Sabrina Embraces the Darkness in the 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' Finale (RECAP)
Something dark is awakened inside Sabrina in "The Witching Hour," the apocalyptic season finale of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
At the start of this season, Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) refused to sign her name in the Book of the Beast because she believed there was another path for her. Her future would not be determined by a binary choice between the Path of Night or the Path of Light. She wanted freedom AND power and did not want to give up her agency to the Dark Lord or be restricted by the patriarchal traditions prevalent within both the witch community and human society.
The balance of living a double-life as part-witch and part-mortal has come with consequences, and over the course of the season, Sabrina has edged closer and closer to the dark side, all in an effort to keep her secrets and protect the ones she loves. But that all came to a head in the last episode when Sabrina's meddling with the afterlife blew up in her face and left her exposed, vulnerable and alone.
Throughout all of this, there has been another woman literally lurking in the shadows, also on a quest for power. The sinister Miss Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), who was possessed back in the first episode, has acted as mentor and confidant to Sabrina during her struggles with witchhood and womanhood. It's her guidance which provided Sabrina the confidence to tap into her darker side, even if Sabrina believed she was using the dark arts for good. All this time, Wardwell has been molding Sabrina for a larger, more malevolent purpose.
Wardwell's wicked agenda is revealed over the course of the forbidding season one finale, "The Witching Hour," penned by showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Riverdale writer Ross Maxwell. The demonic teacher regales an unseen guest about Sabrina's journey so far and the final step required to fulfill the Dark Lord's prophecy. Throughout the episode, we flit back and forth between the present, where Wardwell reminisces, and the past, on the eerie night where Sabrina finally takes her power and crosses the ultimate line into the Path of Night.
Sabrina is still dealing with the fallout of the botched Tommy Kinkle (Justin Dobies) resurrection and the subsequent break-up with her high school sweetheart Harvey (Ross Lynch). In typical brokenhearted teenager fashion, Sabrina has not left her room in days. She doesn't know how to make the hurting stop, for herself, and Harvey, who had to kill his brother because of what Sabrina did. Zelda (Miranda Otto) offers some worldly advice, that time will heal all, and every day it will hurt a tiny bit less.
It helps that Sabrina still has the support of her best friends Roz (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie (Lachlan Watson), who waste no time in confronting Sabrina and asking if she is a witch. The pair were previously worried about what that meant for their friendship. Does being a witch mean Sabrina is bad? Nana Ruth (L. Scott Caldwell) tells Roz that she will know in her heart if Sabrina is good or bad just by looking at her, and when Sabrina confesses and apologizes for never telling them, the three friends embrace, assuring they will always be there for one another.
Even Harvey is unable to hate Sabrina, even after the tumultuous way their relationship ended. And bringing someone's dead brother back to life and then telling them they have to kill them is one hell of a nasty break-up. Harvey accepts Sabrina's apology, but he admits that it's hard to look at her because every time he sees her face all he can think about is Tommy. But hey, at least they're on speaking terms, and there is clearly still a shared affection despite what transpired.
This inability to sever Sabrina's mortal ties draws the ire of Wardwell, who decides to take drastic action. Her plan is to introduce a threat to Greendale which will force Sabrina to make a choice. By sacrificing a virgin (a handsy high school jock) in the woods, Wardwell calls upon The Thirteen, the witches of yesteryear who were hung and murdered by the townspeople of Greendale in the panicked hysteria arising from the Salem Witch Trials. The witches summon The Red Angel of Death, a horse-riding Skeletor-looking mofo, and descend upon the streets of Greendale to seek vengeance.
Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) calls an emergency coven meeting and promises to protect his people from the impending threat. He orders them to gather at the Academy before midnight and together their combined powers should be enough to shield off the evil spirits. Sabrina asks who will protect the mortals of Greendale, and as you can probably imagine, Blackwood couldn't care less. "Let them run to their False God and gnash their teeth and wail, or whatever it is they do," he quips.
Sabrina, for once, isn't alone in her desire to help the people of Greendale. Zelda agrees that they should stay and protect the town, after all, it was their witch ancestors who sacrificed The Thirteen all those years ago, in an attempt to quell the mortals' bloodlust. "We are Spellmans. That means we stand tall, with dignity, and do what is right," she says. The careful stripping away of layers from Zelda to reveal a moral and nurturing person beneath the cold exterior has been one of the highlights of the season.
And so Sabrina, along with her Aunts Zelda and Hilda (Lucy Davis), and cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), cast a tornado spell upon the town of Greendale, forcing the community to gather in the Baxter High basement, the town's designated shelter in the event of a storm. Having everyone in one place will allow the Spellmans to perform a protection spell over the school and thereby prevent the witches from breaking inside.
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It's an almost foolproof plan until things outside of Sabrina's control begin to go wrong. Harvey refuses to leave his house, believing he can protect himself and his dad because that's what Tommy would have done. Sabrina is forced to put Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) on Harvey babysitting duties. Roz and Susie also decide to stay with Nana Ruth instead of taking refuge at the school. Then, to make matters worse, Zelda and Ambrose are conjured away in the middle of the protection spell and transported to the Academy. Ambrose is summoned by a head-over-heels Luke (Darren Mann), while Zelda is called because Lady Blackwood (Alvina August) has gone into labor.
Wardwell tells Sabrina it is time to go on the offensive and takes her to a clearing in the woods. The place of her aborted Dark Baptism. There sits the Book of the Beast. Wardwell tells Sabrina that this is the only way she can gain the power it will take to save Greendale. She must sign her name otherwise her friends and family will perish. Her freedom in exchange for power. "All women are taught to fear power," Wardwell tells a scared Sabrina. "Own your power. Don't accept it from the Dark Lord. Take it. Wield it."
It's a powerful message, and one that I think Wardwell believes, though she is only using it in this instance to manipulate Sabrina to get what she wants. When Sabrina agrees to sign, the Dark Lord appears, telling the young witch that when he calls, she must answer. After everything Sabrina has done to fight for her freedom, and maintain her dual life, her fate was ultimately inescapable. She signs her name in the Book of the Beast and calls upon the darkest of evils to bring forth fire from the pits of hell, burning The Thirteen in an inferno of blue flames.
Sabrina saves the day, but at what cost? Something has changed about her, and as Harvey says, it's not just her hair (now a platinum blonde). "I had to do something tonight that scares me," she tells Harvey. "It touched something dark inside me." Sabrina would once do anything to be there for her friends and protect them, now she finally realizes that her being there is what puts them at risk of bad things happening to them. And as she slo-mo swaggers into the Academy (I'm a sucker for badass slo-mo walking scenes), hand-in-hand with the Weird Sisters, it seems like Sabrina is ready to fully embrace the Path of Night.
As for Wardwell's ultimate goal? She reveals her true nature and intentions to a tied up Principal Hawthorne (Bronson Pinchot), before she devours him for supper (a fitting end for such a lecherous creep of a character). Her name is Lilith, first wife to Adam, better known as Madame Satan, and her goal is to have Sabrina take over her role as Satan's foot soldier so that she can take her seat on the throne beside the Dark Lord. And as the Valerie Broussard song that closes out the episode says, "No one calls you honey when you're sitting on a throne."
Much like Sabrina, Madame Satan is a woman with a desire to change the world and the will to do it. Men don't want women to have power. Wardwell has repeated that throughout the season, and we've seen evidence of it in the actions of Principal Hawthorne and Father Blackwood. Zelda isn't blind to it either; that's why she makes the impulsive decision to steal Blackwood's newborn daughter and lie that he only had one child. "She's a girl, born before her brother, and the High Priest, I fear what he would have done to her," she tells Hilda.
When Wardwell's familiar, Stolas the crow, tells her that it seems like the Dark Lord is grooming Sabrina to sit at his side, not her, she responds that if that's the case, there is a simple way to deal with the young sorceress, as she snaps Stolas' neck.
The debut season of Sabrina has been a delicious concoction of gothic horror, dark humor and empowering feminism, with a star-making performance from Shipka, who brought a rootable sincerity to the character of Sabrina Spellman. And with a second season already commissioned, the finale leaves us with some tantalizing cliffhangers to mull over.
Are there improvements that could be made next year? Sure. At times the dialogue gets a little bit exposition-y when characters are discussing witch mythology and some of the side characters could be better served. But overall this has been a spellbinding season full of frightful scares and top-notch performances and stands up as a worthy successor to the Sabrina The Teenage Witch of the 90s.
-Poor Hilda, just when she falls for someone, the kindly Dr. Cerberus, it turns out he's some sort of demon. It's going to be devastating when she finds out — and just after she finally moved out of Zelda's bedroom too!
-Father Blackwood shows no grief when Constance passes away during childbirth. Oh, and he names his newborn son Judas. Of course he does.
-That shot of the blood dripping from the Dark Lord statue was disturbing as all hell.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Streaming, Netflix