Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season Premiere Recap: Darkness on the Edge of Town

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Eldritch Dark
Season 4 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Eldritch Dark
Season 4 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: Diyah Pera/Netflix/Diyah Pera/Netflix

I have ventured with Emily to Paris, with Joe Goldberg to Los Angeles, and with the Pretty Little Liars to Rosewood. In all my television travels I have seen many a nonsense development, a bizarro twist, an event or decision that makes you say wait, what? But I have never traveled to any land that makes less sense, that is more consistently incoherent, that feels more like somebody is really just writing whatever they feel in the moment without consulting a show bible or even a rough outline (perhaps the entire show is an elaborate improv?) than I do as I recap Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, for which I follow our Sabrina to Greendale and also, occasionally, hell. I look forward to attempting to dig for a plot in these final episodes, like coal miners dig for, you know, coal in Greendale — supposedly in the present day, but did this show ever really recover from obviously being designed for the 1960s only to be jolted to the now-ish for a crossover with Riverdale that never actually materialized?

To recap the last recap here so you have some context: In the third season finale, using a time egg (?), Sabrina went back and/or forward in time, resulting in the existence of a second Sabrina, and even though she was supposed to get rid of that Sabrina because there can only be one (kind of your standard time-travel rules, re: don’t let you see you or the world will explode), she thought it would be cooler if there were two Sabrinas. So now you’ve got Sabrina Morningstar, who is serving as Queen of Hell, and Sabrina Spellman, who is still actually living a divided life because she goes to Baxter High and to a witch academy, and if you’ve been with us since the beginning you will recall that this was the central dichotomy of the show, and that the introduction of a third realm, whose relationship to the other two is fuzzy and confusing on the best of days, doesn’t really add a whole lot or build on anything that has been happening in this show for the three seasons leading up to now.

Other important developments: Zelda (who is still running around with Mama Mambo) and Hilda run the coven now, which worships Hecate instead of Lucifer (Sabrina’s dad, who is also the devil). Blackwood is living in exile — but he’s got Agatha, and he’s starting up his own creepy tent church. So resourceful! Wardwell had her memory wiped by Sabrina so she doesn’t remember that the Spellmans are witches anymore. That is, assuming Sabrina’s spell worked; I feel like her magic skills are still pretty iffy, no? In hell, Lilith is around, I guess as a right hand to Sabrina Morningstar, which must thrill her. Roz is dating Harvey. Theo is dating Robin. Nick is hooking up with Prudence. Ambrose is handling singledom with much more grace than Sabrina. And a darkness is falling across the land — very Thriller — as these Darth Vader–style coal-miner spirit ghosts OooOOOooOooh their way out of the mines and start bashing all the lights in Greendale.

I have and of course will continue to drag Sabrina for her impetuous choices and refusal to ever absorb any important information and/or learn from her mistakes BUT: her outfits! I love them! Big supporter of her signature silhouette and autumnal color scheme, which is schoolgirl without being cutesy, fitted without being too tight, topped off with those ribbon headbands and the hair a just-right peroxide blonde. Here for a plaid-skirt- and-tights combo any day. Also her lipstick is on point.

In our mortal/Greendale plot, Sabrina is feeling left behind by her friends and classmates who — it feels critical to note — she basically ditches on the regular to go do witch stuff and who she almost abandoned completely and forever so she could reign over hell. As people are wont to do, they rearranged themselves in her absence and seem to be doing just fine. But Brina is on the outs watching her (admittedly annoying) coupled-up friends make out on each other’s laps and talk, as Roz does, about how awful it is that Baxter High has no sex ed, “which, AHEM, SOME of us really NEED now that we’re HAVING SEX ALL THE TIME” (I’m paraphrasing here). Instead of addressing this issue by having a normal conversation, Sabrina decides to manufacture an imaginary magical crisis to force the reunification of the “Fright Club,” apparently forgetting that her “best friend” Roz has the cunning, a.k.a. is a psychic and will see through this obvious charade. Literally the trick she pulls is Bloody Mary, as in the slumber party prank, but with a little more oomph because she has powers and Salem.

All I can say is that, again, this show does not really do character consistency, because this little trick was all Hilda’s idea, and it doesn’t really strike me at all like something Hilda would suggest. Wouldn’t Hilda’s move be, “You should talk to your friends, and if they care about you, they’ll understand”? Anyway these non-problems are eventually resolved when Roz states the obvious very slowly to her friend Brina, as if the latter is recovering from a concussion: “We will always be friends, we’ve just changed, if you want to spend more time together all you have to do is ask.” By the episode’s end, Sabrina takes her romantic destiny in her own hands by acquiescing to the TWO guys who want to date her. This plot, which is tedious and dopey, takes forever and a half, because all of these episodes are a full 59 minutes long, specifically to torture me.

Onward to the magic plot! Over at the Academy, Zelda is back with her fabulous hair, just confirming that they worship Hecate now, which means they need three witches to, like, represent her three forms? It’s not totally clear why they need this and why two of the three titles just … go to Hilda and Zelda. But the third role, the “maiden,” goes to Prudence. Sabrina is bummed, but has she done anything to earn this? No, she has not.

Brina gets home to find one of those haunted miners turning off all the lights. Meanwhile, there’s a terrible darkness in the dormitory at the academy, too, where Zelda discovers yet another spectral miner. In a sort of Mr. Moviefone voice-over, the miner spews all of Zelda’s insecurities at her — “You project strength so no one sees how weak you truly are” — and honestly, while I hate it when millennials reach for a Harry Potter reference like there are no other books in this world, these guys are exactly like somebody just put a boggart and a dementor together. Am I wrong? It’s your worst fears plus it sucks all the joy and light out of the room? Minus points for being double derivative but on the bright (lol) side, it’s just the first of eight Eldritch terrors we’re going to get. Maybe the next ones will be scarier, or at least more interesting.

Ambrose, Zelda, and Sabrina compare notes about their separate spectral miner sightings. Then Hilda gets word that the Spellman Mortuary should be expecting three bodies of “vagrants who died in mysterious circumstances.” Turns out those bodies are the risen corpses of miners who died in the cave-in disaster of 1949. Nick pops over to the Spellmans to help Ambrose with a spot of necromancy, and they reanimate the miners for a 60-second interrogation, in which they learn these miners were NOT killed in an accident but it was actually the first Eldritch Terror that did them in. The darkness, these miner-ghost-bodies warn, is making a comeback, and it “won’t be reasoned with or stopped.” Very 2020.

Ambrose connects the dots back to Blackwood, so Prudence shows up because she wants to address her daddy issues by doing some light patricide. Nick puts it together that the locus of this Absolute Darkness (which theoretically could be anywhere) is, duh, in the mines. It takes a few different strategies to take on the terror: The witches do a spell to seal Greendale; the “Fright Club” (I mean come ON) will use light to lure the spectral miners out of the way and into some contained space where they can be destroyed; and Sabrina will go to the source, which really just looks like a puddle of tar, to beam magic light at it or whatever. But it can only be defeated with a LOT of magic light — for instance, the kind it could require two Sabrinas to generate.

Ambrose has been telling Sabrina, for all the predictable reasons, that she cannot go to hell and hang out with herself, that the two Sabrinas cannot coexist, it’s all very dangerous and universe jeopardizing, etc., etc., etc. But on this matter he caves, so Sabrina skips into hell. It’s easy to get there, it turns out! In hell, Sabrina Morningstar is having a dance party. As usual, hell looks like a very cheap Halloween dance in a high-school cafeteria. Morningstar is dancing with Caliban, who tried to trap Sabrina in a stone wall in the ninth circle of hell for all of eternity but also, he’s cute. (Who among us hasn’t texted an ex in quarantine?) Morningstar says life in hell is totally heavenly and it’s prom every night. She agrees to help Spellman with the magic-light project.

So the mortals round up all the spectral miners and bring them to the carnival grounds. Apparently that carnival from last season is still here and operational? Even though the power is out so none of these lights should be working? Sure! Roz and Harvey successfully lead them into a tent to be burned alive (burned a-dead?) and then assist in some spell-casting, led by Nick. I’m not sure why these non-magical people can do magic, because this show has never explained even the most basic rules of how magic operates here.

In the pit, Morningstar Sabrina goes first. Her magic globe glows bright blue but then, of course, the spooky voice-over starts bellowing her insecurities at her — “You’ll always be alone, you’re an orphan, no one loves you” — and she loses strength. Spellman goes in to assist and, inevitably, they need the aunties’ help, too. So Prudence tells the coven to take a quick break from the spell they were doing (which it seems was not so vital after all?) so they can chant in the direction of the Sabrinas. Together they manage to trap the Eldritch Terror inside their globe-y thing. Nice work, everybody!

Blackwood and Agatha are bummed at this early failure, but Blackwood assures his sidekick that there are more terrors coming. It’s like the Passover plagues. Blackwood has a dream: The streets of Greendale will be “awash in blood.” I mean, the man has vision, I’ll give him that.

Back at home, we discover that Sabrina has broken the most obvious, are-you-kidding-me, no-duh rule of playing around with time loops and making a clone: She kept Morningstar in Greendale. So they could have a dance party? It is deeply sad and hilarious to me that Sabrina is saying “best friends forever” to herself because she cannot be bothered to reflect on how her behavior has alienated her from other people and then do the work of maintaining meaningful relationships with her friends who aren’t, literally, just copies of her. Peak Brina. I’m sure this will all work out great!

Ongoing mysteries: So what are the next seven Eldritch Terrors going to be? Will Wardwell’s memories of the Spellmans come back, possibly through a Blackwood-induced magical curse/spell/whatever? Do we think a big plot point of the season is going to be Sabrina losing her virginity? If so, can it please be with Nick?

CAOS Season Premiere Recap: Darkness on the Edge of Town