It may have taken four episodes to get there, but this may be the first episode where this show about witches and Satan really seems like it’s having fun.

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This may have something to do with the fact that Zelda gets some necessary nuance. Instead of just being the mean true believer aunt, she shows an unexpected willingness to push back against Faustus’ education tactics for her niece. And she actually apologizes to Hilda for her treatment of her. It never made total sense for Zelda to be quite as evil as she appeared in the first three episodes—Sabrina is obviously close with her aunts, and there must have been something more to Zelda for her niece to have grown up the way she did.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not still entertaining to watch Ambrose and Hilda gossip about her. It doesn’t seem coincidental that the strongest episode of the season yet involves a plotline pairing up the show’s two most appealing characters. Both of them have been trapped with Zelda for decades—it would make sense for them to form some kind of alliance. It might have been more entertaining to see the two of them work on something besides setting up a date for Ambrose, but it’s a start.

Sabrina, meanwhile, is trapped in high school bullying hell at Not-Hogwarts, where her new classmates are trying to harass her into dying. As it turns out, Prudence and her crew are torturing her at the express instructions of Father Blackwood, which works to make both Prudence and Father Blackwood more interesting as characters. Prudence isn’t quite as sinister as she’s been made out to be—though of course, she’s not exactly kind. But her actions make a lot more sense when we know she’s been told to do them by her headmaster. And Father Blackwood is supposed to be Satan’s instrument on earth, but he’s clearly unhappy with the instructions he’s been given. We’re finally getting some hints of what type of person Sabrina’s father was, and it’s clear that there are still going to be some lingering effects of his time at the academy. Starting with, for instance, the puzzle Sabrina solves instantly.

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You know, the one her new friend Nick helps her solve. Scratch is another name for the devil; this show is not subtle about names. Hawthorne, the name of the principal, is also close to John Hathorne, the historical figure who oversaw the Salem witch trials. Is Nick Scratch some kind of human representative of the devil? His appearance and noticeable effort to befriend Sabrina is immediately suspicious. It remains confusing that Sabrina is not more cynical about every interaction she has.

She could use a little more of Zelda’s influence, since Zelda is the only person on this show to instinctively look askance at Miss Wardwell, who wanders around the show giving off some very bizarre vibes. None of the teen characters have commented on the fact that Miss Wardwell now has a completely different personality, wardrobe, and degree of nearsightedness. But Zelda gives her the stink eye. Though, to be fair, Zelda gives everyone the stink eye except for Father Blackwood, who she has some kind of history with, though apparently not enough to stop him from asking her to help his wife.

It can’t be overstated how much more free this show is now that it’s gotten past the whole discussion of Sabrina’s big choice. Everyone can settle in to making mischief, plotting demises, and sneering at their nemeses now. Really, the biggest issue in this episode is Sabrina, who continues to struggle to solve her problems without assistance from others. If everyone is going to fight over her loyalties so much, it would be nice to see some sign that she’s, well, a little more extraordinary.

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Stray observations

  • Ms. Wardwell, speaking for the audience, immediately stops spying on Sabrina when she starts gushing to Harvey. We wish we could have gone with you, Ms. Wardwell.
  • Look, you can’t just name a character Uncle Jesse anymore. That name is done.
  • “They are, in fact, vicious, spiteful, hateful creatures, much like sisters.”
  • Public service in case you don’t have closed captioning on: Uncle Jesse said “He’s going to eat your souls” during his possessed moment. I listened to it twice then turned on the captions. It’s hard to get your dialogue across when you’re possessed!

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