Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
This episode is the first of the season that really finds its groove, no? Hopefully these carnival barkers are our big baddies of the season in Greendale, and Sabrina’s got her demon peanut gallery in hell alternately rooting for her demise and her success, and Nick is doing shirtless wrestling in his soul with his girlfriend’s dad, and Wardwell is trying to unravel the mystery of what happened to her during the three-month stretch when her body was hijacked by Lilith, and, okay, I can also stay on top of the shifting dynamics between the aunties, but that is IT. That is plot aplenty for this show! If some new, unrelated thing starts going down with the fish egg from the previous episode, I am pretty sure my brain will ooze out of my ears, which will probably clog up my laptop keys and not be covered by the warranty, so let’s all pray to Lilith that that’s not how things shake out.
One strange thing about this show is that even though the episodes are significantly longer than they have any right to be, they still leave out these chunks of information that we actually need. Like, we just skip from the end of the prior episode, where Blackwood is back and locked in the dungeon while Lucifer has taken on beetle form and is skittering across the Academy, and just pick up without checking in on either of those two. I guess we’re just supposed to assume they’re both in the school dungeon? But if Lucifer is in the dungeon, how is he also still inside Nick’s body? But let’s make like this show we’re watching and move on as if those questions are not at all pressing.
Not five minutes into the episode and we see Nick in his underwear, and again, I just want to say that this show’s priorities re: male near nudity have not gone unnoticed. Nick is having nightmares and came back from hell with a cloven foot, which everyone assures him will go away with time, but he is not having it.
Sabrina, for her part, wants to play hooky from both of her schools and spend the day with her boyfriend. Aunt Zelda has not forgotten the “sheer insolence” of Sabrina going to hell without permission, and I say out loud, “THANK YOU,” but this threat of discipline goes unfulfilled. Ambrose, humbled by his worldly travels, doesn’t want to teach at the Academy, even though they’re short-staffed; he can be the librarian, where I assume he will do all the research Sabrina can’t be bothered to do, even when her life literally depends on it. Sabrina’s plans to Ferris Bueller it up with Nick are interrupted by Lilith, whose hair and lipstick are divine. Nick doesn’t even know Sabrina is the queen of hell because she hasn’t really told anyone, which is … a choice! “I made Lilith my regent so she could handle the day-to-day,” says the young Spellman, already fluent in the language of middle management, I see. Lilith explains, with fraying patience, that Sabrina has been summoned by this demon court because she casually said she’d be reforming all of hell, and obviously hell’s full-time inhabitants would like her to elaborate.
In hell, Brina outlines the plan: She wants an accounting of all the souls in hell, with a freeze on deal-making with mortals until she knows what’s what. She also wants to review every contract that’s already in place before deciding how to proceed. Interesting that Sabrina wants both absolutely nothing to do with the drudgery of this job — her petulant little pout when Lilith tells her that no, she can’t just not show up to hell court because she wants to spend the day making out with Nick, really says it all — but also wants to be tasked with reviewing every demon deal ever made. One demon asks if she really has the time, considering her other commitments (being a mortal, cheerleading), and I must say: not an unfair question!
Enter Prince Caliban, who wears only an open vest (I love this wardrobe department so much) and has gotten the 666 signatures he needs to challenge Sabrina for the crown. The challenge is as follows: There are three unholy objects, and whoever gets two out of three can rule over hell. Feels like it should be a little harder and more complicated than that, but what do I know? I live in a country that chooses its leader via Electoral College. Maybe we should replace it with a National Treasure–style scavenger hunt. First up: Herod’s crown (King Herod being the man behind the “Massacre of the Innocents”).
Lilith explains to Sabrina, who knows nothing, that nobody knows where the relics are, so there’s no way the hunt is rigged in Caliban’s favor. “Nothing is ever easy,” Sabrina whines, sitting on a throne she just fell onto because her dad happens to be Satan. She begs Ambrose to help her, which he does, and I realize that Sabrina is very much the Harry Potter of this universe, which is to say: She doesn’t do anything for herself, and most of what makes her special is an accident of birth and has nothing to do with her own merit or mettle. Using a magic compass, Ambrose and Sabrina locate the crown in a tree in some nearby woods. Again, seems like that should’ve been harder, but cool. They pull out a crown covered in gunk like a newborn baby. Ambrose is going to keep the crown to find out more about its magic while Sabrina hits the carnival, then she can bring it to hell later. But meanwhile, Herod has emerged from the tree, and he is VERY upset that someone stole his crown while he was napping.
Nick, meanwhile, is being tormented by Lucifer, meaning we get all these red-tinted scenes of Nick and Lucifer wrestling, shirtless, for control of Nick’s soul, which is great. It also means Nick tries to hack off his own foot with a saw, which is … less great. Sabrina seems completely unaffected by all of this. Shouldn’t she be worried that her boyfriend and her evil dad are in this tug-of-war that’s making her boyfriend literally insane? Nah, there’s a carnival to go to!
Everyone in Greendale is gearing up for this carnival. Roz is going with Harvey, who is feeling all nervous because he’s never had sex before and doesn’t know how to talk to Roz about his concerns re: “taking it to the next level.” Theo is nervous because he’s crushing on the new kid, Robin. For now, these anxieties are quelled by that magic even mortals possess: the ability to turn a double (or triple) date into a “friend thing.”
The carnival, like so many aspects of this show, feels not at all like something that would exist in 2020. And not just the attractions; the exotic-dancer tent (oookay) that Harvey peeks into is full of men dressed like they’re auditioning for Newsies. Nick and Sabrina barely get to kiss inside the Tunnel of Love before Herod shows up to flay them alive. In my notes, I write, Please don’t harm Nick’s flesh. I’ve grown so attached to it. Prince Caliban is also here, just to call Sabrina “hot,” snatch the crown, and leave her to die. She is scandalized by this but, like, he is a prince of hell! Some people take those job titles very seriously.
Ambrose arrives just in time to save Sabrina and Nick — see above re: Sabrina cannot do anything for herself — and he stays behind to clean up their mess, even though he is exhausted. Sabrina and Nick, dripping in demon viscera, walk home as if she doesn’t have a very important date to make in hell. Nick asks about Caliban because he knows a threat when he sees one. Then he begs off a slumber party at the Spellmans because he wants to sleep in his own bed. But really what he wants is to go to Dorian’s and engage in some haunted S&M with two demon “playmates.” His pleasure is pain.
Caliban is so the guy in the group project who doesn’t do any of the work but still gets an A. He is modeling Herod’s crown as Sabrina storms in, still slick with Herod’s blood. She punches Caliban in the face, which is great. She’s so pissed he would’ve left her to die, and Caliban helpfully points out, “A true monarch knows strategy.” Really, he is a much better fit for this job than she is. But she is enraged and punches him so hard the crown flies off his head. “I’ll slice your throat ear to ear before I let you have my throne,” she says, and boy does that get the crowd riled up!
Meanwhile, that carnival barker — about whom Roz had an unnerving vision that she decided to ignore so she could have a fun date, big mistake — has gathered with the other people (demons) who work there to start a ritual that requires virgin blood. Unfortunately for poor Theo, the new kid, Robin, is, as I feared, not a harmless crush but an agent of evil. Robin is here to lure in Theo, who will be sacrificed along with Wardwell and Harvey. Better take it to the next level ASAP, Kinkle.
Ongoing mysteries: What do you think is the deal with Dorian’s zits? Is it the same sort of mortal weakness, like a head cold, that witches and warlocks never get and therefore is a sign that, I don’t know, the flames of hell are lapping at earth’s feet and will scorch them all? How is Zelda going to take Hilda’s engagement? Will there be more follow-through with Nick and the whole “what’s it like having been with Sabrina and her daddy” thing? Because it is so dark and weird and perfect for this show.