Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S2 E5, “Blackwood” (Dir: Alex Pillai) Review By Case Wright


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First of all, it’s always so fun to read Lisa’s reviews.   I hope she wants to review another one of these episodes.  She always sees things that I don’t like HERE!!!! and HERE!!!!.  It has been a true pleasure working with/for her over these years.  This series is making me already plan for my October reviews!!!  Weren’t they awesome last October?! Yes…Yes…They were.

Is this season getting better? Yes, but that’s mostly because the first episode of the second season was so very unsatisfying and disappointing. The series seems to be evolving into a Tales From The Crypt over the top fest.  I loved TFTC, but that’s not what I expected Sabrina to become.  I saw this series as a scary in your face we’re mad as hell at the patriarchy and we’re not gonna take it anymore!  The feminism is still there, but it really hits you over the head with its agenda ….every….single…episode; It comes across as a PSA sometimes.  When done right, like last season, you root for the agenda, but now I’m lectured by it.  It’s kind of annoying when you already agree.

This episode was directed by Alex Pillai (Riverdale) and he did a fine paint by numbers job with the episode.  It got the job done….fine, not great, but definitely fine like the Chicago Cubs in the 2000s or Two Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw).  The episode was all about marriage, the loss of feminine identity, and misogyny…lots and lots of misogyny.  Really, this Church of Night is a bunch of knuckle dragging dirtbags.  I get the whole- we’re evil bit, but it doesn’t really work all the time.  The characters are mostly strong women and the constant subjugation that the Church imposes seems kinda silly that anyone would put up with it let alone these powerful heroines.   Also, the constant “for Hell’s Sake” “Your Unholiness” “Your Dishonor” just makes me laugh;  I look like loon when I’m on the elliptical watching this.

In the episode, Aunt Z is getting married and she’s all jittery and worried about being exposed for stealing one of the Blackwood babies.  Also, Father Blackwood is going full-on misogynist pig. He wants the church of night to go back to its old ways of chauvinism.  His plan is to write up the basic philosophy and give it to the Anti-Pope (Ray Wise). (Side Note: God, I love Ray Wise.  He’s awesome in everything he does and was the best devil ever in Reaper. Unfortunately, he’s only in the show for a couple of minutes.) Sabrina catches wind of Blackwood’s Misogynist plan because Ambrose tells her .

The Solution: Sabrina gets her Dad’s manifesto that’s all women and men are equal, witches should marry mortals, and powertrain warranties are bullshit.  Sabrina has Nick retrieve it from the bottom of the sea.  Just as the Anti-Pope will read it, Father Blackwood has him murdered and frames Ambrose for it!!! DUN DUN DUN!!!!  Basically, all of Sabrina’s plans fail: Aunt Z and Blackwood marry, Blackwood has Aunt Z walk behind him (bleh), Ambrose is jailed, Sabrina and Nick are expelled, and Aunt Hilda becomes lactose intolerant.  Bad all the way around.

I normally don’t get into subplots, but spring is in the air.  Ms Wardwell and Adam are falling in love. It’s really sweet.  She explains that marriage is a complete destruction of a woman’s identity. Wardwell looks at Adam expecting a fight, but instead he accepts her, her values, and just wants to be with her. It’s …well….sweet.  I was a bit moved.  Satan gets jealous and wants her to kill him, but instead she makes him a ring of protection.  I hope these crazy kids make it work.

The show is moving in the right direction, but the show seems to collapse under its own weight sometimes.  It has these big themes and plots, but can’t quite deliver them this season because of the campiness, clunky dialogue, and endless subplots that grind the suspense and gravitas to dust.  Maybe this is the way Riverdale is?  I never wanted to watch that show and now I really don’t want to.  My guess is that season 1 was Ruth Chris Steakhouse and season 2 is Red Robin and yes I did get food poisoning from them once.

 

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

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


STAW

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)


STAW

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-


STAW

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)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 1.5 “Chapter Five: Dreams In A Witch House” (dir by Maggie Kelly)


They say you can tell a lot about someone by what they dream about.  I certainly believe that to be true.  (In fact, I’ve got an entire site dedicated to that very concept.)  That’s certainly the argument made in episode 5 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

The plot, simply enough, is that Sabrina has unleashed a sleep demon named Batibat.  Years ago, Sabrina’s father trapped Batibat in a puzzle box.  Unfortunately, it was the same puzzle box that Sabrina had to solve to earn her right to take conjuring classes.  As soon as Batibat gets out, she announces that she has two goals: 1) revenge on the Spellmans and 2) screwing stuff up in the outside world.  Zelda casts a spell to trap Batibat inside the house.  The spell works but then Batibat casts a sleeping spell and soon, Sabrina, Ambrose, Hilda, and Zelda are all having nightmares designed to cause them so much pain and anguish that they’ll reveal how to break the spell.

Ambrose’s nightmare is simple but effective.  The nightmare deals with Ambrose’s inability to leave the house.  The dream starts with him performing an autopsy on a corpse who looks just like him.  Ambrose even eats the corpse’s heart, leading to Hilda asking him what it tastes like.  “Bitter,” is the reply.  The self-cannibalism is interrupted by Father Blackwood announcing that Ambrose’s sentence has been commuted and he can leave the house.  However, before Ambrose can walk through that front door, he’s stabbed by Batibat and finds himself in morgue, being cut open by himself.  Agck!

Hilda’s nightmare is finding herself sewn to her Zelda.  Meanwhile, Zelda, in his nightmare, jealousy kills Hilda and then can’t bring her back to life.  It’s an interesting dynamic.  Hilda’s greatest fear is never escaping from Zelda’s shadow.  (She’s also apparently worried that Principal Hawthorne will ask her out, just to reveal that he absorbed his twin brother in the womb.)  Zelda’s greatest fear is losing Hilda.

(It’s also interesting that Zelda’s dream opened with her mocking the biblical version of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden but then quickly turned into a retelling of the story of Cain and Abel.  Just as with Cain, Zelda’s anger was sparked by her God’s preference for her sibling’s offering.  After Zelda killed Hilda, she even asked, “Am I my sister’s keeper?”)

And then Sabrina — oh my God, poor Sabrina.  I felt bad for her because I’ve had nightmares like the one that she had.  After dreaming that her school has become a combination of Baxter High and the Academy of the Unseen Arts, she also dreams that Harvey has asked her to marry him.  Even though everyone tells Sabrina that witches and mortal can never marry, Sabrina is convinced that things will work out with Harvey.  (Though, interestingly enough, Nick Scratch shows up pretty prominently in her dream, as well.  Considering that she only met Nick three days ago, it’s telling that Sabrina is already dreaming about him as a possible rival for Harvey.)  Sabrina even tells Harvey that she’s a witch and Harvey says he doesn’t mind.  Sabrina’s father comes back to life to walk Sabrina down the aisle.  However, as soon as Sabrina and Harvey marry, Harvey’s family turns on her.  While the mortals in the church scream at her, Sabrina sees that her side of the family, the witches, are resentfully refusing to come to her aide, leaving her with no one.  Sabrina is dragged away from the altar and tossed in an iron maiden!

Fortunately, for Sabrina, Ms. Wardwell is wandering through everyone’s dreams and she gives Sabrina some advice on how to escape.  Even more fortunately, Sabrina has a familiar named Salem….

Look, I’m as disappointed as anyone by the fact that we don’t actually get to hear Salem speak in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  That said, this was a great Salem episode.  Salem not only bravely distracted Batibat but he also gave Sabrina good, if unheard (by us), advice.  I have to admit that, considering how dark this series tends to get, I was a bit worried when Batibat started chasing Salem through the house.  Well, fear not!  Salem lives!

In fact, everyone lives, Batibat is once again imprisoned, and Sabrina finally figures out that Ms. Wardwell is more than just a reclusive teacher.  At the end of the episode, Sabrina is at Wardwell’s house, demanding to know “who and what” she is.

This was the best episode that I’ve seen so far.  Not only does this episode do a great job of capturing the twisty logic of dreams but it also provides insight into whose these characters are.  Of course, we already knew that Sabrina is conflicted over being half-human and half-witch but now, we know that she’s worried that the other witches will abandon her and that Harvey wouldn’t be strong enough to stand up for her if her secret got out.  We knew that Hilda felt inferior to Zelda but now, we know just how desperate Hilda is to escape her sister’s shadow.  And, at the same time, we now understand why Zelda will never allow Hilda to escape.  Zelda needs Hilda even more than Hilda needs Zelda.  And finally, this episode was elevated by Batibat, a frightening creation if there ever was one.  Batibat not only gave people nightmares but she was a nightmare herself.

Next episode: Sabrina confronts Ms. Wardwell!