‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Heats Up in Part 3 Premiere (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Chapter 21, “The Hellbound Heart.”]
There is still a winter chill in the air, but it’s time to throw away your scarfs and blood-red cardigans because the gates of Hell are open for the third installment of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — and things are really heating up in the town of Greendale. If you thought this show was dark and sexy before, well, you haven’t seen anything yet!
One thing I appreciate about Sabrina is that it wastes no time getting stuck into the action. At the end of Part 2, Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) vowed to save her boyfriend — the smoldering Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) — from the bowels of Hell. If you remember, Nick sacrificed his body to imprison the Dark Lord (who it turned out was Sabrina’s father) and was banished to the underworld to suffer under Madam Satan’s (Michelle Gomez) watchful eye. A lesser series would have dragged this rescue mission out for at least half a season, but not Sabrina. One episode in, and we’re already trudging the depths of Hades.
The gap between seasons means we can quickly skip through the thumb-twiddling downtime and get right to the juicy stuff. Sabrina is racked with guilt knowing that Nick is burning in Hell, while she’s on Earth figuring out what clubs to sign up for this semester. Her friends and family are worried about her and try to advise her to move on, to forget about her bound-and-gagged boyfriend, and to focus on living the rest of her life. “It can’t be all Hell all the time,” says her best friend Roz (Jaz Sinclair), who tries to distract Sabrina with cheerleader try-outs and rock band practice. “It’s not all Hell… it’s all Nick,” Sabrina responds.
For a moment, I thought this was the cue for five episodes of high school hijinx before Sabrina finally decides to return to project “Let’s Save Nick.” Thankfully, that isn’t the case, as the young enchantress refuses to give up so easily on those she loves. Unable to open the gates of Hell directly, Sabrina is inspired during a chat with Ms. Wardwell — the real one this time, returning from her possession with an unexplained hankering for dark literature. The soft-spoken Ms. Wardwell waxes lyrical about the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and his nightmarish depictions of Hell, which gives Sabrina the idea to enter the underworld via a window… or portal.
Who owns a wall of priceless artwork with potential access to such a portal? Why, of course, one Dorian Gray (Jedidiah Goodacre), the soulless barkeep from the most exclusive warlock nightclub in town. Gray allows Sabrina to use the portal but demands she bring him back a flower to help heal his facial disfigurement (a pimple). He refers to the flower as “La Fleur Du Mal” (the flower of evil), surely a reference to Charles Baudelaire’s controversial volume of French poetry, Les Fleurs du mal, which deals with themes of decadence and eroticism and is one of many literary references sprinkled throughout this episode.
So, before you know it, Sabrina and her mortal friends (Roz, Harvey, and Theo) are on the highway to Hell to save her shackled beau — who is currently playing shirtless slave boy to the underworld’s newly anointed Queen, Madam Satan, aka Lilith. And, I’ve got to say, Sabrina‘s depiction of Hell is impressively grim. It’s Dante’s Inferno meets The Wizard of Oz, both a literal journey into darkness and an inner journey of self-acceptance. And like Inferno, there are no flames or pitchforks or rivers of bubbling lava. Sabrina‘s vision of Hell is barren, gray, and desolate, which contrasts nicely with the aforementioned decadence of Madame Satan’s quarters.
In a nod to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the gang washes up on a bleak, colorless beach. The harrowing screams of trapped souls echo out from wooden cages looming over the sea. On the beach, a long-haired surfer-looking bro (Sam Corlett) builds an elaborate sandcastle. He steps out from behind his creation, his golden locks flowing, his abs on show, like he’s just got done filming a shampoo commercial, and instructs Sabrina to follow the path of blood to the City of Pandemonium. There’s a bunch of great location names in a similar vein: the Shores of Sorrow, the Forest of Torment, the Field of Witness, the Settlement of Sex Appeal… I might have made that last one up.
The journey to Madame Satan’s throne is overflowing with gruesome, gnarly imagery. Theo (Lachlan Watson) finds his late Uncle Jesse (Jason Beaudoin) propped up like a scarecrow, nailed to a crucifix with crows pecking away at his flesh. Later, Harvey (Ross Lynch) is attacked by his deceased brother Tommy (Justin Dobies) in the form of a murderous Tin Man, who Sabrina has no choice but to shoot in the back. And Roz is tormented by her dead grandmother, Ruth (L. Scott Caldwell), alongside Baxter High’s former principal, George Hawthorne (Bronson Pinchot). As I said, it’s like a really twisted version of The Wizard of Oz.
All of the above are mind-games from a particularly delightful Madam Satan, who is still using Ms. Wardwell’s form (“A face like this is hard to beat,” she tells Sabrina). Lilith sits atop her nail-polished, hand-shaped throne, sending out orders to one of her minions, who looks like a bellboy in smudged KISS make-up. But all is not hunky-dory in Hell. The unseating of the Dark Lord (Luke Cook) has created an unbalance, and many, including those three demon Kings we met last season, do not accept Lilith’s position as leader. And so, under immense pressure, Madame Satan winds up needing Sabrina to publicly declare her Queen for all of Hell to hear.
However, not even a blessing from Lucifer’s daughter herself is enough for the Kings, who introduce a new challenger to the throne, the Prince of Hell, Caliban (another nod to The Tempest), aka shampoo surfer bro. Sabrina, now in an awkward position, is transported into Nick’s mind, where she is confronted by her father, who tells her the only way to get Nick back and restore balance is to accept the crown herself. After all, as a Morningstar, it is her birthright. Begrudgingly, at first, Sabrina declares herself Queen of Hell, appointing Lilith as her advisor, and in exchange, freeing Nick (and Theo’s Uncle Jesse for good measure).
Now, this plot isn’t completely tied up in a neat little bow. Nick may be out of Hell, but he still has Lucifer trapped inside of him until Sabrina and co can find a new host. I doubt many will be jumping at that offer. By the end of the episode, Nick is still a prisoner, now locked in the old dungeons at the Academy of Unseen Arts, until a new host is found. That brings up all sorts of ethical questions of its own. And despite Sabrina signing up to cheerleading, and asserting that she isn’t moving to Hell, like her friends say, that makes it sound like she is going to move to Hell. With Caliban lurking, Sabrina certainly still has business to conduct down there.
There is new rule elsewhere, too, as Zelda (Miranda Otto) and Hilda (Lucy Davis) reopen the Academy of Unseen Arts. With Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) on the run, and the Dark Lord captured, the Spellman aunts wonder how they should move forward. Zelda is happy to take over as Directrix, while continuing on as High Priestess, but who do the children pray to now she knows the truth about the Dark Lord? After getting the Witches Council off their backs, with some brilliant magic by Hilda, who poses as Blackwood (Richard Coyle nails Hilda’s mannerisms), Zelda decides to lead the prayer to Lilith (certainly a big ego-boost for Madame Satan).
Speaking of Blackwood, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) and Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) are hot on his trail, well, kind of. Their search has come up fruitless so far, as they keep using the same tricks and dark magic to one-up the other. But after a visit to a Haitian voodoo priestess in New Orleans, the pair use a blood spell to locate the disgraced High Priest, who it turns out is hiding in Scotland — Loch Ness, to be specific. This is probably the weak point of an otherwise stellar opening episode. It’s just a little too trope-y, especially with the stereotypical Haitian voodoo stuff. But I’m interested to see what the show conjures up in Scotland.
Otherwise, this is a hot start to a season that promises to be fast-paced, action-packed, and darker than ever.
- Harvey, Roz, and Theo’s band (Fright Club) are the best sounding high school rock band to ever exist.
- Having to wear the shoes of the dead to safely walk the paths of Hell was a nice touch.
- “I don’t do voodoo hoodoo bulls**t,” says the Priestess of High Haiti, and all I could think was what a missed opportunity to say “I don’t do voodoo hoodoo doo-doo.”
- “The old ones are coming,” Lucifer warns, which I suspect is tied to the ye olde time cars that drove into town at the end of the episode. Ominous!
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Part 3, Streaming, Netflix