It’s only been one week since the actor, Luke Perry passed away due to a massive stroke at the age of 52. The death came unexpected, and fans worldwide mourned him. For the older generation, he had been the iconic Dylan McKay, the brooding bad boy who oozed effortless cool and charm in Beverly Hills 90210. He was the sort of person that all the girls wanted to date and all the boys yearned to be. At the height of his fame, he was bigger than Robert Pattinson during the Twilight craze stage of his career.
Like anyone growing up in the late ’90s, I too fell in love with Beverly Hills 90210. Being twelve years old living in Naples, Italy at the time, the halls of West Beverly High seemed as alluring and unreachable as attending the Met Gala. I yearned to be as gorgeous as Brenda (Shannen Doherty) and Kelly (Jennie Garth), and could only pray that my future high school boyfriend could be as charming, generous, kind, and gorgeous as Dylan (spoiler alert, it didn’t happen). Although the show was probably seen as merely a teen drama, Luke’s portrayal of Dylan, the fatherless rebel was always intense and pulled at the heartstrings. Towards the last seasons of the show, I wasn’t really a fan anymore but continued to watch because the characters seemed like old friends and I wanted to know how it would end. I was happy when Dylan returned in the remaining last seasons, although I’ll admit that I don’t know if I ever liked the assumption of the finale that Kelly and Dylan would’ve become a couple again (probably because I had always been Team Brenda).
As the years went by, I rarely saw Luke Perry again, probably because I don’t watch much TV or simply because I wasn’t tuning in to the shows he was in. But all of that changed when Riverdale aired. Let me premise that I’ve been a huge fan of Archie Comics since I was 8, so to finally see the characters I grew up loving in comic strip form come to life was a dream come true. At the same time, I was very hesitant, because what if they screwed it up? I almost didn’t want to tune in to the show until I discovered that Luke Perry was going to be playing Fred Andrews, the dad to the show’s protagonist, Archie Andrews (played by KJ Apa). I thought, how bad can a show screw things up when if they excellently cast Luke Perry in it? I was also intrigued to see him play a father figure since the last time I saw him he was still a very sexy Dylan McKay.
Upon viewing the first episode of Riverdale, I was hooked. Luke Perry brought a certain wisdom and kindness to Fred Andrews that couldn’t be said of any of the other parents on the show. In a town that is filled with shady parents, campy plotlines, and a 1950’s Americana nostalgia, Perry’s presence was a balm of calm in the midst of craziness. If in the 90’s we envied Brenda Walsh for dating Dylan McKay, in 2017 we envied Andrew Andrews for having Fred as a father. I think we all wished we had a parent who was as sage and loving as Fred has always been with Archie. Even when in Season 1 Archie was hung up on pursuing music despite it not giving prospects to a college scholarship, Fred was more concerned about Archie lying to him about football, rather than choosing not to be on the team anymore. Anytime Archie has done anything stupid, Fred has never belittled him, but rather be patient and nurturing.
When the Season 1 finale ended with Fred Andrews being shot, I thought, OH NO! FRED CAN’T DIE! WHAT WILL RIVERDALE BE WITHOUT FRED?! Sadly, we’re going to be forced to find out very soon (I don’t know how many more episodes Luke Perry will appear in Season 3). But I can assure you that Riverdale won’t ever be the same without Fred. Luke’s furrowed brow may have seemed too mature for the high school Dylan, but it conveyed all of life’s hard battles in Fred’s gaze. Riverdale has lost its heart and moral compass, without Luke as Fred, both the town and the show is going to be a cold, dark place. R.I.P. Luke, you are missed.