I’m very confused; the witch school is within walking distance from the farm where Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) lives. I thought it was a boarding school far away. Turns out it’s a boarding school—Shipka has to do three nights there—but it’s within walking distance. So she was never going to see her human friends again by just not… going to town anymore. Or something. It’s not explained and confusing but fine.
Because the welcome to witch school episode, which is mostly about how the other witches haze Shipka, works out. The characters it introduces, the twists it introduces, the whatever—they all work out. Shipka being terrified when the mean girl trio of witches (Tati Gabrielle is the leader and good, the other two are fine but background) lock her up in a well or simulate burning her or hanging her—it’s called harrowing and the established students put the new ones through it because it’s what the witches went through back in the olden days and the witch trials. Or something. The backstory on it isn’t very important, not after we find out Miranda Otto majorly harrowed sister Lucy Davis back in the day. Also not after Shipka discovers she’s fairly old to be a new student, apparently, because the school grounds are inhabited by the ghosts of all the little kids who died in their harrowings over the decades. They’re not exactly haunting the place, not exactly not.
The ghost kids leads to a great subplot for Shipka, Otto, and Davis, where the show does a fantastic “girl power” move and never pauses to acknowledge it much less congratulate itself for it. “Sabrina”’s very comfortable doing well.
But Shipka not being able to get through the harrowing just doesn’t fit; it does the hazing PSA and well, but it doesn’t really work with Shipka’s character as she’s developed to this point.
Anyway. Simultaneous to Shipka being away for a long weekend—she tells her human friends she’s at the state fair or something—boyfriend Ross Lynch gets some more information about the creature in the mines after it turns out Lachlan Watson has a possessed uncle living in her house and never told friends about it even though the guy’s obviously demonically possessed. It’s a scary subplot. Very effectively done.
Overall, it’s a solid episode. Not perfect, but very solid. They succeed at introducing the school, including warlock love interest for Shipka but not really Gavin Leatherwood.