'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' Chapter 16 Is a Marriage Made in Hell (RECAP)

Martin Holmes
Spoiler Alert HBO

A Black Wedding, an impromptu funeral, and an assassination gone wrong lead to hellish consequences for the Spellmans in Chapter 16 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

As Zelda (Miranda Otto) and Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) prepare to tie the knot in unholy matrimony, their wedding becomes a platform for opposing political ideologies within the Church of Night. It’s a marriage of mutual convenience, where both parties are hoping to attain power and influence while not admitting their true motives to the other. To put it another way, the stakes of this wedding are much bigger than bridal showers and seating arrangements.

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Father Blackwood plans to reform the Church of the Night back to the “old, old ways” and sees an opportunity to push his agenda when the all-powerful Anti-Pope travels from Rome to preside over the wedding ceremony. The Anti-Pope, played by Ray Wise (Twin Peaks, Reaper) in a devilishly brilliant bit of casting, is the man with the authority to put real change into action. The only problem for the High Priest is that he isn’t the only one with ideas to rehabilitate the Church.

Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is hellbent on putting a stop to her Aunt Zelda’s wedding when she finds out Blackwood was the man behind her parents' deaths. According to Ms. Wardell (Michelle Gomez), Edward Spellman was on his way to Rome with his own manifesto of change before his plane mysteriously malfunctioned mid-flight and was brought down. It’s always hard to tell fact from fiction when Madame Satan is stirring the cauldron, but based on what we know of Blackwood, and the fact Sabrina later finds her father’s manifesto, the evidence stacks up.

CAOS Ray Wise

Netflix

The principles of the two philosophies couldn’t be any more different. Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) refers to Blackwood’s new testament as deeply “regressive” and “misogynistic,” as the High Priest's “five facets of Judas” aim to give warlock dominion in the Church of Night, while witches are subjugated, described as mere servants to warlock desires. Edward’s doctrine in comparison is startlingly progressive, intending to bridge the gap between mortals and witch-kind, and empowering witches as the matriarchs of the Church who should be revered.

Allusions to the current political climate don’t go unnoticed; Blackwood’s attempts to govern women and their bodies feels particularly pertinent. Sabrina is not afraid to wave its feminist flag freely, and it always gives its female characters agency. Just listen to how Ms. Wardell describes marriage when her wide-eyed beau Adam (Alexis Denisof) proposes to her: “Marriage is a walk down the primrose path to a woman’s destruction. It’s nothing less than the complete obliteration of a woman’s personhood. It takes everything from her. Her body, her independence, even her soul, and gives nothing in return.”

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Ms. Wardwell is a fascinating character because we know she is Madame Satan, this powerful, vindictive force that gets off on meddling in the lives of the Spellmans. But she is also a marginalized figure. As "Lilith," she is subservient to the Dark Lord, a puppet there to serve and obey. And yet her time around mortals is changing her. That’s not to say she's becoming soft, if anything, it’s making her stronger and giving her agency. In a way, she shares a lot in common with Sabrina, they both push back against patriarchal order, and the way she disobeys orders to protect Adam shows her willingness to oppose the Dark Lord.

Zelda, meanwhile, comes at marriage from a different angle. She has outright admitted to not loving Faustus and only marrying him to restore glory to the Spellman name. The skilled sorceress doesn't feel subjugated because she believes she can manipulate the High Priest, and to a degree, she's right -- she gets Hilda’s excommunication lifted so that she can perform her duties as her Maid of Dishonor. But sometimes Zelda ignores the harsher elements of the Church, either to save face or because she doesn’t want to confront the reality. For example, she gushes about what a blessing it is to have the Dark Lord visit her on the eve of her wedding, but when he actually does turn up to “have his way with her,” there is undeniable fear on her face.

CAOS Ambrose

Netflix

The wedding, however, is almost called off when the Anti-Pope is murdered by a possessed Ambrose and two other warlocks -- all a dastardly plot concocted by Blackwood out of fear that his Unholiness would choose Edward’s manifesto over his own. A traumatized Ambrose realizes he was set up after regurgitating his missing familiar Leviathan, the pet mouse gifted to him by the High Priest. The Academy's Top Boy had been controlled to do Blackwood’s bidding just like he saw in his tarot card reading.

A little bit of bloodshed is not enough to stop the marriage; Blackwood simply combines the funeral and wedding into the same day. It’s left to Sabrina to try and halt the nuptials, and so she conjures up a plan with Nick (Gavin Leatherwood) and Ambrose. Glamoured up as Edward and Diana Spellman, Sabrina and Nick interrupt the ceremony and expose Blackwood as a murderer. The High Priest instantly sees through the trickery and casts a spell to remove the glamour and reveal the faces behind the masks. Sabrina calls Blackwood a fraud as Ambrose approaches from behind with a stake, only to be stopped mid-air by Prudence (Tati Gabrielle).

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The botched assassination on the High Priest has game-changing repercussions for the remainder of the season. Not only is Ambrose locked up in the Witches Cell, but Sabrina and Nick are both expelled from the Academy (are we going to see Nick enrolling at Baxter High?). Also, for all of their efforts of sabotage, the marriage between Blackwood and Zelda is still certified, and you get a sense of buyer's remorse from Zelda as she is told a wife must walk behind her husband. As we head into the back-half of the season, the Spellmans have found themselves cast aside and at the mercy of the Church of Night.

Additional Notes

-Hilda truly is the best sister ever. The way she disposes of Constance's ghost and poisons the troublesome Shirley is masterful. Great performance from Lucy Davis too. As Hilda says, people underestimate her as this soft-spoken pushover, but she loves her family and will do anything to protect them.

'CAOS' Star Miranda Otto on Zelda's Relationship With Sabrina, Her Backstory & a 'Witchy' Season 2

'CAOS' Star Miranda Otto on Zelda's Relationship With Sabrina, Her Backstory & a 'Witchy' Season 2

The actress also talks more about how Zelda's changed with the addition of the baby, as well as her own holiday plans.

-Speaking of family, Prudence finally earns her father's respect and the Blackwood surname, and all it took was attempting to stab him in his sleep. It's also surprising that Father Blackwood leaves her in charge while he goes Honeymooning.

Click here for more episode recaps for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Streaming, Netflix