Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
So this entire episode is about how in the witching world, Valentine’s Day is a pure, unadulterated fuck-fest. It’s called “Lupercalia,” and while in the olden days it was a celebration of fertility, it is now, Zelda tells us, all about “S-E-X.” (Hilda: “I can spell it, thank you.”) To this I say: Sure! Why not? What’s the point of being on Netflix if you can’t give the kids that NSF(C)W content they crave?
The gold standard of “giving your teen the talk” on television is Tami Taylor’s talk with Julie on Friday Night Lights, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the open, matter-of-fact way the Spellman women handled it. It sounds like something they’ve discussed before, in a frank and clear way, just given Sabrina’s comfort with a conversation that is infamously uncomfortable for all parties involved. Zelda basically tells Sabrina, who calmly announces that she’s never had sex, “Now is the time to start!” Unlike what the “false god” would have you believe, sex “is about pleasure, not shame.” Point: Dark Lord. Sabrina always envisioned losing her virginity to Harvey. To this, we all say: time to recalibrate.
One of my ongoing qualms with this show is that even though the episodes are long and there’s plenty of time to get in all the plot, some connective tissue always seems to be missing. Since when are Nick and Sabrina boyfriend and girlfriend? They’re running around like a couple, talking about having sex like it’s a given … but have they ever even kissed, outside of the play? Seems like the sort of moment the show should make into a really big deal, no? Guess there is no time to waste as we barrel ahead toward “a frenzy of orgiastic carnality!”
Nick astral-projects into Sabrina’s room just to tell her not to feel like she has to participate in a Sex Coachella with all of her classmates. Sabrina says she wants sex to be something she does “one-on-one, with someone special.” Nick asks if he could “possibly be that someone special.” No, Nick, I’m sure it’ll be one of the other warlocks we’ve seen Sabrina speak to or acknowledge. When Nick splits, Sabrina takes off the locket from Harvey and I cheer for her in all-caps. BE FREE, BRINA! LEAVE HARVEY BEHIND. YOU WERE A DIFFERENT BLONDE THEN.
For once we get what I think is a legitimately fun use of Baxter High, with the contrast between the Candyland, PG-rated Valentine’s Day Sabrina would be having back home and the luscious, X-rated free-for-all that is Lupercalia. Wardwell is rightfully appalled at how tacky and suffocating the Valentine’s vibes are at BHS. Because she is bored and it’s not like the Dark Lord told her she wasn’t allowed to, she plans to go full Jonestown and poison the punch at the Sweethearts Dance. I’m not sure that a massacre of forgettable teens will solve Wardwell’s problems, but I can’t blame her for trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Harvey and Roz exchange valentines in front of a chalkboard that features a drawing of a giant fetus in a womb and a big list of all the different kinds of birth control, because subtlety. Roz demotes Harvey’s proposed date to a group hang so that Theo won’t feel left out.
It’s time for the witches and warlocks to do an elaborate maypole dance that everyone knows the moves to somehow. Dorkus desperately wants Nick — this lust kind of comes out of nowhere, considering she did not display it in the previous episode when she was paired up with him in the play, but fine — so Nick deploys some sneaky magic to trick her into picking someone else, which seems … sort of icky, don’t you think? Like, tricking someone into having sex with a guy they really don’t want to have sex with … I think we’re supposed to find it all funny and harmless but it doesn’t exactly land that way here in 2019. Also, the whole ordeal seems kind of heteronormative for these supposedly oh-so-progressive witches, but I guess you can chalk that up to its legacy as a fertility festival.
This is the first episode in which I really felt like Sabrina and Roz’s friendship had texture and depth. First, Roz gets Sabrina’s blessing to put her face on Harvey’s face; she does not yet realize Sabrina is about to partake in a three-day weekend of non-stop sluttery, so this seems like a bigger deal than it is. Later, Sabrina makes a speedy astral-projection stop at Roz’s place to tell her that she’s going to have sex, and here we learn Roz already lost her virginity at Bible camp, which, good on you, Roz. It’s a very sex-positive pep talk and I’m into it.
Theo also has a heart-to-heart (valentine pun!) with his dad, explaining that he doesn’t feel like a girl at all. “Even though you’ve always thought of me as a girl, I’m a boy.” Dad is quiet but supportive and takes young Theo to get a buzz cut. Aesthetically speaking, I think the longer hair was working for this kid, but I get wanting to leave Suzy’s whole look behind.
Enough with the mortals: Time to go into the woods, disrobe, and “absorb the potency of the goddess herself.” Ambrose announces to all the witches and warlocks that “abstinence is encouraged” and everyone goes “boo!” and I ask, again: How old is everyone here? Like, does the Academy start in high school? Are a lot of these students as old as Ambrose is supposed to be? (If so, why are they still in school?) Still, the important thing is that Nick and Sabrina are alone in the woods and Nick fesses up that he’s terrified. “Yeah right,” Sabrina says. “I caught you in the attic with my cousin having an orgy” (#neverforget). Nick’s never had sex with a mortal, so he has his own first-time jitters to deal with.
A critical style note here. Two of my favorite fashion writers, Tom & Lorenzo, have this expression for celebrities who choose outfits that are not exactly wrong in and of themselves but just do not make sense for the wearer: “Girl, that’s not your dress.” Much as it pains me to say this about dear Kiernan (who, incidentally, is T&L’s imaginary celebrity niece): Girl, those aren’t your garters. It just looks awkward, like a costume, and not even like one Sabrina would have picked for herself for the occasion. But we don’t get much time of Sabrina’s ungainly attempt at Pussycat Dolls cosplay before the sound of a wolf signals it is time to scram. Or, as Nick says, “Let’s get the heaven out of here.”
Nick suggests they do Valentine’s at Baxter High and I write, Noooo, do NOT make Nick slum it at some dance in the cafeteria when you could be losing your virginity in some sexy ritual under the moon! But no one listens to me.
Also swinging by Baxter High unannounced: Adam, the real Mary Wardwell’s fiancé and our new, witchy Wardwell’s problem. (Sidebar: I fully support casting Wesley in a show that keeps winking at Buffy.) He has done a Bachelor-style set decoration all over Mary’s house — red candles everywhere — where he will be spending a LOT of time now that he has returned from Physicians Without Frontiers. (Who knew Doctors Without Borders was so edgy about their trademark?) Wardwell is this close to doing a murder, but then Adam surprises her with a creepy-looking fetish doll. Happy Valentine’s Day? By the episode’s end, Wardwell realizes that this dopey mortal could be of use to her. Specifically, he can rub her feet and tell her how amazing she is while she plots her next move.
In other grown-up hook-up news, Hilda’s boss, who rejected her, admits that the problem is not that he doesn’t love her but rather that he mayyyy have casually summoned a demon one time and now he is a demon. Whoops! He can’t be near Hilda because it gets him too excited, thus releasing the inner demon. (Are they paying Joss Whedon royalties for this Angel’s-soul redux?) Zelda is here to assist: “As if I haven’t tangled with my fair share of sex demons.” She also has some news of her own: Blackwood proposed to her. Ever the pragmatist, Zelda sees this strategic alliance as a path toward restoring the family name. Plus, she wants to “seek my own glory.” Zelda 2020!
Unlike me, Nick is delighted to be at Baxter High. He says seeing another side of Sabrina is “more magical than anything at the Academy,” and fine, I swoon. Roz, having told Harvey about her visions, shares a very sweet kiss with him, even though she was worried he wouldn’t be into her anymore, since magical things freak him out. Everything is going just swell until that pesky wolf shows up again. Turns out the wolf is Nick’s familiar and she is none too pleased that Nick has found true love with Sabrina.
So Nick has to go into the woods and kill his familiar. Sabrina sends him out there with a little Latin to protect him and he returns a lot faster than I thought he would, holding a wolf’s bloody heart in his hands. He drops to his knees and just clears up for Sabrina that this familiar was the only family he had — he was raised Mowgli-style after his parents died; typical — so, no pressure, but he killed his last surviving parental figure so they could be together!
On the final night of Lupercalia, all the girls are wearing Little Red Riding Hood capes with black slips and thigh-highs, as you do, and all the guys are bare-chested and have wolf hats on. Okay! Here, alas, things take a real turn: Nick was lying about having killed his familiar. (He murdered some random wolf instead — rude.) So the real familiar comes back to attack them and Sabrina has to do the dirty work of stabbing this (extremely fake-looking, sorry) wolf to death. Nick sobs, Sabrina kisses his forehead, no one has sex. In the witching world as in our mortal one, the reality of Valentine’s Day doesn’t quite live up to the hype.
Also not having sex: Roz and Harvey, because just as things are escalating, Roz realizes to her total horror that she can’t see anything at all. Dun-dun-dunnnn!
Ongoing mysteries: Do we think Billy — the bully who is now on crutches and is apologizing to Theo — is possibly into Theo? Future couple watch? What do you think a witch wedding is like? Is Roz’s blindness permanent or can it be cured with magic?