The latest episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina had to cover a lot of ground. Part holiday special, part season premiere, “A Midwinter’s Tale” had to push forward the Spellman saga while giving us all the holly jolly feels — and to its credit, the episode worked. From the ghosts of “A Christmas Carol” to the parental lie that letting an intruder break into your house annually is somehow a good thing, there’s always been a lot of inherent creepiness around Christmas. Sabrina simply finds a way to tap into that spirit in its own unique way, by mining real pagan lore and adding enchanted eggnog, séances, demonic Santas… and a baby in an oven.
That’s right: The show about witches actually put a dang baby in an oven, in a move that’s so perfectly on-brand I wanted to cheer. It took one of the oldest fairy tale witch-gimmicks and fit it in naturally — not as a joke, or a nod to the audience, but as a weighted, suspenseful event in the narrative. And the twist is that the witches are the ones that don’t want the baby cooked.
But I digress. “A Midwinter’s Tale” picks up some time after the events of last season. Sabrina has signed her soul away, gone platinum, and is trying to navigate her mortal relationships while investing in her witchiness. Her romance with Harvey is on the rocks thanks to her magic, but her friendships with Roz and Susie seem to be on firmer ground. Zelda is still taking care of that baby she stole from Father Blackwood (her name Letitia, FYI). And Miss Wardwell is just trying to figure out what else she’s gotta do to get the Dark Lord’s attention, now that her mission to nudge Sabrina toward the dark side has already come to fruition.
The episode starts with the lighting of the Spellman family Yule Log, which is very important as it is supposed to protect the house from evil spirits during the longest night of the year (the Winter Solstice). Zelda is adamant that the log remain lit, which means you KNOW something is going to happen to put it out. And that something is Wardwell, who decides to put a kink in Sabrina’s plan to summon her mother Diana’s spirit during a séance by extinguishing the log via, I dunno, voodoo? On the plus side, Diana does appear to Sabrina, who was concerned that her mother was stuck in Limbo because of unfinished business (turns out Diana was just worried about her daughter being taken care of). Unfortunately, the house also gets invaded by a mischievous, possibly murdery crew of spirits as well: the Yule Lads.
In Icelandic lore, the Yule Lads and their mother, the mountain troll Gryla, are bad news for naughty children, though Sabrina tweaks the backstory to make Gryla a witch that tries to collect and protect children instead of eating them. Zelda is forced to summon Gryla to pick up her Lads after they run rampant through the house — even stealing baby Letitia and hiding her away in Hilda’s preheating oven (see what I mean?!). Unfortunately, Gryla catches wind of Letitia and wants to take her back to the mountains as well. After all, it’s not as though Zelda’s claim on the child is legitimate. To settle the dispute, Diana appears with a glowing crown (in a nod to Saint Lucia/Lucy) and tells the women to play tug-of-war with Letitia. Whoever’s the strongest will get to keep the baby (or what’s left of her). But don’t worry, the whole judgment of Solomon thing is just a ruse. After Zelda gives up and Gryla takes Letitia away, Diana and Sabrina reveal that they had used a changeling spell on Ambrose’s old teddy bear to make it look like Letitia, meaning the child is safe and sound.
Meanwhile, Susie has been working hard as an elf for a department store Santa named Mr. Bartel. And if you’re familiar with Austrian lore, you probably already realized that “Bartel” is one of the many names for… KRAMPUS! No spooky Christmas would be complete without that ol’ kid-stealing demon, and sure enough, Bartel has been kidnapping cute kids each year, then dipping them in wax and adding them to the store’s holiday display as living dummies. When Susie turns up missing, Roz knows it has to be related to Mr. Bartel (she had one of her cunning visions about it), so she goes straight to the Spellmans for help. Their plan? Summon Gryla back, hope she doesn’t hold a grudge over the whole teddy bear switcheroo, and sic her on Bartel in time to save Susie from the wax.
It all ends merrily enough, if not necessarily joyously. Sabrina’s magic eggnog puts Harvey’s dad off of drinking for good, but Harvey tells her he doesn’t want anything to do with magic anymore. And Zelda’s brush with Gryla convinces her that she can’t keep Letitia forever, so she resolves to give the child up — placing her in the care of Dezmelda, the crone in the woods from last season. But at least the Spellmans get to enjoy Ambrose’s annual reading of “A Christmas Carol” in peace… even as three demons looking like the Three Wise Men emerge from the mines. So, uh, that’s something we’ve got to look forward to when the rest of the episodes launch…
On April 5, 2019! Netflix added a trailer for Part Two that will give you a sneak peek of the action that lies ahead, and revealed the premiere date for the continuation of the season. So make sure you check it out if you need something to tide you over for the next few months.