For a show known for its wild, fast-paced, and twist-filled drama like The CW’s Archie Comics series, walking the line between getting back into what the fans know and love while still being respectful towards the late actor — who died in March at age 52 after suffering a massive stroke — is tough. That’s why showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa made the decision to put some time in between Fred Andrews’ (Perry) heartbreaking funeral and getting back into the classic crazy Riverdale shenanigans.
“There’s a little bit of a time gap between episode 1 and episode 2,” Aguirre-Sacasa says. “Episode 1 is on July 4 and then we pick up in September.”
Even with the time jump in season 4’s second episode, “Chapter Fifty-Nine: Fast Times at Riverdale High” doesn’t immediately move on from the world-shaking loss everyone’s feeling now that Fred is gone.
“I will say that the shadow Fred’s death casts is on episode 2 and honestly we’re about 10 episodes into the season and we’re still feeling that,” Aguirre-Sacasa says. “The truth is, something that like, Archie [KJ Apa] will be wrestling with that for the rest of his life, other characters less so. One of the things that’s been interesting is when a tragedy like that happens, everyone grieves and then people move on at different points. But for the person who’s at the core of it, they live with it every day. We don’t pretend it didn’t happen, it’s still very much permeating Archie’s story.”
But Riverdale is definitely getting back into its usual fast-paced storylines after hitting pause in the wake of Perry’s death. “In the writers room, we did want to start episode 2 on a little bit of a lighter note and get back into the high school world,” Aguirre-Sacasa says. “I think that’s a nice balm, a nice counter to it.”
And that means the shocking flash-forward teased in the final moments of the season 3 finale will finally start to get some answers in this week’s episode. “We early on decided that episode 1 would not have a flash-forward,” Aguirre-Sacasa says. “We want this [tribute] episode to just be about this one thing. We do have flash-forwards moving forward from episode 2 on.”
One change heading into season 4 is the increased focus on Archie’s mother Mary (Molly Ringwald), who moves back to Riverdale to take care of Archie in the wake of Fred’s death.
“It’s been great to have Molly back — we’ve been having a lot of fun with Mary moves back to Riverdale and she’s moving from Chicago, not quite aware of what a rough town Riverdale is,” Aguirre-Sacasa says. “It’s great that Archie has Mary there for him and Mary loves being able to be there for her son. I do still think there’s no replacing his dad. But Mary’s doing great and I’d really be worried for Archie if not for Mary.”
Aguirre-Sacasa adds, “We just did an episode, it’s a Thanksgiving episode, that reminds us that this is Archie’s first Thanksgiving without his father. There’s typical craziness that happens but there’s a real true emotional core there as well.”
Balancing Riverdale‘s “typical craziness” with more emotionally grounded stories is going to be a common theme in season 4.
“It’s a high wire act,” Aguirre-Sacasa says. “A lot of people said season 1 was much more grounded so we’ve used season 1 as a template. We definitely still have crazy stories but instead of let’s say four crazy stories per episode we have two crazy stories per episode and two that are a little more emotional, more psychological, real.”
Expect to see some of those more grounded stories as soon as this week’s episode. “In episode 2, we have this great story with Archie and Reggie [Charles Melton] and it’s about Reggie’s father and therefore it’s about the memory of Fred as well,” Aguirre-Sacasa says. “It feels like a very straightforward, coming-of-age, friendship story. We’re finding our way back to some of the stuff in season 1. The truth is you can kind of never go back but there were things that I know the fans missed and that we missed and are trying to write to.”
But don’t worry — that doesn’t mean that Riverdale isn’t still going to have its usual brand of insanity this season too. “Episode 3 is crazy,” Aguirre-Sacasa warns with a laugh. “That’s the resolution of The Farm storyline. We have a really fun Halloween episode that is both grounded and heightened. The Blossoms can always be counted on for some craziness. There are some really great mysteries — they’re just a little less… we had two serial killers running around and a killer cult and it’s all stuff I stand by and loved, and that’s still out there. [But] episode 3 is as crazy as we’ve gotten.”
Riverdale airs Wednesdays on The CW.