The premiere is very much a standalone episode as it focuses on Archie and the gang as they mourn the sudden death of his father Fred, explaining that he died in a road accident whilst helping a fellow driver. The episode reflects on the good-natured Fred as the characters share stories about how he was a hero to them at least once. Notably, this includes Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) reminiscing about how he was there for them when their own fathers were not. It is clear he was a hero to all of them at some point in their lives. As Archie seeks closure for his father’s death, he sets off with Veronica (Camila Mendes), Betty and Jughead in tow as they go to find the site of his death and bring his body back to Riverdale. A highlight of the episode included a cameo appearance by Perry’s friend and Beverly Hills 90210 co-star Shannen Doherty as the fellow driver who needed help and, ultimately, who Fred sacrificed his own life for. Despite being a tribute to Perry, the episode is not without its usual drama, as Fred’s death reignites the darkness within Archie which was sparked by Fred’s being shot and injured in the season 1 finale.
Overall, the series premiere handled a difficult subject well, leaving behind the high school politics and the supernatural ridiculousness which has been at the centre of the plot since season 2, to honour a well-respected actor and character. From here, it can only be assumed that Riverdale will go back to the melodramatic plot devices which has marked it’s status as a guilty-pleasure show.