Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A visit from the beyond brings encounters both tragic and campy for Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina

Illustration for article titled A visit from the beyond brings encounters both tragic and campy for Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina
Image: Diyah Pera/Netflix

Sure, some of the eldritch terrors have taken on the shape of things that go bump in the night, but the Returned knows what’s even more unnerving than that: psychological warfare. The latest terror comes at the gang in a way bound to make them hurt—by appearing as their departed loved ones, proving that almost no one has the ability to resist trying to have one more meaningful interaction with the people they miss.

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It also gives the show the chance to bring back a beloved character or two, most notably in the form of Dorcas, who goes straight to Agatha, who still doesn’t understand anything that’s going on around her. If at first the reunion seems sweet, the interactions all the other characters have with dead loved ones get violent in a hurry, so it’s only a matter of time before Dorcas remembers that Agatha killed her. Thankfully, Prudence has been keeping an eye on Agatha ever since she came back into the fold, and she appears just in time to stop Dorcas from killing her. By the time Marie starts leading the dead back home, Dorcas has reconciled with Agatha, an action that brings Agatha back to reality for the first time since she went mad after her interaction with Pan. It also means that even though Prudence has to lose a sister again, she finally regains Agatha, who doesn’t quite remember what happened, but knows it’s bad. Given how much Prudence has lost over the seasons, it’s one of the more emotionally affecting scenes the show has ever done.

The other scenes with dead people are perhaps necessarily less affecting—Harvey’s dead brother doesn’t come back, for instance, and Sabrina’s efforts to bond with her human father go about as well as you might expect, considering she immediately breaks the rule not to tell the dead people that they’re dead. Father Spellman panics when Sabrina explains who she is, and says a series of nasty things about how he’s not really her dad, a message that is only compounded when she tries to appeal to Lucifer as her father later in the episode. He’s still upset that Sabrina Morningstar got sent away, and refuses to acknowledge Sabrina Spellman as his daughter.

Illustration for article titled A visit from the beyond brings encounters both tragic and campy for Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina
Image: Liane Hentscher/Netflix

And beyond him, the returned dead people are played for laughs. A comically over the top metal band returns to randomly murder a rival band and challenge the Fright Club to a battle of the bands for Harvey’s dad, who turns out to have betrayed them years earlier. The whole thing feels a bit random? After Marie more or less tells everyone she’ll take care of the situation, everyone just hangs out for a bit until the dead go away, including Hilda and Dr. Cee, who have to contend with his murderous mother. Given that the episode cuts away from them sitting in front of a closet they’ve locked her into, it’s more or less implied that they then stayed there on the floor until it all got taken care of.

The battle of the bands ends with a bit of a letdown, as well. Robin returns immediately after departing in the prior episode, and the Fright Club plays a cover of “Time Warp,” which Lucifer says isn’t as good as Satanic Panic, and then Sabrina and some of the witches play a cover of “Sweet Child of Mine,” during which the girl Satanic Panic murdered comes in and zaps them with fire…from which they recover. What was the point of resurrecting her? Was anyone in Fright Club annoyed that Sabrina’s big solution involved forming a new band to show up her friends in the contest? Why was it so easy to call Robin back?

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It all ends up muddling an episode that otherwise has a strong handle on how this particular evil is affecting all of its characters. Why bring back the band at all if all the other resurrected people have more of an emotional connection to the living characters? This show often has to navigate some dramatic tonal shifts between scenes, but the campiness of the band conflict in contrast to the emotional devastation Sabrina experiences in what is likely to be her only real interaction with her dad is especially jarring. The result may be that Harvey has reconnected with his father, but the route to that point was probably a little too convoluted.


Stray observations

  • I do not understand what the show is doing with Lilith at this point but for now I’m holding off judgment until it becomes clearer what the payoff is.
  • Between Marie talking about les Revenants and the general concept here, did this make anyone else think of the great French show The Returned? It was very good and very unnerving and I got too spooked to keep watching it after the friend I watched with moved away.
  • It was nice to see Sabrina is still mourning the loss of Sabrina Morningstar, and so is Lucifer. Possibly this is something they could bond over!
  • There’s nothing more rock and roll than reserving the practice room, I think we can all agree. Also, it’s abundantly clear Satanic Panic is going to suck because they’re all wearing their own matching merchandise.
  • Never have I move identified with Hilda than in her confusion about who exactly is in Fright Club. Relatable aunt content.
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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Lisa is a writer and editor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.