Hail... Satan? Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has returned with its second season. How does it hold up against its much-hyped debut? Hop on your broomstick, because we’re about to take a bumpy ride.
The sophomore season focused on Sabrina’s journey after signing the Book of the Beast, showing her growing into her powers while growing more isolated from her mortal friends. Kiernan Shipka has likewise been growing into the role, though still underperforming in comparison to the rest of the cast. At the same time, Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) is asserting more control over the Church of Night, hoping to keep its patriarchal structure intact. This goes against Sabrina’s wishes...as well as those of her father.
The Aunts (Again)
Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis continue to slay (literally and figuratively) as Sabrina Spellman’s aunts, Zelda and Hilda. The actresses are strong, engaging, and committed, and they continue to grow into their characters. I could seriously watch them all day. The greatest part about them this season was that they weren’t stuck on their same shit. Hilda and Zelda, as a pair, started out pretty toxic, unable or unwilling to grow or change, and the first season focused on them learning to live apart from each other. But they’ve since developed a support system, helping each other through their individual journeys as only witches can...by coaching each other in the art of seduction and poisoning rivals!
I did take issue with Zelda’s storyline, with her getting married to Father Blackwood. It required her to ignore a lot of warning signs that a woman with her strength and intelligence would have been well aware of. But goddamn if I don’t love Miranda Otto every step of the way...and she looked amazing in that floral dress. Lucy Davis’ Hilda didn’t get a lot to do this season, but she was a treasure to watch. Her main storyline was about her growing relationship with Dr. Cerberus, who happens to be a host for a sex-crazed incubus. It’s great because not only does Hilda now have someone who knows and loves her for who she really is, but she’s also found herself a literal demon in the sack. Not bad, Hildy.
Chance Perdomo did impress me in the first season as Ambrose Spellman – but it was a limited experience, as the character wasn’t given a lot to do. Now that Ambrose has been freed of his home prison, the character and actor have soared. His was the most impressive storyline of the season, as he struggled to figure out his allegiances during Father Blackwood’s rise to power. He knew Father Blackwood was bad news, but without him, Ambrose would still be trapped at home, unable to do, well, anything. It was an interesting juxtaposition, and Perdomo delivered it beautifully. I’d love to see him in more projects.
That said, I’m disappointed at what happened to Ambrose’s boyfriend Luke, being tortured and killed off without anyone discovering how Hilda had magically drugged him into the relationship to begin with. Luke may have been a misogynist and a total dick, but no one deserves that.
When Lilith Watched the Play
There’s a scene early on in the season (or, “Part 2,” as Netflix calls it) when Sabrina and Nick are performing a Satanic morality play, showing Lucifer’s fall from heaven and how Lilith came to be a part of his eternal life. Madam Satan (Michelle Gomez) watched silently from the back of the church, as a propagandised and manipulated version of her life story played out in front of her.
You could see every twist and turn play out on her face – her love and hope as she watched Lilith expressing her undying love for Lucifer, as well as the pain she’s suffered as a result of agreeing to be his servant and concubine. Lilith was generally inconsistent this season, as for the most part it was never clear what the heaven she was up to. But in this moment, she carried all of our shrivelled black hearts.
Early on in the season, Lachlan Watson’s character comes out as a trans man. I felt Theo had one of the stronger subplots of the season, especially for the non-witch characters, because of how thoughtfully it was handled. Theo came out to his friends at a time and place that worked for him: In a moment of joy, right after securing a place on the boy’s basketball team. It was a celebration, one that we all felt a part of.
And then, there was the scene where he came out to his father, before the school dance. It was a little awkward, sure, but you could see the love between them. And I adored the way it ended, with Theo asking his father to take him out for a haircut. It felt powerful in its simplicity. (This is coming from the perspective of a cisgender person, folks in the trans community may have different thoughts or concerns.)
Harvey’s Tarot Reading
Much in the vein of the first season’s Battybat escapade, Part 2's fourth episode was mostly standalone. It altered reality and messed with our heads. The story centred around a mysterious fortune teller (Lilith in disguise), who gave tarot readings to several of our heroes – presenting them with dire fortunes if they pursued a path that veered from Satan’s Master Plan. Most of them were various levels of fine, but my favourite was Harvey’s. Not because it gave us any particular insight – in fact, I’d say it was the one that made the least sense – but because of what happened during it.
Harvey was looking into whether he should go to a summer art colony instead of staying in Greendale with his friends, so his tarot reading was a full-on tribute to Lovecraftian horror. It centred around Harvey bunking with an art student named Howard (named after H.P. Lovecraft) who spent his time drawing horrific creatures from alternate realities, which only appear at night through a portal in the bedroom closet. He had to, he claimed, because it was the only way to keep the monsters at bay.
The art was gorgeous, with plenty of nods to Lovecraft’s creations, and the episode ended on the promise of Harvey having to take up Howard’s mantle...after glimpsing into the horrific void himself. It may not have been a vital sequence, although it did provide clues about Harvey’s art-based destiny, but it was just cool to watch.
One of the weirdest but neatest things Sabrina did this season was bringing in the missionaries in episode six. It was presented as a standalone idea, with these Mormon-type missionaries coming to “purify” the town, because they were actually angelic witch hunters. And it seemed like a neat idea for a one-off episode. The main guy was sufficiently creepy, with the strangest-looking eyes I’ve perhaps ever seen in my entire life, and I just liked the imagery the show utilised, giving these old-school angels a modern edge. Plus, it gave us possibly the greatest line in the series so far, when Dorian Gray confronted an angel who’d tried to kill him with a crossbow: “You shot me. You bitch.”
Then, this happened...
Dear God, Where Do I Begin
The end of episode six was where everything fell apart. The season went from an interesting follow-up to a junkyard heap, taking three seasons of storylines and crunching them into a mushy, ridiculous mess. I can’t divide these problems into sections, nor would I really want to (because it’s all bad), so I’m just going to take you through a journey of “what the fuckery.”
Sabrina heads into the re-consecrated Church of Night to stop the angels from sacrificing the Weird Sisters – since she was baptised as a baby, she’s the only one who can. She proceeds to get a crown of thorns put on her head as a way to bind her powers, then is shot with a crossbow three times, falling to the floor in a way that looks like Christ on the cross. She’s dead. But not for long!
Sabrina rises up, floating in the air with white eyes and a slightly pitched voice that sounds like someone slowed down a Chipmunks recording a little too much. Now she really looks like she’s on the cross, ordering these angels to pledge their souls to the Dark Lord as fire shoots out from her hands like the stigmata.
How do I put this? Sabina has become Demon Jesus.
After rising from the dead, Sabrina spends her time performing literal miracles – including taking away Roz’s blindness so she can see again (oh yeah, she was blind for like three and a half episodes) – and preaching her father’s teachings of compassion between witches and mortals. She surrounds herself with young witches and warlocks, who look up at her in awe and amazement, much to the chagrin of all the old-schoolers. Everyone is shocked at both how powerful and revolutionary Sabrina Spellman is, as she inspires the masses with her shocking truths. She even gets through to Prudence Blackwood, who’s spent most of the season obeying her father’s commands so she can stay in his good graces. That is, until Sabrina’s noble teachings inspire her to change her ways. I’m not kidding when I say this amps up the show’s racial problems to literal “white savior” levels.
Wait, it gets worse.
Sabrina and her friends realise that her newfound status as the Chosen One is only happening because she’s an idiot unknowingly bringing about the apocalypse. Her blind trust in Mary Wardwell, who we know as Lilith, has led her every step of the way to fulfilling a prophecy that will give Lucifer back his angelic form so he can bring Hell on Earth, with Sabrina by his side as his queen. Sabrina, being the ever-lasting dumbass, decides without consulting anybody that the only solution to this is for her to remove her powers forever – putting them into a plant version of herself that turned out to be fucking transphobe (in the worst scene of the series so far). Guess what: That was the final step in the prophecy, you wingnut.
Then, there was the season finale, which was so overstuffed I can’t even remember everything that happened. Over the course of one 60-minute episode, Lucifer comes back, reveals he’s Sabrina’s biological father (eww), and also shares that Nick was working for him the entire time (but not willingly, because we still need Nick to be a “nice guy”). Sabrina and her family try and fail to defeat Satan, twice – as Roz, Harvey, and Theo stop the gates of Hell from opening – and finally succeed the third time with Nick sacrificing himself as a human host for Satan’s soul. They also perform “Masquerade” from Phantom of the Opera, because why not we’re all in hell now.
It all ends with Lilith rising as the Queen of Hell, with a crown of golden finger bones. She gives Sabrina her witch powers back and takes Nick with her to the underworld, where she’ll replace Lucifer as the leader of their church and source of all that is evil. This whole thing happened so fast that Father Blackwood’s sexist takeover of the Church of Night, which was presented as the central conflict of the series, was pretty much an afterthought. Zelda now runs their church, and Blackwood’s on the run, I guess.
I’m not sure if you’re following all this, but here are the CliffsNotes: It only took 19 episodes (and a holiday special) of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a show about witches who worship Satan, to basically murder Satan. I can’t say what prompted this decision. Maybe someone worried the original conflict was subpar, or that the shorter season needs to “cut to the chase” a lot faster than traditional television. Maybe the producers were under pressure to take the whole Satan component out of the show. But in short: It’s a disaster.
Three episodes is not nearly enough time for Sabrina to become Jesus, lose her powers, start the apocalypse, and then come face-to-face and defeat Lucifer Morningstar...the eternal ruler of hell who’s also her personal Darth Vader. What the heaven is Chilling Adventures of Sabrina without the Dark Lord? It’s an interesting question, but it shouldn’t have been asked so damn quickly. And it’s changed the series forever...in a way I don’t think it’s ready for.