Archie Andrews and his Riverdale pals heard tales of what lurks in Greendale, just on the other side of Sweetwater River. It’s where Cheryl Blossom ventured with her brother Jason, which led to his tragic death, and it’s the subject of Farmer McGinty’s uniquely trippy experience. As he once told Jughead Jones on The CW drama, “You never know [what you might see] on the road to Greendale.” Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina pulls back the veil to reveal a world of witchcraft bubbling beneath the surface and the half-witch, half-mortal teen at its center. Follow along with EW‘s binge recap.
EPISODE 1: “October Country”
The 10-episode series, helmed by Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, isn’t quite a formal spinoff of Riverdale. It’s clear both exist in the same world given all the references, but the gap between Netflix and the CW makes a crossover difficult — not impossible, but difficult. Instead, we should take CAOS as a Riverdale-esque take on Aguirre-Sacasa’s original Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic, which was a gothic horror twist on the peachy keen world of Archie and Melissa Joan Hart’s sitcom-y Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
CAOS, the show, does for Sabrina what Riverdale did for Archie — it leans into more dark and complex concepts to reveal the juicy stories at the center.
As a half-witch, half-mortal, this new Sabrina (played by Mad Men‘s Kiernan Shipka) must constantly reconcile with dueling forces. She enjoys her normal life of analyzing horror movies with boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch) at the local Greendale cinema and fighting the patriarchy with besties Roz (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie (Lachlan Watson). Sabrina’s generally cheery teen life is contrasted by the darkness of her witch life. As a young sorceress approaching her 16th birthday, she must make preparations for her Dark Baptism, a ritualistic rite of passage in which a young witch enters the woods with her coven and signs her name in the Book of the Beast (a.k.a. the Dark Lord’s book, a.k.a Satan’s book). Doing so will grant her immortality, ensure her powers don’t fade away and gain her entrance to the Academy of Unseen Arts (like Hogwarts if Harry Potter studied necromancy and demonic conjuring instead of charms). The downside, obviously, is that she signs her name over to the Devil and completely renounces her mortal life, two things which don’t sit well for Sabrina.
Still, this is what witches have always done, so she makes the necessary preparations with guidance from her witchy aunts Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto). One is blonde, the other is a redhead. One is warm, the other is cold. One offers sympathy for Sabrina’s mortal attachments, the other wants her to cut ties. They exist as visual representations of the polar forces influencing Sabrina, but also they are their own endlessly entertaining gothic troupe — like Punch and Judy (a reference Zelda will bring up later on) if you could actually see the blood spewing from Judy after getting a shovel to the head. Sabrina’s cousin, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), under house arrest by the witches’ council for a past offense, acts as a middle ground. He enjoys meddling in affairs but also knows the pain of cutting oneself off from the mortal world.
Shipka nails the look and feel of the teenage witch, but her performance has been oversold. She does a well enough job evoking some of the more emotional, intimate scenes (the sweetness between her and Harvey and the comfort between her and Susie). But her delivery doesn’t quite stick. The dialogue always feels more like she’s reciting lines of dialogue instead of really digging into the theatricality of the material.
Just as significant as the character relationships surrounding Sabrina is the atmosphere. The comic hinged upon the distinct style of artist Robert Hack, and the series offers its own spin. The opening credits are an animated homage to his artistry that pulls images directly from his comics. In the episodes themselves, the fishbowl effect seems to be a popular technique for throwing the viewer off balance and blurring the lines between what is real and what is spell work.
Much of this effect is used for scenes in the woods and ones involving Ms. Wardwell, Sabrina’s favorite teacher at Baxter High. The innocent woman tries to help a seemingly traumatized young girl who appears on the side of the road. The girl turns out to be Madam Satan, handmaiden of the Devil. She then kills and takes hold of Ms. Wardwell’s body in gruesome fashion, a scene that sets the tone for the audience — this isn’t a bunch of Bednobs & Broomsticks. Aided by Stolis, her crow familiar (a goblin that takes animal form to better serve a witch), she’s on a mission from Hell to sway Sabrina to join the Church of Night (the religious institution of witches) and embrace her dark side.
Then come the Weird Sisters, three identically dressing pupil witches who take issue with a half-mortal “mutt” attending the Academy of Unseen Arts. Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), Agatha (Adeline Rudolph), and Dorcas (Abigail Cowen) appear before Sabrina to cast a blood curse as she’s in the woods to summon a familiar of her own. It’s nothing Sabrina’s Aunt Hilda can’t fix, but the trio does even more damage when they insinuate Sabrina’s parents were killed by witches and not in an airplane accident like she had been told. That mystery lingers in Sabrina’s mind as she, taking a milk bath to wash off the hex, has visions of following her parents into the woods and encountering two babies on an altar — one normal and the other sporting cloven hooves instead of feet.
There are many references to classic horror films throughout the series, another comic book alignment; Aguirre-Sacasa’s books featured a line of variant covers that paid tribute to titles like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. The first of these is The Night of the Living Dead, which Sabrina and her high school pals discuss at Dr. Cerberus’ Books (Cerberus being the multi-headed hound of Hades that guarded the gates of the underworld in Greek mythology, and Greendale being a pathway from the mortal world into the realm of the supernatural). As Susie mentions, zombies in the film were a metaphor stemming from the Cold War for the collapse of the nuclear family, and CAOS serves a similar function.
The series plays with the image of women in the ’60s and ’70s, a time of the Suzy Homemaker, but then it twists that image with delightful results. Ms. Wardwell’s possessed form channels the fuller hair and sleek, vintage dresses of that era, but she’s a literal man-eater. Harvey always seems to look like an Industrial Age coal miner, due to his family business working the mines of Greendale, but he’s not poisoned by toxic masculinity. He keeps a lost age of chivalry and romanticism alive while allowing Sabrina to lead.
Sabrina also uses witchcraft, a symbol of the anti-nuclear family, as a weapon against “Puritanical masculinity” and restrictive gender norms. Principal Hawthorne (Bronson Pinchot) doesn’t take action when Susie (non-binary) is physically assaulted and harassed by homophobic jocks, so the young witch takes matters into her own hands. After Ms. Wardwell plants the idea in her head, Sabrina enlists Ambrose to hex a horde of spiders Hawthorne’s way, just to “mildly traumatize” him enough to take a sick day so that she can start WICCA, a club at school to protect Susie and all women at Baxter High. (Spiders are Hilda’s familiars, which is a reference to the comics when Hilda transforms herself into a gargantuan tarantula to scare a neighborhood girl bullying Sabrina.)
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to introducing a new world, even one at least semi-familiar to Riverdale fans…
Sabrina tries to tell Harvey she’s a witch to see how he’ll react, but magically takes it back when it’s not to his liking. Parents bring the dead body of their recently killed son (who may very well be a witch) to the mortuary, which Ambrose suggests could be the work of witch hunters. Sabrina finds her familiar when a goblin sneaks into her room and takes the form of a black cat (Salem!). Zelda warns about picking a wild familiar to serve a witch, but Sabrina says it’s more about a mutual partnership than servitude. And with her concerns over the Dark Baptism mounting and her aunts’ refusal to postpone it, Ambrose suggests she goes to find a Malum Malice, an apple that grants knowledge to female witches. Ms. Wardwell gets wind of this and, fearing Sabrina might learn something that persuades her away from the path of night, uses some voodoo witchery to send a scarecrow after her in the hay maze barring the Malum Malice. Unlike the Salem familiar to Hart fans (pun intended), this Salem doesn’t talk (he mentally communicates with Sabrina), but he can revert to his more menacing goblin form and tear things — like said scarecrow — to shreds.
For the most part, CAOS does well in keeping all these pieces fun and engaging, while kicking off a more involved coming-of-age story about a teenager trying to chart her own path in life.
Sabrina finally chooses a path when she bites into the Malum Malice and sees a horrific vision: the tree’s branches now holds multiple witches dangling by their necks from the branches and out of its rotting trunk bursts forth a half-human, half-goat creature. Believing this to be the future that awaits her if she signs the Book of the Beast, she goes home to inform her aunts of her decision — only to find they are already waiting for her.
Hilda, Zelda, and Ambrose are gathered by the fireplace to introduce Sabrina to Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), the High Priest of the Church of Night and Satan’s representative on earth. He has come, upon the request of Hilda and Zelda, to address Sabrina’s concerns about going through the Dark Baptism. Refusal to do so “must not be,” he says.
Thus begins ongoing mysteries around young Sabrina: Why does the Church of Night want Sabrina to sign the Devil’s book so much that they sent their highest-ranking official to persuade her? What really happened to Sabrina’s parents? What does it really mean to walk the path of the night?
(Click ahead for episode 2)
We’re an episode in and already CAOS is setting up an interesting conversation about religion. Sabrina’s entire home life is wrapped up in the Church of Night. Her aunts even claim her deceased parents made it clear that Sabrina should be inducted into the coven. And for a young woman who isn’t one to go along with something because that’s how things have always been done, a little bending of the truth seems okay in the eyes of Sabrina’s aunties if the ends justify the means.
Is the Devil really the embodiment of evil? Fake news. The Dark Lord is the embodiment of free will who chose to forsake the joys of Heaven rather than succumb to his own pride. Next! By signing your name in the Book of the Beast, are you giving Satan dominion over your soul? Nah. It’s more a symbolic gesture, as all religions have. If you join the Church of Night and decide you don’t like it, are you free to leave? You do you, witch. The Church is all about free will. Sounds too good to be true. There’s a reason Salem wouldn’t enter the Spellman household with Blackwood on the premises.
Even more doubts come out after Blackwood leaves — he first examines the corpse in the mortuary, confirms the boy Conner was a witch and tells Ambrose he’ll bring up the possibility of a witch hunter to the council. Hilda is tucking Sabrina into bed when her auntie alludes to her own Dark Baptism. Female witches didn’t have options back in her day, signing the book was just what was done. But this is 2018. Unfortunately, while Hilda is revealing her fantasy of torching the entire Greendale wood, Zelda is listening to the whole conversation, floating above the room in her astral form. (Grimoire log: Astral projection = the ability to travel outside one’s physical body through spirit form.) So now there’s going to be some sister-on-sister crime.
By the way, “Your father could’ve been a famous actor like cousin Montgomery?” Is Hilda saying Montgomery Clift was a warlock?
The next morning, Sabrina wakes to find Harvey sitting at her breakfast table. He and Ambrose are bonding over their love of comic books and graphic novels, but he really wants to know if Sabrina could celebrate her birthday with their friends on Saturday, the day after her Dark Baptism. His boyish charm and good intentions is another reminder of everything she’ll be giving up by walking the path of night. But there are also certain dark delights that are hard to pass up.
If you notice, toxic masculine behavior is rarely rewarded in the world of CAOS. And, unlike some other television witches, Sabrina revels in the devilish side of witchcraft. So the combination often leads to some magical mischief. Principal Hawthorne received his punishment and now it’s time for the boys tormenting Susie to get theirs. After one of the jocks punches Susie in the face while surrounded by his cackling culprits, Sabrina goes out for blood, encouraged by Ms. Wardwell’s suggestion of fighting fire with hellfire. So she summons the three “baddest b—es” she knows, the Weird Sisters. She already forgot about that time they cursed her in the woods and now promises to never attend the Academy if they help her take care of these mortal bullies. She’s crossing her fingers behind her back, of course.
Zelda, meanwhile, is off bashing in Hilda’s skull with a hammer and burying her body in the graveyard out front. Mr. and Mrs. Kemper, parents to the slain boy Conner, are arriving just as she plants the final pats on the dirt. They’ve come upon the invitation of Ambrose to inspect the embalming work on their son. Ambrose is really using the occasion to poke around for information. There are still no leads on the boy’s death, but he learns that Conner had a familiar, an iguana. He was adopted by the Kempers, who are mortal and don’t seem to have any idea about their son’s abilities.
When night falls, Sabrina and the Weird Sisters arrive to torment the jocks, who are out partying with beer in an empty parking lot. They have another kid, who they also seem to be bullying, carting them around and he also gets caught up in the witches’ work. The girls lure all four of them into the mines, teasing them with talk of the Devil’s Doorway to Hell. Despite the enchanting music that seems to come from nowhere, they all start making out in the dim lamplight — although it’s really an illusion. The guys are actually just kissing each other, while Sabrina and the Weird Sisters are standing off to the side laughing and taking pictures. When the reality sets in, the guys make their empty threats and the Weird Sisters throw Sabrina off guard with one last surprise. It’s time for a game of Devil in the Dark. With a snap of Prudence’s fingers, the light cuts out and if it weren’t for the flash of Sabrina’s camera, nobody would see the trio adopting a more demonic form. As the boys run away in terror, Sabrina walks out to find a cage filled with four birds. It was all a spell to capture the bullies’ manhoods as punishment.
Speaking of toppling the patriarchy…
The Weird Sisters admit they knew about Sabrina’s fib to stay away from the Academy, but what did surprise them was Sabrina’s mention of Blackwood visiting her home. That stopped them in their tracks. Why would the coven’s High Priest sit down with, of all people, a half-witch? Again, what does the Devil want with Sabrina Spellman? Sabrina doesn’t understand why she has to choose either freedom or power. Why can’t she have both? Prudence says the Dark Lord will never let that happen because a woman with both is his greatest fear. Why? The Devil is “a man, isn’t he?” This now sets Sabrina on a course to topple systemic sexism, one that’s rooted in not just the Church of Night but most religions.
The mystery continues as Sabrina, after listening to Harvey’s romantic musing on the front porch, overhears a conversation between Zelda and newly resurrected Hilda. Zelda notes it takes Hilda longer and longer to come back to life each time she’s killed and one day she might never resurrect. Zelda further warns never to dissuade their niece from joining the Church of Night because Sabrina, ultimately, “has no choice” in the matter.
The morning of the Dark Baptism, the aunts leave Sabrina alone at home with Ambrose to contemplate in silence while they go off and retrieve the black narcissus goat to be used for the ceremony. In explaining the realities of signing the Book of the Beast, Ambrose reveals himself to be one of the most tragic characters in the Spellman family. Even though the coven forbids meaningful human-witch relationships, friendships or otherwise, he says Sabrina will want to forget her friends. As time passes by, mortals will age and place importance on matters that have little meaning for immortals.
Sabrina resolves to have one last night with her mortal friends, so she puts on her white baptism dress and goes with Harvey to Roz’s Halloween party. It’s full of “Monster Mash” music, Eddie Munster costumes, and a surprise cake for the birthday girl. As the blood moon begins, Sabrina races off to the woods for the Dark Baptism. As she crosses through the gateway of branches, engulfed by a supernatural blue flame, her dress turns from white to black. The coven is already there, slaughtering animals and muttering spells. Ms. Wardwell peeks out from behind a tree, watching as the ceremony begins. It’s only when the book signing comes that things take a turn. Blackwood holds Sabrina’s hand over the pages and for the first time states that she must indeed hold the Dark Lord above all others in her life and answer him whenever he calls. She begins to see visions, one of the half-goat, half-human monster she first gazed from the Malum Malice. She witnesses the creature, Satan himself, again now standing off among the crowd. Knocking the pen away to the shock of the coven, Sabrina looks again and sees another vision, this one taking the form of her parents. Her father remains silent, but her mother commands her to run. So she does.
The coven pursues the young girl as she crashes through the trees. In another horror movie callback, this one to The Evil Dead, sentient vines latch onto Sabrina as she makes her escape. She’s able to make it back home, but Ambrose is terrified to see the entire coven coming after her. If it wasn’t for his bluff about a magical circle of protection, they would’ve taken Sabrina anyway.
Sabrina’s life seems to return to the normal in the light of day, only her aunt Zelda is still fuming. Her niece stands by her decision, noting the visions she saw, which discredits what her aunts said about her parents wanting the Dark Baptism for Sabrina. Elsewhere, Ms. Wardwell’s relationship with the Dark Lord is revealed: Satan appears before her as she grovels at his feet. Begging for his forgiveness, she promises to get Sabrina to sign her name in the book and the next day she shows up as faculty advisor to Sabrina’s WICCA club at school. But it doesn’t seem to be enough for the Devil. When Sabrina is called into Hawthorne’s office, he possesses the principal as an intimidation tactic with bleeding eyes and a foaming mouth.
Your move, Sabrina.
(Click ahead to episode 3)
Sabrina is trying to go about her day, helping Roz deal with a string of books that have seemingly been banned from Baxter High, but she can’t get the image of the Dark Lord puppeteering Principal Hawthorne out of her head. By the time she gets home, that image dissolves only to be replaced with a newfound rage.
Sabrina has received an Infernal Summons, meaning she’s been sued by the Devil himself for breach of contract and must appear in court. She apparently made promises to join the Church of Night and then ran from those promises. Until a verdict is reached, Hilda and Zelda, as Sabrina’s legal guardians, will remain powerless and begin to age rapidly. Even as Zelda goes to beg Father Blackwood for leniency — also, those two have definitely hooked up in the past — her hair begins to fall out and Hilda has already lost a tooth.
In the privacy of his attic loft, Ambrose suggests Sabrina get herself a lawyer. Not just any lawyer. Daniel Webster, the man said to have beaten the Devil in court. Yes, Devil’s Advocate! He’s hesitant at first, but he storms into the courtroom at the last second, just as Sabrina is about to enter a plea. Turns out Daniel knows Sabrina’s father, having recognized her last name of Spellman. Daniel moved to Greendale because of Edward, who taught him all about witch law. Zelda isn’t too happy about Daniel’s presence, but she’s hiding her own demons.
The most enjoyable part about witch court is, as Ambrose mentions, witch law is “the opposite” of mortal law — most of the time comically so. Instead of “innocent until proven guilty,” it’s “guilty until proven innocent.” Instead of addressing the judges as “your honors,” it’s “your dishonors.” Instead of “order in the court,” it’s furiously banging the gavel and screaming “disorder in the court.” And there’s plenty of dramatic murmuring, clapping, and “Hail, Satan”s from the peanut gallery.
The gasp-worthy twist arrives when Blackwood reveals Sabrina’s name was already written in the Book of the Beast three days after her birth. He then calls Zelda, sporting a chic head wrap and sunglasses (at night!), to the stand where she admits to witnessing Edward take Sabrina to the woods and sign her name. Amid a shouting match at home with Zelda, Sabrina learns the Devil blessed the marriage of Edward and Diana if they signed over their future child’s name.
Meanwhile, Ms. Wardwell is trying to influence Sabrina to drop Daniel as her lawyer. First, she appears to Daniel in the guise of his slain daughter, then that same spectral vision appears to Sabrina during class a la Nightmare on Elm Street. She follows it until she reaches an album of news clippings manufactured by Wardwell. It’s full of stories calling Daniel the “Defender of the Damned.” He explains to her later that he made a deal with the Devil long ago to the be the best lawyer ever. (Seriously now, is this secretly the sequel to Keanu Reeve’s Devil’s Advocate?) But all the cases he won involved the most sadistic murderers. One day, one of the clients he set free killed his daughter. So now he helps good people.
His first main attempt to help Sabrina is arguing that because she is half-witch, she is only half subjected to witch law. He moves to have a jury of mortals decide her fate based upon mortal law. That backfires a bit when Blackwood reasons since she’s mortal, they can assess her dominant nature through pilgrim-era tests for witchcraft. If she drowns in a lake, she’s mortal. If she survives, she’s a witch. Another option, if she has a witch’s mark, it proves her witchiness.
As they mull over their options, Blackwood visits the Spellman family. He tells them he pleaded with the Dark Lord for leniency and agrees to forgo the trial and grant Sabrina yearly visitations with her mortal friends if she ratifies her name in the book and enrolls in the Academy of Unseen Arts.
Sabrina doesn’t take the deal. Earlier, she heard from Harvey how his dad is making him work the mines even though he’s traumatized after getting lost in there as a kid. He claims to have witnessed seeing a half-goat monster (that we now know to be the Devil) in the maze of tunnels. She also heard from Roz that she cares so much about lifting the ban on certain books because in about three months she’ll lose her vision to myopic atrophy. Sabrina reasons this legal fight is her own personal struggle against a seemingly unbeatable force. Plus, she had Harvey check her body for a witch’s mark and she doesn’t have one. Take that, Satan!
As the test is about to commence in court, there’s another gasp-able moment when Hilda storms into court. She presents Sabrina’s Christian baptismal record to the court. With Hilda as a witness, Diana had Sabrina baptized before Edward’s late-night shenanigans, so her soul was already promised to Heaven. Hilda swears to Sabrina that Edward didn’t know about Diana’s baptism, but I think Sabrina’s parents were in on it together. There must’ve been a reason why Edward taught Daniel everything about witch law and they already knew about the Devil’s prerequisite for getting married. On the other hand, Edward is a POS in the comics, so maybe he really was evil.
This revelation, along with an added outburst from Sabrina in court, prompts the Dark Lord to answer. Calling Blackwood and Daniel to his private chambers in Hell, they come back with a compromise: Sabrina may stay at Baxter High and lead her mortal life without signing the Book of the Beast if she also attends the Academy and weekly black mass. Hilda also gets excommunicated from the Church of Night and Wardwell is now determined to break Sabrina by attacking her mortal relationships, but, hey, a victory is a victory.
Something else that happened that’s less significant but still important, Ambrose got a hookup! After discovering Conner had an iguana familiar, he met the dead warlock’s ex-lover and totally got it on in the attic. The sad part is that the iguana dies the next day, unable to live without its witch master. Although, how do we know it wasn’t Luke? He leaves before Ambrose wakes up and now Conner’s familiar is dead? Hmm.
(Click ahead to episode 4)
On the outside, Cehenna Station looks like an abandoned train stop, overrun by dark vines, warped along the grey brick. Inside, little Quentin, her ghost guide (her Nearly Headless Nick, if you will), shows her a much more American Horror Story: Apocalypse kind of chic with a glaring stone statue of a goat-headed Satan planted in the center. Also like Harry, the first years aren’t immediately thrust into apparition and Patronus charms. For Sabrina, who’s on a mission to learn how to conjure, bind, and then banish the Dark Lord, this is a downer. Instead, she’s forced to go to choir rehearsal, which is run by Blackwood’s wife Lady Constance Blackwood. Not even the fact that Sabrina is better at singing than Prudence puts a smile on her face.
She does meet a warlock hottie named Nick Scratch who can keep her preoccupied until it’s Harvey time again. Nick is even studying her father’s journals in The Sanctum (i.e. the forbidden section of the library), which intrigues her. Nick, however, is also a “warlock slut.” That comes from Prudence, who’s jealous so maybe she’s biased. But also, can Sabrina really trust anyone at a school for Devil worshippers?
On top of that, Sabrina learns the horrors of the hazing phase of initiation. It’s called The Harrowing. Spearheaded by the Weird Sisters, who already hate her guts, Sabrina is forced to endure three trials that were originally cast upon the Greendale 13 — the 13 witches famously hung to their deaths during the town’s Colonial age. (It seems these were the witches Sabrina saw hanging from the tree after biting the Malum Malice.) The first phase is the Witch’s Room, a room where the women were without sunlight, food, or water. Only the Greendale 13 actually made it to the noose. Others killed themselves after wallowing in their own waste. They didn’t have Salem. Sabrina’s familiar hears her screams all the way from home, turns into goblin form (off camera so it’s not as dramatic as it sounds), and protects her through the night.
Sabrina soon learns there are two others phases, and the only thing keeping her sane are her calls with Harvey. But even he has his own horrors to deal with. Roz and Susie are having a girls night weekend at Susie’s house since her dad is at a farmers expo. Instead of hacking into his FarmersOnly.com profile like any regular teen would probably do, they watch classic scary movies and keep tabs on Susie’s Uncle Jesse, who’s never been the same since he claims to have seen a monster in the mines. Roz mentions this to Harvey, the guy still suffering from PTSD about seeing a monster in the mines as a kid, later at Cerberus’. Needing some closure for his own sanity, Harvey comes over to Susie’s with them the next night. The uncle is definitely not all right. Harvey tries to talk about what he saw in the mines, but Jesse attacks him, forcing Susie to intervene. Even when they check on him later, they spy boils sticking to his red skin like rotting barnacles. Can you say Exorcist episode?
After her first Harrowing escape, Sabrina is called into Blackwood’s office with Zelda for fighting with students. Salem has been found and cast out since familiars are apparently not allowed at the Academy. But Zelda, for all her icy exterior, reveals herself to be fiercely maternal. Sabrina is smart. She knows she can’t just outright blab on the Weird Sisters to Blackwood, so she’s strategic. She mentions how unstimulated she is studying herbology (sorry, Professor Sprout) and Zelda is right there backing her up. “Test her,” she says. So Blackwood, being Blackwood, does. He offers Sabrina an Acheron Configuration, a puzzle box that becomes more addictive and mind-altering the more you try to solve it. If she solves it, she can learn conjuring.
While Zelda stays behind to be asked by Blackwood, the man she definitely maybe has had relations with in the past, to be the midwife to Lady Blackwood, Sabrina encounters Nick on the steps. He mentions that the Acheron in her hands is the same configuration her father was working on. Sabrina figures there might be some clue in his journals — that is if Nick can get her into the library.
As Sabrina plots her mischief, so too does Ms. Wardwell. With Hilda and Ambrose now both criminals of the church, Ambrose asks his auntie to watch over his body while he astral projects to have a date with Luke. Though Zelda astral projects all the time, as he says, Hilda warns it’s far more dangerous for witches to do as the dead are technically the only ones allowed to traverse the astral plane. There are psychopomps, entities that look like sparrows but are really “vicious, spiteful, hateful creatures” that might mistake Ambrose for dead and whisk him off to the hereafter. Then there’s The Dweller in the Abyss, which doesn’t sound like someone anyone should ever meet ever. But when Zelda starts acting all high and mighty, Hilda’s like, F it.
The date starts well enough, but in astral form, when he’s unable to touch physical objects, Ambrose is soon spied by the pesky psychopomps. Wardwell, upon the suggestion of Blackwood, takes advantage. She pretends to be looking for funeral preparations and sneaks into the mortuary to hex Sabrina’s mirror and steel away samples of hair, nails, and clothing. By the time Zelda gets back, Wardwell makes her way out and Ambrose is forced to return to his body before getting carted off to God knows where.
Meanwhile, the second phase of Sabrina’s Harrowing begins: she’s forced to walk through the woods to the tree where the Greendale 13 were hung. They say if the witches were to meet the gaze of a mortal on the way there, she would be stoned to death. So Sabrina must stand shoeless, coat-less in her nightgown and stare at the hanging tree. If she turned for whatever reason, something unknown but bad nonetheless would happen. So she endures the sounds of Harvey being slaughtered behind her, the shadows that loom before her, and the voice of her father begging her to turn around.
Quentin is there in the light of day to signal the trial’s end. It’s here Sabrina learns he’s a ghost, as well as the fact that he was a victim of Harrowing — as were so many other children who now prowl the grounds as phantasms. Sabrina has no other choice but to call her aunties. Zelda confronts Blackwood, who claims it’s all just part of the initiation and if Sabrina is as strong as she claims then her niece has nothing to fear. Zelda may be a devote witch, but she’s not an idiot. She and Hilda follow Sabrina to the ghosts of dead children. This hits home for Hilda especially because she was Harrowed as a student of the Academy — especially by her own sister. She knows all the ghosts want more than anything — even beyond escaping the grounds — is permission to take revenge. So she gives it to them.
During the binge-watching process, so many things are flying at you. It can be difficult to process certain emotions because, guess what, you have seconds to adjust before the next episode comes sliding into your Netflix queue. But even amongst the sensory overload that is at times taxing, Zelda’s apology to Hilda later that night has stuck with me. Neither can sleep peacefully until they know their niece is okay and safe from the Harrowing. It’s a time of reflection for Zelda. She may never have biological children of her own, but Sabrina is her child. The same goes for Hilda, who will always be her sister, no matter how many times she’s killed her in the past. Zelda making the effort in this moment to say sorry for things she did to Hilda when they were students at the Academy proves how much they love each other.
Now, back to the binging!
The Weird Sisters accost Sabrina one last time with the intent of hanging her by the branches of the tree that once dangled the Greendale 13. But the ghosts of the Harrowed kids are there. They chant “Light as a feather, stiff as a board” to not just invoke Manon, but to telekinetically hang Prudence and her Mean Girl henchmen by their necks in the air until they agree to never Harrow anyone again. Sabrina adds the final twist of the knife by pulling an O-ren Ishii: The price you pay for bringing up mortal heritage as a negative is… I drown you in your own blood.
On her way back home, Sabrina runs into Nick who hands her one of her father’s journals that he stole from the library. There’s also the reveal that Blackwood, in the privacy of his office, demanded Prudence hand down The Harrowing of Sabrina. He says the Dark Lord wanted her taught at the Academy, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t suffer.
Flipping through Edward’s journal, Sabrina stumbles upon a sketch of her mother, the first of a series of folded pages that unveils the code to unlocking the Configuration. When it does, red sand pours out and unleashes a demon — the like of which have only been seen by Dark Crystal viewers — within.
(Click ahead to episode 5)
When Sabrina rushes to her aunts for help dealing with what we quickly learn to be a sleeping demon that escaped from the Acheron Configuration — one that was trapped by Sabrina’s father and is now out for revenge against all his Spellman kin — the family casts an incantation to seal the house so the demon can’t escape. Zelda then traps the entity inside a vase, believing that to be that. Everyone soothes themselves with a cup of tea, unaware that as they drift off to sleep moments later, it’s really all but a trick from the demon.
At least CAOS is self-aware. When Sabrina asks Hilda what the demon would’ve done if they didn’t trap it, her aunt responds by suggesting it would’ve put them to sleep, separated them so their dream states would’ve cross paths, and then tortured them until one of them broke with the spell to unlock the house. It’s like Aguirre-Sacasa leaping out of the screen to say, “Yes, we know what we’re about to do, and we’re doing it.”
And that’s exactly what happens. Each nightmare begins with each person’s fantasy, if only to make the tragic fall hurt so much more.
For Sabrina, she finds herself in a sequence where Harvey proposes to her, accepts her secret of being a witch, but then turns on her when her father and brother interrupt the marriage. The witch side of her family remains silent as Harvey strangles her and her mortal friends chastise her for being a witch. In a truly cringing moment, one that reminds us of the tone the show taps into, Harvey then locks Sabrina inside an iron maiden to watch her blood spill out from its spout.
Ambrose dreams of embalming another body, one that strangely looks like himself, when he’s visited by Father Blackwood. The High Priest sets him free from his house arrest, but as he’s walking out the door, the sleep demon stabs him repeatedly. He awakens as paralyzed as the dead body that appeared on his own slab. Unable to move or speak, he endures the pain of being ripped apart by himself.
Even in her dreams, Hilda can’t escape Zelda. After getting asked out on a date by Principal Hawthorne, Hilda wants her sister’s support, but Zelda only offers her taunts and cruelty. Hilda slaps her across the face, unwittingly planting a seal on her mouth to silence her. On the date, Hilda gets drunk off the table full of sweets and liquor, even as Hawthorne speaks of losing his brother in utero. He takes her home later that night and she passes out, only to wake up the next morning as one of his crazy surgical experiments. He pulls up his shirt to reveal he swallowed his little brother, whose face now juts out from Hawthorne’s stomach while Hilda finds herself surgically grafted to Zelda like a conjoined twin.
As for Zelda, she fantasizes about Satan taking human form and visiting her house for dinner. (The fact that he takes the form of a horned version fo Blackwood notes her attraction for the Faustus.) Yet, he chooses Hilda’s veggie pie dish over Zelda’s meal since she slaughtered a fat little warlock as the meat option. She’s forced to listen from the kitchen as the Dark Lord laughs and dances with Hilda. After he leaves, Zelda kills Hilda in the kitchen and stashes the body, but Satan returns to see Hilda. When he susses out what Zelda has done he brings her worst fear to fruition: Hilda can no longer resurrect and now Zelda must live on without her sister.
While all this transpires, Ms. Wardwell is able to see inside the Spellman home through Sabrina’s mirror and converse with the sleep demon, who goes by the name Batibat. Batibit calls her the Mother of Demons but even Wardwell’s station among the damned doesn’t dissuade her from wanting to kill the Spellmans. Unable to enter the home because of the sealing spell, Wardwell astral projects into the dreamscape, stumbling around from dream to dream until she finds Sabrina screaming for help.
Wardwell tells her to run away from the house when she wakes up before projecting back to her body. Using a voodoo doll she crafted of Sabrina, the Mother of Demons pricks the doll’s finger to jolt the girl out of bed. But Sabrina isn’t running. She first tries to trap Batibat back in the Acheron Configuration, now that she knows the demon’s name from Wardwell. She isn’t strong enough to pull it off, though, and the configuration is destroyed when Batibat attacks. Regrouping, Sabrina decides to be more strategic. She places a glamour on Salem so Batibat will think she’s chasing the Spellman girl, but really Sabrina is putting herself to sleep to get help from her aunts.
Zelda is completely incapacitated by the illusion, so that’s a bust. But Hilda, still grappling with her conjoined sister, tells Sabrina to use her spiders to help trap Batibat. You catch a nightmare the same way you catch a dream: a dream catcher. So Sabrina gets Ambrose to distract the demon while she sets up a trap. When Batibat grows wise to her plan and confronts Sabrina, it’s too late. Sabrina recites the same incantation Zelda first used, only this time the webs from the spiders suspend her in a cocoon.
With everyone now awake, Batibat is transplanted to a jam jar for the time being, but questions still remain. Why would Edward trap such a powerful sleep demon in a configuration that could one day be opened again? Zelda claims he had been battling insomnia and now assumes he was really fighting Batibat. Still, something doesn’t feel right.
On the phone with Harvey to talk out her nightmare and fears of him turning on her, Sabrina is reminded of Wardwell’s mysterious appearance in her dream. That night, she decides to confront her favorite teacher at her home, demanding to know who and what she really is. Is the jig really up?
(Click ahead for episode 6)
Resolving the cliffhanger from the last episode, Sabrina learns that Wardwell is a witch, but the Mother of Demons spins a tale to cover up her true intentions. She may very well be telling the truth. I mean, who’s to know her background other than the Dark Lord himself? She claims she was excommunicated from the Church of Shadows in New Hampshire for falling in love with a mortal and came to Sabrina’s father to apprentice, being that he could relate to such things. Wardwell developed feelings for Edward, which is why she said yes when he apparently asked her to watch over his daughter. Sabrina doesn’t know what to do with this information. Ambrose asks Sabrina to keep an open mind, yet so many people in her life have already lied to her.
Meanwhile, Harvey, Roz, and Susie are all visited by a spectral vision that looks like Susie’s uncle Jesse, still with throbbing red skin and pulsating boils. They’re all talking about it when Sabrina meets them in the school library. They think Jesse was possessed by a demon and, like any good witch trying to keep supernatural phenomena off the mortal world’s radar, Sabrina downplays their fears. Yet, she’s shaken to hear they’ve all been visited by something in the guise of Jesse.
Zelda has been tending to a pregnant Lady Blackwood, so when Sabrina comes home with the assertion of a demonic possession in Greendale, she’s not ready to deal with the melodramatics of her teenage niece. Neither aunt truly believes Sabrina because, they say, actual possessions are rare. Zelda does advise, just in case, for Sabrina’s friends not to touch Jesse’s body, otherwise, that will make them susceptible to a demon’s psychological attacks. That, Sabrina knows, has already happened.
Sabrina decides to take matters into her own hands when even Ambrose, still dealing with post-Batibat stress, won’t help. Despite his warnings, she astral projects into Jesse’s room to confront the demon. The only thing she does get out it is confirmation that it is indeed demonic possession. The demon gives her a name, but it turns out to be an anagram for “ice cream.” When the entity learns Sabrina is astral projecting — it pulls an Exorcist and projectile vomits acidic bile, only to see it travel right through her body — an unseen forces begins choking Sabrina. Seeing his mistress in agony, Salem dashes to get Ambrose, who calls Sabrina’s spirit back to her physical form. He tells her some higher level demons have the ability to lay hands on a witch’s astral form.
Whatever the name, the demon did a lot of talking and revealed that Jesse was a convenient vessel. Remembering Susie saying her uncle went mad after working the mines, Sabrina decides to go apologize to Harvey so that she can gain entrance to the mines to search for clues. The crow Stolis hears this conversation from Harvey’s window and informs Wardwell, who follows the teens into the dark tunnels. Sabrina isn’t exactly happy about that fact, but she ends up leaving the witch behind when she and Harvey get separated. Sabrina finds him cowering on the ground, claiming to have seen the goat monster he once saw as a child. She thinks he’s reacting to a weird stone jutting out of the wall, but as they walk away, Satan appears again down the tunnel.
The midnight excursion wasn’t a loss. Sabrina ended up finding a stone tablet split in two with the image of a coiled serpent. Wardwell noted it’s a trapping stone that traps demons. Sabrina finds the same snake symbol in one of Ambrose’s books to learn the demon’s true name: Apophis.
Later, while sitting through one of Blackwood’s seminars at the Academy, Sabrina tries to glean more information from the High Priest. She learns Apophis, a.k.a. the Devouring Worm, is a parasitic demon that kills its victims quickly by feeding on them from the inside out. It then will jump to another host and repeat the cycle. Meanwhile, Roz and Susie continue to be tormented by mental taunts from Apophis: Roz fears God is punishing her with blindness for lack of faith while Susie feels like an abomination. She overhears her father talking about how Uncle Jesse liked to wear dresses as a kid and his plans to put his brother in an asylum.
(Sidebar: when it comes to Susie and even Ambrose, it’s unclear what message the writers are trying to send in terms of LGBTQ representation. It would seem the “it’s okay to be gay” mantra holds true. Ambrose and Susie are both loved and supported. At the same time, though, Apophis calls Jesse an “abomination” for being a “sodomite.” This could’ve been just as a taunt, like how he taunted Susie with the same lingo, but he mentions this to Sabrina, a witch, a fellow “corrupt” creature. So it would seem the Devil sees LGBTQ people as his children.)
According to Blackwood, witches are forbidden from performing exorcisms because that would require them to invoke the false god. Sabrina barely registers Nick’s sexual advances after class because, by the time she gets home, Ms. Wardwell is sitting on the couch with Hilda and Zelda. She told them everything — well, the false version of everything — including how Sabrina went to the mines. Zelda forbids Sabrina from performing an exorcism, but Wardwell mentions Edward wrote a special rite that would circumvent that rule by calling on the power of a single witch and the spirits of the witches that came before instead of the false god. She just so happens to have such a spell in her purse. Zelda is forced to watch as Hilda and Wardwell chaperone Sabrina on her mission to save Jesse and her mortal friends from Apophis, but she fears they will be killed if she doesn’t intervene.
“An Exorcism In Greendale” gets most Exorcist-y in recreating the slow walk towards the white light in front of the condemned house. The three witches begin casting the exorcism rites, which brings a display of the entity’s tricks (levitation, banging windows, whirling winds, etc.). Sabrina calls on the names of historic witches for the incantation, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Only when Zelda bursts through the door and calls out the names of the Spellman family members, adding their energies to the circle’s power, are they able to cast out Apophis. Turns out it’s called the Devouring Worm because it’s an actual wriggling worm. Wardwell disposes of the creature down a well, followed by the trapping stones.
The day is saved, even though Sabrina is now grounded. She also almost got in trouble with Blackwood, who came to the Spellman home after learning about what they’d done. However, Zelda reveals that Lady Blackwood is about to have twins and if they want her to stay on as midwife to ensure they don’t lose another child, he better not take action against her family.
It also seems as though Wardwell’s mission was complete. Her actions brought her back into Sabrina’s good graces and furthered her mission. We’ve been wondering why the Dark Lord wants Sabrina so badly, and it would seem there’s an apocalyptic prophecy involved. He needed her to perform an exorcism on a mortal, which she now did. Afterward, Wardwell returned to Jesse’s room and killed him with a voodoo doll, making it appear to Susie’s family that he died from a weak heart.
Sitting with Wardwell by her fireplace, Sabrina confesses something else that intrigues Madame Satan: she wants to outwit the Dark Lord.
(Click ahead to episode 7)
While mortals in America celebrate Thanksgiving, the Church of Night celebrates the Feast of Feasts. At worst, it’s an archaic tradition. At best, it’s a demonstration of the coven’s devotion to the Dark Lord and a tribute to Sister Freya, a member of the original 14 witches who settled Greendale. During the time of Freya, the youngest and most powerful of her coven, she and her sisters were chased out of town in the dead of winter. With no food — the men hunted all the animals in the area — Freya made the ultimate sacrifice by taking her own life so the other witches could sustain themselves on her flesh until spring.
For the yearly tradition of Feast of Feasts, 14 families are selected to honor her sacrifice by submitting one female member as tribute. Each then draws a slip of paper and whoever’s burns black shall be crowned Queen of the Feast. She will then be pampered, doted upon for three days while the coven fasts, and then, on the night of the Feast of Feasts, she is killed and fed upon by her sister witches.
This year, Sabrina comes home to find a bloody lamb nailed to her front door, meaning the Spellmans have been chosen as one of the 14 families. Even through Zelda’s devout ramblings about time-honored religious traditions, she can’t shake the anxiety. Since Hilda has been excommunicated, either herself or Sabrina must submit themselves as tribute.
Seven episodes in and CAOS begins to fumble on the path of night. The true meat of the hour is the faith debate presented before Sabrina — faith versus blind faith, religion versus facts, and tradition versus evolution. The Feast was banned from the church when Edward served as High Priest, but Faustus reinstated the ritual after receiving a revelation from the Dark Lord about a return to the old ways. Sabrina finds the rite archaic and outdated. Equally alarming to her is the ferocity with which most members of the church seem to be clinging to the tradition, even the women praying that it will be their turn to be Queen. For them, it’s an honor. For Sabrina, it’s murder sanctioned by a religious institution.
Sabrina tests Zelda’s resolve to remain loyal to the practice by pulling a Katniss and volunteering as tribute in front of the coven at the choosing ceremony. To her surprise, Zelda acquiesces to Sabrina’s demand. The young witch isn’t chosen to be Queen, though her paper slip burns red, meaning she is to be the Handmaiden, the one charged with tending to the Queen’s every whim until the Feast. Prudence is the one picked to be Queen.
It’s here where the episode begins to break apart as it struggles to balance all the other narrative side bars, while also supporting the ongoing discussion between Sabrina and Prudence.
Ms. Wardwell tasks her class to write reports on their own family histories with the intent of getting dirt on Harvey. With his grandfather visiting for Thanksgiving, the boy learns the Kinkles are descendants of the Von Kunkles who chased a group of “hill people” out of Greendale and took their land. He doesn’t know it then, but it means he’s a descendant of the witch hunters who drove away the original coven. Susie goes through a trunk of Uncle Jesse’s family possessions and discoverers her ancestor, Dorothea Putnam. Susie notices immediately how Dorothea dressed in men’s clothes, but as we learn from Prudence later on, she was an ally to the witches of Greendale during the witch hunter purge. Roz, meanwhile, learns the women in her family are cursed with blindness, though she doesn’t really believe what her Nana Ruth claims just yet. As the story goes, her family once accused a woman of being a witch and the other witches hexed them. The result is that, while the women have all gone blind around Roz’s age, they all gain The Cunning, a psychic sixth sense that allows one to “see things that others cannot.”
Meanwhile, soaking in a buttermilk bath and snacking on macaroons, per her first decree as Queen, Prudence explains to Sabrina that after she is killed, she will be forever in the Dark Lord’s heart with the other Queens who came before until (remember the prophesy Wardwell mentioned) the trumpets of the apocalypse sound.
“What if that’s not what happens?” Sabrina asks. “What if you’re sacrificed and it’s just over? … I don’t know what happens when you die.”
“How sad for you, not to have faith in anything,” Prudence says.
What begins as a questioning of religious faith turns into a comparison between two kinds of faith. Prudence believes the events of the Feast will transpire the way her church tells her. Sabrina holds similar faith in Harvey.
After a trip to Baxter High turns heated when Prudence discovers Harvey’s witch hunter lineage, Ms. Wardwell intervenes and offers to take them both to see a witch named Dezmelda, who once fled her coven after being named Queen of the Feast. Prudence, with Agatha and Dorcas in tow, agrees to see this woman, who lives in the woods of Moon Valley. Dezmelda tells her tragic tale of being picked as Queen when she was just a child. Her High Priest claimed to have had a revelation from the Dark Lord that gave him credence to molest her before the sacrificial ceremony. Dezmelda fled before he got the chance and has been living in the woods ever since. Sabrina argues that, while Faustus is not like this other High Priest, his flesh is not divine and therefore still corruptible. He may have an agenda.
Then they hear a gunshot, forcing Dezmelda to panic and the other women to flee. Harvey was in the woods on a hunting trip with his family when they spotted a deer. His grandpa asked him to kill the animal and when Sabrina, Wardwell, and the Weird Sisters discover its body, they see it’s really a familiar. They cast a spell to remain unseen when they hear someone coming. Upon seeing Harvey, Prudence and her sisters demand blood atonement for the death of the familiar. Sabrina has faith that Harvey isn’t the witch hunter they all believe him to be, which prompts Prudence to ask what makes her faith more significant than her own faith in the Dark Lord.
The story isn’t trying to prove the value of different forms of faith. Instead, it argues against the idea of blind faith. Sabrina asks questions of Harvey in the face of questionable evidence and discovers he didn’t actually pull the trigger, it was his grandfather that shot the familiar when he couldn’t bring himself to do it. So, after casting a protection spell over her boyfriend, she asks Prudence to do the same, especially when there’s even more evidence to suggest the selection process was tampered with.
With Lady Blackwood in Zelda’s care, Sabrina came home to find her having a panic attack in their cellar. Zelda calms her down with some tea and asks if she cast any heavy spells recently as they might cause some discomfort. It all comes flooding out in the midst of her hysterics: Constance raves about the Weird Sisters trying to harm her family so she had to harm them before it was too late. She wanted to attack Prudence because, as they say, cut off the head and the snake isn’t a threat. Zelda told Sabrina that Constance must believe Faustus to have other children. In the witch world, even illegitimate heirs of a High Priest can vie for the throne.
So, with Prudence’s blessing, Sabrina hatches a plot. Under the guise of a last meal for the Queen of Feasts, she invites the Blackwoods to her home for dinner. Hilda, though banished to the kitchen because of her excommunication, still prepares dessert: one of her famous cakes laced with truth serum. The sweet treat not only confirms that Constance enchanted the selection box to favor Prudence, but it also pulls from Faustus’ tongue that Prudence is her daughter. (Not the other two Weird Sisters, though. “You’re just orphans,” he says. #Savage.) Prudence’s biological mother killed herself when Faustus wouldn’t marry her.
Sabrina suggests that Faustus makes up another “revelation” from the Dark Lord to put an end to the Feast in exchange for their silence on the matter. Later that night, he goes to make the announcement to the coven, but Mildred, a particularly eager witch, hears that Prudence can’t fulfill her obligations as Queen and kills herself in front of the entire coven. Faustus, seeing the response from his flock, proclaims Mildred the new Queen of the Feast and, in a particularly gruesome moment, the Spellmans watch their witchy neighbors devour the woman’s flesh.
If you can make it past the close-up shot of the bloody smile plastered on Mildred’s corpse, you’ll get to the heartfelt moment when Zelda admits she would never let that happen to Sabrina — Dark Lord or no Dark Lord.
Back at the Academy, the reveal of Prudence’s parentage seems to have caused a dynamic shift in the Weird Sisters. Agatha and Dorcas went behind her back to take action against Harvey and Tommy for the death of the familiar. On Agatha’s suggestion, they take voodoo dolls of each boy and bash them with giant rocks at the same time the Kinkle brothers walk in to work the mines. Praise Satan for Sabrina’s quick-thinking protection spell.
Arguably the biggest moment of the entire episode, however, was the crossover between Riverdale and CAOS that most of us missed on the first go — including myself! Upon a repeat investigation, Wardwell’s late-night Seamless order was delivered to her home by a familiar-looking pizza boy, Riverdale‘s Ben Button. (Spoiler warning for Riverdale season 3!), Ben was the one who woke from a coma in the second episode of season 3 and then jumping out a window in front of Betty and Jughead in order to “ascend.”
While that sits in, let’s go over some of the other plot points that seemed injected into the episode as afterthoughts:
- Susie falls asleep on her bed and is visited by the ghost of Dorothea in her dream.
- Mrs. Kemper came to pick up Conner’s ashes at the mortuary and divulged she found a box filled with occult objects in her son’s possession. The Kempers later commit suicide.
- Ambrose and Luke are now a thing again, thanks to Hilda’s intervention.
Also, what about that attic orgy?
(Click ahead to episode 8)
When it comes to Sabrina’s struggle between her light and dark natures, the young witch faces the ultimate temptation. Biblical imagery comes into play here: as the Satanic verse teaches us, the false God wanted Eve to remain in ignorance, but the serpent came to her and showed her to the apple. Witches, by biting into the metaphorical apple (the Malum Malice, perhaps), came out of ignorance with knowledge unknown to Adam. Sabrina, too, now has the knowledge that comes from witchcraft and the means to help her mortal friends. But, according to witch law, she can’t interfere with such things. This is her test. This will ultimately determine how far she’s willing to venture to the darker side of her nature.
Zelda takes a call at the mortuary and learns Harvey and Tommy were in the mines when the tunnels collapsed. Harvey’s okay, thanks to the protection spell Sabrina had the foresight to cast, but Tommy isn’t. He’s still trapped inside, along with multiple other miners. Volunteers have gathered, including Susie and Roz, alongside rescue workers when Sabrina arrives. When the mines started to collapse, Tommy told Harvey to run and Sabrina’s enchantments kept the tunnels in place long enough for him to get out. They’re having trouble getting back in to search, however, because the gap in the rubble is so small — small enough for Susie, though. Compelled by the ghost of Dorothea, she slips through and brings back the most definitive piece of evidence, Tommy’s crushed hard hat smeared with dirt and blood.
Sabrina comforts Harvey that night in the back of his truck after Mr. Kinkle calls off the volunteers for the day. (No! It’s not what you’re thinking. This isn’t 90210.) But the next morning, Sabrina comes home to learn from Zelda and Ambrose, who astral projected into the mines, that there were no survivors. Sabrina wants to tell the Kinkles, but Zelda reminds her that things must play out without supernatural interference or else “terrible things” will happen.
However, her niece’s only thought is of Harvey, who’s now infuriated when he learns his dad is calling off the search for Tommy — the same day a representative for the insurance company comes to give the family a payment. So she gets an idea and asks Hilda about life and death, specifically how Hilda is able to come back after Zelda kills her all those times. Hilda explains it’s because of a specific plot of soil in their graveyard that has been in the Spellman family for generations. The soil is said to have been harvested from Cain’s garden and soaked in Abel’s blood — “the most fertile soil on earth” that contains “all the mysteries of life.” Hilda warns that resurrection must never be tried on mortals, though.
Tommy’s funeral, meanwhile, is a s— show. Harvey becomes overwhelmed when he gets up to speak, so Sabrina casts a spell to boost his “might.” It works in the sense that he achieves the fortitude to deliver a beautiful eulogy. It fails in the sense that he lashes out publicly at the perceived lies in his father’s speech. The two physically brawl until Tommy’s empty casket crashes to the ground and the lone hard hat falls out. Sabrina tries to comfort Harvey, but he’s too overcome by self-guilt, claiming he’s the one that killed his brother. He reveals Tommy could’ve gone to Notre Dame on a full football scholarship but he chose to stay in Greendale to help Harvey. To make matters worse, Mr. Kinkle comes out ready for round two with his son until Zelda, in a rare display of sympathy for mortals, intervenes with magic.
Sabrina sits with Ms. Wardwell at Cerberus’ after Harvey goes to be by himself for a while. She openly wonders to her teacher what would happen if Tommy came back by magical means. Wardwell pretends to be disturbed by this act of resurrection, but then casually slips that she happens to have a Book of Dead filled with all sorts of necromantic rituals sitting on her office bookshelf. She further mentions that in order for the particular spell in her tome to work, Sabrina would have to take a life to compensate for the life she’s calling back. And Sabrina couldn’t do that, could she?
While this is going on, Father Blackwood arrives at the Spellman home to offer Ambrose a potential way out of his house arrest. Luke, a.k.a. Hottie McHotstuff, had an in with Faustus and used his influence to gain an audience. We also learn a little bit more about Ambrose. That remark about plotting to blow up the Vatican was totally accurate. After his father was killed by witch hunters at a young age, Ambrose migrated from university to university until he found a father figure he could follow. Ambrose referred to this man as “the young Crowley.” Blackwood informs Ambrose that the original deal of his confinement still stands: if Ambrose gives up his co-conspirators, he will be set free.
In the meantime, at least someone is having a good time with everything that’s going on. As Blackwood heads out, he encounters Zelda who is in need of — as the kids call it these days — “counsel.” She enters into unholy confession over fears of her family drifting too far from the path of night, but Blackwood is feeling…deprived. Since the reveal with Constance, she’s been denying her husband any sexual gratification. So he and Zelda take advantage of each other’s emotions and, shall we say, light each other’s fire before the fireplace.
On a more minor note (but one that seems to be setting up another plot point), Susie is visited again by Dorothea, only this time it’s not in a dream. It’s a wakeful apparition. Dorothea calls Susie a “very brave boy” for going into the mines earlier, which is wonderful that this level of non-binary visibility is happening in a series like CAOS. On the other hand, it’s the same with Kevin in Riverdale season 1 and 2: this representation is largely drowned out by everything else going on, despite its significance.
At school the next day, things get more complicated for Sabrina when Roz confesses to her about The Cunning. When she picked up Tommy’s hard hat, she had a vision of the mines. Inside, two girls — whom we have come to know as Agatha and Dorcas — were laughing and playing with dolls. Sabrina then summons Prudence to the woods to plot a new plan. The head Weird Sister already heard her minions alluding to Nick that they killed Tommy in passing at the Academy and she’s eager to teach them a lesson for going behind her back.
Dorcas is quick to rat out Agatha as the mastermind upon confrontation. Sabrina makes it clear that there is nothing she wouldn’t do for those she loves, which means Agatha must pay blood atonement for the life she took. Nick, being a necromancy ho, overhears and definitely wants to watch.
That night in the woods, Sabrina heads down a path from which she can never return. She gathers with Prudence, Nick, and Dorcas (who’s there under duress) to sacrifice Agatha for the resurrection spell. Ms. Wardwell watches as the young witch slits Agatha’s throat on the pentagram circle containing Tommy’s clothes. She claims they must wait 13 minutes for the remnants of Agatha’s soul to leave her body for the next step and 13 hours for Tommy to officially return. As we quickly find out, Sabrina performed this ritual impulsively.
Thinking she can cheat the sacrificial element of the spell, Sabrina buries Agatha in the Cain plot. The Weird Sister comes back fine, which Ambrose witnesses. He’s furious, warning Sabrina of all the dark forces she’s tampering with. Tommy, however, doesn’t resurrect immediately.
As Sabrina waits for the body to materialize, Blackwood visits again with Ambrose, who says he can’t give up his cohorts in the crime. Faustus, surprisingly, commends the man for his loyalty and offers to give his “community service” serving him at the Academy — perhaps too surprisingly. There’s still the suspicion that Luke was the one who killed Conner’s familiar and now with this “in” with Blackwood, they could very well be plotting something more nefarious.
Afterward, and after another tryst between Zelda and Blackwood with far more flagellation than last time, Sabrina comes home to see a happy Ambrose shining his shoes on the porch steps. He’s first relieved that Tommy hasn’t returned, but that’s replaced by terror when he hears Sabrina has been paying attention to the plot in the woods where she cast the spell. The spirit would return to the body, which means Tommy would’ve resurrected inside the mines. Sure enough, Sabrina finds the wooden barriers covering the entrance shattered.
That night, Harvey and his dad are enjoying a meal when a knock comes on the door. He sees the outline of a body pressing against the glass door, pounding, pounding, pounding again. He goes to turn the knob, and…
(Click ahead to episode 9)
Sabrina now must face the consequences of her actions when Tommy comes back from the dead, only he’s not acting like Tommy. He’s not speaking or eating, which Harvey believes is just his brother overcoming the trauma from the accident. Ambrose isn’t so convinced when Sabrina relays his condition.
Agatha is also vomiting up graveyard soil from the Cain pit. Nick astral projects to inform Sabrina, but she plays dumb about Tommy’s condition. She instructs Salem to keep an eye on the Kinkle house just to be safe, while she and Ambrose will work together to handle the bodies from the mining accident to keep the resurrection a secret for as long as possible. But with Ambrose now heading to the Academy to help Blackwood, things rapidly unravel.
On a side note, it would seem Blackwood has some sort of master plan that involves Ambrose. It appeared fishy that Faustus would enlist him to help at the school after refusing yet again to give up the names of his co-conspirators. Now the High Priest is wooing Ambrose with a rat familiar named Leviathan, noting how Luke is helping him reform the coven and its very foundations. As the boys are making out in the privacy of Blackwood’s office later, Luke mentions it was really Blackwood who saw something in Ambrose and not he who helped commute Ambrose’s confinement.
Back in Greendale, Roz informs Sabrina about another vision she had, this one involving dogs (perhaps the Hellhounds) ripping Tommy’s body apart. So they go off to see if there’s anything else Roz can see at Harvey’s house, while Prudence, Dorcas, and Nick confront Ambrose about Agatha. He’s forced to tell aunt Hilda, who was dealing with a situation at the bookshop when she received their phone call: Hilda used her supernatural skills to help Susie deal with bullies, until she found her trying to steal a book (which she only did at the behest of ghost Dorothea).
Hilda downplays the situation with Agatha when she visits the school — presumably unbeknownst to Blackwood since she’s been excommunicated and banned from school grounds? Regardless, the situation is bleak. The earth demands a soul in exchange for the one brought back. It’s either Agatha or Tommy, and Agatha will suffer until one is chosen. As Ambrose confesses the entire situation to his auntie, Sabrina and Roz arrive at the Kinkles. Harvey is fixing soup while Roz psychically investigates. She sees Tommy wandering through a forest shrouded in fog. A baby’s wails are heard in the distance and a rotting animated corpse speaks to Roz with the voice of Sabrina. That last part she leaves out of her recap, but Sabrina senses something is up.
Based on Roz’s description, Sabrina learns that Tommy suffers from soul separation. His body came back, but his soul is trapped in Limbo, reserved for those unbaptized or killed before their time. But then there’s Hilda to deal with. Hilda confronts Sabrina but the girl refuses to hear reason. Hilda says witches, who have their own version of Limbo, aren’t able to cross over into mortal Limbo, but Sabrina can because of her dual nature. Her window of opportunity is slowly closing. After examining the bodies of the miners, Ambrose learns Tommy fed off them, which is probably why he hasn’t been eating. Sabrina is able to slip Tommy a sleeping potion, just in time too as he nearly strangled a drunk Mr. Kinkle to death, but now Aunt Zelda knows what’s going on.
Because of her tryst with Blackwood, she’s been appointed unholy godmother to Blackwood’s children and has taken over Constance’s duties at the Academy while she prepares to deliver. It’s during one of those bleak cover songs (the ones we’ve come to know so well from Riverdale) at choir practice when Agatha stumbles in and collapses on the floor. The Weird Sisters and Nick confess everything to Faustus, who’s prepared to take care of the resurrected man. Zelda uses up one last favor with the High Priest in order to handle the matter herself.
Her blowout with Sabrina back at home puts the hour back into perspective. Sabrina is still a child. She may be dealing with matters far darker than any in her age group should have to deal with, but her tantrum is a reminder that, at 16, she’s drunk on that feeling of first love. Mortal high schoolers would metaphorically move Heaven and Hell for their teen dreams, but Sabrina actually has the means to do so. When Zelda gives her a reality check, she brings out the classic “you’re not my mom” line. Zelda now only has one option: she long tried to protect her niece from the evils of the world, now she must let her fail in order to grow.
In her vulnerable state, Sabrina goes to Ms. Wardwell for assistance and her teacher obliges. She takes Sabrina to a place in the woods where she will be able to cross over to mortal Limbo, but she warns of the Soul Eater that stalks the plane. Wardwell anchors Sabrina on earth by holding on to a ball of string and giving Sabrina the tip, putting Sabrina in the position of a Theseus wandering aimlessly through the mist of Limbo, hoping not to cross the Minotaur-like Soul Eater.
It seems like Prudence and Dorcas, with orders from Blackwood, are about to take care of the matter herself, but Nick intervenes by hammering spikes into their footsteps, which then mimics the same brutal effect planting the girls to the earth. Ouch!
Limbo is a disorienting realm, but one that holds answers to questions Sabrina seeks if she knows where to look. The first soul she encounters is that of her mother. Diana can’t believe she’s seeing her daughter because, as she says, “they” took away her daughter after the Christian baptism, which could point to a twist on a tragic plot point from the comics.
Potential spoiler alert… CAOS has already proven to be drastically different from the source material. On the page, Diana tried to run away with her infant, Sabrina, when Edward and his family set upon her in the woods. They took the child, cast a spell on her, and locked her up in an insane asylum. With Diana dead on the series, the witches could’ve taken even more drastic action. As Zelda mentions through tears to Hilda during her self-inflicted flagellation, they could’ve let Diana’s family have baby Sabrina, but she saw Edward in the child and she could never say no to Sabrina.
Diana now warns Sabrina that “the witches are coming,” but with the Soul Eater close by, Sabrina must run through the haze and find Tommy. They are about to jump back through the portal when it disappears and severs the string. Sabrina uses her own magic to open the portal again, but Tommy is devoured by the Soul Eater as they cross through.
With few options left, Sabrina makes the one move she’s been dreading. She goes to Harvey, tells him she’s a witch, that she resurrected Tommy, and now has to kill the entity that came back instead. Harvey doesn’t react as horribly as he did the first time Sabrina told him just before her birthday, but he doesn’t take it well either. Harvey, the gentle man who’s struggled all season long with attacks on his masculinity, his inability to “man up,” compels him to take care of the Tommy problem himself and then separate himself from Sabrina for the foreseeable future. Roz and Susie, meanwhile, are off at Cerberus’ sharing their own theories about the Spellmans being witches; Roz still can’t get over her vision and Dorothea got inside Susie’s head.
As Zelda takes Sabrina into her arms, it would seem Wardwell’s plan to sever Sabrina’s strongest tie to the mortal world succeeds.
(Click ahead to the season finale)
Pull up a chair and let Ms. Wardwell regale you with the tale of how she, the Mother of Demons, slowly led Sabrina by the hand down the path of night, severing her ties to the mortal realm, infecting her relationships, and letting the young girl’s own faults be her downfall — all while making a meal out of Principal Hawthorne. Yes, the misogynist finally faced a real man-eater and felt the sting of witch-ly justice.
It begins with Sabrina confronted by Susie and Roz in the girls bathroom at Baxter High. Mourning the loss of Harvey, she comes clean: she’s a witch, her whole family is, she was the one who brought Tommy back from the dead only he wasn’t Tommy and then Harvey had to shoot him. Instead of pulling apart, this revelation brings the friends closer together, much to Wardwell’s un-amusement. So she decides to introduce something to the equation that would force Sabrina’s hand: she summons the Greendale 13.
We know these witches as the ones famously hung from a tree in Greendale all those years ago, but Zelda notes they also hate the Church of Night. The rest of their coven couldn’t intervened and saved them, but they chose it was too risky to do so. So the 13 were sacrificed so the coven could live on. In bringing them back, Wardwell tells them to summon their Crimson Avenger. This is not the latest Marvel movie. It’s the Red Angel of Death, a horseman shrouded in red mist that comes to claim the lives of all firstborns, mortal and witch alike.
Ambrose and Luke were off in the woods looking to fondle each other beneath the moonlight when they came across the 13 summoning their deadly rider. The witches let them live so they could bring the message back to the coven. Blackwood calls an emergency meeting of the Church of Night and tells every witch to gather at the Academy where their collective energies will shield themselves from the angel.
The Spellmans, however, are determined to save the mortals by similarly gathering them in one spot. All they need is a tornado so that the citizens of Greendale take refuge in the bunker at Baxter High. For four witches in a show that loves Wizard of Oz references as much as replicating scenes from Rosemary’s Baby, some wicked weather from the west is no biggie. The only mortals who don’t gather are Harvey, who refuses to be a coward anymore and stays at home to protect his dad, and Roz, who’s protecting her nana. Sabrina can’t convince her ex to leave, so she calls on Nick to stay with him and enchant the house. Susie, meanwhile, goes to be with Roz.
The Spellmans have gathered to spell the school when the Greendale 13 start preparing for the angel’s arrival, but they all become separated. Blackwood teleports Zelda from Baxter High to the Academy where Constance is going into labor. Luke also binds Ambrose to the Academy, confessing his love for the warlock. Wardwell comes to find Sabrina, claiming she has a plan to stop it all if Hilda can hold the protection spell on her own.
Sabrina follows her mentor into the woods to the same spot of her “ill-fated baptism” took place. To her surprise, the Book of the Beast is splayed out on an altar before a fire. Wardwell says the only way for Sabrina to achieve the power she needs to save her friends is sign her name. Obviously, Sabrina has a problem with this, but Wardwell is convincing. “All women are taught to fear power,” she says. “Own your power. Don’t accept the Dark Lord. Take it, wield it.” Is her “pissing contest” with Satan more important than the lives of those she loves? Sabrina succumbs, and the Devil appears behind her in true Black Phillip fashion to make it official.
With her new power boost, Sabrina goes to the hanging tree, where the Greendale 13 were killed. That was the vision she had from the Malum Malice in the premiere. She must set the tree on fire to banish their spirits. With Wardwell telling the girl to use the anger within her to power her spells, Sabrina calls the 13 before the tree and summons blue flames from the bowels of Hell — the only fire capable of affecting spirits — to burn them all with the tree. As one of the ghosts mentions before she too is burned, only three witches in the history of the coven have ever been able to summon hellfire. When Sabrina evokes Edward Spellman’s name, the spirit’s shocked reaction suggests he was one of them. Now Sabrina makes four. In the presence of the flames, her already blonde hair goes white, giving the witch her comic book look.
In the aftermath of the event, the angel vanishes along with the 13. Constance doesn’t survive the labor, but she ends up birthing not two male twins, but one boy and one girl. Fearing for the female child’s safety, she informs Blackwood that one twin ate the other in utero and she keeps the girl, born before the male, for her and Hilda to raise in secret. This will seemingly throw a chink in Blackwood’s plans. He gathered all warlocks close to him — including Luke and Ambrose — to hail his sole air (completely disregarding Prudence) and taking it as a blessing from the Dark Lord to move ahead with their plans. It appears they don’t have American Horror Story in this universe, otherwise, they would know a coup of male warlocks is no match against a coven of women.
Hilda, meanwhile, is smitten with Dr. Cerberus and wants to move into a different room in the house to be more separate from her sister, unaware that something supernatural is going on with her love interest. As Dr. Cerberus turns to leave the Spellman house, his eyes glow a demonic shade.
Then there’s the matter of Sabrina. She goes to visit Harvey, who’s ready to forgive and forget, but she fears being around him, Roz, and Susie. Though she claims to be fearful of the darkness she tapped into, she’s seen in the final moments walking pinky to pinky with the Weird Sisters. As she winks to the incredulous Nick, all shreds of her mortal side — and her season-long battle against Satan — are gone.
Looking back, it’s a little unclear as to why Sabrina felt such a desire to remain “good.” This is a witch who revels in the craft. Charmed always taught us to not use magic for revenge or to pass down judgements. Sabrina bathed in that space. The world was hers to shape for those she loved, consequences be damned. Is that technically a goodness? Will she go full time at the Academy now? With no mortals by her side, what will anchor her humanity?
Wardwell, revealed to be Lilith before eating Hawthorne alive, also has plans. She’s grooming Sabrina to take over as Satan’s new “foot soldier” so she can then ascend to a throne beside the Dark Lord. Stolis wonders whether the Dark Lord is actually grooming Sabrina to reign by his side — which, by the way, if familiars can actually talk, why couldn’t the producers have allowed Salem to do the same?! Wardwell, channeling my own frustration at this revelation, kills Stolis and warns she has her own ways of taking care of Sabrina if need be.
Despite a fair bit of chop, forgettable story arcs (what was the purpose of Susie seeing Dorothea?), and minor plot holes (why was Hilda able to enter the Academy to help Agatha if she was excommunicated?), CAOS delivered a strong first season and an addictive alternative to the Stranger Things craze. MVP goes to Michelle Gomez. If any other actor on a Netflix series is having more fun than her in such an outlandish role, I’ll hear your opening arguments.
Mildly confused by what this hellfire hath wrought? For what it’s worth, season 2 has already begun filming. Long live the Riverdale cinematic universe.
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