Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
This episode is such a delicious, fantastic treat it almost makes me angry that the rest of the season wasn’t this magical and intense and fun. Why must we dawdle among mortals when all the good stuff is HERE, in letting Sabrina’s magic get weird and unruly, in drawing on the dark side of all the Biblical myths and subverting prophecies and FINALLY getting all our best grown-ups — Wardwell/Lilith, Zelda, and Hilda — in the same place? But let’s not look a gift mandrake in the mouth, right?
Sabrina is debriefing with her whole gang, which now includes her trio of mortals — Harvey and Roz, who have about as much chemistry as siblings, and third-wheel Theo — and her boyfriend Nick, who, much to my delight, calls Harvey “Harry.” (What a strong Ron Swanson move.) Even though it is 2019, no one took a picture of the mosaic in the cave with their phone and everyone is relying on Harvey’s dopey sketch. Roz is pissed Harvey talked Sabrina off of the literal ledge by saying she should do it if “she ever loved me,” and then he stands still as a mannequin while Roz kisses him, because they are … in love? Ugh, whatever.
Wardwell’s monster Adam must do her bidding because her rib is inside him. Didn’t realize that’s how the magic worked but I’ll roll with it. Wardwell’s instructions: Rip the flesh from Sabrina’s bones. I feel like they would be better served by joining forces to take down the Dark Lord so Wardwell could rule over hell and Sabrina could be left alone to pursue her Academy studies and make out with Nick, no? Right on cue, Nick and Sabrina knock on Wardwell’s door and tell her everything. Her face when Sabrina says, “I don’t think I can be killed,” is just magnificent. Sabrina does not want to fulfill this prophecy — as prophecies are wont to do, this one heralds the apocalypse, the gates of hell opening, etc. — and Wardwell suggests a mandrake spell. It’s all very Ursula-tells-Ariel-to-put-her-voice-in-a-shell, in that this mandrake will suck out all of Sabrina’s magic, rendering our Sabrina powerless and mortal. Then they can kill the mandrake and poof! No more prophecy, no more apocalypse.
At this point I write in my notes, as I frequently do: “BRINA HAVE YOU TRIED THINKING ANYTHING THROUGH FOR MORE THAN 30 SECONDS FOR THE LOVE OF SATAN.”
Wardwell sends Adam to follow Sabrina and kill her as soon as she’s alone. As Felicity Huffman famously emailed, “Ruh ro!”
Nick, naturally, isn’t stoked about his girlfriend choosing her mortal half. But Sabrina has other pressing concerns, such as: Did her dad know she was the key to the apocalypse? Here we are reminded that Nick has access to the super-secret cool part of the library, so he sets off to do some research after securing a promise from Sabrina “not to do anything rash.” Sabrina makes her promise while crossing her fingers, which I’m sure is just the kind of loophole Nick Scratch will recognize as legitimate!
It is unclear to me why Sabrina does not want to tell her aunts, who have far more knowledge and power than she does, about this predicament. She just goes to Ambrose, and while their emotional conversation is very moving, it is undercut somewhat by the way Sabrina keeps referring to herself as a “herald of hell” in the same oh-so-casual way I used to tell people I’d made varsity soccer. (I did, by the way! I have a letter jacket and everything. It was cool to have a letter jacket.)
This one conversation reveals more about Sabrina’s inner life than the entire season that preceded it. Sabrina feels like she is constantly being used by this shadowy figure and she wants to take control of her own life. Ambrose agrees to help her out, but on first glance, it seems like the mandrake spell didn’t take. For a second effort, the two head down to Sweetwater River — nice Riverdale shout-out — to give making a golem a go.
But then — twist! It DID work. Kiernan Shipka’s performance as Mandrake Sabrina (as she shall henceforth be known) is just wonderful. What a perfect, airy doll voice. She sounds like a cheerleader with a chip missing. Mandrake Sabrina sets out on a mission to stir some shit up, telling Harvey that she knows he loves her, Roz that Harvey will never get over his first love, and Theo that without a transition, he isn’t a real boy. (Theo has no other personality traits besides his gender identity, so, there’s nothing else to torment him with.)
Nick meets up with the real Sabrina, who is covered in muck from her failed attempt at golem creation. While she’s scrubbing off all that mud, Adam attacks her and Nick saves the day by yanking out the rib. Very slick! Sabrina is still fixated on the prophecy and Nick says, “I don’t care about the world, I only care about you!” Nick is a television (streaming) dream but his obsession would probably be creepy in real life. Anyway, he found a prophecy about a “half-shadow girl” who performs blasphemous versions of all of Jesus’s miracles, like witchy remixes of the classics. To this I say: PRAISE SATAN, we have plot continuity! Sabrina’s already done most of the greatest hits: exorcism, raising the dead, crossing into limbo, restoring eyesight to the blind. And in what is an implausibly short amount of time, Sabrina pieces together that the person masterminding this whole journey was none other than Miss Wardwell.
Nick and Sabrina (who is wearing a great outfit, by the way) go to Wardwell’s place to trap her and demand answers. Meanwhile, Mandrake Sabrina takes out all the Judas boys in gestapo getups that Blackwood sent to kill her, because naturally she is more powerful than these fuckwads. She kills them all at once without even touching them and then she skips away. I think I love her?? Someone commented on a recent recap that I hate all the men in this show except Nick and Ambrose and I would just like to confirm that this is correct, I delight in the deaths of basically all the other male characters in this universe.
The real Sabrina’s friends discover that Mandrake Sabrina was going to make veggie-doubles of them and they kill said vegetables before they can rise up. Mandrake Sabrina is heartbroken. She was going to make a whole doppel-clique and now it’s RUINED. She runs home and sobs to Ambrose. The real Sabrina shows up, too, though Mandrake Sabrina makes the not-crazy case that she’s the real Sabrina because she has powers. Ambrose says the ideal way to settle this is with a duel.
Nick tells Wardwell about the shadow-girl prophecy, and they realize together that killing the mandrake is the ultimate perversion — it’s a kind of suicide. Nick needs to stop Sabrina but he’s TOO LATE. Ambrose has already read out the ten duel commandments and the real Sabrina, who has strategy that Mandrake Sabrina is too naïve to know, spins around early and shoots her double in the back. I’m going to miss Mandrake Sabrina, guys.
Back at the Academy, Zelda is still pretending to be under that music-box spell so she can have a front-row seat to Blackwood’s madness. He’s restructuring the Church of Night, which is now the Church of Judas. It’s basically the early stages of The Handmaid’s Tale: Witches are no longer allowed to study anything but “feminine” subjects like herbalism and fertility. When Prudence pushes back, Blackwood calls her “daughter” like the manipulative dirtbag he is, and then (sticking with our Atwood analogy here) he offers her Aunt status: help him impose these dumbass sexist rules, and she personally will not have to abide by them.
Zelda tries to help out a girl who was going to escape from the Academy but wound up in the prison, but Prudence overhears her and, of course, she rats Zelda out to Blackwood. She also brings Leticia (remember that twin baby Zelda sent away to live in the woods?) back home, where Blackwood renames her Judith (eye-roll) and says that at 16, she will be married to her brother so they can make some perfect incest baby (ew). While this is thematically appropriate because Kiernan did star in a Flowers in the Attic TV movie, it is obviously gross and alarming to everyone else. Zelda threatens to kill Prudence and Blackwood is unmoved; realizing, finally, that her father is scum, Prudence helps Zelda escape even as she stays behind to protect her sisters and the rest of the coven.
Zelda tells Hilda about Blackwood’s plan, so Hilda summons the Council. Why are there no women on the Council? Does it shock you to learn that this panel of old dudes is not sympathetic to Hilda’s concern re: the subjugation of all witches in the Church of Night? Hilda has this quiet moment of defiance, telling these scumbags that she sees them for what they really are and the Dark Lord will, too. One of these dudes follows up with Hilda later, telling her he doesn’t believe in Blackwood’s ideals, but it turns out he was just trying to coerce Hilda into having sex with him, sooooo she kills him? She definitely traps him in some gross cobweb netting that is crawling with cockroaches. The Council will want blood for that, but the aunties will deal with that later.
Oh, one other thing: Nick and Wardwell tell Sabrina that she’s fulfilled the prophecy. This means the end-of-days has arrived, the Dark Lord is coming to Earth, the gates of hell are opening, and Sabrina is going to sit beside him as his queen. Dun-dun-DUNNN!
Ongoing mysteries: AHHHH NOW WHAT?!