Fresh off signing her name in the Book of the Beast and bleaching her hair platinum blonde, Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) is embracing the dark side in Part 2 of Netflix's spooktastic Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
The first half of the season saw the young witch caught between two worlds as the allure of black magic threatened to destroy her mortal life and the relationships she'd developed with her high school friends. Sabrina's desire to learn the dark arts while still trying to be the doting girlfriend and reliable best friend became both unsustainable and, at times, extremely dangerous. For now, at least, it appears the balancing act is over.
In "The Epiphany," written by the show's creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Sabrina decides to sever her ties with the mortal world; her change of direction noted by what Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) sarcastically refers to as an "edgy" black wardrobe. The spunky sorceress informs her aunts that she's taking a sabbatical from Baxter High and will be enrolling full-time at the Academy of Unseen Arts, so that she can focus "exclusively" on her witch studies.
Sabrina's dive into the darkness is the right move for the series, which is always at its most entertaining when within the walls of the Academy. There is a sense of excitement around the witches and warlocks that is sadly lacking at Baxter High. That's not to say important issues aren't being explored elsewhere — Susie's (Lachlan Watson) gender dysphoria plays a pivotal role this episode — it's just the nature of the beast in a show where the "real world" has to compete with the supernatural. Basketball will never be as impressive as demon conjuring, especially to a non-sports-fan like me. Now, demons playing basketball, you've got my attention.
While Sabrina might be rocking black turtlenecks and leaning into her gothic impulses, she hasn't completely lost her sense of morality. In her first day as a full-time student at the Academy, Sabrina questions the misogynistic lineage of the school and nominates herself for the position of Top Boy, so that "all students regardless of gender feel like they have a voice." Sabrina isn't just another witch in the system, she wants to make the coven better, and that starts by toppling the patriarchal traditions upheld by Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle).
Sabrina faces off in a series of challenges against the only other nominee, Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood), the charming warlock, who clearly has a crush on her. Nick welcomes the competition and seems to be the only one taking his opponent seriously. Even Sabrina's usually open-minded cousin, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), throws shade on her chances, calling her "crazy" for even suggesting the idea. "I'm not crazy; I'm mad," she yells at Ambrose after her preparation continues to be curtailed by three Plague Demons.
After besting Nick in the trivia round, with a little telepathic help from Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) and the Weird Sisters, Sabrina begins to build confidence and pick up momentum. Even when she fails in the potion-making challenge, her willingness to chug the putrified goo garners support from her peers. It's also interesting to see Sabrina isn't above bending the rules to her advantage, especially when she feels like her efforts are being stalled by the likes of Father Blackwood, a man who is deathly afraid of her attaining any sort of influence.
Of course, it turns out the High Priest did not send the demons, who claim to have summoned themselves to stop the "half-breed" from ascending. The conspiracy against Sabrina obviously goes far beyond the Academy and is sure to be the running-arc throughout the back half of the season. For now, Sabrina's hopes of becoming Top Boy are dashed when she and Nick are disqualified for making a "mockery" of the process. Instead, the position is awarded to Ambrose, who is granted full-student privileges.
Sabrina's fight to breakdown gender barriers is reflected at Baxter High where Susie (Lachlan Watson) is denied the chance to try out for the boys' basketball team. Susie is mocked and insulted, not only by her fellow students but by the pigheaded team coach. Luckily, Susie finds support from the new school principal, the demonic Ms. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), who tells the coach there will be no gender discrimination under her rule.
Susie's amazing dunk-a-thon performance at the try-out should be a moment of triumph, and it is, in a way, as it gives her the confidence to shed the Susie skin and accept his true identity as a boy. "Call me Theo," he tells best friends Roz (Jaz Sinclair) and Harvey (Ross Lynch). And yet the moment is manufactured. Theo's skills on the court are not his own, they're manipulated by Sabrina, who casts a spell from the bleachers. Sabrina got into trouble in the first half of the season for using her magic on her friends without their consent and here she is at it again. Would Theo be happy to find out Sabrina was behind this great moment of pride? Sabrina slinks away before we find out the answer to that question.
In a heart-to-heart chat with her Aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis), who worries about Sabrina's dark changes, the young enchantress reveals the real reason she cut ties with her mortal friends. "My soul is who I am, and I signed it away, willingly," she explains. "One day the Dark Lord will call on me to do his bidding... and I don't want to be anywhere near [my friends] when it happens. I don't want to get them hurt or see me that way."
What Sabrina says makes sense, to a degree, but it's also deeply concerning given her connection to the mortal world is what kept her grounded until now. The more Sabrina pushes away her mortal friends and immerses herself deeper in the world of witches, the more Aunt Hilda's worries of this being a "prelude to further, darker changes" rings true, especially as we know the Dark Lord is plotting something nefarious behind the scenes. Will Sabrina continue down the Path of Night or will she find her way back to her human friends?
-Welcome back to TV Insider's coverage of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina! Once again I’ll be writing episodic recaps for the entirety of Part 2. My recap of Chapter 13 will be published later today and then look out for a new recap per day between now and April 15. Thanks for reading!
-Aunt Zelda replaces the late Lady Blackwood as the Academy's teacher of Ancient Tongues and Sacred Scripture. While Zelda has always been a major proponent of coven tradition, she also refuses to be marginalized by Father Blackwood in this episode, putting an end to their secret hook-ups until he has the courage to make their relationship legitimate.
-Speaking of characters being marginalized, Prudence is reduced to the role of "childminder." Remember, in the first half of the season we found out Prudence is Father Blackwood's illegitimate daughter, but when she dares suggest taking his surname, he scoffs at the idea.
-Roz has one of her visions where she sees herself kissing Harvey. Given Sabrina's sort-of-date with Nick at the Dorian Gray Club, it seems a potential love square could be on the horizon this season.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Streaming, Netflix