Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
It’s pretty early in the lifespan of CAOS for the show to be recycling old plot devices, but here in the tender first half of its second season we are already getting a repeat of last season’s “Dreams in a Witch House,” the one with the nightmare demon. This time it’s Wardwell pretending to be a tarot card reader and using this guise to get inside the psyches of the absurdly gullible and suggestible citizens of Greendale.
It’s clear from the jump that the mysterious woman seeking shelter from the rain in Dr. C’s store isn’t who she says she is, considering she doesn’t carry cash or credit but travels with a stack of tarot cards. (Also, how are Hilda and Dr. C together? I thought they needed to work out his whole demon situation? Why does this show always make me feel like I am missing critical information even though I am paying EXTREMELY close attention?) But somehow none of our witches-in-residence even bring up the possibility that a stranger who leaves everyone whose future she sees feeling rattled, disoriented, and borderline terrified is maybe up to no good and shouldn’t be trusted.
It becomes clear very early on that none of these fantasy sequences are actually happening — there’s an extra-surreal quality to Sabrina’s tarot trip, which imagines an alternate reality where Nick does mortal magic tricks as a kitschy gimmick for an Academy talent show — so what we are left with is an episode with zero plot progression and practically zero character development. It is an hour that feels like a million hours. Maybe the whole thing was illuminating for Wardwell, who ends the episode purring about how productive her day was, but for the rest of us: Did we learn anything about these characters that we didn’t already know? Once it was a given that these tarot trips weren’t real experiences, or even real predictions, the whole hour (ALL EPISODES OF “DRAMAS” SHOULD BE 42 MINUTES, MAX, please chisel that into my headstone someday, thank you) felt like a never-ending slog, especially when our reliably dull mortals swung by the shop.
And what do we think is in this for Wardwell? I can’t imagine she actually thinks her precious time in Greendale should be spent torturing Theo over his anxiety about transitioning or Harvey over his insecurities about attending RISD with Todd from Wedding Crashers. If this recap were truer to the nature of my notes, it would contain the line, “Whaaat even is the point of this???” approximately two dozen times.
Anyway, Harvey is told to stay in Greendale to pursue his dreams — wouldn’t Wardwell want Harvey to leave town, if she was at all invested in any of his choices? To keep him away from Sabrina? — and Sabrina is told to trust Nick on the path of night. Ambrose, my MVP, assures the disguised Wardwell that he already has exactly what he wants — “talents, good looks, a hot boyfriend” — but we still spend about 12 minutes pondering the future of Ambrose’s relationship. This jaunt does remind me that Blackwood has his own little group of young aspiring dirtbags — they’re like the Academy’s version of the Proud Boys — in his continuing efforts to eradicate any glimmer of gender equality that still shines in the witching world. In real life, Luke dies “in service to the Dark Lord” and Blackwood calls Ambrose up to fill his place.
As for the matter that matters most to your friendly neighborhood recapper, Nick and Sabrina have that DTR talk and it goes swimmingly — “Nick, are you my boyfriend?” “Well, I hope so” — and Sabrina, rattled by her tarot vision and recalling that Nick once dated the Weird Sisters, whose magical specialty is mind control, requests that he stay away from them.
Ongoing mysteries: Is any of this intel actually going to pay off in some meaningful way? If not, I will be extra annoyed about the hour of my youth I’ll never get back spent listening to people who aren’t even real tell me about their dreams. What’s Wardwell got planned? Did Luke really die? If so: What was this mission the Dark Lord sent him on? How long before Nick slips and gets too cozy with a Weird Sister again?