By Maureen Lee Lenker
October 09, 2019 at 05:11 PM EDT
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The time has come to say goodbye to Fred Andrews — and by extension, the man who brought him to life, Luke Perry.

For months, fans have been anticipating the premiere of Riverdale‘s fourth season — and not for answers to a terrifying cliffhanger, but rather because the premiere episode was promised to be a tribute to Luke Perry. Perry died in March, after suffering a massive stroke, leaving behind mourning family, fans, and costars, as Riverdale still had yet to wrap its third season.

But the creative team elected to close out the season as planned, and instead, dedicate more time to saying goodbye to this figure who had loomed so large in all of their lives. The season premiere, airing tonight on The CW, finds the citizens of Riverdale dealing with the loss of the elder Andrews. “It’s the immediate aftermath of what happened to Fred, and the story is really set around Archie wrestling with this huge tragedy and his friends being there for him and helping him through it,” creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa previously told EW.

Cate Cameron/The CW

The sense that this goodbye would be something monumental has lingered since it was first announced, a sentiment buoyed by the cast’s emotional statements about it and the guest-starring appearance of Perry’s former 90210 costar Shannen Doherty. “It felt like everything — the most important thing that we had to do before doing anything else, was that,” Marisol Nichols (who plays Hermione on the show) said at EW’s video studio at New York Comic-Con.

Now, the moment has finally arrived — and the Riverdale cast is using premiere day to once again pay tribute to their fallen friend. Lili Reinhart, Madelaine Petsch, Skeet Ulrich, and more posted photos and memories honoring Perry. “Tonight’s episode, and all episodes for the rest of our run, are for Luke,” Reinhart wrote. “We love, honor, and cherish his memory every single day. I only wish he were here to see how many lives he touched with happiness and laughter. I know he’s watching from above. We love you, Luke.” She also posted a second memory, sharing her favorite photo of Perry taken by her costar Cole Sprouse.

Ulrich shared a photo of Perry’s favorite hat, explaining his friend had left the hat at Ulrich’s house the week before he died. “Luke, you left WAY more than a hat! We miss you and keep you in our hearts every single day. Thank you for all you gave the world, tonight is for you,” he wrote.

Many of the cast spoke to Perry’s legacy as a mentor, with Petsch sharing a photo of her and Perry at the first upfronts for the series. “Luke walked me through the entire experience as he did with most of the new experiences I encountered after booking this show,” she wrote. “I didn’t even know this photo existed but it explains our relationship to a T. He was always so generous and supportive and patient with my learning and growing through some of the most formative years of my life. I am so lucky to have known you Luke. You were one of a kind and impacted everyone’s lives in such a meaningful way.”

Aguirre-Sacasa summed up the intention and emotion of the episode in an Instagram post featuring Perry (wearing the hat Ulrich mentioned in his tribute) alongside Ulrich, Sprouse, and KJ Apa. “Tonight Season 4 of Riverdale premieres,” he explained. “With an episode that honors our friend Luke. (I love this picture of him with the boys.) It’s an episode that’s bursting with sadness, but even more so with love. I’m humbled by the outstanding, heroic work everyone did on it. I hope you like it, Luke. As Archie says about his dad, ‘You will always be a part of Riverdale.’ 👨🏻‍💻❤️🏠👨‍👦⭐️💎”

See below for a sampling of tributes to Perry from the Riverdale team.

The Riverdale season premiere airs at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.

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seasons
  • 3
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  • 43
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  • 01/26/17
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