Can I have it all or is that too much?
‘Cause I’m a real bad witch and I won’t give up
I’m a nightmare wrapped in a pretty bow
Just wait ’til I get there down below
When the music video for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina season 3’s charming bop “Straight to Hell” dropped in place of a trailer, it told us a lot of what we already knew about the coming season. Sabrina Spellman’s (Kiernan Shipka) boyfriend was trapped in hell, and she was going to rip him out with her bare hands if push came to shove. What we didn’t know was that the song, particularly the above verse, told us so much more about what was to come.
Saving the devilish Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) from the pit might be Sabrina’s primary focus, but the season spends less time on that than you may think. As a matter of fact, Sabrina’s thread might be the least interesting in Part 3’s web. I wouldn’t necessarily categorize that as a bad thing.
Sabrina Spellman is very young. She’s going to be frustrating, often predictable, and sometimes more than a little selfish. That’s the right way to write almost any teenager. All of that doesn’t make for a very enjoyable show unless you’ve got other arcs helping make up for those annoyances. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina definitely stretched the number of character narratives you can squeeze into one season. But they also managed to pull it off.
When I called Part 3 a “web” earlier, that wasn’t me trying to be a plucky writer. There is a lot going on this season. Woven in with all the character arcs and different narratives are some themes that you might not expect to see in a show like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. That unexpected nature is what makes how they’re handled so very important.
The rest of this review contains spoilers for the new season, since the most interesting elements of the show require more details to discuss. If you want to go in completely fresh, bookmark this link and come back after you’ve binged it.
Whether it’s in fiction or in regard to the persnickety woman who lives down your lane, where a witch draws her power from matters. When we last saw the witches of the Church of Night in Part 2, they had just experienced a bit of a crisis in faith. That crisis isn’t easily resolved, and plays a big role as the coven finds their footing again in this new season. The witches don’t just struggle with who to pray to (though they do find comfort in Lilith for a brief time), but also find themselves without a source for their power.
While they work through their faith, they also find themselves facing a new threat: Pagans. Such a thing might be confusing on the surface, since Pagans and Satanists have been glommed together in the same heathen basket for as long as both have existed, but Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does a pretty solid job establishing the differences quickly. We meet the Great God Pan, and several other old gods before the season’s close. If you were into Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Part 3 is directly up your alley.
Just to clear this up right out the gate: there is no rape in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The thing is, rape and possession have a lot in common. We rarely see media tackle the aftermath of possession, though. This gave the series the perfect opportunity to not only have important conversations, but to really sink its teeth on just how devastating any kind of possession can be. Think Sam and Dean Winchester after one of their respective possessions by Lucifer or Michael in Supernatural. Only Sabrina goes so much harder. And with a secondary character, no less!
Because it’s the point of his arc, we get to see the full effects of Lucifer’s (Luke Cook) possession of Nick Scratch. He turns to any pain or pleasure he can find to try to regain some semblance of control over his body, up to and including an overdose that could stop a horse. His story is one of rage and despair, and is written beautifully.
It might be odd for there to be a callout to two separate themes revolving around a smaller character, especially when there’s just so much happening in Part 3, but I cannot stress how impressed I was with the spiral and eventual survival of complicated playboy Nick Scratch. Every visceral emotion he experiences is eventually channeled into drugs, alcohol, and pain. Anything he can do to get the feeling of Lucifer off of himself. Unfortunately, you can’t just remove what you feel inside.
Nick’s addiction is nearly immediate. As he falls to the drugs, drink, and dungeon, we quickly see all the signs of an addict. The excuses, the deception, and eventually the wrath all come into play as Sabrina selfishly tries to get him to dive back into normalcy. This is one of the few areas that Part 3 struggles, as a matter of fact. Nick Scratch might be a playboy, and he’s certainly told his fair share of lies, but the series does him a disservice by giving Sabrina the high ground after his spiral.
He was wrong to blame her, and even admits as much once everything’s out of his system. But he’s then treated as a moment of realization for Sabrina. That realization isn’t in that she shouldn’t be solely focusing on a boy while the world is falling apart. Instead, it’s on the fact that he never thanked her for dragging him out of hell, and wasn’t as loving as she’d hope after he’d been possessed and toyed with by both Lilith (Michelle Gomez) and Lucifer. Nick Scratch is a boy of many sins, but this tidbit was handled poorly.
Part 3 does an interesting job mixing Paganism and mythology. They often go hand in hand, sure. But how often do you see Pan dating Medusa? (Seriously, if that sounds like your thing, you really should be reading – or watching – American Gods. Shout out to the Percy Jackson series, too.) The Pagans’ carnival is a fun hodgepodge of the old gods and mythological creatures that the series just doesn’t have the time to delve into. Lots of fun aesthetics though!
As we get to know the Pagans better, we learn that their goal is to ultimately resurrect The Green Man. The figure does have deep Pagan roots, but the portrayal as a totem to destroy humanity is relatively unique to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. As a matter of fact, The Green Man’s typically a symbol of nature and fertility. Though, in all fairness, man is actively destroying one of those things. If you were into Netflix’s Apostle, you’ll probably dig this plotline.
This one’s pretty common with witches in media, but this season might have the most in common with the likes of Practical Magic when it comes to reclaiming one’s power and finding a way to integrate with one’s community. If you loved Halloweentown, you’re going to find a lot to engage with in this season as well.
The Church of Night is an elitist bunch. Zelda Spellman (Miranda Otto) might be one of the best characters on the show, but she’s also kind of an awful hag sometimes. Her purist nonsense fit right in with her former husband – and current problem – Foustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle). It also prickled the Pagans early on and nearly resulted in Mambo Marie’s (Skye P. Marshall) departure. That’d be the very same Mambo Marie that was integral to the survival of the coven.
Mambo Marie and the exiled witches aren’t alone in their “other” status this year. We see the same kind of outsider treatment toward young Robin, a hobgoblin from the Pagan camp who’s found himself in love with the ever-wonderful Theo. Somewhat fittingly, we see the kids come around on Robin much quicker than Zelda warms to the idea of outsider help. Though both arcs end in a smooch or two.
A Nightmare Wrapped in a Pretty Bow
By the time the credits roll on the final episode of the season, we find ourselves with two Sabrinas, an erased apocalypse, many of the coven dead, and a whole lot of complicated relationships. The height of those complications rests with Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), whose understandable rage at the loss of her sisters cannot be calmed. She leaves Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) to continue her hunt for her father. Their relationship is an unfortunate loss for the series, but probably for the best. Ambrose is going to have his hands full helping the monumentally short-sighted Sabrina deal with the fact that there are now two of her.
Though the final episode is a bit shakier than the rest of an otherwise incredible season, we still see plenty of setup for Part 4. The Eldritch Terrors are free (if you found yourself hyped in Underwater, Parts 3 and 4 will certainly interest you), the coven has a new source of power, one of the most powerful witches of the Church of Knight is on the warpath, and Sabrina Spellman will see just how dangerous “having it all” can be when it’s achieved through questionable means.
The post ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Season 3 Review: A Wicked and Sinfully Entertaining Cauldron of Episodes appeared first on /Film.