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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Recap: Trial and Terror

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Trial of Sabrina Spellman
Season 1 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating *****

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Trial of Sabrina Spellman
Season 1 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Diyah Pera/Netflix

The most unintentionally hilarious line in this episode comes from our willful, earnest Sabrina. Upon discovering that both of her aunts have been hiding some high-stakes backstory not just from her but also from each other, she says, “No more secrets.” I nearly fainted from laughter. No more secrets! Brina, babe, your aunts are at least a hundred years old, right? We are talking about family here. Even the most boring, ordinary kinds of families have — and this is a conservative estimate — 10 trillion secrets among them. The Spellmans have got human secrets and magic secrets, marriage secrets and sister secrets. Sister secrets are the most explosive of all the secrets! It’s all very Saints for All Occasions.

Turns out that when Sabrina was just a little baby half-witch, Aunt Zelda whisked her away in the woods with her dad, who signed Sabrina’s name in the Dark Lord’s book on her behalf. Rude! Just when I was thinking this was going to turn into yet another example of the witch-world ostensibly being all about empowering women but actually being a place where even the witchiest woman is under male control, we get this hot twist: Two days before Sabrina’s dad signed his daughter’s soul away to the devil, Sabrina’s mom sneaked away with Aunt Hilda to have your standard-issue shiksa baptism, which I must admit, I don’t know a ton about, but I think it’s a lot less intense than “now your body and soul is the Dark Lord’s to do with what he wishes.”

Pretty disconcerting for Sabrina to find out that her parents — whose star-crossed love, she was led to believe, was so strong that it overcame every obstacle until their untimely, accidental demise — were actually the kind of people who kept things hidden from each other and, in turn, from their child. People with secrets; people who schemed and lied and probably told themselves that it was in Sabrina’s best interest to do so, but clearly felt like something was dicey about it or wouldn’t have bothered to be so secretive in the first place. Anybody else getting strong Philip and Elizabeth vibes here?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me quickly dispense with the matters at Baxter High, which are — no offense to the mortals — boring! And really don’t merit our attention. Ros wants to read The Bluest Eye, which even my practically abstinence-only conservative public high school allowed, but Baxter says it’s too “graphic.” But after some fist-pumping and anti-censorship flyering, Witch Wardwell assists in starting a WICCA banned-book club for which this Toni Morrison classic is the first selection. Ros is in a rush to read because she is losing her eyesight. Which … doesn’t really make sense! Braille was invented in the early 1800s; by 1860, it was in use at the Missouri School for the Blind in St. Louis, so it seems fair to assume that it would’ve reached Greendale by now. Shouldn’t Ros be more worried about seeing great works of visual art while she still has time to appreciate them than getting in her non-required reading?

One other thing on the muggle front: Harvey’s dad is an abusive jerk, because all grown men in CAOS are assholes. He wants Harvey workin’ in the mines like some kind of Boyd Crowder, but Harvey wants to be a comic-book artist — plus this one time, during what turned out to be a very traumatic game of hide and seek, Harvey went down into the mines and saw the Dark Lord. Turns out the devil is basically a goat, but like, standing up on two hooves and also terrifying.

Back to the interesting stuff: Sabrina has been charged with “breech of promise” for fleeing the site of her Dark Baptism and, allegedly, for not following through on her contractual obligation to commit herself to the Dark Lord. For this, she receives an infernal summons. She has to go before this witch court, where you’re guilty until proven innocent and trials start at midnight. Also, for the duration, Sabrina’s aunts — her legal guardians — are stripped of their powers and will age rapidly until the verdict. Yikes.

Sabrina realizes that she needs legal counsel and, with a tip from Ambrose, seeks out Daniel Webster (named, I assume, for this one), a local occultist and attorney who, while mortal, knows what’s what in the witch court. He’s rumored to have beaten the devil himself! But Daniel eventually reveals to Sabrina that his victory had consequences: The devil made Webster “the greatest lawyer in the world,” but Webster was only winning cases for “the most depraved, the most obscene” characters — your murderers and rapists and the like — and one of those scumbags, sprung by Webster, expressed his gratitude by breaking into Webster’s house and doing “unspeakable things” to his daughter, which included either beheading her or slitting her throat really deep. It’s hard to tell from her ghost; I feel like there’s too much blood for just a slitting situation, but also if she were beheaded, she’d probably just be carrying it around, Headless Horseman style? Please wildly speculate in the comments!

At Sabrina’s trial, Blackwood says Sabrina can apologize and everything will be forgiven, except she will have to abandon her mortal life immediately, and “upon her death, she shall burn for 333 years in the pit as his pleasure demands.” Sabrina is not about that afterlife and, with Webster at her side, she pleads not guilty.

Blackwood does you classic victim-blaming song and dance, complete with rage over how Sabrina bailed “at the moment of consummation” and a “dressed like that, don’t you think you were asking for it?” bit about the fact that Sabrina showed up in a wedding dress. (The Dark Lord, in this scenario, is a jilted groom.) Webster tries to get a change of venue to a mortal court, since Sabrina is half-human, and it is here that Sabrina learns Scandalous Spellman Secret No. 1 about her dad signing her name in the book without telling anyone but Zelda, who served as the witness. This betrayal was the cost of marrying Sabrina’s mother. In my notes, I write: WOW, WHEN MEN MAKE DECISIONS FOR WOMEN, EVERYTHING GOES TO SHIT.

As for mortal rules, Blackwood’s all, “Sure let’s tie her up and see if she drowns!” Um, no. Then he says they can strip her and look for her witch’s mark. This gives us a very tender scene between Sabrina and Harvey, the only person she trusts at the moment, because she needs someone to examine her for this birthmark so she can be super sure it’s not there. I’m not 100 percent clear on why this I’ll-show-you-mine moment is taking place outdoors, but the lighting is very flattering.

Just as Father Blackwood is calling for this minor to be stripped naked in front of the whole courtroom, Scandalous Spellman Secret No. 2 comes out, courtesy of Hilda. The doors of hell literally fling open, and once the key players emerge from the court’s private chambers, it is decided: Sabrina shall retain her mortal life, on the condition that she also attend the Academy of Unseen Arts and weekly black mass. Full powers are restored to her family. Who says women can’t have it all?

There’s only one real loser in this deal: Hilda, who has been excommunicated. “Our Dark Lord is a vengeful lord,” Zelda quips. I wonder what this means for Hilda’s powers and her life. Nothing good, I expect. Meanwhile, Sabrina is off to learn all that she can, so she might be the first person to beat the devil. No pressure!

Ongoing mysteries: Ambrose is under house arrest and isn’t allowed a familiar. What do we think his crime was? Also, Luke totally killed the iguana, right? We don’t believe it just up and died of natural causes while Ambrose was asleep? Every time Father Blackwood is with an adult woman, sensual face-touching ensues. Do we see a love triangle brewing (witch pun!) among him, Zelda, and Wardwell?

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Recap: Trial and Terror