There is always the danger, when a series comes back for a second season (or in this case, a second part), that they will suffer from the “sophomore slump” – the dreaded second album writer’s block, as it were. In contrast, Part 2 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comes rocketing out the starting gate, benefiting no doubt from the character setup that had been completed in the previous half of the season.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Part 2
Original Air Date: 05/04/19
Developed by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Starring: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Richard Coyle & Miranda Otto
So we pick up with Part 2 where Part 1 left off. Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) has signed her soul over to the Dark Lord by signing his book at long last. Where do we go from there? Part 2 explores the repercussions of Sabrina’s commitment to the Church of the Night. How can she continue to reconcile her mortal and witching life when she has preached her willingness to serve the Dark Lord completely? The resulting storyline is all about Sabrina’s battle for agency in a world in which everyone seeks to manipulate her. Hilda (Lucy Davis), Zelda (Miranda Otto) and Ms. Wardwell/Madam Satan (Michelle Gomez) all have opinions on what Sabrina’s next moves are, while Sabrina devotes herself to pushing back against these expectations on her behaviour. In particular, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina draws our attention to the men who seek to control Sabrina, namely Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) and The Dark Lord himself (Luke Cook). Sabrina hopes both to reform the sexism and misogyny ingrained into the Church of Night, as well as viewing the Dark Lord as just another man whose will she can escape: a dangerous game to be playing, to be sure. Sabrina’s battle between good and evil has never felt more dire, especially with the discovery of a prophecy in the mines…
However, it isn’t only Sabrina who receives a worthwhile story arc here. Lots of the other cast members who have had little to do previously consume a lot of screen time and we see much more meaningful character development. In particular we see this through the deliciously watchable Theo – previously Susie – (Lachlan Watson), whose journey to transitioning is handled sensitively and assuredly. Theo’s protestations and explanations of his own gender identity are put forth very eloquently and clearly whenever it faces opposition, and the support system around him is truly heartwarming. It’s a lesson for the audience watching, and it’s nice to see trans issues being brought to the fore on television. We also see development in Roz (Jaz Sinclair) as she continues to investigate the Cunning alluded to in Part 1, as well as becoming closer to Harvey (Ross Lynch), who is tougher and more assertive this time around.
This part of the season sees both Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto) pursuing their own desires: in the case of Hilda, this being Dr. Cee (Alessandro Juliani), while Zelda seeks to rise within the Church of the Night, starting with a new position at The Academy. Speaking of the Academy, Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) is a shining light in this cluster of episodes. She demonstrates that she is capable of constructing a character with much hidden depth and nuance as we are constantly forced to reevaluate where her loyalties lie. She manages to portray Prudence as somebody who is both fierce, talented and uninhibited, but also insecure and in need of guidance. Her scenes were standout throughout the second part of this season.
Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), who was largely limited to engaging in bisexual orgies for much of the first part and confined to the house to be bitchy and sarcastic, gets some great character development here. We see hints at his hidden traumas and past, and he is the focal point for a number of episodes towards the middle of the story arc. It is nice to see the relationships that he has with his family and his reevaluation of his place with him now that he has the ability to leave the house.
I haven’t even had chance to mention the incomparable Madam Satan/Lilith/Ms. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez). I was familiar with Gomez’s work before seeing Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, having seen her portray Missy in Doctor Who – an utterly delightful and bonkers character, but one that was not written to have much depth short of being a megalomaniac. Here, Madam Satan is thought through much more, and we see what truly drives her in what appears to be an unrewarding and unfulfilling relationship that she has with The Dark Lord. It is notable that Gomez manages to make Lucifer’s girlfriend a sympathetic character who you somehow want to succeed even when she is plotting against our main characters. We see an unravelling and an exploration of Lilith’s agency in these collection of episodes, mirroring Sabrina’s own journey in a way, but played with much more dimensionality in Gomez’s capable hands.
All of this without even mentioning Sabrina’s love life. The second part of Season 1 takes us further away from the mortal realm and launches us heavily within the magical lore that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is constructing for us. That does not mean that it is without its relationship drama though, with Nick (Gavin Leatherwood) proving to be a very admirable romantic interest for Sabrina. He does not feel as a character to be developed merely to be a “third” in a convoluted love triangle with Sabrina, but rather their connection and chemistry has been written to be believable as a couple. In fact, I quite prefer the relationship and dynamic that Sabrina has with Nick, who knows and understands her magical world, compared to Harvey, who is much more reliant upon Sabrina in many ways.
The only characters who have yet to be satisfactorily explored (at least in my eyes) are Weird Sisters Agatha (Adeline Rudolph) and Dorcas (Abigail Cowen). Prudence has meaningful development in way of her own identity and role within the Church, but these two fade away into background characters, and to be honest, it’s a bit of a farce that Adeline Rudolph is a member of the main cast considering her lack of anything to do, while Lachlan Watson’s touching portrayal of Theo and Gavin Leatherwood’s charming Nick are relegated to supporting cast.
Throughout this series, the writers are able to show us a magical world deeply in need of fixing. One that is rampant with gender inequality that Sabrina staunchly opposes. It’s slightly insane that in a world that seems to deviate so vastly from our own (being that it is, of course, about Satanist witches) that women still have to face subjugation at the hands of men. It gives us something relatable and a tangible, visceral evil without appearing preachy in its handling of the subject matter.
To conclude, while I have in the past complained about Netflix series’ being unable to handle writing a series at a time without the storyline feeling stretched and convoluted, here it works dramatically in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The character arcs and development seen here were clearly well thought out and constructed as a complete story to be told in nine separate parts. Each episode has a meaningful and cohesive flow within, and then across, all culminating in a spectacularly suspenseful season finale that completely reconceptualises the show moving forwards. A thrilling and well-paced journey, with high stakes and an investment in the lives of the characters.
Watch Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Part 2 on Netflix to see how Sabrina’s Dance with the Devil ends…
To read my recaps of each episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Part 2, click here [Warning: Spoilers].