The Luke whom Aguirre-Sacasa is speaking of is the late Luke Perry, and the episode is Riverdale’s 2019 debut. Perry, who played Fred Andrews, dad to Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), died in March 2019. The October episode, “In Memoriam,” has been tasked with unveiling the subsequent death of Luke’s character, Fred. The season 4 premiere has to reveal how Fred dies, how Archie reacts, and how the town of Riverdale mourns. It’s a lot to cover in 42 minutes.
In a show that is prone to breakneck narrative melodrama, the answers to the big questions of “In Memoriam” are painfully realistic. There are no stick monsters, rival mobs, or serial killers to be found — what you uncover instead is a wrong-time-and-place tragedy and a series full of love for a lost character.
, or serial killers to be found — what you find instead is a wrong-time-and-place tragedy and a series full of love for a lost character.
Fred died following a fatal hit-and-run. We learn as much within the first five minutes of “In Memoriam.” New sheriff FP Jones (Skeet Ulrich) provides much of the background exposition after Archie receives the phone call informing him of his father’s death in an upstate town called Cherry Creek. The news causes Archie to collapse on the floor of Pop’s. Once Archie is back on his feet, FP shows up to the Andrews home to fill in the blanks.
“What happened was, Fred was driving home to Riverdale when he pulled over to help someone whose car had stalled on the side of the road,” FP tells Archie and his mom Mary Andrews (Molly Ringwald). “Another vehicle came upon them way too fast and he was struck by it…”
It was a hit and run.
A few people in Cherry Creek reveal the remaining details of Fred’s death. An unnamed woman (Shannen Doherty, Perry’s very best Beverly Hills, 90210 love interest) shows up to the scene of Fred’s accident to leave flowers. A paranoid Archie assumes the visibly upset woman is the one who murdered his dead. Instead, she’s the person Fred saved the night prior. She explains that countless cars passed her on the side of the road until Fred finally stopped to help her fix her tire. While working on the car, Fred spoke about Archie and his pride in his son. Then the unthinkable occurred.
“A car just — it came out of nowhere, speeding. I froze in its path and your dad, he pushed me out of the way,” the woman tearfully recalls. “He saved my life. If he hadn’t done what he did, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
While the woman’s story moves Archie, he is still determined to confront the person who actually hit father. When FP calls to tell Archie a man named George Augustine turned himself in for the crime, Red rushes to that man’s house (he finds his address in a phonebook). At the Augustine home, Archie learns the last secret of Fred’s death. George didn’t hit Fred; George wasn’t even on the road that night. The culprit is George’s teen son Jeffrey, who confesses the entire story to Archie, explaining he took his dad’s car for a nighttime joyride, despite not having a license. George took the fall for the accident to save his son. It is a revelation that shatters Archie.
“It’s something that I would have done. Taken the car out without permission,” Archie tells his friends. “His dad was protecting him. The same way mine would have.”
Fred Andrews died saving someone else, in a terrible twist of fate. It was a decision the Riverdale writers decided would only have its full impact if they waited to explore the story in season 4 (Riverdale season 3 was in the last phase of production when Luke Perry died).
“We didn’t want to rush it. We didn’t want to sandwich it in between all the other plotlines,” Aguirre-Sacasa told journalists in between filming season 4’s tenth episode. “We briefly thought that maybe something would happen at the end of season 3 that would signal [Fred’s death]. That felt a little cheap.”
The team applied the same purist logic to “In Memoriam” out of respect to Perry and Fred’s memory. “We talked about putting in some other storylines, but as we were working on [the premiere], we kept focusing it on our characters’ [grief] and truly focusing it on Archie,” the writer continued. “We wanted to tell a very grounded, truthful story so that became the marching orders.”
“Fred casts a long shadow,” Aguirre-Sacasa surmised. “In Memoriam” proves that even in death that noble spirit isn’t going anywhere for Archie — or for Riverdale.