Fans who were able to join the Riverdale cast for its Hall H panel at Comic-Con International: San Diego yesterday noted both an exciting and somber tone, as the main cast — minus the late Luke Perry — descended on the con to reveal some juicy teasers and tear-inducing casting news that we can expect in the upcoming season.

The panel opened with a heartfelt tribute to Perry, featuring a sizzle reel of Fred Andrew’s best dad moments as showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa revealed this season would address Perry’s passing when the fourth season kicks off with a tribute episode.

In honor of the most stand-up dad in Riverdale, Perry’s longtime Beverly Hills, 90210 costar and pal Shannen Doherty will join the Town of Pep in a special guest-starring role in the season premiere, which will air on Wednesday, Oct. 9 on The CW. The first episode will reflect on Perry’s legacy and the imprint his character Fred had on the show, according to a press release from the network.

To celebrate Perry and Doherty’s nearly 30-year friendship, Aguirre-Sacasa has long planned for a special cameo on the show. Her presence “is something that Luke wanted to happen since season one,” Aguirre-Sacasa says during the panel. “They were such good friends, and when we were putting together this tribute episode, we wanted to make it as special as possible, and so we asked Shannen to do a pivotal, super-emotional role. She read the script and immediately said, ‘yes.’ It’s very impactful.”

Emotions aside (yes, we’re trying to keep it together over here!!), this season as a whole will focus on the high school crew heading back to school for their senior year, with several mystery flashbacks and flash-forwards along the way as we discover what happened to Jughead during that cliffhanger during the previous finale. Riverdale High will be led by the new principal on the block Mr. Honey, played by Kerr Smith (Dawson’s Creek, The Fosters, Life Unexpected). Aguirre-Sacasa describes Honey as “a bit of a hard-ass who takes a harder line with the students this year, especially with the seniors.” The fourth season will also bring back Molly Ringwald in an expanded role as Archie’s mom.

Aguirre-Sacasa teased special episodes this year, including a spooktacular Halloween theme, a Battle of the Bands, and another musical episode after last year’s was such big fun. He also teased a major split could be coming as Jughead (Cole Sprouse) is offered a scholarship to a prestigious, upscale school this season. Then, the ever-lovable Choni teams up and lands in some “sticky” business trouble, Madelaine Petsch teased about her character Cheryl Blossom and her loving girlfriend Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan).

To lighten the mood, The CW series brought out a goofy blooper reel of the cast filming the third season, including plenty of laughs, line flubs, funny faces, and KJ Apa struggling to say “gargoyles” in his American accent for the show. Take a peek below for your dose of wholesome content this week.

Photo: The CW