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!

 

 

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S2,Ep2 Review By Case Wright


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Hello friends. Last time we spoke, it was really hard.  I wondered if my second favorite show after Santa Clarita Diet went Lost Season 2 on me.  The season opener was bad…really bad.  It was scary for me to watch the second episode.  I was actually worried that the show was a season 1 fluke or maybe I misread or willfully blinded myself to a meh show. Well, I’m happy to write that this episode was a solid …. Not Bad.  Its flaws were LEGION (and we’ll go over those), but the story had a theme, character growth, and despair.  Honestly, through in some Adele and Ben and Jerry’s and you got the makings of a lonely night in as you watch yourself age and love sulks away from you, broken, and never to return.

The episode is all about unrequited love and who We should be, but who We really are.  It’s fun, if you’re in the mood for it.  It was written by new writer Mj Kaufman and Christina Ham (Orphan Black) and these writers capture the loneliness of all of the most interesting characters.

The Devil talks to Ms Wardwell who we know is Lilith (Adam’s First Wife).  He not too gently casts her aside and tells Wardwell/Lilith that Sabrina is to be Satan’s Prophet and Queen, not Her.  The heartbreak is palpable, but the Devil’s  Costume looks like a step above Party City and it really takes me out of it.  Lilith asserts that Sabrina is too goody goody to be the Devil’s main squeeze and they wager on it: have Sabrina steal a stick of gum.  Sabrina resists.

I gotta ask why? She seemed all on board the Midnight Train to Gethsemane with Old Scratch, but she just can’t bring herself to steal the forbidden Fruit Stripe.  I would’ve been all in for the Freshen Up gum…ya know the one with the goo inside…I liked it….Whatever.  Because she refused, Satan starts hurting people around Sabrina by giving them Chickenpox.  WHAAAA?  Chickenpox?! What kind of anti-vax town is Greendale?! Let it burn to the ground! They’ll give us all measles!  To make amends to Satan, she starts to burn the school down as per Satan’s command.  Well, why bother?! They’ll all get Whooping Cough soon enough away.  Come on, Lucifer…this town is doomed and weird.

There are good subplots the Lilith story, which is a nice evil love story where Ms Wardwell watches her life portrayed as entertainment.  The Evil Dean wrote and produces a play of Lilith and Satan falling in sort of love.  It might of brought her a smile, but instead it brings tears because Satan has found a new special lady and Lilith’s destined to be eternally alone. We see in Ms Wardwell AKA Lilith how love is supposed to be, but how it withers and dies.

Suzie is now Theo is the focus of the other subplot. She should be accepted as a boy, but it doesn’t quite work out that way.  Theo tries to change in the boy’s locker room and is mocked by some, but gawked at by all.  The shot is done very well. We close up on the known bullies from the previous episodes, but then the camera pulls back and ALL of the boys are gawking silently, waiting to see female nudity regardless of her gender identity.  They simply can’t help it.  Where we should be, but who we are.  It’s disappointing, realistic, and sad.

Sabrina and Harvey react to a sensual spark and begin making out, but her tie to Satan destroys the encounter and ends their love affair forever.  What their love should be and the reality cannot be.

This was a good episode overall.  It allowed you to see and not be told Lilith’s story and the struggles that everyone has against loneliness and despair.

Adele

Sabrina S2 Ep1, Epiphany, Review with Spoilers by Case Wright


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October came early this year! It’s time to once again get down with the baddest witch this side of Massachusetts.  As you know from my previous reviews of this show, I’m a bit biased: I am a fan.  In fact, I was looking forward to this next installment since October. Well, I can say without a doubt that the Season 2 Premiere of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, “Epiphany”, was an episode that was made.

A lot of shows go through a Sophomore Slump- the underwhelming return of a beloved show.  By the end of the episode, all the characters that were the most interesting were diminished.  It was still fun to watch and is very entertaining and it’s not Season 2 Stranger Things terrible, but I hold this show to a higher standard: and I mean it!!!!

Season 1 was all about failure and corruption.  Sabrina set out to save her town and herself.  Not only did she endanger her town, she became so corrupted by ego and hubris that the price was her very soul.  It was Shakespearean with a David Lynch vibe.  Season 2 was less than, not to say it can’t or won’t get back on track because it likely will, but this was not great.

The episode was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Showrunner) and directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan who did ….. okay. The direction had the suspense of wet toast.  Not everyone can do suspense and horror and this was sub-awesome.  It sufficed as a recap episode, but not much more.

The plot is that Sabrina wanted to become the “Top Boy” of the witch academy and her love interest Nick is the favorite because he’s a dude.  Suzie who is now Theo wanted to try out for the all-boys basketball team.  I was excited to see them fight the patriarchy and all that, but they did so in the weakest way possible: they cheated.  Sabrina needed to complete three trials versus Nick.  The first one: she won because the Weird Sisters (including Zelda) who for no reason at all like Sabrina now and gave her the answers.  This really bugged because it was not fair to her character.  She’s Sabrina! She’s supposed to be this badass; anyone can win by cheating.

This theme is further reinforced by Sabrina fixing a basketball game so Suzie could win.  Suzie wanted to get on the boy’s team, which is a fair challenge and a good one for this show to tackle, but she was legit terrible at the sport and could only win because Sabrina cheated for her.  This is not empowering. It showed that Sabrina had no faith in Suzie and most importantly it made Suzie look stupid because she never noticed that she went from the beginning of the game from being the Generals to the Globetrotters?!  Suzie was diminished, Sabrina was diminished, and I was insulted by it.  It would have been so much better if Suzie was like WTF?! Why am I so great all of a sudden and then saw that Sabrina was cheating for her, the smile fades from her face, and then Suzie walks off the court.  This would have set up some good conflict with Sabrina, especially since she doesn’t really have any foes right now.

Roberto Sacasa needs to understand the characters he created.  Suzie, Ros, and even Harvey to a MUCH lesser degree were very aware of what was going on around them throughout season 1, making Sabrina’s unnoticed intervention on Suzie’s behalf a lot tougher sell.

There was a subplot of  Evil Three King Demons trying to mess with Sabrina because they were afraid she would ascend.  This could get interesting.  My hopes are high on that one.   This series is still fun, but if it continues down this lazy path it will be more of a guilty pleasure that I watch on the elliptical or something on while I fold the laundry.

 

 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S1 Ep 9: The Returned Man, Review (Dir Craig Macneill)


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Happy Devil’s Eve.  I will be doing the last episode on Halloween- Bwahahaha!

The Returned Man – directed by Craig Macneill is all about the failure! Since both Episode 8 & 9 were directed well, I’d like to get into their differing styles just a bit. Maggie Kiley built suspense with camera moves and slowing ratcheting up tension like a Hitchcock thriller or The Shining. Craig Macneill’s work feels more like an Italian horror film that relies on music, gore, and lighting to convey confusion, horror, and fear.

This episode is the reckoning of Sabrina’s necromancy.  She did raise Tommy, but he came back….different.  Tommy doesn’t speak, eat, or catch footballs normally.  What he does do is be very still and yet menacing.  Also, Sabrina’s clever plot to cheat death and have the witch return from death after 10 minutes isn’t really working out.  The sister is coughing up gravel.  All and all everything is going horribly horribly wrong.  When Sabrina returns the necromancy book to Ms. Wardwell, she feigns surprise that Sabrina went on the necromancy path.  This cements the sole culpability for Sabrina.

Why isn’t Tommy eating?  When the dead miners are delivered to the Spellman house, we learn that there is a good reason Tommy isn’t hungry; he was chowing down on the corpses of the other miners.  Yes, Tommy is a ….. ZOMBIE!!!! This is cut really well with a scene with Tommy attacking their POS dad.

Sabrina realizes that Tommy came back without a soul and that his soul is in limbo.  She thinks she can just waltz into limbo and get it. No muss no fuss.  Well, nope.  The Spellmans are now all aware of Sabrina’s shenanigans and think she is beyond reckless because she is.  No one wants to help Sabrina go into limbo except…..Ms Wardwell.

The limbo scene is excellent.  It reminds me of Phantasm or The Beyond. We pierce the veil and it’s filled with confusion and a terror called a Soul Eater!!! Sabrina meets her mother in Limbo, but she can’t recognize Sabrina.  This reminded me of The Beyond because if you make it to Hell in that film, you go blind from the revelation. Then, she does find Tommy, but as she is about finish Tommy’s rescue, the soul eater devours him.

Ms. Wardwell is conveniently near Sabrina for this scene and all others that can compromise Sabrina.  Wardwell convinces Sabrina that Harvey must know the truth. Sabrina agrees and we see Harvey’s love for Sabrina shatter.  He doesn’t seem angry as much as he is disgusted by being completely overruled in any of the decisions that affected him directly.  This causes them to break up, which isolates Sabrina completely from the human world.

I enjoyed how the characters were allowed to be diminished.  Sabrina failed in every way possible and lost everything.  This allows her to be prepped for a full corruption.  See you on Halloween!!!

*SPOILERS* Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S1 E8: The Burial, Review (Dir Maggie Kiley)


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Happy Devil’s Eve!!! I would like to take a moment to tell Jason Blum to hire this Director A LOT!!! From Jumpstreet, she throws us off and builds suspense with her camera angles and moves.  We’re right there with the characters in the thick of suspense in the first seconds!  It almost has a found footage feel to it.  THAT TAKES SKILL! JASON, HIRE HER! A LOT!!! SHE’LL DO A GREAT JOB AND MAKE YOU LOTS OF MONEY!

Back to the review!

Maggie Kiley understood the theme of the episode immediately: Corruption.  Mostly, she uses close-in one-shots and two-shots, drawing us into these conversations where all of our characters are being slowly cozened into full darkness.

We quickly learn that Harvey’s brother Tommy is trapped in the mine and presumed dead. The drunkard father moves ahead with funeral plans right away to get insurance money.  All of these characters are under stress, which is when the easy corrupt always seems to present itself.  We learn from Hilda that their ground brings people back from the dead and in no way should give Sabrina any ideas to commit necromancy.

Furthering the theme of corruption, as the funeral is held, Sabrina violates Harvey’s will for the third time in the season.  She has used her power to make him forget, make him safe, and make him strong.  As pressure mounts, she continues to become more and more comfortable in overriding Harvey’s will.  The series is amazingly complex in that none of the characters end the season with clean hands.  They all are slowly corrupted in some way.  It brings home the slow pernicious temptation that humankind always faces in times of a crisis: To do right thing or the easy thing.  In this show, everytime Sabrina overrides Harvey’s will, we bear witness to it sending her going further down the path of darkness, giving up more and more of her humanity and bringing her closer to Satan.

And who is there at every turn to nudge Sabrina down the easy path of darkness: Mary Wardwell.  She never tells Sabrina: Raise Tommy From the Dead!!!  No, that’s not how temptation works.  She presents the means and opportunity, allowing Sabrina see this viable opportunity to make things all better.  Mary does it over coffee.  It’s innocuous, but the option is presented.

Throughout the episode, it’s brought up that she never asked Harvey if bringing Tommy back from the dead is what he would want. Once again, she is being tempted to substitute her will for his.  In going down the path of resurrection, Sabrina is not only substituting her will in place of Harvey’s, she is substituting her will for the very will of God himself.

Why is this working on her? Evil is attractive.  I have met people that were actually evil.  They appeared normal, but they were not.  They committed terrible acts. Why? Each time I was confronted with these men, their actions were done out of arrogance and expedience.  They knew the act work and because they knew could do it.  That’s the heart of evil: convenience and arrogance.

Ambrose is given clemency from his house arrest by Father Blackwood. With it, comes fealty.  The shot is pulled closer and closer just more actively to bear.  Then, once proposed, the shot backs off.  As if to say, I’m just here to help.

Aunt Z is corrupted as well, but hers is a lot more direct and in keeping with the show’s raging hormone.  She has a torrid affair with Father Blackwood.  It is STEAMY! Honestly, this is the most relatable bad act on the show.

Sabrina learns that the sisters were responsible for Tommy’s death. She conflates vengeance with justice.  They caused harm, so I can use them and harm them in order to correct a greater harm.  In doing this, Sabrina convinces herself to commit murder.  You could argue that it was temporary, but it was pointed out that it was still murder in order to bring Tommy back.

When you hear presumably Tommy banging on the Harvey’s door; it’s straight up terrifying.  The last shot is the hand on the doorknob- Brilliant!

I’ve written about this before how you could have a great director who can’t direct horror.  Maggie Kiley knows what she’s doing. I was riveted.  I can’t wait to see more of her art!

 

*SPOILERS* Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S1 Ep 7: Feast of Feasts, (Dir. Viet Nguyen) Review-


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Happy Horrorthon Home Stretch!!! Devil’s Eve is today.  Devil’s Eve is the day before the Great Samhain rises from the ground and goes door to door selling auto insurance at competitive rates…as the Druids taught him.

Those last reviews by Lisa were awesome as usual- Check them out, like them, and get Mia Farrow to live tweet while reading them!

Episode 7, Directed by Viet Nguyen, focuses around jealousy, betrayal, and corruption. Viet Nguyen is typically a film editor who occasionally directs.  I’m not sure if horror is where he is best suited to direct.  He usually directs action iZombie/The Flash/Legends of Tomorrow, camera shots that zero in on main characters with long still shots from below to reflect their larger than life hero or villain status.  The problem is that these long shots tend to diffuse the suspense that horror needs.  Take a look at the horror directed by Guy Norman Bee or Josh Stolberg.  The shots are at eye level with a slow push-in.  These people at your level and can get YOU.  Viet has done great work, but as I have written in other reviews Horror directing is a specialized art form where building suspense is its beating heart.

The story focus was narrowed.  Instead of an overarching drama piece where Sabrina straddles two worlds like a witchy Gilmore Girls, it’s a personal story of a father betraying his daughter with courtly intrigue.  The Feast of Feasts commemorates the bodily sacrifice to her fellow starving witches to eat her.  This story gives another piece to the backstory of the town vs the witches and how the townsfolk massacred the witches years ago.  It’s like the Taylor V Sutton feud, but with more goth makeup.

Each witch family in the coven in Hunger Games style has to send in a tribute to be “Queen”.  The Queen embodies Freya by getting massacred and eaten by the coven to celebrate Freya’s sacrifice.  The main course is chosen by lots.  Sabrina’s annoyed that her Aunt Z participates in the drawing and insists on being part of the drawing to see if Aunt Z will speak out that the ritual is barbaric.  Does it work? Not so much.  Sabrina and Prudence go head to head and Sabrina is picked to be Prudence’s servant and Prudence draws the dinner card.

The storyline meanders a bit and it focuses around courtly intrigue and headmaster ascension… yawn.  Turns out the drawing was rigged by the Headmaster’s wife who knows that Prudence is the Headmaster’s illegitimate child and threat to her kid because of a possible inheritance dispute….boring.  When I reviewed Stranger Things, there was a mediocre episode too.  Overall, this episode is not perfect, but good enough. The episode ends with Prudence’s toadies causing a mine cave-in, which sets off a very cool story arc!!!!

Cheers!!!

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 1.6 “Chapter Six: An Exorcism In Greendale” (dir by Rachel Talalay)


So, I’m just going to start this review out by honestly admitting that the sixth episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina didn’t do as much for me as the previous episodes.

A lot of that, though, is because any show would struggle to follow up an episode as brilliant as Dreams In A Witch House.  The show didn’t do itself any favors by following up that episode, where Sabrina had to battle and trap a viscous demon, with another episode in which Sabrina had to battle and trap a viscous demon.  That similarity alone makes it impossible not to compare the two episodes against each other and, unfortunately, there’s no way to really top what went on in Episode 5.

Episode 6 does start out with an interesting example of psychological manipulation on the part of Ms. Wardwell.  With Sabrina confronting her about both being a witch and spying on her, Wardwell is quick to claim that she once wanted to marry a mortal and that she was an acolyte of Sabrina’s father.  Wardwell claims that she’s only been spying on Sabrina because Edward Spellman requested it.  Since Sabrina is still struggling to work out her feelings towards her deceased parents and their legacy, Wardwell told exactly the right lie to keep Sabrina from completely dismissing her.  However, Wardwell then took it too far by claiming that she had been in love with Edward.  Sabrina tells Wardwell to stay away from her but, by the end of the episode, Wardwell has once again go Sabrina confiding in her.

How does Ms. Wardwell accomplish this?

The answer is right in this episode’s title.  Wardwell helps Sabrina to do something that no witch has ever done before.  Wardwell helps Sabrina to exorcise a demon.

It turns out that Susie’s Uncle Jesse has been possessed by a demon, one who claims to be named Maerceci.  (Write it down on a piece of paper and then stand in front of a mirror.  As Ambrose puts it, demons have got a terrible sense of humor.)  Not only are Roz, Susie, and Harvey being haunted by visions of Uncle Jesse but apparently, the demon is going to possess one of them as soon as it gets finished devouring Jesse.  Despite being told that witches are not allowed to perform exorcisms, Sabrina, Wardwell, Hilda, and eventually Zelda do just that.

(It turns out that, in another case of deus ex Edward, Sabrina’s father just happened to come up with a exorcism ritual for witches, which leads to the question of whether there’s anything that Edward didn’t do before he died.)

The exorcism is a success, though Sabrina soon learns that it takes more than just successfully casting a spell to make people happy.  Even after he’s freed from the demon, Uncle Jesse still dies.  (He’s killed by Wardwell, though Sabrina doesn’t know that.)  Thanks to the demon, Roz fears that she’s losing her eyesight because her faith isn’t strong enough.  Harvey is still scared to death of going into the mines and worries that Sabrina thinks that he’s less of a man as a result.  The demon may be gone but Susie remains traumatized by the demon’s taunts and, by the end of the episode, is declaring, “I won’t be an abomination!”  In the end, that’s the main lesson of an Exorcism in Greendale.  Just because a story ends in with special effects and a temporary victory, that doesn’t erase the pain that came before.

Anyway, this was an okay episode.  It moved forward Sabrina’s relationship with Wardwell so, if nothing else, it served its purpose.  I hate to say it but I probably would have had a better reaction to this episode if the demon had been taunting Hilda, Zelda, and Ambrose as opposed to Sabrina’s friends.  The witches are just more interesting than the mortals.

Case is going to be reviewing the rest of this season so I’m going to wrap up this review by sharing my thoughts on the show as a whole.  As the first season of any show will, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has its flaws.  Overall, though, it’s a good show.  I go back and forth on whether I like Michelle Gomez’s stylized performance as Ms. Wardwell but Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Davis, Miranda Otto, and Chance Perdomo are all perfectly cast.  (Kiernan Shipka simply is Sabrina.)  Ross Lynch also deserves a lot of credit for making Harvey into a compelling character.  I’m looking forward to seeing where this show goes in the future.

Oh — and, of course, I absolutely adore Salem!

(photo credit: Stewart Cook/REX/Shutterstock)