Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
When I saw the title of this episode, my first instinct was to write in my notes the endless, like a Netflix episode? Sorry, sorry, I’ll stop. And credit where it is due: This episode is great! It’s weird and unsettling but it still has a coherent enough logic to make sense. It’s meta and gets in plenty of great jokes about the show we are watching and the show-within-a-show and television in general, but not to the point of collapsing in on itself. It’s playful and fan-service-y without sacrificing story; I think even if you weren’t a fan of the ’90s Sabrina, the bit about the aunts who aren’t the “real” aunties would still work. (Though if you’re new to Sabrinaland and disagree, let me know why in the comments!)
We’re in the alternate cosmos, similar to but not exactly like the one in which the Spellmans reside. In this world, Morningstar is the “new” Sabrina, suggesting some assembly line of Brinas before her who were done away with for reasons unclear — they are sent to “the green room,” whose purpose is initially a mystery to us — and her entire life is a television show. It’s not exactly a reality show; it’s more like the show is their whole reality. All the world’s a soundstage. No one is allowed to leave. Don’t change your lines. Anything that happens in the show becomes true in the world “outside” the show, though we will discover there really is no world outside of the show for most of the people in this cosmos. When Morningstar tries to go for a walk to clear her head, she discovers that doors open into brick walls. All the books are blank. Very Pleasantville!
A neat little tell about who is in control here comes in the meals: It’s all canned tuna and milk. Hmm. Who do you know who might thrive on such a diet? If you guessed Salem the cat early on, point you! (It took me a minute, I am not too proud to admit.)
Morningstar also realizes that she’s trapped in a time loop. It’s the same October day each morning. Salem arrives and Morningstar asks if he could see about her missing magic mirror and if he’s ever heard of the Eldritch Terrors. He says he’ll work on the former but no dice on the latter. HMM.
In the meantime, Morningstar tries to just go with the flow as she works to suss out which Terror she might be dealing with now. (THERE WERE ONLY EIGHT. There are only two left, and one is the Void! Honestly, how hard is it to remember them? Didn’t anybody write this stuff down?) As Morningstar arrives on set, she discovers that her real aunties are here, but they’re just stand-ins for her ’90s aunties. Salem is a talking puppet and the star of the show. Lillith, or Wardwell, whoever she is here, is assisting Blackwood, the director. For today’s shoot, Morningstar is dressed as a cockroach. (“For your motivation,” Blackwood tells her … tellingly (sorry!), “think Kafka.”)
Later she goes to the Baxter High set, where alternative-reality versions of her friends await her. Harvey is her boyfriend on set and off — she reacts in shock to the “very unprofessional” tongue in his kiss, and Harvey replies that, duh, they’re together. “It’s canon!” Morningstar is all, aren’t you dating Roz? Roz’s perfect reply: “I wish! The writers would dream of giving ME a boyfriend.” (Nick, lurking in the background, is Harvey’s stand-in.) Since in this world they’re dating for real, Harvey invites Morningstar to hang out later.
Morningstar tries to tell her alternative-Hilda about her real identity: that she’s married to the prince of hell, and she’s the queen, and obviously this makes her sound completely unhinged. Hilda’s like, “The last show you were on sounds AMAZING” but now they’ve scored great gigs on “the longest-running show in history,” which means Morningstar must give up her life from before and be fully committed to … whatever this is.
Over at Harvey’s, over a dinner of milk and tuna (great makeout food), Morningstar realizes that Harvey has those portentous doodles of the Terrors framed on his walls. This Harvey thinks they’re just a harmless gift from the art department. Oh, Harvey, an innocent dope in all dimensions. Harvey tells Morningstar that he swipes the scripts early from Wardwell’s binder because it takes him a while to learn his lines; could she rehearse with him? As they read Morningstar realizes: This scene actually happened. It’s what Harvey said to Sabrina back on her 16th birthday? Harvey suggests they watch the pilot together, and Morningstar is horrified to discover that her real life (and, for us, the earlier seasons of this very program!) are, in this cosmos, the show they’re all making. I love Harvey’s oblivious response to her freakout. “I get it, I don’t like watching myself either.”
Morningstar bolts and opens a door that she is NOT supposed to open. Behind it is the green room. There’s blood everywhere and it looks like an eerie, almost-underwater version of the mortuary basement. Just corpses everywhere. Also: Ambrose! “Judging by your headband, you must be the new Sabrina.” Thank HECATE this guy is here! Ambrose reports that he is making cat food for the Eldritch Terror to consume. What terror is it? The Endless. The Endless … is SALEM. Well, it’s the realm and also Salem. It’s complicated but just go with it. Ambrose cracked the case so Salem banished him, and now all Ambrose does is put bodies through a meat grinder and turn them into the food that I assume is in all those tuna cans. Ambrose is defeated — he says there’s nothing they can do because they are also one with the Endless. It’s all very yikes.
The next day, Morningstar shoots a scene with Roz, who is going blind in the Baxter High bathroom. Somehow Prudence and Agatha are also here. This is when Morningstar learns that what happens in the “show” also happens to the cosmos’ inhabitants: Here, Roz really is losing her sight. “Silver lining: At least being blind gives me an arc!”
Over at craft services, Morningstar talks to her real aunts, who tell her they used to play the aunties — “big hits, fan favorites” lol — but got demoted. Unfortunately they also don’t know about the Eldritch Terrors, but they do share this chilling little detail: The stand-ins sleep under the main characters’ beds. (Under Sabrina’s bed: Elspeth, wearing a platinum wig.)
That night, Morningstar discovers Caliban among the crew and flings herself into his arms. “We’re not allowed to talk to the cast,” he tells her, and also, he doesn’t even miss being an actor. See, in the cast, he was “endlessly taking off my shirt and being objectified.” I know, right? He loves his new job, in which he gets to decide when and whether to take his shirt off. Morningstar tells him that in another universe, they’re married, and love always finds a way, and Caliban responds to this by … peeling off his shirt. Never change, Caliban! Oh also he is building a vacuum, which is the Void. The Void! AAAHHH.
Morningstar wakes up Harvey, who helps her sneak into Wardwell’s to get tomorrow’s pages early. (In another great winking moment, Wardwell is sleeping on the couch because they never built her character a bedroom.)
Morningstar calls together the whole cast to explain what’s what. They need to find her magic mirror; they need to escape before it’s too late. She has been here for maybe a day and a half and probably everything she’s saying sounds totally unhinged, but everyone just has to trust her. The ’90s aunties insist there’s nothing to worry about. The writers throw a big thing into the show every year! Doesn’t matter if it’s “the murder of a beloved character, or a wedding” or what have you: as ’90s Zelda says, “In truth nothing changes, everything just resets.” How do they know any of this? The ’90s aunties refuse to say.
The next morning, Morningstar’s calendar shows that every day after this one is just … gone. When she gets to set, her boyfriend has been replaced: Nick is Harvey now. Rumor has it Harvey got sent to the green room. Nick, very Method, does NOT like not being called Harvey. Morningstar stalls by being a needy actress with a lot of annoying questions for Blackwood, like “What’s my motivation, vis a vis the Void?” Blackwood explains that he is merely the director and the only person authorized to revise the script is the head writer, which is … who? No one knows or is willing to say. But Morningstar quickly discovers that the head writer is, of course, Salem the stuffed animatronic cat.
They have a great little back and forth in which Morningstar explains everything that we need to know and Salem snarks back, “This is all exposition. Why are you telling me this?” Salem thinks the Endless and the Void can coexist, but Brina points out that all the script pages are blank after the Void arrives.
While shooting, Morningstar is talking to the fake/’90s aunties about preparing for the Void, and she boldly goes off-script. She says she’s going to the store to buy some candles and basically, all hell breaks loose. Turns out the ’90s aunties are servants of the Void. As Morningstar and Salem run away, those aunties start to look like the terrifying monsters they actually are. In an extremely clever and also exciting chase sequence, Salem “writes” all their tormentors out of commission — “Zelda suddenly twists her ankle!” — as they bolt for freedom.
Morningstar wants to save the others but it’s too late: Caliban is dead. Ambrose is dead. Nick is shirtless and drenched in blood but it turns out he is also a servant of the Void who wants to be called Harvey now. “I’m your only boyfriend.” Salem gets him to slip on a banana peel. Hey, why mess with a classic?
Salem opens the gate behind which Morningstar’s magic mirror awaits, and they dive through it and it shatters and then … dun dun DUNNNN to be continued!
Ongoing mysteries: I mean … literally everything?! But my big question that I hope our finale answers is: Can there really be two Sabrinas, or is it necessary for the cosmos’ balance for Morningstar to have perished in transit? I wonder if this season has been trying to build to a showdown for the throne of hell and the disappearance of Morningstar means it’ll be Caliban vs. Lillith vs. Adam? Or are we just going to drop that plot thread because, despite ample opportunities and interminable episodes, we’re finally out of time?