Goddamn you, Riverdale. I was with you from the start. Last year at San Diego Comic-Con, while everyone else was giggling over the absurdity of a “gritty Archie” show, I got it. I was on board, thinking Brick was a badass neo-noir that folded in teen drama with detective tropes, so why couldn’t a Jughead-centered show be? I interviewed the cast, and found them all delightful, passionate, and charismatic. And I met Luke Perry.
That was among the coolest moments of my life. As 90210’s Dylan, he was among my first crushes. When I found out we’d be speaking in person, I was so nervous I thought I might burst. And he was so chill and nice. And afterwards, when I nervously asked for a photo (because it’s Comic Con so the rules against such things are relaxed to non-existent), he was so cool. Not only did he say yes, not only did he guide me to the part of the room with the best lighting, but also he suggested we prose “prom style.” The girl in my soul was squeeing. He was just what you’d want your first celebrity crush to be like, friendly and warm, not lecherous nor bored. And still so sexy.
Months later, I finally got to see Riverdale, and as you all know I fell hard and fast for its heady mix of camp, teen angst, and crime-horror. I loved how Betty and Veronica weren’t at each other’s throats, but very different girls who bonded nonetheless. I was giddy over brooding “weirdo” Jughead, closeted Moose, resilient Ethel, quipping Kevin, and especially the gothic glamorous mean girl Cheryl Blossom. I squeed over the casting of Riverdale parents, as the show’s creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa rolled out one teen dream of yesteryear after another, from Twin Peaks’ Mädchen Amick to Scream’s Skeet Ulrich to ’80s icon Molly Ringwald to Luke Motherfucking Perry.
Admittedly, Perry’s Fred Andrews often got overlooked in the biggest moment’s of the show. He was barely entangled in the Jason Blossom murder investigation. And when Fred discovered his own son was being molested by a teacher, he let the Cooper women to do all the talking. He just hugged his son, and told him sincerely none of what happened was Archie’s fault. Every other parent in Riverdale was harboring dark, traumatizing skeletons in their closets, from shady dealings to outright murder and secret children. The worse thing Fred did was hook up with Hermione Lodge, which pissed Archie off because he still holds onto a childish wish his parents will reunite. But even Archie’s mom (Ringwald) was fine with Fred’s fling. In a sea of garbage parents, Fred was singular in being consistently caring and honest. And now he’s bleeding out on the floor of Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe.
That’s how season one ends. Of course it had been teased that another death could rock Riverdale. I thought it would be at Sweetwater River, but that big set piece was a tricky misdirect in the “Sweet Hereafter”s marketing. For all my yarnwalling, I was in no way prepared for this turn. As Archie skipped into the diner for the season’s final sequence, I was already drafting a piece about whether or not this ep redeemed the oblivious redhead from his many, many misdeeds. But then, I realized this moment was too sweet. The tone too idyllic. Jason Blossom’s killer is caught, his motive revealed along with the true source of the Blossom family’s wealth (heroin!). Archie and Veronica are together, and Betty is cool with it. Archie even got laid! But as Archie regarded his grinning, non-virgin face in the bathroom mirror, I remembered this image from the ep’s teaser:
I knew a robbery was right around the corner, and that the good guy Fred Andrews would be the hero Riverdale needed. Still, when the camera cut to outside the diner and the gun sounded and the flash sparked, I thought for one second maybe Riverdale writers would have given into the many, many complaints from viewers about what a bore Archie is. They didn’t need to kill him. Just put him in a coma for a bit. But nope. We cut back to this:
I literally screamed.
Now, Maybe Fred isn’t dead. But you can bet he’ll in a coma or otherwise skirted to silence so that Archie and his Scoobies can track down who would gun down his dad. The final Jughead voiceover promises this was no accident:
Imagine this instant frozen in time. People will look back at this as the exact moment that last bit of Riverdale’s innocence finally died and darkness won, marked by an act of violence that was anything but random.”
Forget zombies. Forget Sabrina. Forget supernatural joy and the gypsy-blooded grandma. (Cheryl may have burnt her nutty ass to a crisp!) Season two of Riverdale will follow who shot and maybe killed Fred Andrews, beloved father, honest contractor, appreciated ex-husband. The upside is this might mean Molly Ringwald will have a bigger role in season two. But that’s cold comfort because Luke Perry may be gone from the sphere of this weird bit of noir-nirvana for good.
The immediate suspects are either Hiram Lodge, who knows of Fred and Hermione’s affair and was none-too-pleased, or the South Side Serpents who were recently canned from Fred’s construction crew, because of Hermione. Expect all or any of this to rock the boat of Archie and Veronica’s newly minted relationship. But more importantly, this will really rock the town in a way not even Jason’s murder could.
Aguirre-Sacasa told E! of the decision to
rip out my heart potentially murder Fred:
“It wasn’t originally expected, but then when it happened it felt inevitable that Fred, who is of all our characters the one who most believe in Riverdale, the town, the one who loved it the most, who was born there and grew up there, started his business there, chose to raise his son there; the guy who was the least morally compromised of our characters, that he would be the one most affected by the darkness and the criminality that has been bumbling around the fringes of the show…The second you start thinking about who deserved it the least, it’s sort of like it has to happen.”“
When that guy gets shot, Riverdale can’t just sweep it under the rug as they are attempting with Jason’s death, spinning it into a family squabble, distancing themselves from looking the other way as drugs laced their streets and the Blossoms got weirdly wealthy on maple syrup. Now, not even the mayor or Mrs. Cooper will be able to ignore the level of fucked up their town is. And every Riverdale resident will feel it. It’ll make for good drama, and higher stakes in season two. I get that dramatically, it was a shrewd move. I’m still sad.
Here’s another time I met Luke Perry.
Asked if Fred is dead, Aguirre-Sacasa has been evasive, but said, “I am neither confirming or denying that, but I am confirming that we will see Luke Perry in the season two premiere.”
I’d like to say there’s no way they’ll kill off Fred. Not really. But I’ve been wrong about a lot this season. I’d hate to jinx it.
Kristy Puchko is playing the 90210 theme song on a loop. Leave her be.