Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter's Tale
December 14, 2018 6:23 PM - Season 1, Episode 11 - Subscribe

As the winter solstice nears -- and the curtain between the worlds of the living and the dead is thinnest -- Sabrina resolves to contact her mother's spirit from beyond the grave.
posted by kittens for breakfast (28 comments total)
 
This is ...a lot of story. I feel like we’re getting a huge dump of lore and such to prepare for part 2. I’ve think this is the rare Netflix sho that needs a more monster of the week , late 90s CW show format cause that’s clearly the thing they’re aping. Ah well, Sabrina’s new dark lipstick look is working out for her, and the sweaters! everyone’s sweaters were great!

I still laugh then they do the “witch stuff is just reversed” the Unholy Lands. Night Mother. Hevan-bent. It’s corny and I love it.

One of these days Luke will speak.
posted by The Whelk at 11:43 PM on December 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


I mostly enjoyed this as a bonus episode, but the enchanted eggnog thing bothered me for two reasons:

Unless the eggnog involves a personality transplant, just making it so that someone can't drink doesn't really solve the problem of someone being an alcoholic, and from what we've seen, the big problem is that Harvey's dad is a dick.

But, I would be willing to suspend disbelief about this first point, but from a narrative standpoint, it just seems to highlight that Sabrina has learned nothing from the previous episodes. Because she messed with magic to help Harvey, he ultimately ended up having to shoot his own brought back to life brother. And right after this, she's once again trying to help him using magic without his consent or knowledge.

It just makes it seem like she learned nothing from the previous events, which is disappointing. Also, it's not like they needed this as an excuse to keep them from getting back together, since that was already provided by Sabrina's conversation with her ghost mother. I just feel like it added nothing to the story, and the episode would have been better without this subplot.

On a different subject, are we just supposed to just forget about Luke being dosed with a love potion or whatever?
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:14 PM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


It doesn't seem to me we're meant to be on Harvey's side vis a vis use of magic. The resurrection of Harvey's brother was a basic affront against God and man, and from that Harvey has concluded all magic is bad, but I think it's clear from his refusal of Sabrina's benign gift of pencils that the show isn't on the same page. (Well, that and how the entire premise of the show is that Sabrina does magic.)

Let me preface the following with this caveat (skip to the next paragraph if you like). Sabrina (the show) is a pretty weird take on witchcraft, and pretty problematic if you take it too seriously -- to be honest, it feels like witchcraft as imagined by someone who went to 30 years of Catholic school -- conflating Wicca and Satanism in a way that is either really ignorant or blithely unconcerned with whether actual witches (or Satanists, for that matter) are anything like what it's depicting. This doesn't bother me a whole lot, but it does confuse the issue when the show addresses subjects that are germane to magic as practiced in real life...

...Like free will and ethics when casting a spell. In the first episode, Sabrina used magic to wipe Harvey's memory, which at once creates an ethical quandary. Our first instinct may be to say what Sabrina did was fact-of-the-universe capital-W Wrong. It's clearly a violation of Harvey's freedom as a human to have his memories altered without his consent. If the spell Sabrina cast was shown to damage Harvey's mind in some way -- create larger memory lapses or even dementia -- then surely the spell would be inexcusable. However, it seems to have been safe for him physically, and -- more to the point -- it kept Sabrina and her family safe from exposure. Obviously Sabrina erred by telling Harvey she was a witch in the first place; but once she had, she -- it could be argued -- was doing very needed damage control with her spell. Is the lack of respect for Harvey's mental integrity less a concern than the safety of Sabrina and her family? Which is more important?

Similarly, while Harvey's dad is losing the choice to drink or not, which is a violation of his personal freedom, the risk he posed to himself and others as an active alcoholic would seem to be the greater concern. Who are we more concerned about here: Harvey's father or his victims, potential and otherwise? If I were Chidi from The Good Place I could probably tell you what philosophy I'm edging toward here. But while personal freedom is important, keeping people safe would seem to be more important. In other words, I don't really care that Harvey's dad couldn't make the choice not to drink for himself, (a) because he's an asshole, and (b) because that is not Harvey's fault.

The resurrection spell Sabrina cast was destructive to the design of destiny itself, which seems really bad. But is this true of all magic? Harvey seems to have concluded it is, but I think we're meant to think Sabrina is right to take each case as it comes, and decide whether a spell would be appropriate. In the sitcom world of the original, trial and error in spellcasting leads to hijinks. But here it's a little different. A spell won't always cause harm, but whether it does, and to whom, may be subjective. I feel these questions may be the heart of the show itself.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:43 PM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


The writers for this episode were clearly fans of Benito Cereno's Tumblr. Yule Lads!
posted by tobascodagama at 9:11 PM on December 15, 2018


This doesn't bother me a whole lot, but it does confuse the issue when the show addresses subjects that are germane to magic as practiced in real life...

Wut ? You do know magic doesn't exist IRL?
posted by Pendragon at 2:03 PM on December 16, 2018



It doesn't seem to me we're meant to be on Harvey's side vis a vis use of magic.


no, we aren't, because Harvey is a bore. regardless, "don't do spells on me" is not a position you can seriously debate the rightness of any more than "don't hit me" is. the boy says don't do spells on him, you don't do spells on him. inasmuch as "the show" can know anything, the show knows this.

sabrina is obviously going to keep on doing spells on him.

witchcraft in the show is 100 percent about power and control over the natural and supernatural world and the people in it. not at all about sexuality, and only a little bit about religion. this gives it a wonderful freshness that compensates for a lot of the dumbness. everybody's all conditioned by ten million years of Buffy to be confused by a teen girl who seeks power not as a metaphor, not because she has to, not because she needs it, and not because she deserves it, but just because she wants it and really likes having it. but it is honestly very straightforward and entirely realistic. she is not going to be punished and repentant every time she tries to gain or exercise power without official sanction. she just isn't. if the show has a dealbreaker concept, that is it.

I could wish it worried more about writing good dialogue, but I'm so glad it doesn't worry about making sure we in the audience are all very clear that we are not to hex our boyfriends' dads under any circumstances. the show does lots of dumb things, but making sure everyone sees Sabrina Learn a Lesson every week is not one of them. there is no need for the morality & psychology to be any more cartoonish than it already is. she's not a role model, she's just a main character. thank satan, or whoever.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:52 PM on December 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


Is the lack of respect for Harvey's mental integrity less a concern than the safety of Sabrina and her family

The witches basically don't care about mortals' bodily or mental integrity at all. I mean, they live hundreds (thousands?) of years, compared to them mortals are short-lived playthings at best.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:52 PM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


That Harvey is a bore does seem like a real problem, tbh. The actor has an intensity I really like, but the character is...well...boring. The show is telegraphing his eventual metamorphosis into a witch hunter (to be mentored, one hopes, by his uncle or granddad or whatever he was*, Saul Tigh), which should be more interesting than an angsty teenager who hates fun.

*In the two months since Halloween, I'd completely forgotten about Sabrina's BFFs. It took me several minutes to remember who they were. Some of the finer details of the show fade quickly for me.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:32 PM on December 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Wut ? You do know magic doesn't exist IRL?

Don't be fatuous, Uther.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:35 PM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]



That Harvey is a bore does seem like a real problem, tbh.


oh but it's the archetype, you can't fuck with the archetype. harvey the Bore is essential. just as you have your Maiden (Aunts), Mother, and Crone, you got to have your Bore, your Fop and your Satanic Majesty. the full panoply of male representation is so important

whoever played Harvey in the Melissa Joan Hart Sabrina back in the day, they just pruned a little cutting off of one of his branches and transplanted it to some new potting soil and here he is, same as ever. new Harvey is a little more likeable and a little less dim than old Harvey, but every Harvey is the same Harvey essentially. I honestly love it, he is a Boyfriend and nothing but. he is what Riley would have been if Riley had had the good looks, modesty and weak will to understand he was not a very important person in the story.

plus he is pretty much right in terms of his boring principles. and the beauty of Harvey is he is a living emblem of the dullness of Good, allowing us to really see the point and the merits of Evil. Sabrina is herself dull enough personality-wise and average enough intelligence-wise to be plausibly hung up on him, but the real use of Harvey is as a fixed pole to orient herself by, in order for whatshername the sexy schoolwitch to lure her away from it. it is all in order

oh also I admit I found the brotherly dynamic, before they killed the one brother, kind of sweet in a "what if Supernatural weren't the worst garbage both on television and on Earth" kind of way
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:46 PM on December 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


Coming at this special after a short break, I suddenly realized something that is probably obvious to everyone else.

The point of the show is that the guidance, and support that comes from a loving family outweighs specific dogma every time. Which religion you're raised under may vary greatly... your folks may even worship the actual devil. But as long as you're loved and raised with a moral code and a sense of self-actualization, you're going to be fine.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:15 AM on December 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I watched it last night as was surprisingly delighted but how absolutely ridiculous it was (more so than usual, I mean). It was, after all, a "Christmas" special and they really leaned into the cheesiness of that genre while still keeping it all dark and goofy and "witchy."

I was surprised at the amount of story and world-building that went on, though. I had expected it to be a lot more of a stand-alone episode, not one that was (probably) necessary viewing for Season 2.

One thing I thought was weird during the "yesterday" bit at the start: does Susie's dad know the Spellman's are witches? There was a lot of casual "Hail Satan" while standing in line to see Santa.
posted by asnider at 10:30 AM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I was surprised at the amount of story and world-building that went on, though. I had expected it to be a lot more of a stand-alone episode, not one that was (probably) necessary viewing for Season 2.

Doctor Who's influence rubbing off on stateside genre shows, perhaps? nuWho has pretty consistently used the Christmas Special to introduce new Doctors and/or companions, though usually the first episode of the next season offers a sort of reintroduction as well.

Yeah, having Hilda be so openly Satanist around Farmer Putnam at the beginning caught me off-guard. Maybe the Putnams have a history with the witches beyond just Dorothea? But none of the recaps I could find acknowledged the weirdness of that line, which has me questioning if she didn't say "Hail Santa" or something instead?
posted by tobascodagama at 10:53 AM on December 17, 2018


new Harvey is a little more likeable and a little less dim than old Harvey, but every Harvey is the same Harvey essentially.

Personally, I liked Harvey best back when he was named Derwood. I mean Darrin. It's an old tradition.

Seriously, if Samantha can't cast spells on people like Harwood, what's the point of even having the show?
posted by happyroach at 11:54 AM on December 17, 2018


Maybe the Putnams have a history with the witches beyond just Dorothea?

I wondered that, too. I can't remember who told Susie that Dorothea gave safe passage to the witches. It wasn't Mr. Putnam, right?

It would be hilarious if she actually said "Hail Santa." It'd be beyond absurd, but it'd still be hilarious.
posted by asnider at 12:52 PM on December 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


She said, "We pray to Satan--uh, um, pray, we pray he's okay."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:21 PM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


As a witch: Honestly, I'm super here for the ridiculous mash-up of Wicca and Satanism and so on, and I love that Sabrina's not learning a Very Important Lesson every week, but the thing that annoyed me most is, since when is Solstice when "the curtain between the worlds of the living and the dead is thinnest"? Everyone knows that's Halloween/Samhain/All Hallows Eve. That seems sloppy to me.

Of all the things I can't get over...lol.

I very much am enjoying Sabrina seeking power and doing What She Wilt at every turn. I agree that her use of magic around Harvey is ethically troublesome, but I love that. She's fucking up, though she thinks of herself as all high and mighty, and she keeps pulling shit that's pure pursuit of power. Dude, she slit her "friend"'s throat. She had to have been pretty goddamn confident that the resurrection would 1) work and 2) satisfy the conditions of being a death even though the dead one comes back. And from what we've seen I don't think that confidence was entirely earned!
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:58 PM on December 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


I dunno that Agatha is a friend, exactly. I'm pretty sure Sabrina wanted to cut her throat anyway. (It's telling that I completely forgot about Sabrina's BFFs but I remembered all three of the Weird Sisters' names. Also, Prudence's hair in this, man wow.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:24 PM on December 17, 2018


True, kfb. But I feel like episodes-1-and-2-Sabrina would have been like "Oh noes, I'm not slitting anyone's throat, this is evil and I'm not signing my name in the book of the Beast, what power could be worth that?" (while also wiping Harvey's memory, which is gray at best). By the time we get to Agatha, Sabrina is like "fuck it, I do what I want" and is more worried about being caught by the aunts. It makes me wonder how sincere her pearl-clutching is at the beginning of the series, or if it's a case of power corrupting and making her wish for more power. I think Sabrina wants to think she's too good and pure for this, but when she's tempted by magic being able to give her what she really wants (her boyfriend back, talking to her mother), she justifies her actions and just goes for it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:20 AM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


. It makes me wonder how sincere her pearl-clutching is at the beginning of the series, or if it's a case of power corrupting and making her wish for more power

but she's completely clear from the get-go that she doesn't want to sign the Book because A. nobody's going to tell me what high school to go to, book club is too important! and B. Satan can't tell me what to do, he's not my dad. she had that whole speech about how not only does she refuse to sacrifice her freedom to gain power, she refuses to sacrifice power & go be a regular mortal just to have her freedom. she demands to have both. but especially power. or: she doesn't sacrifice her principles for power, unfettered access to power is the principle. this is text.

that's the whole great thing of the show is none of this is corruption. she's true to herself. her guiding star is that she wants to be in control of her own powers and wants to have as many powers as possible. secondarily, she likes her friends and family and is nice. but in that order. she wants no priests mediating her dialogue with the dark lord, and one day, no dark lord mediating her raw manipulation of the universe. the anticlerical and antitheistic parts are also text. so great. she's not ever a pearl-clutching good girl and doesn't represent herself as one.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:06 PM on December 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


So Sabrina is definitely dark chocolate candy TV, so I'm not going to mull it over in too much depth, but one of my pet peeves is that most of the danger that the Spellmans get into is from Miss Wardwell. She keeps taking down their defenses and sending demons and bad witches to them, and Sabrina keeps getting blamed for it. Her aunts aren't concerned when Sabrina messes with the local humans (except for Tommy/cheating death), but get annoyed with her causing events that isn't her fault! I'd like more teaming up like at the end of this episode, because I think I really want a witch procedural where the fights are a little more external than internal.

At some point the Aunts are going to realize that there is a suspicious number of baddies descending on their house, and that Miss Wardwell isn't actually looking after Sabrina, right? Or do they all assume that all witches are out for themselves and are basically mess with each other regularly? Wouldn't you set up additional wards to know if someone takes down your yule log?

I do like the hellmouth imagery at the end of the episode though, that was fun. More dark lore and reverse christianity!
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 9:50 AM on December 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


The witches basically don't care about mortals' bodily or mental integrity at all.

This was a major worldbuilding and plot point early on in the show, but it doesn't seem to be true any longer. At least as far as the entire Spellman family goes. Hasn't been true since at least the deaths in the mines. Everyone in the family, including Zelda, has gone out of their way to help mortals, and they seem to worry and care about them to a certain extent.

The one thing I wonder about is if this is deliberate: the witching world has corrupted Sabrina into a pursuit of power, but she in turn has corrupted her part of the witching world into having at least a bare minimum of empathy & kindness towards mortals.

Or if it's being done for meta reasons: carrying out witches' total indifference towards mortals to its logical conclusion would lead the show to some grimly dark places which would undercut the CW-esque teen drama's warm fuzzies. Obviously they're going for a level of grimdark mixed with the teen drama, but having the core family express only coldness verging on sociopathy is probably too much. And thus after a flurry of notes from the executives, the show's path was altered.

And maybe it's part of the blurring of lines that's now in the storyline. With Roz and Susie displaying some supernatural abilities and Diana being able to use at least some spells, maybe a future major plot point will be there's almost no difference between mortals and witches. That the lines between them are quite faint, and only ancient traditions and predjudices keep them separate. And that the Spellmans --not just with Sabrina's mixed status but also with the family showing greater and greater empathy-- will be the ones who bridge the gap.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 5:41 AM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


So fake-Wardwell is Lilith.
And Blackwood is priest/minister of the Church of Shadows.

Earlier, when introduced to the Weird Sisters, fake-Wardwell claimed to be excommunicated from the Church of Night(?). So I'm wondering if these are different, basically, parishes, or is it more like Methodist vice Lutheran.

I love the idea of Sabrina's Protestant Satanist Reformation - and if Nick Scratch is really who I think he is.... hmm.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:54 PM on February 3


Church of Night is the sect/parish that the Spellmans, Father Blackwood, the Weird Sisters, and all the other Greendale witches belong to. The Church of Shadows is the sect/parish that Lilith got excommunicated from.

I get the sense that these different witch churches are sort of like Orthodox Christianity, where there's no single overarching church hierarchy (unlike Catholic Christianity) but the various churches are all in communion with one another and recognise one another as valid Satanic Churches rather than apostate sects.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:00 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I mean, it'd totally make sense for the Satanic Church to have a pope figure that they call the Antipope or Dark Pope or whatever along with Dark Bishops and Dark Cardinals and all that, but so far no such thing is in evidence.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:01 AM on February 4


Season 2 has been released - but I'm having some trouble with the numbering.
IMDB is calling it season 2, but starting with "Chapter 12".
What do you think?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:46 AM on April 8


Netflix is calling this season "Part Two", for whatever reason.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:56 AM on April 8


So a full season post?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:33 PM on April 12


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