Binge Break: Riverdale is better than ever for the most heartbreaking reason

Riverdale honored late actor Luke Perry in its touching season four premiere.


Kayli Reese, Managing News Editor

Riverdale finally went back to its roots in its season four premiere on Oct. 9. I would give absolutely anything for the cause of this switch to be for a different reason.

Instead of jumping into this season’s mystery, Riverdale paid tribute to Luke Perry, who died in March after suffering a massive stroke. Perry played Fred Andrews, Archie Andrew’s father and the most moral, likeable character on the show.

I had been waiting patiently for two seasons for Riverdale, which is very loosely based off of the Archie Comics characters, to capture the unique magic it had in its beginning. The first season of the show, admittedly, is cheesy in the way all shows centered around upper-middle class high school students is contractually obliged to be. However, the story was intoxicating: a perfect blend of real teenage and family struggles with a murder mystery that kept viewers guessing until the very end.

The intense popularity that catapulted the show into a massive hit for the CW got right to its head, however, and season two and three are riddled with muddled, overburdened, extreme, and frankly odd plotlines, including:

  • rival gangs with teen leaders
  • drug rings of something called Jingle Jangle that looks like pixy stixs
  • murder sprees that no one seems concerned with
  • a teenager starting a speakeasy
  • the Gargoyle King coming back to collect on his blood debt from decades ago

(Riverdale is a bit ridiculous, but I literally cannot look away. It’s my mess, and I love it)

However tragic the circumstances, honoring the life of Perry forced the show back to what it’s best at: a core group of four friends, supporting each other and solving any problem that comes their way.

KJ Apa, who plays Archie, really gets what may be his first real chance to show off just how good of an actor he is. Apa’s real heartbreak is all there, but the added complex layers of a son struggling with the unexpected death of his father and wanting some sort of justice to balance the scales allows Apa to show his full depth, commanding the screen.

Perry also starred in 90210 with Shannen Doherty, who he wanted to guest star on the show since its beginning. For this episode, Doherty honored his wishes in a bit of a surprise appearance. She played a woman who was stranded on the side of the road, needing help fixing her tire, and Fred stopped to help her before being struck and killed in a hit-and-run. Doherty had come to the scene of the accident as Archie and his friends arrive in order to pay her respects.

Of course the last thing Fred would do before his death is extend a helping hand to someone in need. Of course he would.

By the time the episode reached Fred’s funeral, preceded by a parade honoring Fred, I was crying as hard as the characters on screen. When they showed flashbacks to scenes of Fred and Archie, I had turned into a puddle.

The heart of every person in the cast could be felt in this episode in the most beautiful tribute imaginable. Riverdale has some of the best young actors currently around, and all of them were able to show what they could do this episode.

It’s the moments Riverdale shows its beating heart that make it wonderful, no matter what direction the story takes. But the premiere of season four served as a reminder how great the story can be at its core.