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SYFY WIRE Riverdale

Riverdale Season 4 premiere breaking from tradition to pay tribute to Luke Perry

By Benjamin Bullard
Luke Perry

Riverdale’s Season 4 return is just around the corner, and the show is pausing right at the start of the new season to dedicate its premiere episode to the late Luke Perry.

The former Beverly Hills, 90210 star, who found a welcoming home on Riverdale as Archie’s dad Fred Andrews, passed away in March, bereaving the show of one of its most universally liked characters. For both longtime fans and the present-day Riverdale universe, Perry’s loss at age 52 from stroke-related complications was both shocking and untimely. So the creative team at The CW is treating the Season 4 opener — the first Riverdale episode to carry on in Perry’s absence — very differently from any that’ve come before. 

Describing next month’s Season 4 debut as “very much a standalone episode,” executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa told TVLine that Riverdale is changing up its format just a little in order to let the moment stand apart in honor of its former star. Dispensing for one episode only with the “previously on …” recap that fans are used to, said Aguirre-Sacasa, is a way to help viewers intuitively grasp from the beginning that the episode is meant to feel special.

“After we finished the episode, everyone said, ‘You know what? You don’t really need that,’” he told TVLine, explaining that the producers “took out the ‘previously on’” introduction because they “wanted a little bit of extra time … We wanted to let the episode breathe a little.”

Fans have known for a while that Shannen Doherty, Perry’s former 90210 co-star, would appear in the Season 4 premiere to honor her longtime friend in a special role. Apart from teasing that she’ll share a scene with some of the teen characters, Aguirre-Sacasa didn’t shed much new light on what role Doherty will play in the episode. But he did say her part is vital, one that will provide “a powerful moment of catharsis.”

“The role would not nearly have the resonance it does if not for Shannen,” he added. “She’s just great in it, because I think it’s very real for her.”

Season 4 of Riverdale returns to The CW with its special Luke Perry tribute at 8 p.m. ET on Oct. 9.