10 October 2019 18:49

Archie gets a call from FP Jones and learns the guy who hit his dad turned himself in.

roberto aguirre-sacasa

We knew Riverdale would do something like this to start the season, but I had no idea it would be such a gut punch. Jughead fills us in on what's been happening over the summer: Not much. After all the cult and dollar store D&D craziness, the town could use some normalcy. Yeah, we know that's not going to happen. For now, though everyone's getting ready for the 4th of July parade.

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Everyone except for Cheryl, who wants no revelry on the anniversary of her brother's murder. It's all ridiculous and goofy in a very Riverdale way. That feeling doesn't last long. As the gang is laughing in Pop's, Archie gets a call. His dad has been killed in a hit and run. I have to give the show credit here. The abrupt change and the whirlwind pace of the scenes that follow is an effective representation of what it's like to lose someone important to you. Especially the part where everyone's laughing and sharing good memories, and Archie tries to join in but can't get through a story. Been there, dude. We all knew the show would have to meaningfully address Luke Perry's death sometime. Knowing it's coming doesn't mean it hits any less hard. You really feel the loss here because Luke Perry was such a positive presence on this show. In a series full of awful parents, he was the one we rooted for. His scenes with KJ Apa were genuinely touching. Even though he didn't have the largest role, the show feels different without him. It's rare that you can see real grief on the screen. The actors seem to be saying goodbye all over again. It makes for a rough watch, but Riverdale handled this so well. Kept awake by guilt, Archie resolves to bring his father's body back home to Riverdale himself. He calls up all his friends and they drive upstate overnight. Through all these somber scenes the show tries to keep its sense of humor in small doses. Initially, the funeral home won't release the body to a teenager, so Archie has his mom yell at the guy to make it happen. It's not much, but the episode needs little moments like that. Especially since the next scene has Archie meeting the woman Fred was helping when he was killed. The woman is played by Perry's former 90210 co-star Shannen Doherty. Usually Riverdale's teen drama alumni casting is funny. An amusing callback. Here, it's just a woman saying goodbye to someone she was close to. Yeah, this episode hit me in the gut. Eventually though, Riverdale has to get back to doing… whatever it is that it does. Archie gets a call from FP Jones and learns the guy who hit his dad turned himself in. The guy isn't in jail though, because he made bail. This, for some reason, sets Archie off because he thinks bail means you get off completely free? Man, I know public school budgets are tight, but did Riverdale High cut civics entirely? Archie gets the name of the man, finds his name in the phone book (I'm just glad a teenager in 2019 knows how to use one), and confronts him in person. I was so worried when I saw this plot point developing. Fortunately, the show decides not to go all Red Hood with this story. I mean, Archie's still a moron for assaulting this guy, but he soon learns the situation's more complicated than he assumed. The man's son sees Archie screaming at his dad and tells the truth. The boy, who doesn't have a license, took the car out without permission. He's the one who hit Fred. His dad was just covering for him. Archie comes to his senses faster than we've ever seen from him. He realizes that what happened with his dad and that kid could happen to anyone. He took his dad's truck out without permission all the time. It's just by sheer luck nothing this bad ever happened to him. With his friends' help, Archie brings his dad home. There, he finds FP waiting to give him a police escort, and the entire town lined up along the street saying goodbye to Fred. And Perry. NO, YOU'RE CRYING! We see the funeral, set to Ashleigh Murray singing Amazing Grace. My own problems with the song aside (and there are a few), it is a very pretty rendition. Archie gets up to speak, and after the whole journey, he can finally get through the story he tried to tell at the beginning of the episode. This whole story depicted the grieving process so well. Archie may have found something resembling closure at the end, but it still hurts. Everyone on screen is going through it. We all like to rag on this show for its ridiculous dialog, nonsensical plotting, and corny melodrama, but this episode was something special. Story-wise, they couldn't ignore Luke Perry's death, but this was more than anyone expected. It's a full hour-long sendoff of someone special. We saw Archie go through the stages of grief (in some Riverdale-appropriate extreme ways). We saw co-stars, current and former, give their tearful goodbyes. We got a heartfelt obituary from Jughead the whole town could get behind. At first, I was worried the episode would try to throw a cliffhanger on the end. Tease the big mystery. Instead, we just see Archie pledge to honor his father. He dusts off the project race car they started together back in Season Two and cries. That's it. Riverdale will likely get back to its ridiculous melodrama and heightened small-town hijinks next week. For now, we got a genuine and heartfelt tribute to Luke Perry. It's the best season opener they could have done. It had a little bit of the goofiness that makes the show so charming, but not too much. They played it straight and gave Perry a beautiful sendoff. We'll see what bonkers mystery this season has for us next week. For now, we'll end like the show did. With a tearful goodbye. Riverdale airs on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. EST on the CW. More on Geek.com: