break from staving off bears, inciting turf wars, and spontaneously bursting into song to pay tribute to Luke Perry. The somber first episode acts as both a respectful homage to the beloved actor, who played Archie’s dad Fred Andrews in the show’s first three seasons until suffering a fatal stroke in February, and as a way to explain his character’s sudden absence.

The serious tone of the episode means none of the usual unrealistic, delightfully-absurd antics that make the show fun to watch, from a cheerleading squad breaking into juvie to perform “Jailhouse Rock” for the inmates to the time that Archie wore a bowtie to his murder trial. Instead, Season 4 picks up during the surprisingly uneventful summer before Archie’s (KJ Apa) senior year of high school. He and his friends, Jughead (Cole Sprouse), Betty (Lili Reinhart), and Veronica (Camila Mendes), are enjoying the peaceful respite from investigating murders and sparring with mob bosses. They’re making plans to go camping when Archie receives the news that his father has died.

Without spoiling the details of Fred’s death, I can disclose that he gets into an accident that reaffirms his characterization on the show as a selfless and humble local hero. The rest of the episode will undoubtedly leave viewers misty-eyed, as Archie and co. struggle to come to terms with the reality of the tragedy and make preparations for the funeral. In one particularly moving scene, the town’s annual Fourth of July parade is converted into a celebration of Fred Andrews.

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