Time Travel & Coronations in 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' Finale (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Chapter 28, "Sabrina Is Legend."]
My fear coming into this season finale of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was that everything we'd seen up until now would be undone by timey-wimey magic. It's been a worry ever since the introduction of the Loch Ness time egg and all the talk of altering timelines. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for time travel shows, but Sabrina has done such a great job of making actions have real consequences this season that I didn't want everything to be magically reset at the last minute.
Well, that is basically what happened in "Sabrina Is Legend" (written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Daniel King). However, I didn't entirely hate it. Was it a bit of a cop-out? Sure. By going back in time and changing what happened, it essentially meant the shocking deaths and character growth of the past two episodes meant nothing. I mean, nobody stayed dead. Yes, it was a long shot that we'd lose Hilda (Lucy Davis) or Zelda (Miranda Otto), I suppose. Still, not even Robin (Jonathan Whitesell) or Mambo Marie (Skye Marshall) or Dr. Cee (Alessandro Juliani) remained deceased. Actually, poor Dorcas (Abigail Cowen) was the only one that stayed dead, but she was a periphery character at best.
It's not as if I wished for characters to die like some morbid grim reaper of TV recaps. But when a show kills off a character (or characters in this case), it suggests that there are stakes involved. It's why so many of the deaths in the early seasons of Game of Thrones had such an impact. To then reverse what happened kind of sullies the journey that came before. It removes tension from future episodes because you feel like whatever happens, there will always be a way out. And it's even worse when time travel is involved because it means the majority of the characters don't even remember what happened, removing the emotional aftermath.
And yet, in spite of those criticisms, this episode still has its shining moments. The opening 15 minutes, in particular, are highly affecting. Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is woken up from her stone tomb by a future version of herself, who informs her past self that she has been trapped in the bowels of Hell for decades. In that time, the end of the world happened. The pagans took over Earth, while Caliban (Sam Corlett) was allegedly killed by the archangel Michael, and the denizens of Hell were chased from the city of Pandemonium. According to future Sabrina, it is now up to past Sabrina to save the world, defeat the pagans, and then come return to this exact spot to trade places.
If you couldn't tell by the episode's title, there are nods to the James Matheson novel (and subsequent movie) I Am Legend, as Sabrina wanders a desolate, post-apocalyptic Greendale. Her old home and school abandoned and overgrown with weeds — the skeletons of her friends and family strewn around town. Even her cat Salem is gone, his gravestone marked next to Aunt Hilda's. It hits Sabrina that she made a mistake. She should have stayed to protect her loved ones in their time of need. It's hard for Sabrina not to think this was partly her fault, as she curls up on her old bed, hugging the effigies of her deceased aunts.
But Greendale isn't completely unoccupied. Firstly, freaky plant zombies are roaming the streets. A bunch of them try attacking Sabrina, but she is rescued by a trio of unlikely allies — King Herod (Ian Rozylo), Pontius Pilate (Daniel Nemes), and Vlad the Impaler (Michael Antonakos). The strangest superhero team ever assembled is here to watch over the Unholy Regalia, which Sabrina recaptures from Hell before she heads back to Earth. Wherever the Regalia goes, so do Herod, Pontius, and Vlad, which means they essentially act as Sabrina's bodyguards throughout the finale. Who would have thought we'd ever be cheering for baby slaughterer King Herod, eh?
It's not just flower monsters and reformed historical bad guys, though, thankfully, one Spellman survived the apocalypse. Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) catches up with his cousin and brings her to his hideout in the Kinkle mines — the only place safe from the pagans due to a binding spell. Ambrose berates Sabrina for abandoning the family while bringing her up to speed on all the tragedy she's missed. It's a bit rich of Ambrose, given he was the one that told Sabrina to fulfill her quest, which she rightly reminds him. That said, it's hard to blame the lonely warlock for his anger; he has seen and been through a lot, including watching Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) die in his arms.
In the decades that have past, Ambrose has done what he does best — research. But so far, he hasn't come across anything that would help defeat the pagans. However, when he mentions the Loch Ness time egg, Sabrina realizes what needs to be done. It's time for some Back To The Future action, "but with magic." They just need to use the energy from the Unholy Regalia to give the egg its power. There's just one problem. The spell would need to be conducted within the stone circles at the Academy, where a mad and feral Blackwood (Richard Coyle) currently holds court. I swear those stone circles have had more air-time than Nick (Gavin Leatherwood) over these past few episodes.
Until this point, I was enjoying things. I just wish they had spent a little longer on what had happened in the missing decades. Instead, Sabrina and Ambrose quickly get to work on reverting everything to how it was, and it all happens a little too neatly. Although, I did enjoy the return of Batibat (Megan Leitch), the sleep demon, who helps the Spellman's trick Blackwood and provides access to the stone circles. And so, with her Morning Star weapon made of melted Regalia and the time egg tucked under her arm, Sabrina chants her spell and is blasted back to the past, to the moment before the world went to Hell.
Once Sabrina is in the past, things move even faster. She teleports around town, warning her friends and family of their impending doom and transporting them all to Dorian Gray's to avoid Blackwood and the pagans. Zelda returns from limbo and gathers the remaining coven to join her in helping resurrect Hilda from the Cain pit. I will say, Miranda Otto gives a powerful performance as she prays to her new god, the Dark Mother, ancient Greek goddess Hecate — the representation of the three phases of the witch. And after some hesitation, Hilda clambers from her grave and brushes the dirt off. "What did I miss?" she asks.
If there is one major disappointment of the episode, though, it's how easily the pagans are defeated. Sabrina and the coven come up with a plan to use Ms. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez) as bait for the carnies' virgin sacrifice. Only, it isn't Wardwell; it's hedge witch Pesta under a glamour. As the witch of disease, Pesta turns the Green Man monument to decaying leaves and thereby foils the pagan plans. The rest of the coven then arrives to chase the circus out of town. After appearing as this tremendous threat all season, the pagans are scared off like naughty schoolchildren who were caught graffitiing.
It's not the most satisfying of endings for that particular arc, though I did enjoy Hilda turning on her badass side and getting some bone-snapping revenge on Circe (Lucie Guest), the fortune teller. Circe previously called Hilda a "weaver," and she certainly weaved one hell of a voodoo doll, and she knows how to use one of those. Harvey (Ross Lynch) and Roz (Jaz Sinclair) also get payback on the snake charmer, well, actually, Harvey almost gets himself killed, it's Roz who lobs her head off. "You just saved my life; that's so hot," says Harvey. For a moment, I thought they were about to get it on next to the charmer's decapitated head. That'd certainly be a memorable first time.
Once again, Greendale is saved, and everything is back to normal. Well, almost. There is at least one consequence to all this time travel craziness, and it's a big one. Sabrina is meant to return to the tomb and swap places with her future self, but there is a change in plan. Future Sabrina instead visits her past self before she brings Judas the pieces of silver, warning her of Caliban's trick and not to hand over the coins. She figures out that neither of them has to be stuck in the tomb for all eternity; instead, she can meet her now, before a time loop is ever created, essentially creating two Sabrinas.
All season long, Sabrina has been torn between her life in Greendale and her new role as Queen of Hell. There is part of her that wants to live her teenage life, hang out with her friends, date boys, enjoy family time with her aunts and cousin. But there is another, darker part of her that enjoys the power that comes with ruling over the underworld. It's her Spellman side and Morningstar side in direct competition. And splitting Sabrina into two is a great visual representation of this conundrum. It also means now she can do both. Past Sabrina can take the throne in Hell, while future Sabrina returns to Greendale.
So, with Caliban one-upped and trapped in Judas' tomb, past Sabrina returns to Pandemonium with the final piece of Regalia and rightfully claims the throne. And as she prepares for her coronation, future Sabrina heads back to Earth, where everyone is getting on with their lives. Robin is committed to staying in Greendale with Theo (Lachlan Watson). Roz and Harvey finally do the deed. Dr. Cee rises from his cocoon and reunites with Hilda. Perhaps most surprisingly, Mambo Marie decides to stay on at the Academy and shares a kiss with Zelda — now that is a power couple! I expect Zambo shippers are now a thing.
But it's not all good vibes and happy couples. Prudence is upset with Ambrose after finding her sister Dorcas' ravaged body. She says that if he just let her kill Blackwood back when they found him in Scotland, they could have avoided all of this misery. "I am sorry," Ambrose tells her. "So am I," she replies before leaving. By the end of the episode, Prudence finds herself outside the Academy, commiserating with a glum-looking Nick about their shared loneliness, which is surely an oxymoron.
Meanwhile, deep underground, Sabrina is prepped for the throne, and for however underwhelming the middle of this episode was, this ending, especially aesthetically, is brilliant. Madame Satan and her minions dress Sabrina in a regal, golden dress. Her hair is pomped; her face caked in white make-up and her lips painted blood-red, looking like Queen Elizabeth I. The hordes of Hell take the knee as Sabrina ascends to the throne, a smile creeping across her face. It's moments like this that remind you just how entertaining Sabrina can be and make it easier to forgive and forget the cop-outs and lackluster endings.
If Part 4 is going to be Evil Sabrina versus Good Sabrina, then hell yeah, sign me up!
- I should mention the cliffhanger, with Blackwood (flanked by Agatha and the twins) breaking the time egg and unleashing some sort of chaotic energy into the world. One would assume this is the start of the oft-mentioned Eldritch terrors. And not to try and guess everything, but what's the betting that in Part 4, the two Sabrinas have to end up working together to stop Blackwood?
- Next season should also deal with ramifications of Sabrina's time-meddling. Ambrose tells her she's created a time paradox, which will have horrifying consequences. Although, at this point, Sabrina doesn't seem to care.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Part 3, Streaming, Netflix