Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S2 E9, Dir: Rob Seidenglanz, Review by Case Wright


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The finale!!! Don’t forget to check out Lisa’s review here!  This season was without a doubt a televised story that Netflix paid to make.  It had its downs and would roll credits.  By the end of this season, I am excited to speak with the show’s fan.

Last season was a triumph and this season was …. just trying.  Why? I didn’t mind that the characters separated and returned together; that’s a critical part of storytelling. I also don’t totally mind what Lisa pointed out: Sabrina sucks at her job.  She’s amazingly incompetent.  That’s kinda refreshing.  Usually, incompetence is just the purview of fat husbands married to pretty wives on sitcoms.  Sabrina blunders through everything she does and manages to survive because everyone cleans up her messes.  This time with Nick’s life, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  This is the finale so let’s get our flashlights out so we can see anything on our screens and try to figure out: Whaaa Happened?!

There was something different about this episode.  It wasn’t directed like it was done by an overtired cashier at The Last Blockbuster Video (Alaska) who couldn’t turn on the lights.  The direction popped and there was actual humor. Why? Am I watching the right show? Rob Seidenglanz directed this episode.  He is known for a number of dramas: The Following, Parenthood, BUT he also directed Party Down- a no kidding great comedy!

This episode and the season can be summed up in one word: burritos….wait, I’m kinda hungry….I meant failure.  Our heroine and her friends can barely tie their shoes correctly.  They should all get chaperones in case they try something challenging like getting their own mail or cutting up their own meat.

Last episode: Our heroine figured out that she was manipulated…oh wait she didn’t.  She unleashed Lucifer by “killing herself” her double.  In this episode, Lucifer gets released and Sabrina challenges him right off. Wait, no she…has dinner with him.  In fact, we learn that Lucifer is her father, but Hilda never thought to mention it. Ok, did the writers’ room just decide to eat bunch of turkey and nyquil sandwiches this season?!!!!!

Sabrina and the aunties try to kill Lucifer, but they bungle that too.  It’s kinda funny.  Sabrina’s friends also fail to keep the gates of hell closed.  Sabrina does a …. song and dance number?????  Huh??? But, Why? Why? Why?  It’s apparently a scheme to trap Lucifer in a puzzle box of her Adoptive Father’s design and it……fails.  Is someone around to bail out Sabrina? Yep, Nick! He makes Lucifer possess him and does a sleep spell.  Luckily, Ms. Wardwell is around to carry them both off to hell.  The shot is reminiscent of The Beyond, but no one goes blind from the revelation.

The episode ends with Sabrina and her friends planning out season 3 by deciding to try to go into Hell and rescue Nick. Poor, poor Nick.  Maybe you should stop doing…you know…things.  See you next season.  Maybe, Lisa will review it again if you beg her as I will!

This season as gif:

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TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2.8 “The Mandrake” (dir by Kevin Sullivan)


When last we checked in on the adventures of the Greendale’s most boring family of witches, Sabrina had been resurrected as some sort of witch messiah and was planning on revealing the truth of her powers to all of Roz’s church friends when she was suddenly stopped by Harvey.  Harvey cried out, “If you ever loved me, stop!”  That got a look from both Roz and Nick, not to mention Sabrina.

Anyway, it turned out that Harvey found a wall painting of Sabrina in the mines and apparently, the painting indicated that Sabrina was destined to be the herald of Hell and bring about the apocalypse.

“Am I evil!?” Sabrina asked.

The 8th episode of the 2nd season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina attempted to answer this question and, as is typical with this show, the results were mixed.  In order to try to exorcise the evil out of her, Sabrina convinced Ambrose to help her create a duplicate Sabrina, a “mandrake.”  The Mandrake Sabrina would have all of her powers but none of her humanity and the plan was for the real Sabrina to kill the fake Sabrina 24 hours after creating it.  This would not only vanquish whatever evil that Sabrina had inside of her but it would also deprive her of both her powers and her immortality.  In short, Sabrina would become a normal mortal but, at the same time, she also wouldn’t end the world.

Sounds like a good plan, right?

Of course, it didn’t work like that, largely due to the fact that Sabrina is incredibly incompetent.  While Sabrina managed to create the Mandrake, she didn’t do a very good job of keeping track of it.  This led to the Evil Sabrina wandering around Greendale and exploiting all of her friends’s insecurities and weaknesses.  Of course, since Sabrina only has three friends, this means that the Mandrake just tracked down Harvey, Roz, and Theo.  If Harvey, Roz, and Theo were complex characters (as opposed to thinly drawn caricatures), it would be potentially interesting to see how the Mandrake manipulated them and tried to use their weaknesses against them.  But, as I’ve been saying since this season began, there’s not much to say about the members of Sabrina’s supporting cast.  Everyone has one or two traits that are used to define them.  Of course, Roz is going to be insecure about her relationship with Harvey and her eyesight because that’s really the only two things that Roz has going on in her life.  The show’s refusal to dig any deeper into its supporting cast remains one of its most glaring flaws.

On the plus side, the Mandrake’s plan to create duplicates of Harvey, Roz, and Theo did lead to a nice homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Kiernan Shipka did a great job playing both Sabrina and her evil twin.  As is usually the case with this series, Kiernan Shipka’s efforts to hold this uneven episode together were nothing less than heroic.

When the episode wasn’t dealing with Sabrina and her Mandrake, it was focusing on Father Blackwood’s attempts to break away from the Church of Night and join the Church of Judas.  It was …. well, not very interesting.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Wardwell sent a reanimated scarecrow to kill Sabrina.  The scarecrow failed, of course but Sabrina has now finally figured out that Wardwell is her enemy.  Considering that Mrs. Wardwell has never been a subtle antagonist, you have to wonder how dumb Sabrina is to have only now figured this out.

Anyway, I actually liked this episode a little bit more than the previous one.  It had all the usual flaws that we’ve come to expect from this series but Kiernan Shipka’s evil turn as the Mandrake elevated the episode.  As usual, Kiernan Shipka remains the show’s greatest strength.  At times, it’s the show’s only strength.

Up next, Case finished up season 2 by reviewing the finale!

TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2.7 “The Miracles of Sabrina Spellman” (dir by Antonio Negret)


GOOD GOD, CAN SOMEONE IN GREENDALE TURN ON A FREAKING LIGHT!?

As you may have guessed from the introduction, I am once again reviewing Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  I will be reviewing the seventh and eighth episodes of the 2nd season and then Case will be back with us, covering the big finale.  If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you know that one of my huge issues with this show is that no one in this damn town — even the mortals — seems to know how to flip a light switch.  Visually and thematically, this is one dark show.

It’s also, especially during season 2, been a rather dull show.  Watching it, one gets the feeling that the writers ran out of ideas halfway through season 1.  Yes, everyone worships Satan.  Yes, they’re all witches and warlocks.  That should be interesting but trust this show to make the dark arts seem boring and rather tedious.  “What the Heaven’s happened!?”  Aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis) exclaims at the start of the show when she sees as seriously, perhaps fatally, wounded Sabrina and replacing “Hell” with “Heaven” is supposed to be shocking but, at this point, who cares?

The show’s main strength has always been Kiernan Shipka’s performance Sabrina.  She’s always been able to bring life to even the laziest of dialogue but this episode comes close to defeating even the normally reliable Shipka.  Kiernan Shipka has always kept the show grounded but this episode sent her up into the air.

While the previous episode ended with Sabrina nearly dead, this episode opens with Sabrina coming back to life and becoming not only a healer but also a messianic figure.  Sabrina not only heals Ambrose but she also prevents him from being executed.  And it says a lot of about this show’s flaws that I wouldn’t have minded if Amrbose’s head had been chopped off.  If nothing else, it would have meant no longer having to listen to him whine about every little thing.  Sabrina also gives Roz back her eyesight, so I guess that subplot’s resolved.  Roz is no longer blind and yay, I guess.  Roz is a flat, one-demensional character.  You didn’t care when she went blind and you’re not going to care that she can now see.  By that same token, you’re not going to care when Aunt Zelda is freed from the spell that Blackwood’s put her under because, again, she’s just Zelda and she’s not that interesting.

Anyway, now that Sabrina has returned from the dead and can magically do whatever the script requires her to do at any given moment, she wants to spread her father’s gospel and bring together mortals and humans.  Alone among the students at the Academy, Nick Scratch thinks that’s a good idea and I’d be worried about that if I cared about Nick and Sabrina as a couple….

Really, this was a surprisingly uninvolving episode.  I’m not even going to discuss Harvey and Theo in the mines or Ms. Wardwell creating a servant in her bathtub.  Nor am I going to talk about the rat that a possessed Zelda drops in a meat grinder.  It all plays out very slowly and it mostly plays out in the dark and it doesn’t work because none of these characters feel like they’re worth all the trouble.

As I pointed out earlier, even Kiernan Shipka stuggled during this episode.  Over the course of one episode, Sabrina goes from being a teenager trying to find her place in the world to being some sort of witch messiah and, in the process, she becomes self-righteous and a bit dull.  The episode ends with Sabrina looking at a cave painting, a prophecy that proclaims her to be the herald of Hell.

“I’m evil!” Sabrina says, shocked.

And who knows?  Maybe she is.  But seriously, who cares?

Coming up next, once I’ve found the strength to continue, episode 8!  And then Case will be here to wrap things up with the finale!

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S2, Ep6, The Missionaries, Review by Case Wright


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This is the first time in a long time where I rooted for the “villains” to kill off every character.  It’s a hard thing to watch a show you love slowly fail.  It’s like a bad relationship that slouches on from inertia and the inconvenience of setting up a separate bank account.  This is how I feel about CAOS.  I was really hoping that this episode would be the last one, but….not so much.

I would normally describe the director’s technique, but it’s Alex Pillai again and…man it has all the subtlety of a Lifetime MOW.  Not to say that I don’t REALLY like a good guilty pleasure lifetime live tweet, BUT that’s a different animal.  Lifetime movies are supposed to be campy and over the top ridiculous, but CAOS is supposed to bridge comics and realism and instead it’s just giggle-inducing borefest.

The episode opens with Nick being tortured by a guy who looks like a Mormon missionary who is about to chop his hands off.  Oh well, Nick kinda got on my nerves; maybe they’ll have to write a soupy episode featuring Nick titled: Who needs the clap?  Ambrose is still locked up without a shirt doing pull-ups.  This show has more gratuitous beefcake than Arrow season 1 and that is saying A LOT!  I do give Chance Perdomo credit on his abs.  I’m developing my abs and it is a process.  Chance, tip of the hat to committing to the shred!

The “Missionaries”of the episode aren’t really missionaries per se, but they ARE gorgeous blonde angels named Jerathmiel and Mehitable (Spencer Treat Clark and Bayley Corman)! I guess it makes sense that angels would be pretty, but WHOA!  It turns out these angels are avenging angels armed with the latest in …..Ancient Weaponry… wait, what?!  Why?!  Really, why are they armed with crossbows?  Most states just require a driver’s license to purchase any gun you want; let alone what you can get on craigslist.  This just seemed unnecessarily antiquated and dumb like really dumb….really!  Crossbows are heavy, awkward, take a long time load, hard to aim, and are ridiculous.  Bleh.

Jerathmiel and Mehitable spent most of the episode blundering through town trying to kill all of the witches of Greendale.  Why bother?  We already learned in previous episodes that the teenagers are unvaccinated and catch the Chicken Pox.  Just send in Jenny MacArthy’s measles carrying minions into town and you’ll have the whole town on its knees in matter of hours!

Jerathmiel and Mehitable catch most of the witches and start purifying the town.  I guess this says a lot about how the show has degraded because I really rooted for the Angels.  I thought to myself…Self, maybe they could just go full-on Hamlet?!!!!

This main plot is interwoven with the more compelling love story between Wardwell and Adam.  He wants to take her to Tibet.  She is about to accept when the Devil finds out about their escape plan, so the Devil turns Adam in Wardwell’s diner.  REALLY.  It’s really sad, but sets up a great revenge arc for Wardwell that looks MUCH more interesting than the primary storyline.

Jerathmiel and Mehitable have all the witches cornered and even put a few arrow bolts into Sabrina, but the Devil resurrects Sabrina and gets the Angels to renounce God and envelopes the angels in flames.  Honestly, I thought this scene was just plain terrible.  The angels spent the whole episode being intrepid crusaders, but they were easily cowed by a floating Sabrina?!  Really?! It came across as contrived.  The angels were so brave for the entire episode and then… nope.  It was just awful in an awful way, not like Lifetime which is bad in an AWESOME way.

I’m not sure what the show should do or where it should go, but it needs artistic honesty because without it, the suspense withers away like a dried out orange.

 

TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2.4 “Doctor Cerberus’s House of Horrors” (dir by Alex Garcia Lopez)


Is Chilling Adventures of Sabrina the most underlit show on Netflix?

Seriously, every scene on the show seems to take place in near darkness.  I get that’s because the show itself is supposed to be dark and spooky and I appreciate the fact that the show is trying to maintain a proper atmosphere but still, as I watched the fourth episode of the 2nd season, I found myself shouting, “Will someone turn on a freaking light!?”  Like a lot of things about this show, the constant darkness seems like one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” concepts.

That said, I also have to say that I liked this installment a bit more than the previous episode.  Though it can probably be correctly stated that this was something of a filler episode, it still had enough surreal moments to remain entertaining.  In fact, it reminded me a bit of last season’s superior Dreams In A Witch House.  Like that episode, House of Horrors largely took place in the minds of the show’s characters.  Whereas Dreams In A Witch House used the character’s nightmares as a way to provide a glimpse of their subconscious fears and desires, this episode used Tarot readings.

The episode begins with Hilda and Dr. Cee hanging out at Cerebrus Books.  No mention is made of the fact that Dr. Cee apparently has an incubus inside of him, which seems like an odd thing to go unmentioned.  Anyway, a fortune teller (played by Veronica Cartwright) shows up and asks if she can do readings in the back of the store.  Hilda and Dr. Cee promptly agree because …. well, when do they ever say no to anyone?

For the next hour, various characters wandered into Cerebrus Books and got their fortune read.  The fortune teller turning over her cards would lead to everyone having a surreal vision of the future.  The visions rarely turned out well but, with one huge exception, the fortune teller was always quick to explain that the ominous vision was actually a good thing.  For instance, Sabrina may have seen herself getting killed during Nick’s magic show but the fortune teller was quick to explain that the vision meant Sabrina should put her faith in Nick and not trust anyone else.  Theo may have had a vision of turning into a boy and then having his body turn to wood but apparently, that meant Theo should trust others to help him out.  Roz was thinking of having an operation to get her sight restored but her vision — in which a blind girl accused Roz of stealing her eyes — convinced Roz that she should remain blind.  Harvey saw that going to Rhode Island would lead to him having a Satanic roommate.  Hilda envisioned telling Father Blackwood the truth about the baby but then discovered that would just lead to Blackwood cheating on her.  “Some secrets,” the fortune teller announces, “should stay secrets.”

Finally, Ambrose showed up and got his vision of the future.  Four things disturbed him.  First off, Luke was nowhere in the vision.  Secondly, in the vision, Father Blackwood made him a member of the Judas Society and ordered him to murder the Spellmans.  Third, in the vision, Ambrose did just that.  And fourth, the fortune teller told Ambrose this was going to happen, regardless of what he did.

Rushing to Father Blackwood’s office, Ambrose asked for an assurance that Father Blackwood would never hurt the Spellmans. “Of course not!” Blackwood replied before informing Ambrose that Luke was dead and that Ambrose was now a member of the Judas Society….

After all this, it was revealed that the fortune teller had actually been Ms. Wardwell in disguise.  I can’t say that I was particularly surprised by this reveal.  Since Wardwell was, up until the show’s final five minutes, the only regular not to have made an appearance, it was obvious that the fortune teller would turn out to be her.  I’m going to assume that her advice was intentionally bad and we should definitely be worried about Sabrina’s relationship with Nick.

Anyway, this episode was entertaining enough.  Since Sabrina is really the only multidimensional character on the show, Chilling Adventures can be uneven when it doesn’t focus on her but this show managed to do a pretty good job with the other characters.  We may not have learned anything new about any of them but some of their visions were enjoyably surreal and macabre.  The scenes of Theo’s body turning to wood were well-handled and Roz’s vision was genuinely frightening.  Even though you knew they weren’t real, the scenes of a murderous Ambrose stalking through the Spellman House were appropriately creepy.

Up next in the TSL’s Sabrina review-a-thon: Case returns with his reviews of Episodes Five and Six!

TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 2 Episode 3 “Lupercalia” (dir by Salli Richardson-Whitfield)


Hi, everyone!  Case already reviewed the first two episodes of the second season of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and now, I’m here to take care of episode 3.

Episode 3 is centered around Lupercalia, an actual Pagan holiday from ancient Rome that is reimagined here as a sort of Valentine’s Day for witches and warlocks.  Basically, in the Sabrina version of Lupercalia, the holiday begins with the Matching, where each witch is paired up with a warlock.  This leads to the Courting, where the warlock and the witch go out into the woods, get naked, and spend the night staring up at the moon.  Then, finally, we get the Hunt, where each witch chases her warlock through the woods and the whole thing ends with a big orgy.  (The Sabrina version sounds considerably more fun than the real version, which involved a lot of animal sacrifices.)  Though participation in Lupercalia is voluntary, Zelda tells Sabrina that it would be foolish for her not to take part.  (Hilda, meanwhile, can’t even bring herself to say the word “sex.”)  After all, now that Sabrina and Harvey are no more, this would be a perfect opportunity for Sabrina to spend some time with that charming young warlock, Nicholas Scratch.

Interestingly enough, Nick is just as fascinated with Valentine’s Day as Sabrina is with Lupercalia.  As eager as Sabrina is to leave behind Baxter High and experience life at the Academy, Nick is just as curious about experiencing what it’s like to be a mortal.  It’s actually one of the more clever things about this sometimes uneven episode.  Though I don’t trust Nick, he and Sabrina do make for a far more interesting couple than Sabrina and Harvey ever did.  It also helps that Kiernan Shipka and Gavin Leatherwood have an undeniable chemistry together.  You believe their romance, even when the show occasionally seems determined to mess things up with unnecessary filler.

Yes, that’s right.  I just used the dreaded “f” word.  As I watched Lupercalia, it occurred to me that I’d probably like The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina a lot more if each episode was only 30 to 40 minutes long.  That way, the show could focus on Sabrina and we wouldn’t have to waste time with any of the less interesting characters or subplots.  Instead, this episode was a little over an hour long and it seemed that, every time that I started to get really involved in Sabrina and Nick’s storyline, the episode would cut to something less interesting.

For instance, Sabrina and Nick discover that Nick is being stalked by his former familiar, a wolf named Amalia.  Amalia is jealous of Nick’s attraction to Sabrina.  Ms. Wardwell says that the only solution is for Nick to murder his familiar.  Will Nick kill for Sabrina?  Will Sabrina kill for Nick?  Well, before we can find that out, we have to deal with stuff like Roz suddenly going blind right after she kisses Harvey and Father Blackwood asking Zelda to marry him.  Or else Hilda’s trying to let Dr. Cee know how she feels about him, just to discover that he can’t be with her because he has an incubus inside of him.  And the whole time this is going on, I was just thinking to myself, “Yes, but what about Sabrina?  I DON’T CARE ABOUT ANY OF THESE OTHER CHARACTERS!”

Kiernan Shipka has always been the best thing about Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  Even when the writers fail her, Shipka always manages to keep the show afloat.  She’s likable, she’s compelling, and she’s believable as both a curious teenager and a naive witch.  Shipka has many great moments in Lupercalia but the episode’s momentum seems to come to a halt whenever she’s not on screen.  It’s not that the rest of the cast isn’t capable as much as their characters are all rather one-note.  Hilda is always insecure and introverted.  Zelda is always arch and sardonic.  Roz is always going blind and Harvey is always kind of a goof.  The only character, other than Sabrina, who is the least bit interesting is Theo and that’s because his storyline is about how far society has come and how far it has yet to go.

In the end, Lupercalia is an interesting but uneven episode of a frequently interesting but uneven show.

A few final notes:

  • It’s interesting to note that, much like Romulus and Remus — whom Lupercalia is meant to honor — Nick was raised by a wolf.
  • Though I find Ms. Wardwell to be a bit of a one-note character, I did enjoy her shock and horror upon discovering that she has a fiance.
  • The scenes in the woods were gorgeously filmed and full of atmosphere.  I’ve seen some people online saying that it doesn’t make any sense that Nick and Sabrina would be comfortable spending an entire February night outside in their underwear but since when does love and lust have to make sense?
  • The scene where Theo told his father that he was a boy (“I’m not a girl.”) was nicely and sensitively handled, I thought.
  • This episode ended with Sabrina killing a wolf, Nick in tears, and Roz apparently blind. What will happen next?  We’ll find out and I’ll be here to review episode 4 before turning things back over to Case for episodes 5 and 6!

 

 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S1 E10, The Witching Hour, (Dir. Rob Seidenglanz) Review


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Happy Halloween!!! I want to take a moment to thank Lisa. She is a great editor and writer.  She has given me so much support. It was a creative bucket list item review a show with her.  Thank you.

This is the final episode of the season and has the tone and feel of the nadir.  This episode is extremely polished and feels a lot like a well-done network season finale.  The shots are well framed, there is good creepy vibe, and we develop a visceral sense of every character’s inner struggle with each shot.  This is the work of a deliberate pro: Rob Seidenglanz.  It’s actually difficult to see a brilliant show that he hasn’t worked on.  My favorite shot is where Sabrina’s friends finally ask her if she is a witch.  The camera work makes you feel for Sabrina as she is confronted with her true self and she feels unmoored.

Once she’s confronted, it brings us to the question: how free is our will?  I have talked about evil A LOT in my reviews.  I have met evil men who committed terrible acts who will NEVER see justice and I know why they did what they did (see previous reviews and retweet them).  Why is Sabrina so close to the edge?  The same reason the men I met did what they did: she thinks she knows better and because she can.  When I deal with sanctimonious people on social media, I get nervous because they have the arrogance, but I don’t know if they really have the means.  Luckily, most are just lonely and online.  The scary combination that should keep everyone up at night is what these totally self-certain people will do if they feel justified.  You can imagine them shrugging off the collateral damage that they cause in their decisions for expediency.

Back to the review, Sabrina is faced with the oncoming of the resurrected witches who will destroy the town with the help of a headless horseman or some such.  Who is summoning all these demons? Ms Wardwell!!! It all looks terrible for the town.  Sabrina and the fam decide to protect the town, but Ms Wardwell manages to isolate Sabrina.  Once she’s alone, Sabrina’s convinced without a lot of struggle that she alone can solve everything! This plays to Sabrina’s vanity so perfectly that she signs Satan’s book and kicks a lot of ass, but at the cost of her soul.  That is where the corruption concludes.  We see Sabrina walking with with the sisters and she gives a lusty wink to Nick.

Side note: Aunt Z steals a baby and Ms Wardwell is Adam’s first wife Lilith.

SIDE SIDE NOTE IN RE LILITH: If you’re going through a divorce or know someone who is take solace because even the original Adam got divorced. Eve was Adam’s second wife after Lilith refused to subordinate herself to him and split.  Therefore, we are ALL children of divorce.

This show had so many complex characters…and Harvey.  I guess not everyone is supposed to be interesting.  Shipka brought this character to life with so many flaws, but with so much courage.  I like that Sabrina was flawed and corruptible.  It made it a human story.  The show gave a lot of opportunities to some new director and that is great in and of itself.

Happy Halloween!