‘Riverdale’ Season 4: How the Show Will Remember Luke Perry

When Riverdale returns in October, the episode may be one of the highest rated in the show’s history, because that’s when the show will officially pay tribute to the late Luke Perry.

Perry’s unexpected death from a stroke last March stunned Hollywood, Riverdale viewers and fans of Perry’s breakout hit, Beverly Hills 90210. A statement from the CW read, in part, that Perry was “everything you would hope he would be: an incredibly caring, consummate professional with a giant heart, and a true friend to all.”

Read on to find out how the show will pay tribute to Perry, what other TV shows have done to commemorate their fallen members, and how you will have one other chance to see Luke Perry on the big screen in July.

Luke Perry
Actor Luke Perry | VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images

How ‘Riverdale’ will remember Luke Perry

The first episode of the fourth season, airing October 9, will be called “In Memoriam.” The show had already dedicated episodes to Perry, but this is the first time the show will deal directly with his passing, and what will happen to his character, Fred Andrews, the father to Archie.

When the show signed off for season 3, it said Fred was away on business, with Archie’s mother, played by Molly Ringwald, effectively taking his place. 

Perry had died in the final stages of season 3, which didn’t leave Riverdale enough time to handle his death properly. Creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa said. He told E! News

“We’d already pretty much plotted out the rest of the season. We’d written a bunch of the rest of the season and it felt like rather than try to squeeze something—and for me, something that’s so monumental and so defining…and we didn’t know how we wanted to deal with it. You know, you’re just reacting. So, we thought rather than do it quickly or do it wrong, let’s take our time, let’s figure it out, and let’s deal with it at the beginning of season four.”

How other TV shows handled cast member deaths

Sadly, more than 30 shows have had to figure out how to move forward after the unexpected death of a cast member. One of the most prominent recent examples was Glee, which had to figure out what to do without key player Cory Monteith, who died of a drug overdose.

The show never explicitly stated how his character, Finn Hudson, had died, but the episode “The Quarterback” allowed current and former glee club members to sing tributes to their departed leader.

Freddie Prinze took his own life in the middle of the third season of Chico and the Man in 1977. The show carried on without him for a while, revealing that Prinze’s character had died. 

Mid-season death happened to Dallas twice, first with the passing of Jim Davis, who played patriarch Jock Ewing in 1981. Then, the TNT version of the show had to work around the 2012 death of Larry Hagman, who played the love-to-hate character JR Ewing.

Even children’s TV has had to grapple with the subject, which is especially hard for young children to understand. But after the 1982 death of Will Lee, who played Sesame Street storekeeper Mr. Hooper, the show was lauded for sensitively handling the difficult topic.

Luke Perry has one more movie coming out

We still have one more chance to watch Luke Perry via Quentin Tarantino’s highly anticipated movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, out July 26.

Perry plays Wayne Maunder, a real-life TV actor who was known for work in TV westerns. The movie takes place in 1969, around the time of the Manson murders, and Maunder was appearing in the show Lancer then.

Perry’s was actually the second unexpected death the movie had to contend with. Burt Reynolds had been cast in the role of George Spahn, the owner of the ranch where Manson and his “family” were staying at the time of the murders. Reynolds died before he could shoot his scenes; so Bruce Dern took over the part.

Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays a leading role in the film, tweeted: “Luke Perry was a kindhearted and incredibly talented artist. It was an honor to be able to work with him. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his loved ones.”