Sabrina goes to a very dark place to help a friend

If you were wondering how hard this show would go on the horror tropes, you have the answer. In the second episode, Sabrina, perhaps unsurprisingly, declines to sign away her rights to Satan, and then has to make a run for it in a bloody white slip. Which she is wearing after stripping out of a wedding dress in the woods. It’s so on the nose it’s like a double nose.

But first, a great deal of exposition from Father Blackwood, who explains a bunch of things to Sabrina that she would have already known. If this is the family religion, wouldn’t Hilda and Zelda have walked her through some of those talking points about Satan before? Would it not have made more sense to have Sabrina explain this to a mortal character?

The decision making from Father Blackwood is also a little suspect. He knows he’s dealing with a teenager who feels too attached to the mortal world, and his method of convincing her to sign up with Satan is to lie repeatedly about things that will shortly become very clear to her?

By the time she gets to the ceremony, Sabrina has also had abundant opportunities to experience the benefits of the mortal world. She sees concrete results in her plans to help Susie, who’s being tormented by classmates. And she gets an affirmation from Harvey that he wouldn’t leave her behind for magic, although once she makes clear that she’s literally asking him if he would ditch her for something better, it’s not exactly a fair way to frame the question.

But it’s possible that the most intriguing part of staying in the mortal world is when she uses magic to punish the football players. Why wouldn’t she want to stay there, and keep her powers, and use them like this?

At least initially, the life Sabrina was signing up for was dark but not evil, but two episodes in, it seems…pretty evil? The Hilda/Zelda conflict becomes much more explicit this week, but it’s difficult to discern what Hilda thinks of the whole thing. She’s clearly afraid of her sister after the killing + death threat situation, but then in the dark baptism scene, she seems right back on board with the whole religion. Hilda! You can do better. Burn it all down, per your own suggestion.

And the revenge the other girls help Sabrina commit is squeamishly on the wrong side of the border regarding consent. At least in this episode, it’s hard to tell what the show wants us to think of Sabrina’s enthusiastic participation in the revenge plot. It’s also a jarring transition from her chaste, ’50s-esque relationship with Harvey. Which is probably the point? But the show’s sexual politics are all over the place right now. The girls owe Satan their virginity, but also they can take this sexual revenge on the boys. And Sabrina is defending her friend, but also her own stated politics seem pretty opposed to forcing people, even bad ones, into sexual behavior without their explicit consent. Why go with the concept that gay behavior is the worst thing that could happen to these guys, or that it’s OK to force them into it in the name of revenge?

Given that Ms. Wardwell encouraged that particular tactic, it seems like it was all done with the approval of Satan, so therefore evil. But Sabrina, who we generally see to be a moral person, doesn’t seem conflicted at all about that part. She’s conflicted about scaring them, but frankly some haunted house antics seem far more in the realm of normal teenage revenge.

So far, the show has tried to have it both ways: The witch world is sinister but freeing, and the witch world is sinister and evil. Is Ms. Wardwell (with the assistance of actual Satan) trying to show Sabrina the benefits of doing magic, or is she encouraging her into behaviors that will tarnish her immortal soul, and bring her to Satan’s side?

This is a major missing piece so far, which makes it hard to gauge how we’re supposed to feel about Sabrina’s actions. The moral universe of the show is in an explicitly Judeo-Christian worldview, to a surprising extent. But the actual morals exhibited on the show seem to be divided into Sabrina vs. Satan, without much reflection on how far Sabrina is allowed to go in pursuit of her goals.

This is all fairly serious stuff to be considering on episode 2 of a show! This is not the Good Place, where the question of morality is the point of the show. But a deeper understanding of how serious Sabrina’s actions are would be helpful in terms of gauging her journey towards the dark side.

Stray observations

  • Yes, this does seem to take place in the same universe as Riverdale.
  • Aunt Zelda was for sure doing some type of Get Out hypnotism with her tea cup earlier, right?
  • Was a white girl dressed up as a Native American at that Halloween party? I thought we had all agreed that white people weren’t doing that anymore.

Join the discussion...