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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina returns, and proves why teenagers can make iffy monarchs

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Image: Diyah Perah, Netflix

Just in case you weren’t sure which show you were watching, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina brings you back in with a voice whispering “welcome to hell.” And while that scene quickly becomes a dream sequence about rescuing Nick from Lucifer, the show wastes no time getting Sabrina and her pals straight there. If you thought this season would be all about trying to figure out how to get in, your bets were off.


Instead, the show pivots hard, yanking Nick out of hell by the end of the premiere and setting up some new villains. The journey itself isn’t even that complicated—despite such menacing neighborhoods as the Shores of Sorrow, the Field of Witness, and the Forest of Torment, the whole thing is over quickly, and Sabrina and the team escape relatively unscathed. Except for that part where Sabrina shot Harvey’s brother. That was some rough going.

The absence of Lucifer as a primary villain also won’t change one of the show’s central conflicts: Does Sabrina want a mortal life, or a Hellish one? In this episode, she seems to want it all, but impulsively taking the throne doesn’t seem likely to end the debate. Sure, she thought it was the way to rescue Nick in the moment, but she didn’t actually have that much reason not to believe Lilith about being able to get him out of there, plus Lucifer has never done anything to earn her trust. And it doesn’t seem like her new royalty has much to do with the spell she eventually uses to get out of Hell—she’s just doing the spell Dorian gave her. She has to make the decision quickly, but it will be interesting to see if that choice gets interrogated a little bit more as the season goes on. Was it really just because she thought it would get Nick out of there, or on some level does she actually feel drawn to power?

She’s consistently impulsive in this episode, dashing out of a conversation with the revived Ms. Wardwell midway through expressing sympathy, and busting up her friends’ band rehearsal while they’re mid-song. It’s a little insensitive, though perhaps on-brand for someone who is pretty set on getting her way. But it also adds to the overall sense that Sabrina is focused on the small potatoes in a much bigger fight. When she tells Lucifer “All I want right now is my boyfriend back,” it’s easy to understand his enraged response. She may be young, but she seems to think she’ll be able to stay above the fray indefinitely, which is unlikely, given the amount of attention Greendale attracts.

Meanwhile, this show is firming up its commitment to the matriarchy. Sure, she’s an ancient evil demon who tormented Sabrina all last season, but who didn’t feel a warm little tingle in their heart when Lilith heard the witches praying to her? It was, dare I say, rather touching. And given how much time she spent wasting time with goofy teens last season, she really earned that one. It’s also gratifying to see Zelda experiencing ambition for herself, and not just as it’s connected to Blackwood, who deserved neither her affection nor her esteem. If the show wants to only have him appearing as an impression of Lucy Davis pretending to be him, that would be a welcome if confusing dramatic choice.

Of course, he’s bound to reappear soon enough, given that Prudence and Ambrose are hot on the trail. Ambrose has come so far from not being able to leave the house! Now he’s having sexy vengeance vacations in New Orleans. If Netflix is considering this concept as a spinoff series, consider this an endorsement. Can they find more helpful forms of magic abroad? We’ll find out soon enough, but it’s a sign of the show doubling down on new forms of power that Prudence goes to a woman in order to break away from the magic her father taught her. CAOS has had a lot of very traditional gendered behavior from its power players in the past, and if this first episode is any indication, the various women of this universe are quite done putting up with that.


Stray observations

  • OK, I have multiple notes about the ghastly water. Firstly, why is Roz grossed out or confused about what it is?? They’re literally standing in a circle around a corpse. She must have been there when Sabrina gathered it. Secondly, why in the world did they not fill a bottle with ghastly water? That seems highly transportable, and also useful for not dying in Hell.
  • Speaking of the squad’s journey through Hell, I enjoyed Harvey’s keen detective work of pointing out that they might be in the Forest of Torment after he spotted a sign with that written on it. As a New England resident, I am here to confirm that Hell’s signage is a lot clearer.
  • This show had some uhhh weird sex stuff? Why are Sabrina’s father and boyfriend engaged in very homoerotic wrestling? Also, it is a little odd that Zelda’s sister is in drag as her former lover.
  • I spend a lot of time watching this show with subtitles on because people are always dropping references to “Stymphalian birds” and I want to make sure I get the names right, but also it means I get a lot of text that reads “[People moaning]”.
  • It is technically illegal to stop a performance of “My Sharona” before the guitar solo. Sorry, them’s the rules.
  • Frankly, just rude of Sabrina to say no to seeing Lilith’s real face. It’s probably cool and gross!
  • My final stance on the merits of being in charge of Hell is that it is not worth it if you have to spend your time answering prayers for old dude boners.