Spoilers ahead for the Season 4 premiere of Riverdale. In lieu of its usual murder and mystery-building, Riverdale uses its Season 4 premiere as a heartfelt tribute to Luke Perry, who died in March after experiencing a stroke. In honor of the actor, who played Archie's dad Fred Andrews, the show also wrote in a role for his former 90210 co-star Shannen Doherty, whose character ended up stranded on the side of the road after her car stalled. Several drivers passed by her, but Fred was the only one who stopped. He was in the middle of helping her when he was hit by an oncoming car and killed.
This is the news Archie learns in the beginning of the Oct. 9 premiere. Doherty's character is introduced later, when Archie, Veronica, Jughead and Betty encounter her at the scene of the crash and she leads them in a prayer as they all pay their respects. She's a comforting presence, reassuring Archie that his father wouldn't stop talking about how proud he was of him, and died a hero by pushing her out of danger's path.
For 90210 fans, it's tragically beautiful that in the alternate universe of sorts that is Riverdale, Dylan sacrificed himself for Brenda. Before "Bughead" or "Varchie" even existed, 90210's Brenda (Doherty) and Dylan (Perry) were the couple to ship. So having Doherty help to close out Perry's last TV storyline is a sweet full circle moment.
Bringing Doherty into the Riverdale family is additionally a way for the show to honor Perry's wishes. "Luke had been trying to get her on Riverdale for years, and the timing never worked out," showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa told the New York Post, adding that the episode is a "meditation" on what Fred meant to Riverdale, as well as what Perry meant to cast "and the audience that grew up watching 90210 and the audience that watches Riverdale.”
Doherty's character isn't named in the episode, but that may have been intentional. It allows Riverdale to break the fourth wall without being corny. If you want to see her character as a version of Brenda, or as herself and Perry's lifelong friend, you can. She's not bringing a lot of character backstory or baggage to Riverdale — just her own love for Perry.
If you need a laugh after that intense episode, watch Lili Reinhart and KJ Apa recreate Dylan and Brenda's iconic Season 2 breakup in front of a chuckling Perry on Watch What Happens Live in 2018. On the show and in real life, Riverdale has always done well to acknowledge the teen heartthrob status of its older generation — even if that sometimes means poking fun at some '90s melodrama.
We probably won't see Doherty on Riverdale again, and that's OK. If some deep dark secret is eventually revealed about the woman whose life Fred saved, that might be a little too soapy even by Riverdale and 90210 standards. Doherty's brief appearance helped the cast come together in grief, and now they can begin the process of moving on.