Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
You might expect hell to be something of a scattershot, make-it-up-as-you-go operation — like a never-ending improv show, a personal hell for me and probably for many of you! — but in the world of CAOS, the devil is a planner. Satan has a vision: “The gates of hell will be thrown open, and Sabrina will be my prophet on Earth.” Not thrilled about this bit of breaking news is Wardwell/Lilith, whose status is the less-impressive “first among women.” Quite the demotion, no? Wardwell says Sabrina’s “essential nature tends towards the light.” The Dark Lord is … not stoked to hear this. Really a day of disappointments all around.
So they make a deal. Pretty sure you’re not supposed to make deals with the devil, but if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s Wardwell, who decides to play tug-of-war over Sabrina’s soul. The stakes: If Wardwell wins, she’s the prophet and queen of hell on Earth. If she loses, she’s never allowed to question the Dark Lord’s will again.
I have to say, the fact that the Dark Lord starts with such a dopey gambit — telling Sabrina to steal a pack of gum — is hilarious to me. (I write in my notes: Isn’t the devil a little busy to be meddling in all this basic mortal stuff? But I guess he has minions to keep that hellfire burning while he’s out running errands.) All the Spellmans are miffed that Satan made a house call; Zelda, in particular, is feeling very snubbed. But they all tell Sabrina to do whatever he tells her to do. Sabrina dresses for the occasion in one of my favorite outfits of hers to date: all black, leather jacket, red lips to match the red bag. Like a little mystic beatnik. So sharp.
The best and most important development of this episode is that the Academy is presenting a morality play to lift spirits and also remind everyone of their “history” (as reimagined by noted misogynist and insecure man-baby Father Blackwood), and — this is critical — to give Nick and Sabrina a kissing scene. Of course we have to spend a lot of the episode pretending Lilith will be played by Dorkus (who does some really standout bad-on-purpose acting), when we know Sabrina, the understudy, has to take over. Zelda, who has impeccable diction and once played Eve “quite scandalously,” will be overseeing this production, though even she will bristle at Blackwood’s creative choices to render powerful female characters extra helpless.
Because this show is not ready, as I am, to abandon Baxter High once and for all, we have to watch Harvey and Roz do Romeo and Juliet. My favorite part of this whole thing is that the extremely vague, open-ended assignment was to choose “a scene,” and they could have played ANY two characters doing LITERALLY ANY SCENE, but they choose to be Romeo and Juliet in a scene with kissing and then spend all their rehearsals being so giggly and annoying and “are you sure this isn’t weird???”-ing.
Meanwhile, Sabrina and Nick are running lines while she eats some very on-theme apple slices. Just when things are getting all cute (“Lust isn’t a sin, Sabrina,” says Prudence, high priestess of witch orgies), Sabrina chokes. Not to lose focus here, but it’s kind of pathetic that Nick does not know how to give the Heimlich. Like, he had to teleport her home so Hilda could do it? Negative points.
As Hilda nurses Sabrina back to health, she encourages Sabrina to spend more time with her “non-Satanic friends,” and Sabrina agrees.
At Baxter High, Sabrina tells Harvey that she’s in a play at the Academy and he asks her if they’re doing The Crucible, lol. Theo is trying to live as his true self at school, which is going about as well as you’d expect. The boys of Baxter High leer at Theo in the locker room and then stuff Theo’s locker full of tampons and pads. When Sabrina finds out, she, yet again, tries to solve a mortal problem with magic and totally oversteps. Better bully-handling tactics are deployed by Zelda, who is the target of some cruel pranks by her slut-shaming colleagues and uses this nifty little earworm trick to just casually get the leader of the pack (whose on-point name is Shirley Jackson) to walk off a balcony to her death. She saves Shirley at the last minute, but I have a feeling they won’t be bothering her much anymore. You come at the king, etc.
Meanwhile, Sabrina discovers she has “the devil’s claw,” a magical injury that is in total accordance with the Inviolable Rules of Television Health and Medicine. It is physical proof that the devil’s got his paws all over your soul, and Sabrina’s is inflamed because of her willful defiance. Wardwell gives Sabrina a pep talk about resisting the Dark Lord — “Every avalanche begins with a snowflake,” she warns, which is all very “this one pool table will lead to depravity and crime, right here in River City!” — and sends her on her way.
Sabrina, in her most human move to date, sees Roz and Harvey flirting and completely loses her cool. Even though she knows Nick is smitten with her and the mature thing to do would be to let Harvey move on as she does the same, the teen thing to do is to fill in for Roz, who came down with a timely case of the chicken pox, because, sure, Roz wouldn’t have gotten vaccinated when she was a baby in 2004. During a very necessary rehearsal at Harvey’s place, these exes get all carried away with their kissing scene. Just as some layers are getting peeled off, Sabrina sees (hallucinates?) the devil’s claw on Harvey’s body and recoils in terror. Harvey, fairly, tells Sabrina she can’t just keep popping in and out of his life to mess with his head whenever she feels like it. “I am so done with your protection.” Good for you, Harvey.
Sabrina’s duel with the Dark Lord is all fun and games and visions of murdering Dorkus until Satan decides to escalate things and make Salem sick. It is too late for gum-theft to make this right. No, to save her familiar, Sabrina must burn down Baxter High. This plot point is straight up stolen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but okay. After Sabrina douses the halls with gasoline, the Dark Lord says he was just testing her. Did the Dark Lord steal this move from God and Abraham or the other way around?
All of this is just a pregame to the morality play, which stars Nick and Sabrina (Dorkus, conveniently, has also come down with the chicken pox) and is BRIMMING WITH BDE (Big Devil Energy). I love everything about it. One of the best elements of this show is how the witches’ origin stories are, “What if the Bible, from a sexier point of view?” Shocking absolutely no one who has been listening to this recapper, Nick and Sabrina share QUITE the kiss. Wardwell is having a very quiet existential crisis as she watches Sabrina play a young version of herself, and she knows she is no match for this, because the Dark Lord has figured out that the way to Sabrina’s heart is through Nick’s mouth. Her consolation prize is the return of her familiar, but she’s still stuck cleaning the Dark Lord’s hooves, like Emma Stone at the end of The Favourite.
Like Sabrina, I’m not really here for all the bowing and kneeling, but otherwise I feel as Father Blackwood does, jumping up and yelling “BRAVO.” What a dad! (Who did not even cast his own kid in the play.) What I am here for is Sabrina letting loose, even if she is starting with the baby step of finally stealing that gum. Hey, if she’s going to be eating all those raw onions and making out with Nick Scratch, what choice does she have?
Ongoing mysteries: When will Prudence just blow Father Blackwood’s cover and tell everyone she’s his kid? How’s everyone feeling about a hookup between Prudence and Ambrose “the polytheist,” a.k.a. the David Rose of Glendale?