Chilling Adventures of Sabrina returned for the back half of its first season this month, following our favorite teen witch as she walked the dark path toward her even darker destiny. And while “Part 2” built on the familiar strengths of the first part (and suffered from many of the same frustrating weaknesses), without a doubt it was a helluva fun ride. Romance! Betrayal! Miracles! Clones! THE APOCALYPSE! All leading up to a conclusion that leaves the door wide open for the already-confirmed Season 2 (or Parts 3 & 4, if you prefer).
So join me as I walk my own dark path… OF SPOILERS!
The Weird: Sabrina Is Jesus (Sabri-sus?) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
We all knew we’d finally be getting answers on Sabrina’s role in the Dark Lord’s dastardly plans to take over the world, now that she’s signed her soul away to him and chosen her Satanic path. But it turns out she’s not just Hell’s pawn — she’s Hell’s Spawn. Literally. The big twist of the season is that she’s Witch Jesus, inadvertently performing perversions of biblical miracles (exorcisms, healing the blind, RESURRECTING HARVEY’S DAMN BROTHER) that will culminate in the Dark Lord being reborn on Earth in his angelic form as Lucifer… and then they’ll open the gates of Hell together, get married, and live evilly ever after. And the other twist is that, just like Jesus was God’s son made flesh, Sabrina is actually the Dark Lord’s daughter. She’s not even a Spellman! And she’s supposed to marry her dad, because apparently Game of Thrones hasn’t cornered the market on incest! It was… a lot. But at least Sabrina made that crown of thorns WERK.
Of course, Sabrina as the Anti-Savior wasn’t the only over-the-top religious twist this season took. There were the witch-hunting missionaries who came to Greendale to either convert or destroy every member of the Church of Night — only to be revealed as actual angels! It’s ok though, Sabri-sus made them pledge themselves to Lucifer instead. There was also a whole tangent involving Father Blackwood trying to revamp the Church to ensure that Warlock always have dominion over Witches, and oh yeah — Lilith made an Adam for herself using her own rib, cooking him up like moonshine in her bathtub. And speaking of Lilith…
The Good: Lilith Comes Out On Top
I walked away from “Part 1” thinking Michelle Gomez’s turn as Mary Wardwell/Lilith was maybe the best part of show filled with excellent casting, and “Part 2” just solidified that impression. I mean, there’s the hair. That luscious, incredible hair. Hair so fine it could make Connie Britton give up and put a damn hat on. But “Part 2” proved her character was no simple vamp as it explored her ties to the Dark Lord and her origins as the first Witch. First there’s the “The Passion of Lucifer Morningstar,” a student play performed at the Academy and starring Nick as a just-fallen Lucifer with Sabrina in the role of Lilith herself. Lilith is in the audience, watching her story unfold on stage, and it’s her tearful reaction that belies every action she takes the rest of the season. It’s not just that Lucifer promised her a throne and a crown in exchange for her devotion through the milennia — a promise she comes to realize was always a lie since it’s Sabrina who is destined to be his Queen, according to the prophecy. It’s the fact that she followed him out of love, at the start. Over the following episodes she gets a second chance at love, courtesy of Mary Wardwell’s returned boyfriend, the oh-so-appropriately named Adam (played by Alexis Denisof), who gives her a taste of what it feels like to be the one being worshipped rather than doing the worshipping — only for him to be offed by the Dark Lord, who wasn’t about to let Lilith chase her own happiness on his watch. Theirs is a toxic relationship writ large, with Lilith unable to escape but unwilling to be abused and abandoned any longer. By the end of the season the real satisfaction wasn’t found in Sabrina escaping her destiny — it was Lilith teaming up with Sabrina and the Spellmans to beat Lucifer and secure the throne of Hell for herself. LIKE A QUEEN.
The Bad: Sabrina Is Still Kind Of The Worst?
This is in no way a comment on Kiernan Shipka, who sells the absolute hell (pun intended) out of this character. The fact that Sabrina Spellman even works as a heroine at all is because of the charisma Shipka infuses the character with. No, the problem is just that Sabrina as a character is the very personification of unearned ego. She assumes she’s right in every situation, she thumbs her nose at every tradition or convention, she expects everyone to treat her with honesty and respect despite the fact that she frequently doesn’t return the favor, and somehow her arrogance goes unchecked at every turn. Almost every idea she has turns into a disaster, and people follow her anyway! Even the climax of the season is a failed plan on her part — and the only reason Lucifer is defeated is because Nick sacrifices himself as a human prison. Now, I get that a lot of this can be chalked up to Sabrina being a typical teenager, but that only works if she faces consequences for her mistakes. And she mostly doesn’t. In “Part 1” it seems like maybe she has learned not to use her magic to help her mortal friends without their permission, after she RESURRECTED HARVEY’S DAMN BROTHER, but nope — she starts “Part 2” off with a bang by helping Theo make the basketball team, whispering spells in the bleachers to make sure Theo’s every throw scores a point. I figured for sure that Theo would be upset once he discovered her manipulations, but instead it turns out he knew she was doing it the whole time — and he even uses that incident as proof that Sabrina has always been their friend, when Harvey and Roz are upset with her.
The Weird: Clone Sabrina Is Worse Than Real Sabrina By A Mile
To try and outsmart her destiny, Sabrina launches another one of her very-bad-plans involving making a mandrake root clone of herself, giving it her powers, and then, I dunno, sitting back and feeling satisfied that the Dark Lord won’t have any use for a fully-mortal version of herself. Naturally, the clone turns out to be a total psychopath, and tries to make root-baby clones of Harvey, Roz and Theo because it’s desperate for love. But worse, Clone Sabrina is… sort of like what you’d imagine the original comics Sabrina might be like. Just a total goody two shoes, made of saccharine and hugs. Luckily Regular Sabrina kills that veggie-witch so we don’t have to watch her anymore. But unluckily it turns out that “killing herself” was the final perversion the Dark Lord needed to escape the pit. Oopsies!
The Very Good: Theo!
Remember Susie, Sabrina’s gender nonconforming friend (played by queer actor Lachlan Watson)? “Part 2” continues Susie’s transgender journey by immediately revealing that she is living as Theo now — and he is determined to join the boy’s basketball team. He comes out to his friends and family, and there are lovely scenes of Harvey helping him tie his tie for a dance or his father agreeing to take him for a haircut — and of course there are continued instances of bullying as well. It’s a very grounded plot thread in a series that is frequently anything but, but what impressed me the most was how it never felt like a “very special” storyline. Theo as a character only gained agency through the season, and by the end his story wasn’t defined by his trans journey — it was defined by his courage and heart. In the battle to save the world, it was Theo who succeeded in ensuring the gates of Hell remained closed. He’s a bonafide hero!
The Good: Sabrina And Harvey Make Better Exes Than They Ever Made A Couple
One of the more pleasant surprises of the season was that “Part 2” ended without contriving to get Harvey and Sabrina back together again. My cynical mind assumed the show would be going the obvious route of having them hook up with Roz and Nick as rebounds, only to make Harbina (Sarvey?) the real romantic endgame. But damn do I love being wrong about that! Harvey and Roz make a surprisingly sweet couple, and Nick ultimately proved his love to Sabrina as well. And more importantly — Harvey and Sabrina made pretty great just-friends, too. In the end, when the original foursome sit at Doctor C’s talking about teaming up together to rescue Nick from Hell, it’s a relief to see that the breakup of the central couple didn’t wreck the group dynamics. Roz and Sabrina are still besties, Theo doesn’t have to choose sides, and Harvey will always have Sabrina’s back — platonically. It’s so mature, y’all!
The Weird: THAT DANCE
But the love dynamics weren’t always so mature, and in fact they got pretty awkward for awhile there as Sabrina flitted back and forth between the Academy of Unseen Arts and Baxter High as though her witchy powers somehow made her immune to such mundane concerns as “enrollment”, “attendance”, or “truancy.” It all came to a head when she decided to attend Baxter’s Valentine’s Day dance with Nick, knowing full well that Roz and Harvey were going to be there on a date. And to make matters even stranger, they… danced within like 15 feet of one another? Look, there was plenty of creepy and monstrous stuff going on in this season, but seeing Roz and Sabrina make eyes at each other over their beau’s shoulders squicked me out the most. ALL OF IT WAS WEIRD AND UNNECESSARY.
The Good: Hilda Gets Her Freak On!
Remember how Doctor Cerberus was revealed to be some sort of monster? Well, it turns out he’s an Incubus, and when he gets, ah, aroused… he turns into a wolf. But Hilda ain’t gonna let no wolf-ubus get in the way of her love life, so she gives him a special bracelet to keep his monster at bay and snags herself a boyfriend! GET SOME, GIRL.
The Bad: Lupercalia
I mean, look: teenage orgy witch rituals are not bad, per se. But let’s not pretend that teenagers need any special reasons to have sex in the woods.
The Good: Ambrose And Prudence, Power Couple
Individually, both Ambrose and Prudence suffered some sloppy plotting as their individual character motivations became convoluted and frequently unbelievable. But it all paid off in the end, as they became the unexpected sword-toting couple to beat in the whole show, setting off to get their revenge on Father Blackwood and save the twins. Blackwood seemed to welcome Ambrose into the fold, giving him freedom and power within the Academy, and even giving him a familiar of his own. And then Ambrose wakes up covered in the Anti-Pope’s blood, only to realize his familiar was controlling him and he’s been framed for murder by Blackwood. Meanwhile Prudence finally gains her father’s respect and earns his last name, and with it power and influence of her own. So she’s willing stand by his side, even as he maneuvers to strip women of their own agency within the Church of Night… until he slips poison into the dark communion and lets her feed it to her sisters and the rest of the Church. Ambrose may have killed one person as Blackwood’s pawn, but Prudence nearly killed the entire congregation. Their shared guilt and anger may be driving them to work together in the next season, but I suspect they may find the home they’ve always been looking for in each other as well. But hey — I’m a romantic, and these two are just too damn pretty not to be my favorite couple.
The Weird: Stepford Zelda
Zelda decides to marry Father Blackwood, not for love but for power. Which is a weird call on both their parts, as it’s pretty clear he’s super into subjugating women and Zelda is super into not being subjugated — to the point that she literally kidnapped his daughter because she worried about what he would do to a first-born girl. So like, this entire plot thread made no sense, but by the time Zelda returned from her honeymoon having been brainwashed into being the perfect little wifey, I was sold. And it only made her return to form that much sweeter — and her eventual ascension to High Priestess of the Church that much more delightful.
The Very Best: LELAND PALMER IS THE ANTI-POPE!
Ray Wise is always the best part of anything he’s in. This is known.