“Riverdale” returned to the CW on Oct. 9, setting the tone for season four with a somber, celebratory tribute episode to one of the series’ most prominent characters.
The story picks up shortly before the fourth of July, and for the first time in the series’ history, there were no corrupt billionaires, serial killers or cultists. For a brief moment, the main characters enjoyed the peaceful life of a small town.
This moment of peace was short-lived when Archie Andrews received a call that his father, Fred Andrews (Luke Perry), died in a hit-and-run involving a boy around Archie’s age. The teen’s mistake mirrored the terrible decisions Archie made throughout the series and how his father bailed him out each time.
The episode featured Archie Andrews and his best friends, Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) and Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) on a journey to pick up Fred Andrews’ body from another town’s funeral home.
Despite the questionable writing choices and poorly developed storylines that hindered season three, the fourth season premiere was a delight to watch.
In previous seasons, characters referred to their in-character relationships using terms coined by fans, like “Bughead,” or “Varchie,” which was a terrible writing decision. Needless to say, the writing on “Riverdale” has been wholesome, gruesome and unrealistic.
The show’s writers faced a decision on how they would deal with the real-life death of Perry, who played one of the series’ most prominent characters. The first episode of season four and tribute to Perry proved wholesome and featured superb writing that took the show back to its creative roots.
It was clear that Perry’s death influenced each actor’s approach to the episode. KJ Apa’s performance as Archie Andrews in the season opener as he grieved his father’s death was chilling and emotional. As a son who has dealt with the loss of my own father, I deeply resonate with the performance.
When Archie Andrews was alone, reminiscing about his father, all the good memories they had, and the times he let his father down, that completely tore me up inside.
The acting in the season opener was breathtaking, and I felt the pain expressed through the performance of each cast member. As characters gathered to honor Fred Andrews, the funeral scene was perhaps the most heartbreaking thing I have watched on TV in a long time.
Adding to the somber feel of the episode, the lighting and set designers played an unusually important role in the opening episode, which featured important moments about Fred Andrews.
One moment that resonated with me was when Archie was working on his dad’s car. The scene went dark, but still exposed light on a portrait of Archie and Fred Andrews, which showed the touching, unbreakable bond between father and son.
Though touching moments were plentiful in the first episode, the season opener also featured cringe-worthy moments “Riverdale” is known for.
Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) continued her descent into madness from when her twin brother died in season one. Petsch portrayed Blossom’s cruel, damaged personality with an authoritarian voice and rage-filled eyes, perhaps the most intriguing of all Riverdale characters.
Though the writers did not address how Blossom brought her brother’s dead body home at the end of season 3, I’m fascinated, yet appalled to see this storyline in future episodes. While the premiere was a tribute to Perry, I wish they would have briefly shown details of Blossom’s main story arch.
Despite the inelegant writing, the characters’ bonds and the actors’ chemistry always manage to draw me into the twisted, dark, retro and ever-expanding world that is “Riverdale.”
Overall, the first episode of season four set a high bar for the 21 episodes to follow. It will be interesting to see how the writers deal with the characters as they enter their senior year of high school.
While there is no confirmation on a fifth season, new episodes of season four will air Wednesdays on the CW.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
TV Rating: TV-14
The Arkansas Traveler Score: B