Review: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Season 2)
I greatly looked forward to Season 2 of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I watched a couple of episodes of the original Sabrina that was popular when I was a teenager, but they were too light for my taste. As a fan of the Riverdale series and universe, I was excited to see that this storyline took place in the neighboring town of Greendale. I also appreciate the same edginess that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and his creative team bring to the Riverdale series, a modern-day retelling of the Archie comics.
I thought this season started off slow. There was the budding storyline of Theo further exploring his gender identity, but that plot line seemed rushed and would have been more effective if carried out more over the course of the season. Additionally, Harvey and Rosalind showed signs of interest in each other. While I like both Harvey and Rosalind and was happy that Roz found a romantic partner, I sometimes felt that the chemistry between the two characters seemed forced. Plot wise, I understand why the writers built that tension, but to me, it would have been more realistic to have Harvey find a new girlfriend outside of the friend group. As a viewer, I was left to wonder if Harvey is settling for Roz because he can’t have Sabrina, and I think Roz deserves better than that. Overall, the witch/warlock characters were well developed in this season, but the development of the mortal characters left something to be desired. Specifically, the show has made a valiant effort to touch upon some of the same societal issues as Riverdale, such as interracial dating and characters exploring their sexual and gender identities. However, it seems more organic in Riverdale and, at times, more forced in Sabrina, in part because of the dynamic between the characters, in part because of the writing. For instance, Roz explaining Theo’s gender identity to Harvey sounded, to me, too preachy.
Despite these criticisms, the plot line of the show became more interesting starting at Episode 3, “Lupercalia,” when we as viewers get to learn more about what goes on at The Academy of Unseen Arts, the school for witches and warlocks. Nick and Sabrina’s relationship evolved to another level, yet Sabrina started to wonder if she could trust Nick. To me, Nick and Sabrina’s relationship was the most interesting aspect of Season 2. As a viewer, I went back and forth between wanting Sabrina to go back to Harvey and wanting her to stay with Nick. However, Nick eventually proved himself loyal, to the point where, by the end of Season 2, Sabrina was plotting to literally go down to Hell with her friends to save him.
I like how the show takes the good boy/bad boy binary and drops it on its head, at least to a certain degree. Does Nick make questionable decisions? Absolutely, but in all fairness, Harvey does too, even though I initially liked Harvey better than Nick. Harvey is a good guy in many respects, but particularly during Season 1, he came across as judgmental without knowing the full scope of the situation. This season, Nick wasn’t completely honest with Sabrina about one of his past relationships, but it seems as though his intent was, in part, to protect her. His last words to her before going to Hell were “I love you, Spellman. You taught me how to love.” He knew her last name meant something to her, which is why he said it. Ironically, at that very moment when we lost Nick, I decided for sure that I liked him. Sometimes, a love interest is not as simple as the sweet boy next door and the bad boy. Most people fall somewhere in between.
The other most interesting aspect of Season 2 was Father Blackwood’s relationship with two key women in his life, Zelda and Prudence. Zelda is another character about whom I have conflicting feelings, in part because she is sometimes unkind to Hilda, the auntie who I connect to more. But I felt sympathy for Zelda when she literally fell under Father Blackwood’s spell of turning her into a submissive 1950's housewife and had to be freed from the spell by Sabrina and Hilda. I grew to like Zelda when she fought against Father Blackwood’s patriarchal changes to the Church of Night, ultimately taking on the role of High Priestess. Prudence, Father Blackwood’s daughter, wanted to take her evil father’s name, but ultimately plotted against him as well, upon seeing his unjust acts. Both women fell under Father Blackwood’s spell of charm and charisma, but they were willing to push back against his unjust acts when things went awry. Sometimes, not all that glitters is gold, even in the Church of Night.
While I have criticisms of the show, particularly as related to the minor “mortal” characters, I believe it does succeed in rewriting a world in which women and other non-dominant populations have more power. In particular, I loved how such women as Lilith, Zelda, and Sabrina took on leadership roles in overthrowing Father Blackwood and his patriarchal values. It is interesting to notice, though, that most of the characters who take on major leadership roles, thus far, are White cisgender women. Having said that, I think there’s potential for Prudence and also Ambrose to take on stronger roles in Season 3, along with Harvey, Roz, and Theo. I hope they do, not only for the sake of making these minor characters more complex and interesting, but also to better flesh out the messages of inclusiveness I believe the show is trying to convey.
Overall, I look forward to Season 3. A few fans I know have expressed mixed feelings about the end of Season 2 because they liked what happened with Lilith and Sabrina and do not want that can of worms to be reopened. I understand the concern, but I believe the relationship between Lilith and Sabrina could be developed even further, if done well. Plus, I like the idea of Sabrina saving Nick, rather than the other way around. The show has the potential to be a great counter narrative to mainstream horror and fairy tales in which the female characters must be saved. I hope it ends up proving me right.
Editor's Note: For more on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, check out Elizabeth Drake's reaction to Season 1 HERE.