Love and Lust Fills the Air in 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' Chapter 14 (RECAP)
It was only a matter of time before Chilling Adventures of Sabrina tackled the birds and the bees, or whatever the witch version of that is... the bats and the beetles? "Lupercalia," written by Oanh Ly, is all about that word Aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis) is too bashful to say aloud... S-E-X. At least on the surface. What it’s actually about is everything surrounding sex; especially when it comes to losing one’s virginity. The peer pressure and timing. The trust and respect of your sexual partner. And a person’s agency or lack thereof.
Set against the backdrop of Valentine’s Day, and the witch equivalent, Lupercalia, a lust-driven ritual of "orgiastic carnality," Ly’s script focuses on the contrasting dynamics of Greendale’s multiple relationships. Some are simply hoping to satiate their sexual appetite; others are looking to forge deeper bonds built on mutual respect and understanding. While a select few attempt to leverage their relationships for power.
Let’s start with the witch and the warlock, Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) and Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood). There is undeniable sexual chemistry between the two of them, but Sabrina is the first to admit she is inexperienced sexually. She always expected her first time to be with her ex Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch), and despite Aunt Zelda’s (Mirando Otto) pressure to let go and indulge in the “symphony of sensuality,” the young sorceress remains steadfast in her desire to be with someone she likes and trusts.
The smoldering Nick Scratch, on the other hand, has stuck his wand in multiple cauldrons. As Sabrina reminds him, she once walked in on him while he was in a flesh pile with her cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) and the Weird Sisters. Nick laughs it off as frivolous titillation, not a meaningful embrace with someone that he genuinely cares about. It’s in this moment, when Nick admits to never having been with a mortal, we realize that he too is still learning. What Nick has in sexual experience, he lacks in authentic relationship understanding. The young warlock has never had the emotional connection that Sabrina previously shared with Harvey.
And so, Sabrina and Nick ditch the moonlit sex picnic for the magical mundanity of the Baxter High Sweetheart’s Dance. For a brief moment, away from the black leather and blood sacrifices, Nick gets to experience what it's like on "the other side." The pair enjoy what it’s like to be a regular teenage couple, slow-dancing to cheesy 80s love ballads and sneaking away for a midnight smooch. There is no pressure or demands from either side. It's just two young people growing in affection and trust.
Across the dance floor, Harvey and Roz (Jaz Sinclair) move forward with their budding relationship, later sealing it with a kiss. While we shouldn’t rule out love-square drama to come, it’s great to see that right now at least, Sabrina is not going down the jealous girlfriend path. Sabrina and Roz are not only the mature partner in their respective relationships, but they share a love and respect for each other. It’s Roz who Sabrina comes to for advice about losing her virginity. And Roz seeks Sabrina’s blessing before pursuing her feelings for Harvey; a courtesy Sabrina also offers Harvey before bringing Nick to the dance.
If anything, it's the perpetually perplexed Harvey who is portrayed as the most immature here. His response to Sabrina is snappy and laden with barely contained bitterness. But Harvey is obviously still hurting, and that is somewhat understandable; the guy has been blindsided by so much supernatural weirdness over the past year. What Harvey values right now is honesty, and that’s why, even after Roz drops the bombshell that she can see the future, he appreciates she told him the truth.... and at least she's not a witch, right?
The romantic escapades of the rest of the Spellman family range from the heartbreakingly sweet to the deceptively complex. While Ambrose is merely fulfilling his base sexual desires in his dalliance with Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), Hilda is looking for love. The unassuming potion-expert doesn't understand why the kindly Dr. Cerberus (Alessandro Juliani) is suddenly rejecting her advances. After taking Zelda's advice to become a "Huntress," and donning her best leopard-print dress, Hilda confronts Dr. Cee for the truth. It turns out he's a "sex demon," which is not a flattering term for his sexual prowess... he's literally possessed by an incubus.
Zelda has an entirely different purpose when it comes to her relationship with Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle). Initially, her intentions are unclear, especially when she's telling her niece to succumb to the sordid rituals of Lupercalia. But Zelda is not trying to pressure Sabrina or Hilda; she is encouraging them to take control, just like she has done with Father Blackwood. Aunt Zee does not turn weak at the knees when the High Priest proposes marriage, as she tells Hilda, she doesn't love Faustus, it is all about gaining power and restoring glory to the Spellman name.
There is a similar power dynamic in the relationship between Ms. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez) and her fiance Adam Masters (played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer alumni Alexis Denisof). Madame Satan is lamenting the fact she's stuck in the body of a lonely spinster, only to find out she has a surprise fiance who has been out of the country performing charity work. While her immediate reaction is to stick a spike through his skull, she begins to appreciate the exotic gifts and soothing foot-rubs. After losing her wager to the Dark Lord, I'm glad that Ms. Wardwell has a new play-thing firmly under her spell.
The only character short-changed in the romance department is Theo (Lachlan Watson), but he does get the stand-out scene of the episode when he comes out as trans to his father. It's a powerful moment as Theo summons the courage to tell his dad that he's never felt like a girl. He talks of the comfort he feels in boys' clothes. The tingle he gets when someone refers to him as "he" or "young fella." The reaction from Theo's dad is restrained and contemplative. He doesn't offer a hug or an "I love you" but nor does he lash out or dismiss his child's feelings. Instead, he shows his acceptance by taking Theo for a haircut.
Oh, I almost forgot, this episode also features a goofy CGI werewolf called Amalia, Nick's overly possessive familiar. Now, I get the intention here, the wolf is a metaphor for jealousy and obsession and ridding yourself of past relationship baggage. Nick has to let go of Amalia and move forward with new relationships. Also, Nick lying to Sabrina about killing Amalia is there to cause distrust between the young lovers. It just didn't quite work for me. Sometimes it's like Sabrina suddenly remembers it's a show about witches and feels the need to crowbar in more supernatural elements. But I didn't think this episode needed it.
The strength of Ly's script is in its exploration of relationships. Not to mention the episode's supernatural quota was already filled with sex demons and the occultist imagery of the Lupercalia festivities. The werewolf plot felt unnecessary, even if it did lead to Sabrina going full-on Psycho and stabbing the creature to death. I guess we needed a "shocking moment" between Nick and Sabrina and something that will cause suspicion going forward in their relationship.
-Lupercalia is actually a real ancient pagan festival which dates back as far as the 6th century B.C.. History.com describes the festival as "a bloody, violent and sexually-charged celebration awash with animal sacrifice, random matchmaking and coupling in the hopes of warding off evil spirits and infertility." When you look at it like that, maybe the werewolf slaughter is appropriately fitting.
-While Theo might not have received a romantic moment this episode, there was a sweet interaction with Billy Marlin (Ty Wood), his former tormentor. Following his trip down the stairs, Billy has been doing some reflecting and apologizes for bullying Theo. Will this friendship go any further? I guess we'll have to wait and see.
-Just as things are going well with Harvey, Roz completely loses her vision. We know of her deteriorating eyesight in the first half of the season, something she discovered affects all the women in her family, a curse put on them by a witch. Roz's grandmother called it the "cunning," the ability to see the future, even if their vision of the present was blinded.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Streaming, Netflix