(Before reading my review of the third episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, be sure to read Case’s thoughts on the first two episodes!)
Having run out on her Dark Baptism, Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) finds herself put on trial. She’s been accused of breaking her promise, which is one of the worst things of which a witch can be accused (Especially when that promise was made to Satan.) Even worse, she’s been informed that, in witch court, you are considered to be guilty until proven innocent. The prosecution has her signature in the Book of The Beast. Sabrina has an attorney named Daniel Webster (John Rubinstein).
As soon as I heard the name Daniel Webster, I got excited because I assumed that Sabrina’s attorney was going to turn out to be the great Massachusetts political leader who served 19 years in the U.S. Senate and as Secretary of State under three different U.S. presidents. (Webster was also the subject of a short story and film called The Devil and Daniel Webster, which is briefly referenced when Sabrina is told that Webster once beat the Devil at his own game.) But no, it turned out that Sabrina’s lawyer was just a mortal named Daniel Webster, a guilt-ridden man who once sold his soul to the Devil and asked to be made the world’s greatest attorney. As Webster explains it, he used his powers to win acquittals for the worst of the worst and it wasn’t until one of them murdered his daughter that Webster realized that everything came with a cost. At first, Webster, who is played with a haunting sadness by Rubinstein, refuses to take on Sabrina’s case but then he changes his mind. Of course, this leads to Madam Satan assuming the form of Webster’s dead daughter and trying to manipulate him into dropping the case.
Speaking of manipulation, Harvey (Ross Lynch) is being manipulated by his abusive father to abandon art and work in the mines. As Harvey explained to Sabrina, he once saw a creature of unbelievable evil living underground. Ross Lynch gave an especially good performance in this episode and he and Shipka have an amazing chemistry, as displayed in a scene in which Harvey rather sweetly checked to see if Sabrina had the Spellman “family birthmark.”
That “family birthmark” is one of the key plot points of The Trial of Sabrina Spellman. With her attorney demanding that Sabrina, as a half-human, be tried by human law, Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) suggests that if Sabrina wants to be tried as a human then perhaps she should be forced to endure the degradation that humans have forced on witches over the years. Perhaps, he suggests, she should be tossed in a lake and she can judged by whether or not she floats. Or perhaps, she should be forced to strip naked so that she can be inspected for a witch’s mark. And, at that moment, Sabrina is every woman who has ever had her words or his wishes casually dismissed or who has ever been told that the burden of proof is on her and her alone. Sabrina is told that she can either be humiliated and degraded as a part of the mortal world or she can be a witch and essentially lose all of her freedom. For much of this episode, it appears that there is no middle ground.
Meanwhile, in the moral world, Rosalind (Jaz Walker) fights against school censorship and reveals that she’s losing her eyesight. Rosalind’s bravery inspires Sabrina but it also inspires Ms. Wardwell (who, of course, is actually Madam Satan). Ms. Wardwell announces the formation of a secret book society, which will allow her to continue to manipulate Sabrina.
Toward the end of the The Trial of Sabrina Spellman, Aunt Zelda (played by Miranda Otto) announced, “Praise Satan! I’m young again!” and again, I was reminded that I was no longer watching Melissa Joan Hart and Beth Broderick in Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. That’s not bad thing, of course. When I was growing up, I loved Sabrina, The Teenage Witch and now that I’m an adult, I’m enjoying Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Kiernan Shipka, Mirando Otto, and Lucy Davis are all perfectly cast and Richard Coyle and Michelle Gomez are wonderfully hissable villains.
Up next is Episode 4, which is called Witch Academy. Look for my review either later tonight or tomorrow!