Luke Perry has died. Variety confirmed the death of the actor, who was hospitalized last week following a stroke. Perry was just 52 years old. His former Beverly Hills 90210 castmates and current Riverdale co-stars took to social media last week to share an outpouring of love and support for their friend and colleague, who had been placed in an induced coma. That wasn't a very positive development, but most of his friends and fans – myself included – were optimistic he'd recover. Sadly, that wasn't the case.
It's harder than I thought it would be to write this. As a kid, I watched Beverly Hills 90210 religiously (I was a weird kid; when you move a lot, TV is a good friend) and I loved Perry's Dylan McKay – the edgier, more complex teen of the bunch. He struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. He had real problems. As someone who grew up in a family riddled with addiciton, I saw some of my own family's problems in him. And with those flannel shirts and mopey good looks, he was the epitome of ’90s babeliness. He was soulful but rugged and often seemed – pardon the cliche – wise beyond his years. Like many people who grew up in the ’90s, I was also a massive fan of the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, in which he played the rebellious love interest to Kristy Swanson's Buffy. Like a precursor to Heath Ledger's Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You, Perry's Pike was a misunderstood tough guy, whose hard exterior and cool motorcycle distracted from his sensitivity and intellect. I was obsessed. We all were.
Over the years he'd pop up in acclaimed series like Oz and the short-lived John From Cincinatti. In recent years we fell in love with him all over again on Riverdale, where he played Fred Andrews – father of the uber-bland Archie. Perry's Fred was easily the best and only truly decent parent on the show. (Apologies to Skeet Ulrich's FP Jones, who is a very hot and Cool Dad, but not always a Good one.) Riverdale made excellent use of Perry (and Ulrich and Molly Ringwald and Madchen Amick); it's a show that doesn't shamelessly capitalize on our nostalgia, but finds campy, clever, and occasionally tender ways to speak to it, reimagining and recontextualizing our ’80s and ’90s faves in a series that pays homage to the corners of pop culture from whence they came.
I imagine that the Riverdale gang is already formulating a heartfelt tribute episode – one that will allow the crew and his co-stars to honor Perry while giving his fans a chance to say goodbye. I don't really know what else to say. Luke Perry has always been on our TV screens. It's surreal to think he'll continue to live there, suspended in digital amber, dead but never really gone.