“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2” picks up the plot exactly where Part 1 left off. The show transitions from a story about Sabrina the teenage witch attempting to figure out how to navigate her identity in the context of being half-mortal and half-witch to one where she attempts to restructure the Church of Night to bring it more in tune with the civil rights principles of the 21st century.
The first episode sees Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) take a sabbatical from her “mortal” high school with the permission of Ms. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), now the new principal of the school. The show sets a defiant tone in the first episode with the election of the school’s Top Boy, a virtual right-hand (and always a man) of the High Priest, Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle). Sabrina seeks to break these patriarchal traditions, as she nominates herself against Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood), her burgeoning love interest in the second series. She is scoffed at by Father Blackwood and other members of the Church of Night for attempting to defy these gender conventions, eventually prompting him to resort to unsavory means to coerce her into stepping down. The plot thickens with subplots and storylines, and all the while Sabrina discovers a prophecy which foresees her role in bringing the apocalypse and then ruling at the Dark Lord’s side.
As Sabrina comes to learn more about the prophecy, the overarching plot of the season, she discovers more about how her father, the former High Priest, planned to make the Church of Night more accepting and sought to remove patriarchal values and misogyny from its core traditions. Meanwhile, Father Blackwood has his own proposal to reform the Church of Night, which further imposes sexist standards and the subjugation of women, a common theme seen in popular television series today such as “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Sabrina seeks to present her father’s plan to the Antipope of Satan’s Church. However, Father Blackwood is livid at this notion and frames Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) for the killing of the Antipope. This is when the show picks up pace with the marriage of Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) to the Father Blackwood. As Ambrose is thrown into a cell and tortured by the Weird Sisters, led by Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), she leaves for her honeymoon with the High Priest.
During their absence, Sabrina, Ambrose, Nick and Harvey (Ross Lynch) save the Academy from an excursion by witch hunters who seek to convert them to Christianity. Resembling a martyred saint after being shot by arrows, Sabrina rises into the air and resurrects her fallen brethren while obliterating the hunters. The parallels between this scene and any painting from the Middle Ages portraying a martyred Saint are starkly revealed with provocative and strategic camera angles.
Upon the return of her Aunt Zelda, she frantically pursues any means to prove Ambrose’s innocence while also working to break a spell cast by the Father Blackwood to subjugate the no-nonsense Aunt Zelda into a caricature of a 1950s housewife. Meanwhile, Zelda learns of the prophecy involving her niece, Sabrina, and is enticed into fulfilling it by Ms. Wardwell, leading to Satan taking his true human form (Luke Cook). Satan is hell-bent upon making Sabrina do his bidding to open the gates of hell. In the process, he reveals that he is her father. With this hidden incestuous tone, the show concludes with Lilith –– aka Ms. Wardwell –– carrying the body of Nick Scratch and imprisoning Satan to hell with a crown upon her head: a symbolic end to the fight for women’s freedom in the show as Aunt Zelda suggests the Church should be renamed the Church of Lilith. The show is left on another cliffhanger with the fate of Nick and Sabrina’s love hanging in the balance and Satan being trapped inside Nick, who is trapped in hell.
Arguably, this season has a certain je ne sais quoi, which allures the audience into it. The darkness of a horror show and the humor of flamboyancy combine to form a very theatrical performance. However, it oversaturates the plot with subplots that are either left with unfulfilled potential or which perhaps had no potential to begin with. An example of the former is the story of Theo (Lachlan Watson). Formerly Susie, the nonbinary Theo was a storyline that the show could have explored due to its complexity and nuance. However, their character arc is only limited to school bullies and then resolved and forgotten in the next episode. Similarly, this season Roz becomes blind but this is treated as a dumbed down plotline that has no consequence and is not given the effort it deserves. Instead, there is one episode where all of Sabrina’s friends have a tarot reading, which is really done by Ms. Wardwell in disguise, who wants to learn about their weaknesses. Nothing more can be expected from a filler episode, but it could have been a useful hour of exploring the previously mentioned character arcs.
One aspect of the show that deserves praise is the juxtaposition of women’s position with what they want to how the High Priest and Satan want to limit them. The show beautifully handles Sabrina and Ms. Wardwell’s struggle in particular with defying the odds and having an equal Church. The person who has the most nuanced character arc, with respect to her struggle with the double standard, is perhaps Prudence. One can see how conflicted she is with respecting her father, Father Blackwood, and the bigger cause of having a Church with no gender restrictions. Her character arc embodies the nuance that is lost in Lilith and Sabrina, but rightly so in keeping with their character traits. The show does not shy away from questioning the misogyny inherent in religions and ideologies — especially since the Church of Night is heavily influenced by Catholic tradition.
The show has taken a drastic turn. It has become darker, more sinister and more sexual. One episode entirely revolves around a very risqué tradition called Lupercalia, no doubt deriving influence from its Roman counterpart. The show has also incorporated several storylines that are extraneous. Sabrina’s interaction with her mortal friends seems unnecessary, since she no longer attends the school. However, the show has not fallen prey to an overreaching and ridiculous storyline like its cousin show Riverdale has. After signing her name in the Book of the Beasts, pledging her life to the Dark Lord, Sabrina has had to face much harsher and more difficult challenges, which the score encapsulates perfectly, with the conflict between her and the High Priest and between her and Satan. She is starting to discover the extent of her powers with the support of her new love interest, Nick Scratch. The show leaves the audience rooting for Sabrina and Nick to work it out. It also prompts the audience to support Lilith and her quest to finally get the power she was promised literally an eternity ago.