Riverdale should tackle actor Luke Perry’s death head on
Megan Orr, Opinions Editor
Riverdale showrunners have not yet announced their plans for the remainder of the third season after the sudden death of actor Luke Perry, who played Archie’s dad, Fred Andrews. The show, which is filmed here in Vancouver, has continued to air previously filmed episodes, with the banner, “In Memoriam, Luke Perry, 1966-2019,” running before the credits. The cast and crew halted production briefly to allow for mourning but have since resumed filming, though there is still no word on what will happen to Perry’s character. Although it is pretty commonplace in long-running television series for the cast to shift around, with actors who have conflicts being written out or replaced entirely if the characters are important enough. In this instance, however, neither of those options seem appropriate.
There isn’t anything much worse in the television world than a character suddenly disappearing with no explanation, never to be mentioned again. Or worse still, the actor being replaced by a weird off-brand doppelganger. It’s a slap in the face to fans when shows act like they’re too stupid to notice. Understandably, it is likely the easiest option in this scenario because it would only require taking out some scenes rather than redirecting the entire story, but that doesn’t make it right. Followers of the show know that Perry passed away, many of them likely cried hearing the news, and to simply write him out rather than acknowledging his untimely death would be wrong.
Fred Andrews is a central parental figure in the Archie comics and Luke Perry’s Fred has had a similar role. A big part of Archie’s character motivation is his love for his family and friends, seen through his protective nature. To just ignore Perry’s absence from the show would be a disservice to the universe that the team has created. Though killing him off would send Archie (and friends) into an emotional spiral, taking the third season in an entirely different direction, including Perry’s death, or Fred’s death on the show, seems like the most honourable way to handle the situation, however difficult it may prove difficult for the cast of young actors.
Although the show is relatively popular, it runs as more of a guilty pleasure for anyone over the age of 16. With wild storylines and more cheese than a pizza parlour, it’s unclear whether or not the writers or cast would be up to handle the heavy topic of the death of the primary father figure. As described by USA Today reporter, Bill Keveney, “The drama series revolves around Archie and his high-school contemporaries, but wise Fred serves as a grounded presence amid the tempest of ‘Riverdale’ teen drama,” and his absence will “require resolution”. From the response of the people on the show, it appears that Perry was a real father figure on the set as well, adding another layer of difficulty to handling this sensitive issue. Actress Lili Reinhart, who plays Betty, wrote, “I’m finding it hard to grasp that he will no longer be around to give long hugs and share his wisdom and kindness with all of us.”
As a closeted fan of the series, I’m honestly not sure if I want to see these characters navigate through this loss (cue ugly crying), but any other option would seem like a cop out of what could be a very raw and emotional storyline. Like in real life, dealing with challenges like death will allow these characters to develop further. Amidst all of the Gargoyle King nonsense and teenage drama, Perry’s death could prove to be a useful tool to create some touching and real moments in what is otherwise a frivolous show.