Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2

“Not today, Satan.”

While Part 1 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina focused on the pull of the titular teen witch’s calling vs. the love and familiarity of her mortal life, Part 2 pivots to a wider focus, as Sabrina’s actions begin to pull her down a “dark path.” This is no longer a tale of witches against mortals, but good against evil. Though it’s often weighed down by the need to satisfy some long worn out tropes, Part 2 continues to highlight the altogether different and exciting world of magic and offbeat characters that drew us in during Part 1, while also pulling viewers down the same “dark path” that Sabrina has suddenly found herself barreling down.

The decision to embrace the moral code at the centre of this magical world is an ambitious one, but isn’t necessarily the most original in execution. Often times it feels like the series is about to go through with something really fantastic, but it drops the ball more than once, never truly embracing the sinister side of the darkness that has enveloped Sabrina. On the flip side, the crazier turns of events are sometimes without merit, feeling more like twists built out of a desire to shock rather than natural and exciting progressions. That being said, these nine episodes hit the mark more often than they miss, though it feels like the show is running at 75% power most of the time.

At the close of Part 1, Sabrina finally signed her name in the Book of the Beast, and accepted her witchly fate. Amongst other things, this choice meant that she had finally let go of her mortal life and embraced her inner witch. The final moments of Chapter 10 hinted at a changed Sabrina, one that was ready to let magic into her life, and become a more active member of the Church of Night. This does feel like the case most of the time, though Sabrina herself isn’t as changed as her new platinum wig would suggest she is. She does, however, become far more powerful than she was before.

Her magical abilities don’t bloom immediately, as she spends a lot of the early Chapters in Part 2 with the same novice approach that she did early on. In standout episode ‘The Missionaries,’ she finally taps into a whole new level of power; power that essentially manifests itself out of nothing, with very little build up or explanation. It’s a lot of fun to watch her rise from the dead and burn two aggressive witch hunters to a crisp, but given she was casting the flimsiest spells and organizing the shittiest plans not only a few episodes before, it doesn’t feel completely right to see her rise to this level so quickly.

Though it’s born out of lazy plotting, the events that unfold after Sabrina’s resurrection give this “Part” a whole new level of momentum, as Satan’s plans to use her as his right hand finally come to fruition. After he rises from hell in his “true” form – it turns out he’s actually the incredibly good looking fallen angel Lucifer, who knew – he begins to plan for Sabrina’s ascension to the throne. Thanks to a burned Lilith, they manage to stop Lucifer from going through with the ceremony, though poor Nick Scratch and his dashing eyebrows take the fall.

Harvey is still someone Sabrina truly cares about, and his power over her actions is still palpable, but Nick’s pull is quite evident as well, even more so for me since he doesn’t make me want to watch paint dry. I like what each of these guys represent for Sabrina in theory, though I found my eyes rolling at the constant need to pit them against each other, as if a teen drama can’t survive without a standard love triangle playing out at all times.

In the end, Nick becomes more of a tragic character than I would have expected. He sacrifices himself to save the world from Lucifer and, as he’s escorted through the gates of hell by the newly crowned Queen of Hell, Lilith, I felt for Sabrina. The show doesn’t let this loss settle for long, though, as Part 2 ends with Sabrina already pledging to rescue Nick from Hell. It’s obvious he isn’t gone for good, but letting the dust settle might do the series some good. With Harvey paired up with Roz, we could watch Sabrina pave a path for herself that’s devoid of any need for a love interest to guide the way.

Perhaps she could help her Aunt Zelda who has taken up the reins of High Priestess following Father Blackwood’s fall from grace. With most of the members of the Church of Night dead after Father Blackwood’s mass poisoning of the congregation, there’s a lot of work to be done. Prudence and the other weird sisters were naturally amongst the survivors, and it looks like Prudence will be doing her utmost to make up for siding with her clearly unstable father when the Spellmans were in desperate need of inside help.

My main issue with Part 1 was that it failed to maintain a focused narrative between the surreal events at the Academy and the Spellman home, and the more mundane lives of the mortal characters. This became less of an issue as the episodes wore on, as the magical and mortal characters’ worlds collided a lot more often. It’s an element that thankfully continued into Part 2, with all the main mortals fully knowledgeable of the magical world, giving them more purpose than before. It didn’t, however, make them any less boring.

Sabrina is often dragged back into her mortal life when the magical world demands it, meaning that her absence is never truly felt either way; a fact that doesn’t stop the mortals from throwing unfounded aggression Sabrina’s way when they don’t inform her of major things that have happened and expect her to know what they are without any fore warning. So Sabrina is supposed to intuitively know that Roz is blind while she faces the aggression of Father Blackwood’s reign at the Academy? It makes Harvey, Roz and Theo seem unnecessarily mean just because the plot demands that Sabrina feel guilt over the extra time she’s dedicating to the Academy and, more importantly, her new relationship with Nick Scratch.

It gets to the point that I honestly forgot Harvey, Roz and Theo existed a couple of times in episodes they didn’t appear in. I’d say the series should do away with them completely, but they’re such an integral part of what makes Sabrina so great. I just wish Harvey and Roz didn’t bore me to tears. Theo, formerly Susie, doesn’t have the same problem because of the really important role he plays in terms of representation. I really liked how the series dealt with his on-going transition, even if it feels tacked on the series’ primary narrative most of the time.

Potions and Notions

I loved the scene of Sabrina changing outfits in Chapter One. It was a cute nod to Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

The Christmas episode definitely feels even weirder as Zelda’s rescue of Leticia is abandoned for her pursuit of power as Father Blackwood’s new bride. The orphan child is brought back into the fold after a while, though the bond Zelda formed with Leticia doesn’t feel like it ever happened.

Michelle Gomez still kills it as Lilith, and I loved Alexis Denisof's turn as Mrs Wardwell's partner. His final and unfortunate appearance as the main course on Lilith's dinner table was one of those disgusting yet fantastic examples of how weird and dark this show can be when it just goes with it.

Ambrose is a bit of a dud in some of Part 2’s initial episodes, siding with the male patriarchy and failing to support Sabrina’s run for Head Boy. He makes up for it later on, though. And he deserves some bit of sympathy after he’s framed for murdering the Anti-Pope by Father Blackwood.

This is still an undoubtedly fun series, though it’s one that’s still treading water rather than completely submerging itself in the dark and murky depths of Greendale and the Church of Night. I’m not certain it ever will reach its full potential but until that day comes, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is still exciting enough to satisfy my teen fantasy cravings.

7 out of 10 evil turnips.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The world-building is nuts, given that's there's no God, and that somewhat unsettles this not very religious person anyway. That said Lilith was the best and I hope she keeps her role as queen of hell.
I also hope the odious father Blackwood gets killed by his daughter and that Sabrina resques Nick. The Theo stuff was okay, but maybe tie him closer to the main narrative next time. Plus his bullies turned nice way too quickly.
mazephoenix