Review: ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Part 2 Episode 1

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has returned, and where Part 1 focused on Sabrina having to choose between her normal life among mortals or signing her soul to Satan to become a witch, Part 2 dives headfirst into the occult, with Sabrina fully embracing her life as a witch. Episode 1 of this part, entitled “The Epiphany”, is a solid, if not somewhat slow, opening episode rife with spells, demons, and teen angst.

When last we saw Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka), she had signed her name in the Book of the Beast, giving her soul to Satan and gaining the signature white hair she has in the comics. “The Epiphany” picks up shortly after the end of Part 1. Sabrina is settling into her life as a witch and has enrolled as a full-time student of the Academy of Unseen Arts, leaving her mortal life behind. Being half-human, Sabrina is seen as an outsider to many at the Academy but that won’t stop her from making waves and shaking up one of the school’s oldest traditions.

The Academy, and the whole of the Church of Night, is extremely patriarchal, and follows a conservative and openly sexist doctrine that parallels the doctrine of the Catholic Church. When the High Priest of the Church of Night, Father Faustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle), announces that the Academy needs a new Top Boy, a liaison between students and instructors, Sabrina throws her name into the ring, much to the frustration of Father Blackwood. He explains that the Top Boy title has and always will go to a man but ultimately must allow Sabrina to run for the title as there’s no written rule expressly preventing her from running. Father Blackwood grows angry with Sabrina upon learning of her desire to one day take his job and become High Priestess of the Church of Night. Blackwood furiously declares that a woman will never be able to rise to such a station. The Church of Night is stuck in the past, and Sabrina aims to change that.

The bulk of the episode follows Sabrina facing the three magical trials she must complete to become Top Boy, doing her best to beat the boys at their own game. Unfortunately for Sabrina, she’s being hounded by demons that hinder her progress. Throughout the episode, the three Plague Kings—Beelzebub, Lord of Flies, Asmodeus, Lord of Vermin, and Purson, Lord of Shadow—appear and make attempts on Sabrina’s life. The Plague Kings, an obvious parallel to the Three Wise Men at the birth of Christ, each come bearing deadly gifts in hopes of killing Sabrina. The angry Plague Kings seek to prevent Sabrina from ascending, but they don’t elaborate further, setting up the conflict for this part.

The other part of the episode centers on Sabrina’s mortal friends. In Part 1, Sabrina’s friends didn’t really have much to do and lived their lives revolved around Sabrina. In Part 2, however, Harvey (Ross Lynch), Roz (Jaz Sinclair), and Susie (Lachlan Watson) are living their lives separate from Sabrina and as a result, gives them more depth. The greatest amount of character depth given to the mortal friends this episode goes to Susie, who musters the courage to announce to his friends that he is a boy, and his name is Theo.

While the portrayal of the Church of Night’s sexism is at times cartoonish, with Father Blackwood and his cabal of dude-bros touting their casual misogyny like it was a contest, “The Epiphany” does a solid job at setting up the mysterious demon conflict, feminist themes, and potential character drama. Look, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a mess, but it’s one hell of an entertaining mess and I unabashedly love this show. This is not a show that takes deep looks into its themes, but it’s dark and fun, and what more can you ask for from a show about a teenage witch? 7/10

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is now streaming on Netflix

(Photos by Netflix)

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