Perry, who played Fred Andrews in the supernatural teen drama, died suddenly in March after suffering a massive stroke.
Episode one revealed that Andrews had been killed after being struck by a car while trying to help a stranded motorist.
The news was explained to Archie (KJ Apa), Perry’s on-screen son, by new sheriff FP Jones (Skeet Ulrich).
“He pulled over to help someone who was stalled on the side of the road and another vehicle came up on them way too fast and he was struck by them,” Jones told Archie.
Riverdale’s executive producers have since explained the decision to play out Perry’s death in the show, saying they wanted to honour the star.
“Very early on, we landed on the idea that Fred should have a heroic death,” executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa said at a press screening. “It felt like that’s a way Fred could’ve gone.
“[We’re not] going to launch any huge stories for the season. It was really going to be kind of focused on [Fred’s passing], and the emotional effects of that passing for everyone.”
It is then revealed that the motorist Fred stopped to help was played by his real-life Beverly Hills 90210 co-star Shannen Doherty, who played a small but vital part in the episode.
“Over the seasons, Luke and I had talked a lot about trying to get Shannen on the show, and the timing never worked out,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “Rather than have another actor play that, we thought it would be nice if it were someone he cared for in real life. And he cared so deeply about Shannen… She really wanted to be a part of it, from when we first talked to her about it.”
The episode made use of previously shot footage of Perry in the role, and used real photos of the star with the permission of Perry’s family.
“We involved them as much as we could… They read the script, and then they provided those great photos. I loved seeing him in his baseball uniform,” Aguirre-Sacasa said.
Riverdale is available to view in the UK on Netflix