'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' Episode 6 Pays Tribute to 'The Exorcist' (RECAP)
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a lot of things: a supernatural fiction, a teen-drama, a dark comedy, a story of female empowerment. But it's also a homage to horror. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and his team of writers clearly have a deep affection for the genre and the episodes so far have been littered with references and odes to many horror classics.
Some of those tributes have been direct references, like the gang attending a screening of Night of the Living Dead or watching a late-night airing of Carnival of Souls, while others have been more tonally inspired — elements of Carrie, Rosemary's Baby, and even Italian supernatural masterpiece Suspiria, bubble beneath the surface of this series.
"An Exorcism in Greendale," written by playwrights MJ Kaufman and Joshua Conkel, leans into the horror pastiche more than any other episode up until this point. There is no award for guessing which movie the episode takes inspiration from. "I love The Exorcist. It’s one of my favorite movies," Aguirre-Sacasa told Entertainment Weekly back in August. "We’re doing an homage to that; we’re doing an episode that’s like The Exorcist.”
He wasn't lying. This episode is heavily influenced by William Friedkin's 1973 classic — the twist being that it's not a young girl having the exorcism performed on her by a man of the cloth, but a young girl/witch performing the exorcism on a possessed adult man. As Sabrina continues to do so effectively, the episode puts women at the forefront of the story.
The man in need of help is Susie's (Lachlan Watson) Uncle Jesse, who became deranged after something he saw in the Greendale mines. It turns out Jesse is possessed by a demon known as the Apophis; a Devouring Worm that feeds on people's deepest fears. It torments Harvey (Ross Lynch) for being "gutless" (note the homage to Johnny Depp in Nightmare on Elm Street), punishes Roz (Jaz Sinclair) for her lack of faith, and calls Susie an "abomination" for her non-conforming gender identity.
When the group posits that Jesse might be demonically possessed, Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) tries to downplay their concerns. Acting anything other than oblivious might tip them off to her own supernatural leanings. Harvey, in particular, takes offense to Sabrina's suggestion that what he saw in the mines all those years ago might have just been shadows or his imagination playing tricks.
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Instead, Sabrina carelessly attempts to fix the problem on her own, astral projecting into Jesse's bedroom so she can confront the demon. The beast taunts her, telling her that its name is Maerceci — which Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) later works out is an anagram for Ice Cream (an ice cream demon would be the best). It then projectile vomits (nod to The Exorcist) and slithers down Sabrina's throat, almost choking her to death in her sleep. Salem again saves the day by alerting Ambrose.
Sabrina begins to realize that she can't do everything by herself and needs to be more trusting in others. That starts with believing Harvey, who puts aside his fears and joins Sabrina in the mines to try and find the source of Jesse's sickness. Her trust in Miss Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), who conjures up a whole cauldron of lies this episode, is harder earned but nonetheless granted by the time the credits roll.
For her part, Wardwell fools Sabrina, and her aunts Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto), into believing she is a witch tasked by Sabrina's father to protect her. She spins a yarn about being excommunicated from her coven after getting engaged to a mortal and seeking refuge with Edward, at the time the Church of Night's High Priest, who could relate to her situation. Wardwell says she fell in love with Edward and swore to look after Sabrina.
Sabrina doesn't appreciate her high school teacher's secrets but she needs her help with the Uncle Jesse problem. Despite Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) telling Sabrina that it's strictly forbidden for witches to perform exorcisms and that only male Catholic priests can expel demons by calling upon the False God, Wardwell reveals that Edward wrote a right for witches to carry out the act.
And so, Sabrina, along with Miss Wardwell and the always-happy-to-help Hilda, visit Uncle Jesse to perform the exorcism. There is no 360-degree head turning, but there is levitation and plenty of demonic screaming. "Sisters, intercede on our behalf," the women repeat, calling upon the witches of the past to expel the demon from its mortal body.
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It doesn't seem to be working until the arrival of Zelda, who, having had a change of heart, partly out of fear for her niece, and partly for "educational purposes," joins the women in defeating the beast, calling on the names of Spellmans from years-gone-by. However, that doesn't stop her from grounding Sabrina ("a mortal punishment for meddling in mortal affairs.").
The victory is shortlived, however, as Jesse passes away a few hours later from what is believed to be a heart attack. And while a literal demon was exorcized, there are still mental demons plaguing the minds of Sabrina's friends. Ambrose wallows in his melancholia; trapped inside with "jack all" to do while the rest of the family is out fighting monsters. Roz still believes her degenerative myopia is a punishment from God due to her lack of faith.
Then there is Susie, who earlier in the episode learns that her uncle was demonized as a young boy for trying on his mother's dresses; an act which got him beaten "black and blue" by his father. "He always struggled with his sexuality," says Susie's dad (Adrian Hough), as he considers sending Jesse to live in an asylum. While Susie defends her uncle at that moment, by the end of the episode, she is wearing a dress, suffocating her true identity out of fear. "I'm not an abomination and I won't be one," she tells Sabrina.
Sabrina, meanwhile, has another demon to contend with and she doesn't even know it. She has allowed Miss Wardwell to slither her way into her circle of trust, not realizing that it was Wardwell, not a heart attack, which killed poor Uncle Jesse. The exorcism was part of a greater purpose; part of the Dark Lord's grand design. And here Sabrina is opening up to Madam Satan herself about how she intends to outwit the Dark Lord.
-Sabrina finds out that her father, Edward, wanted to reform the Church of Night so that witches and mortals could marry without stigma.
-Hilda gets a job at Dr. Cerberus' bookstore-come-coffee-shop and she gets to wear a costume! Dr. Cerberus (Alessandro Juliani), a former Greendale weatherman, looked hilarious dressed as Dracula. She also takes advantage of her new job by pouring a love potion into Luke's latte, assumingly for the benefit of lonely Ambrose.
-Zelda gets the results back from Lady Blackwood's (Alvina August) test and informs Father Blackwood that his wife is pregnant with twins. Zelda knows now that the High Priest will require her midwifery skills more than ever and uses that power to get away with the unauthorized exorcism.
-"Metastophles, save us from the melodramatics of a teenage witch." Zelda gets all the best lines.
-Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) continues to sniff around Sabrina, and the fact she has a boyfriend does not seem to bother him in the least. "You have two natures, two schools, why not date two guys?" he asks. "I'm okay with sharing." How generous!
-The Apophis was an Ancient Egyptian deity that often appeared in the form of a serpent. It was said to embody chaos.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Streaming, Netflix