Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Finally, Sabrina is going to the Academy. Not that I don’t care about what happens at Baxter High, but — nope, sorry, I have to be honest with you: I do not care about what happens at Baxter High. Who can stay invested in these low-stakes mortal scuffles when there is a whole witching world to discover?
Sabrina is heading off for her induction, a three-day stint at the school to get her started. The best advice Sabrina gets about this getaway comes from Ambrose, who informs her that this is an opportunity to meet witches and warlocks from all over the world and “a great many of them will be hot.” In the grand tradition of fictional girl characters who are 0.01 seconds away from meeting a boy, Sabrina explains that she’s not going to school to meet a boy. She’s only got one guy on her mind: the Dark Lord. Her studies will teach her to “conjure him, bind him, and banish him.” Ambitious! Does Sabrina really think she won’t need cute magic boys to assist her on this mission?
As Sabrina leaves, I think for a minute about the lives of the aunts. Their relationship is so fascinating to me — sisters who are bound together, seemingly in isolation from the rest of the world, for almost-eternity. Do they have any friends besides each other? Have they ever been in love? They make witch life look awfully lonely, especially without Sabrina around to focus on.
Upon arriving at the Academy, Sabrina meets this child who looks exactly like the doll child from this creepy movie. He escorts her inside this very lush-looking school, which consists of perfectly proportioned pentagons. No one knows how many there are. Nothing to worry about, I’m sure!
Father Blackwood, who in addition to defending the devil in witch court also serves as headmaster of the witch school, gives Sabrina a schedule completely devoid of cool classes. He tells her these are “general requirements,” but we later learn this is a LIE and he was just handicapping her to be a dick. Father Blackwood is married to the super-glamorous choir teacher, in whose class Sabrina demonstrates an ability to sight-read music that makes Prudence very edgy and makes my Kiernan Shipka fandom escalate 1,000 percent. Did we know she could sing? Why did Matthew Weiner make Sally Draper a ballerina when these pipes were just sitting there unused? He gave almost everybody else a musical number!
On to what I think we can all agree is the most important development here: the dreamy magic boy. We knew this was coming. We care for Harvey, whose love of Sabrina does feel very pure and sincere and heart-eye-emoji-inspiring, but we knew that competition would come for him as surely as choir competition would come for Prudence. Enter: Nicholas Scratch. *Does a quick check to confirm this teenager is played by someone in his mid-20s; finds his Instagram to save you a search.* So Nick Scratch has some juicy information for Sabrina: Her dad had “radical ideas,” and his journals are so precious that they’re locked in the Sanctum — an exclusive section of the library that only advanced students can access. (Handsome and smart, I MEAN.) Nick is into everything Sabrina wishes she could be studying, including necromancy, which … okay, that one sounds gross, but I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation we will uncover in time.
The Weird Sisters join Sabrina at lunch, because even in the witch world, the cafeteria caste system is real and popular girls will use their lunch table seating arrangements to exert power over the weak. After outing Sabrina for having a boyfriend — “slumming with mortals” is a Spellman family tradition, Prudence notes — these Heathers also knock Nick for being a “warlock slut.” At least in the witching world, it’s men who get slut-shamed!
This is where your standard-issue mean-girl aggression ends and your straight-up psychotic witchcraft hazing begins. Apparently new students all must submit themselves to the Harrowing, which involves being yanked out of your bed in the middle of the night to be tortured. It’s like those horrifying pledging stories that ooze out of sororities and fraternities every so often, the kind where you think, Maybe those upperclassmen are actually just sociopaths? On the first night, they stuff Sabrina in this haunted Chokey-type thing; Salem hears her screams and comes to the rescue because “in goblin form, there isn’t a crack he can’t squeeze through.”
If Sabrina were some kind of amateur — like the hapless Pretty Little Liars (sorry but it’s true) — she would have tried to solve this problem on her own. But our girl knows when she needs backup: She calls Zelda, who calls bullshit on Blackwood sticking her niece in Herbalism 101. Blackwood gives Sabrina this mystical Rubik’s Cube to solve; if she cracks it, she can take conjuring.
Nick tells Sabrina that the puzzle is the handiwork of her dad and that nobody has been able to solve it, not even after years of trying. It’s a little obvious but I guess we need to watch Sabrina solve this with virtually no trouble at all or how else will we know she’s a gifted young half-witch? Nick also tells Sabrina that he was involved with ALL THREE Weird Sisters which, whoa. As some Baxter High boys learned firsthand, “Their gifts include mind control,” Nick says. “I wasn’t sure what was real and what was a suggestion.” Sabrina asks Nick to sneak her into the library, ostensibly because a clue for the puzzle could be in one of her dad’s journals but you KNOW it’s really because she wants one-on-one after-hours bonding time with her new warlock crush, with the plausible deniability of needing his help.
Back at the home front, Ambrose uses astral projection to go on a date with Luke, which is wildly dangerous and therefore not advised but when Zelda’s away, Hilda will cave because she has a gentle heart and can’t bear to see Ambrose miss an opportunity for love and (not physical) connection. He makes it back, but only barely. Also: he was arrested for attempting to blow up the Vatican?!
Sabrina’s harrowing continues, sans Salem’s protection. (I will say this about the Weird Sisters: They really know their history! I like that their Harrowing pays tribute to witches who’ve gone before them.) But after a night of standing in the cold in terror, Sabrina sees the creepy doll-child again and discovers what you likely discerned early in the episode: He is a GHOST. Soon he is surrounded by a fleet of other ghost children! Kids are being HARROWED TO DEATH.
Aunts Hilda and Zelda come back to ream Blackwood out for this offense. He insists that harrowing is a tradition and “a good harrowing forges the weak.” Here we learn another layer of this upsetting and wrenching relationship: Zelda harrowed Hilda. I love that, even though Zelda gets to be the witch who scans as more powerful — the better magician, so to speak — it’s Hilda’s insight, her empathy and her particular gifts, that solve this problem. Zelda might see Hilda’s sensitivity as a weakness, but Sabrina gets to watch Hilda utilize it as the strength that it is — one that Zelda doesn’t value, and doesn’t even have.
Hilda rounds up the ghost children and gives them the one thing “all well-behaved children need”: Permission. That night, the harrowers become the harrowed, and Sabrina has her pack of ghost minions nearly choke the Weird Sisters to death with invisible nooses, as you do. When Sabrina, in her great mercy, allows the Weird Sisters to survive, she tells Prudence, “If you say another thing about my mother or father to anyone ever again, I’ll choke you to death on your own blood.” As the kids say: Sabrina came to slay.
Prudence gets a talking-to from Father Blackwood, who cannot believe this untrained half-witch “humiliated” his star pupils. In what I wouldn’t exactly call the most subtle dialogue ever, Blackwood tells Prudence that, while the Dark Lord wants Sabrina to be educated at the Academy, “he gave no indication that she shouldn’t suffer while she’s here.” The only thing missing was a mwahahahaha.
Before Sabrina heads up, handsome Nick hooks her up with a journal that he stole from the library for her because “You should get to know your father.” HOT AND SMART AND THOUGHTFUL, LADIES AND GENTLEMAN WE HAVE A HAT TRICK.
Sabrina skims the journal for maybe three minutes and, guided by the spirit of her mother as sketched by her father, closes her eyes and solves the puzzle. Sand spills everywhere, like one of those awful party invitations that make glitter explode all over the place, and then just when you think it can’t get worse (seriously sand is such a pain in the ass to clean up) the lights start doing spooOOooOoOoky flickering and a demon appears!
Speaking of demons: Suzie’s uncle also saw the Dark Lord in the mines. Uncle Jesse (lol) was, it appears, briefly possessed by either the Dark Lord himself or some similar monster. Harvey narrowly escapes death. He would love to celebrate his survival by going over to his girlfriend’s house but she is too busy reading her dad’s journals. Can you see her getting closer and closer to Nick by the second?! Anyway considering the emergence of yet another demon, it’s probably for the best that Harvey didn’t swing by the Spellman residence.
Ongoing mysteries: What’s Father Blackwood’s endgame? What exactly do we think went on with him and Zelda back in the day? What does being a witch midwife entail? I have a feeling it’s not your standard-issue mortal doula situation. Can anyone tell me which lipsticks everyone is wearing on this show?