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Riverdale reveals Season 4 secrets at SDCC, teases Luke Perry tribute with Shannen Doherty

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Jul 21, 2019, 3:20 PM EDT

Every season of Riverdale is packed with story, but even with that in mind the show's third season seemed particularly jam-packed with teen drama fun. The season kicked off with Archie's murder trial, then wasted no time introducing elements of The Farm and the looming nemesis that was The Gargoyle. Over the course of the season, the show covered everything from Jughead's continued struggles as a leader among The Serpents, to a flashback to a time when everyone's parents were in high school, to that final shocking teaser suggesting that something very bad is going down when Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead finally get to senior year. And of course, there was also a musical. 

With Season 4 looming, Riverdale's cast and creators took to Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con Sunday to take on fan questions and reveal a little about what's next, while also saying goodbye to Luke Perry, who played Archie's father Fred Andrews on the series and passed away in March following a stroke.

The panel kicked off with moderator Leanne Aguilera of Entertainment Tonight bringing out showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who introduced a tribute to Perry in the form of a video the Riverdale team had made for the Season 3 wrap party, featuring various clips of Perry from throughout his time on the show. In his honor, they decided to share the video with the fans as well. 

Then it was time to bring out the cast, including KJ Apa, Cole Sprouse, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, and Madelaine Petsch. As expected, Aguirre-Sacasa and company confirmed the Season 4 premiere will kick off the new round of episodes with a tribute to Perry, featuring the Riverdale debut of one of Perry's old friends and co-stars, Shannen Doherty. 

"One of the things that Luke talked about since Season 1 was that he wanted his good friend Shannen Doherty to come on Riverdale," Aguirre-Sacasa said. "We tried a few times and it didn't work out, but now we've been able to include her on 4.1 in a very emotional role."

Season 4 will also feature the return of Molly Ringwald as Archie's mother, Mary Andrews, in an expanded role after years of guest stardom.

"She'll be Archie's mom more or less full time this season, which we're really thrilled about," Aguirre-Sacasa said.

After the emotional video montage, it was time to lighten things up in the form of a Season 3 blooper reel, reminding Hall H of the fun at the heart of the series, and the bond between the cast. After the panel, The CW made the reel public. Watch as the cast giggles and pulls faces while trying to handle very serious Riverdale drama, and marvel as KJ Apa struggles mightily to pronounce the word "gargoyles" in an American accent.

Then it was time to talk plot. While the upcoming season will start with the Perry tribute episode, which will be a somewhat standalone affair, Season 4 also means Senior Year for the Archie gang, and that means Aguirre-Sacasa wants to mine that.

"We're digging deep into the high school franchise this year," Aguirre-Sacasa said. 

As part of digging deep into the high school aspect of the show, Aguirre-Sacasa revealed that Riverdale High will be getting a new principal in the new season, played by Kerr Smith, best known to teen drama fans for his role on Dawson's Creek

But of course, we can't talk about Season 4 without talking about that shocking Season 3 cliffhanger that included the burning of Jughead's iconic hat. For Cole Sprouse, though he didn't reveal plot details, it was the perfect teaser for what's next. 

"I think the beanie and whoopee cap has served as the most iconic symbol of the Archie franchise for the past 75 years, so burning it is a real good hook," Sprouse said.

Aguirre-Sacasa then teased when we can expect answers as to what led to that hook, as well as Season 4's efforts to work it into the story structure.

"One of the big mysteries will be what happened to the kids and Jughead that night, and we'll build up to that for the mid-season," he said. "But episodes before that will give flash-forwards about what led up to that night and what happened."

Season 4 will also bring a new event episode, one that Riverdale has never been able to do before because of scheduling: The fourth episode of the season will give us the gang at Halloween. 

"We've got a really fun, spooky episode for everyone... and someone dies," Aguirre-Sacasa teased, and also revealed that he's hoping DC Entertainment will give the show clearance to dress key characters like Cheryl and Toni up as superheroes.

Aguirre-Sacasa also teased splitting the group in a new way, by giving Jughead a scholarship to an upscale new school which Archie and company will have to face during the football season. 

"He's part of this little dead poet's society that they have at this new school," Sprouse said of Jughead's new surroundings. "The school also serves, I assume, as the setting for the flash forward." 

Speaking of individual character arcs, Petsch teased that the always-scheming Cheryl Blossom will be teaming up for something with her frenemy, Veronica Lodge.

"Veronica and Cheryl become business partners and get into some sticky trouble," she said.

What else will Season 4 bring? More themed episodes, of course, as Aguirre-Sacasa teased another new hook for an episode we haven't seen on the series before.

"We're doing a battle of the bands episode, which I think will be really fun," he said, while also confirming that yes, there will be yet another musical episode. 

"We're definitely going to do a musical episode as we've done in Season 2 and Season 3, and we'll feature songs throughout the season as we usually do."

Aguirre-Sacasa also teased that Season 4 will continue to expand the Riverdale universe by focusing on the stories of supporting characters who have become fan favorites. 

"We're definitely getting Toni Topaz's backstory this year," he teased, while also revealing a bit of a deeper dive into characters who've been around since the beginning, and the return of a Seasoon 1 favorite. 

"In Episode 2 we're telling a really strong Betty/Kevin story. We're getting back to that friendship," he said, while also noting Kevin's effort trying to direct a musical in which no one dies. Aguirre-Sacasa also revealed that, though she'll be spending most of her time on the upcoming Katy Keene spinoff, Ashleigh Murray will return to the series as Josie, if only for a little while.

"Josie came back for Episode 1. We wanted everyone to be part of that episode so she came back."

The Riverdale Vixens, after a horrible mass seizure in Season 3, are also set to make a recovery and be back for Season 4, though apparently we shouldn’t expect Betty Cooper to be among them.

“I don't think so,” Reinhart said when asked if Betty’s still a Vixen. “ hope not, because I hate dancing."

Then it was time for fan questions, and first up was someone who wanted to know when the show would, after stepping up representation in other respects, be including more plus-size characters.

"I think we are open to all and we're meeting a lot of new students this year, so stay tuned,” Aguirre-Sacasa said.

Another fan simply wanted more tributes to Perry, and asked the panelists what they loved about him.

"My first Comic-Con ever, I was paired with Luke for a lot of stuff,” Petsch said. “I called him for everything. He was one of the most beautiful human beings I ever met, so to work with him and be friends with him was amazing."

Other fans wanted to know which characters from the classic Archie Comics who still haven't been brought to life on Riverdale might still show up on the show one day. In response to that, Aguirre-Sacasa dropped a major, but mysterious, teaser. 

"We are resurrecting a couple of characters and we're having big meeting this week to figure out a story that's kind of a classic one from the comics," he said.

Then it was time to talk crossovers. A fan asked which other CW shows the cast would like to appear on, prompting Apa to express a love of The Flash and Sprouse to express a desire to be on Supernatural. That naturally flowed into discussion of a crossover between Riverdale and other Archie-based shows, including Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

"I'd love to do it, but it's just hard to figure out," Aguirre-Sacasa said. "But even though it breaks the space/time continuum we'll probably be doing a Katy Keene [a show set five years later in the Riverdale timeline] crossover."

Then, after a fan giveaway and a farewell, it was time for the Archie gang to bid Hall H goodbye.

Riverdale returns October 9 on The CW. 

Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of San Diego Comic-Con 2019, including up-to-the-minute news, exclusive interviews, and videos.