It’s probably not a coincidence that the strongest episodes of Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina so far have been the ones that don’t focus on Sabrina’s battle against Satan. Destiny is a weighty struggle, and the show has found humor and grounded emotions in the episodes that work better as standalone outings. The Batibat shenanigans had a campy Buffy villain vibe, and now we’ve finally gotten to know Prudence a little better.

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Any teen show worth watching will spend some time humanizing its villainous popular girls, from Cordelia on Buffy to Summer on The O.C. For one thing, mean people are often, well, funny people, so it provides a nice respite from the earnest leads. But also there’s always something fascinating to mine about what makes mean people act that way.

In Prudence’s case, it’s that she’s a true believer who’s trying to do what the only adult who’s cared for her wants. Father Blackwood may be some degree of villain to Sabrina, but he’s clearly the only person who’s ever looked out for Prudence, even if he was willing to let her be sacrificed. He’s ultimately not much of a father figure, and the question of what the secrets he kept from Prudence will mean for the devout world of the witches is the best twist the show has had so far. It’s not clear exactly how much power she holds within her world, but she’s always seemed like the wrong person to cross, and now she’s got an awful lot of ammo stored up against two very powerful people.

It’s also nice to see the show using magic in ways that aren’t all-powerful. Hilda’s truth cake accomplishes more in ten minutes than Prudence has ever been able to figure out in her whole life about her parents. None of which is very flattering for Father Blackwood, who apparently was completely unwilling to adopt her as a baby after her mother’s death. It more or less continues the show’s stance on organized religion, though, with Sabrina even putting into words the problem with human religious authorities. Sure, Satan may be all-knowing, but Father Blackwood is human, and humans are fallible. As he immediately proves himself to be.

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The sexual politics of the show remain all over the map, though. In one episode, there’s simultaneously an orgy and a woman calling people sluts. Either these people embrace their libertine sides, or they don’t. Hilda is a virgin, Ambrose is pansexual, and Sabrina is clearly aghast at the orgy going on in her house. Somehow sex ed wasn’t included in her apparently quite limited knowledge of her own family’s religion. It would be helpful if we had some sense of how much she knew about the religion. It’s confusing that she knows some things about being a witch, including some basic spell work, but then needs an annual religious rite explained to her. Part of the benefit of introducing someone as a total newcomer to some magical world is that the other characters can explain things to them (and us). But she grew up in this world.

The other up-side to focusing on Prudence is watching her interact with Sabrina’s mortal friends. She’s enjoyably indifferent to them, minus the ones she likes or hates depending on who their ancestors were, and she thinks Wardwell is unimpressive.

But however far Prudence has come, it doesn’t stop her from taking part in the cannibalism ritual at the end of the episode. She may be reconsidering some facets of her religion, but she’s still fully on board with some of its darker rituals.

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Stray observations

  • Both Susie and Roz are magic now? OK then.
  • It’s possible I missed some character clearly saying things like, “Harvey got over his fears and works in the mines now” and “Prudence and her friends are orphans raised by the church,” but those being established plot points were a bit of a surprise.
  • Sample notes I took during this episode: What is Sabrina bathing her with? A dry loofah?
  • Sabrina tells Prudence not to be a snob, but that’s kind of her whole deal, isn’t it?
  • “Are we your daughters, too?” “No, you’re just orphans.”
  • In more confusing character motivations, why in the world would the Kempers be OK with randomly giving their son’s trunk of occult materials to a worker at the funeral home? Why would Mrs. Kemper not think that was a truly bizarre question to ask?
  • The Battlestar crossover continues! Now, we just need to get Michael Hogan and Alessandro Juliani in a scene together.

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