overnights

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Recap: Reality Bites

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Imp of the Perverse
Season 4 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Imp of the Perverse
Season 4 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Liane Hentscher/Netflix/Liane Hentscher/Netflix

Sabrina is running for student council president alongside Roz on a platform of unity, empathy, and inclusivity. I don’t know about the rest of you, but in my day, student council presidents mostly focused on planning proms, so I’m not really sure why she needs to get so broad with her vision, and also how on hell or Earth does Brina think she has time for yet another commitment. Her breezy attitude about this issue affirms that, alas, in all our seasons on this show — it’s unclear how much time has passed in Greendale, but I feel like at least a year? But maybe not since she is STILL 16-going-on-17? — Sabrina has learned not a whit, changed not a hair (except for, you know, her hair). She still fails to grasp the obvious and cannot prioritize to save her life and/or the world. Ambrose and Aunt Z correctly tell her that mayyyybe now is not the time to add extra extracurriculars, seeing as they’re trying to avert the impending end of days. And Brina’s like, how am I supposed to get into Vassar with nothing on my resume? “That’s assuming there is still a Vassar in the days to come,” is Ambrose’s (not unreasonable!) reply. But Sabrina is undeterred. Again: In my day, Buffy practically failed out of Sunnydale High because she was so busy preventing apocalypses! Now Sabrina wants to go to Vassar? Ugh.

In other witchy news, Roz decided to come clean to Harvey: She’s a witch with a special job (Sentinel) and she also doesn’t think she’s too busy to run for student council co-president. Can someone please teach these teens about responsible time management? Harvey is awfully shocked for someone who, as far as we can tell, has exclusively dated witches. (Later he bemoans his fate, as if this is such a terrible thing to befall him — two hot girlfriends with superpowers before you’re old enough to vote! — and Theo cutely suggests Robin might know a sexy goblin for Harvey to date instead.)

As this season requires, Prudence feels a tremor in the mystic or whatever because another Eldritch terror has arrived. An old-timey guy walks through Blackwood’s church doors and introduces himself by saying “I come bearing wares.” WHAT CENTURY ARE WE IN. Blackwood calls this guy, to his face and with all sincerity, “the trinket man.” I die and come back to life solely to inform you that I figured out where I know this actor from: He’s James Urbaniak, who plays Julie’s put-upon NPR-nerd boyfriend on Difficult People. Anyway, he is carrying around a bunch of tchotchkes that are for sale and also, for reasons, the imp of the perverse, which in addition to NOT being for sale is a super-dangerous magical charm that can warp reality?!? Like maybe don’t walk around with it in your suitcase, Trinket Man! Just as Prudence arms herself with two swords and prepares to slap-chop her dad into bits, Blackwood wishes on the imp for a reality in which he is and has always been emperor. And so Prudence’s swords slice the air and we are wooshed into an alternate dimension (or this dimension, but altered in these fundamental ways) where Greendale is a little facist dictatorship — presumably in the United States of America, which has otherwise gone untouched? But that’s unclear — and no one who is a witch even knows they’re a witch, and in fact if they are outed as/accused of being witches, they are arrested and executed. Not the most innovative societal structure, but does Blackwood care about being derivative as long as he’s getting what he wants? Presumably not. So: Praise Blackwood!

So Baxter High is now Blackwood High, and all the boys are Blackwood youths. Even Wardwell is in a military-style outfit. (How do we feel about the three-space-buns hairstyle?) History class is all about The Best Times We Murdered Witches. Witches, Blackwood has informed this brainwashed public, eat babies and flesh and such. Oh, and Sabrina Spellman is public enemy number one, her face on WANTED posters all over the place, so she hilariously “disguises” herself with straight brown hair and thick-rimmed glasses and somehow that is all it takes for no one to place her?? HOW. She introduces herself as “Samantha.” Guys… I can’t.

Blackwood makes a cameo at the high school because it’s his birthday and he wanted to show off his pet witch (feral, toothless, very scary). At his side is Prudence, with a blunt bob that she is pulling off but I don’t love it as much as her usual look. In the classroom is Sabrina Spellman who Blackwood — who is NOT under any kind of spell — just… doesn’t see or recognize??? Okay! Blackwood is also flanked by his twins, one of whom is holding the Imp trinket. I assume the shattering of said trinket will restore our reality? Blackwood announces that there’s a witch in the room and it’s ROBIN GOODFELLOW. Even though Robin’s pointy elvish ears make Obama’s ears look like completely unremarkable ears, no one has noticed I guess, so our little goblin makes a run for it and in his place, Blackwood arrests Theo, who defended Robin’s honor.

The only two folks in Greendale who are immune to Blackwood’s brain warp are Sabrina and Roz. Sabrina, improbably, figures out that (1) this is the Imp of the Perverse, as Ambrose warned and (2) she and Roz are safe because they both came in contact with prior Eldritch Terrors and must have been inoculated against the Imp’s deal that way. This all seems beyond fair Brina’s grasp — I have a feeling she’ll need more than a last-minute resume-booster like student council to make herself a desirable applicant to a top-tier college, but that’s a conversation for another day — but this does get our story moving along at a Robin Goodfellow pace, so I’m fine with it.

Over at casa Spellman, the house is vandalized and quite run down. When Ambrose sees Sabrina/Samantha, he insists he has no cousin and doesn’t know her. He packs up the hearse because he’s been formally accused of witchcraft; it’s time to brave whatever is beyond the Greendale city limits, though Blackwood has warned them that it’s full of violent terrors, probably because it’s just where his magic runs out.

Roz and Sabrina split up: Roz wants to talk to Harvey, who is brainwashed and will obviously not be affected by her pleas, and Sabrina wants to go to the academy, to see if her Aunt Z knows what’s what. At the Academy, she flirts with Nick — not even those glasses can stand between them! — and discovers that Zelda, too, has no idea who Sabrina is. So our girl lifts her disguise; Zelda reacts to this Brina-blonde with a “God in heaven” which should be a tip-off that she is still not herself. Brina does a speedy-quick spell to restore Z’s memories, which seems to work temporarily, but Mama Mambo bursts in and it crumbles as quickly as it began.

Blackwood and his lackeys arrive at the Academy because they’re heard rumors of horrors, which is to say, scandalous art and also babies. No one gets to have babies on Blackwood’s watch! Zelda makes her choir perform for Blackwood, but Nick refuses to sing along. Sabrina admires his defiance (“Once a bad boy, always a bad boy,” she swoons under her breath because she likes him so much!!! Brina get over yourself and date him again!). Nick is then forced to sing for Blackwood all by himself, which he doesn’t want to do but Sabrina intervenes by magically ventriloquisting him (technical term) so that he doesn’t get executed. But Blackwood drags him away anyway. Brina tells the Academy that they are all, in fact, a coven of powerful witches. She appeals to Zelda’s sweetest, tenderest memory — that her familiar was a beagle named Vinegar Tom, cute! — and Zelda tells Brina to go to Dr. C’s bookstore and ask for a very specific book. Book of spells? Book of secrets? Neither! Turns out it’s a code that gets you into the back room of Hilda and Dr. C’s shop, where the resistance is doing their anti-Blackwood work.

Back at Harvey’s place, Harvey is sitting there in an undershirt and suspenders, as your teenage boys in 2020 are wont to do. Roz tells him that she’s a witch and attempts a rousing, emphatic, “you’re a GOOD MAN” speech, which I think we are to believe seeps into his consciousness on some level even though he is freaking out.

At the edge of town, Ambrose steels himself, leaves Greendale, and — ta da! — gets all his memories back. Awaiting him is the Trinket Man, who was just hanging in the dark by the side of the road, anticipating this very encounter. He gives Ambrose the Stone of Reality, which “could restore reality, as long as you’re clever!” Upon returning to Greendale, Ambrose will only have lucidity for a minute or so — enough time to tell Brina and the gang what he knows? Robin Goodfellow speeds by, here to assist. Thank you Robin!

Together, Ambrose and Robin pop into the resistance room and get, like, 90 percent of the way through their explanation about the stone before Ambrose forgets himself again. But at least in this reality, Agatha is not insane; her mind got unwarped, so she’s been a double-agent, faking her craziness for her dad and snitching on him to the resistance. Good on you, Agatha. She reports that Blackwood is obsessed with finding and executing Sabrina (duh) and that he has the mark of Cain, which means he is immortal (ugh) and that the only way to fix things is to destroy the Imp, which he keeps with him at all times, except for when it’s locked in this safe at Dorian’s.

Hilda completes Ambrose’s train of thought: The “obvious” way of consuming the stone of reality is to just, you know, consume it. Make stone soup! “Like in folklore,” she says. So Swiftian. Everyone who sips some soup gets their senses back, just in time for the main event: Blackwood’s birthday party, where he will be executing a bunch of witches. But before this can happen, Harvey and that other Greendale boy (Billy?) go to Dr. C’s to search the place because they got a tip that some rebels were gathering there or people were reading fiction or what have you. Harvey proves that he is not completely lost by covering for most of the resistance and allowing Roz to sacrifice herself. Back at Blackwood’s, Agatha gets busted — turns out Blackwood has had spies on her this whole time, and he knows she’s a double agent.

Execution time! Roz and Nick are on what look like rope stretching machines, Princess Bride style. Instead they will be… crushed by giant stones! Nick is bare-chested here and again I must say that I adore this show’s commitment to male shirtlessness, a gift I can count on in a garbage time… thank you, CAOS.

Sabrina creates a distraction by being herself — shouting “I AM SABRINA SPELLMAN” does the trick — and Ambrose casts a spell on the Imp, crushing it. Except: It wasn’t the real imp. Sabrina responds to this by taking the stone of reality and throwing it directly at Blackwood’s head, a genius move (not to mention, great arm!). She yells the truth: Emperor Blackwood is a witch. All the witches around her freeze him in place. Everyone uses magic somehow to get through to Prudence, who reveals that you don’t destroy the imp but instead wish on it, and that’s how you restore reality. She says the real imp is in a safe at Dorian’s, which Robin speedily procures.

As Sabrina frees Nick, he asks her, “who are you, really?” And she says, “A friend,” and he goes, “A hot friend.” THESE TWO.

Brina wishes on the imp and nothing happens. Turns out that was also not the imp. The real imp was inside (or actually is? unclear) the beautiful enormous dog that has been at Blackwood’s side this whole time. Really into the dog theme running through this episode. So Brina wishes on this sacred dog and the world is back to the way it was, which means Prudence does, in fact, have time to stab her dad through the chest. However, since no one on this show ever dies, he will probably be fine.

Brina and Roz are back at Baxter High. Agatha’s brain is warped again. The world is as it was: Spiritually 1965, technically the present day. You’d think this exercise would’ve crystalized for these girls that they do not have time for student council, but instead it inspires Sabrina to give a very eye-rolly impromptu stump speech about taking down the patriarchy. Again: Won’t they just be planning a prom, then hassling their classmates on Facebook every five years to attend a reunion?

As expected, Blackwood isn’t quite dead. Instead he’s been, I think, beheaded and gagged? Not sure what’s up with his body or what he’ll get into next. But let’s focus on what really matters to me: Nick and Sabrina. “Joke-flirt all you want, Sabrina,” he tells her. “But we obviously still have feelings for each other.”

Ongoing mysteries: Can anyone explain to me what the deal is with Blackwood? Will anyone ever actually die on this show? How long before Harvey decides Roz’s witchery is too much for him to handle and he bails on their relationship? Or is this going to be one of those teen shows where even though plenty of teenagers (and grown-ups!) are happily single, no main or supporting character will emerge from the series without someone to kiss before the credits roll?

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Recap: Reality Bites