It’s a new year for “Chilling Adventures,” literally, with the episode picking up after winter break as Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) has decided she’ll no longer be attending Baxter High and going to witch academy full-time. New Baxter High principal and actual Biblical figure (albeit unbeknownst to Shipka) Michelle Gomez approves the move, Zelda (Miranda Otto) is indifferent but supportive of the move because she’s high on being a new faculty member at the academy (not to mention her naughty time with newly and indifferently widowed high priest Richard Coyle), but Hilda (Lucy Davis) really thinks Shipka should be hanging out with her mortal friends to get some grounding.
Only Shipka’s intentionally avoiding them because she’s terrified the Dark Lord is going to call on her to do his bidding and it’ll somehow hurt the mortals if she’s around them. Great scene for Shipka and Davis; it’s the first time in what seems like forever we’re getting back to Shipka’s perspective.
The main plot is Shipka competing against kind of too good to be true warlock slash love interest Gavin Leatherwood to be the academy’s “top boy,” which is only gendered because Coyle is misogynist trash. They have to compete in three challenges and Shipka’s got a lot of studying to do for them, but that studying always gets interrupted by one of the Plague Kings trying to kill her.
The Plague Kings are a big misfire, both in terms of foes—Shipka just needs to use regular magic on them to get rid of them, which doesn’t make them seem tough, just inconvenient given circumstances—the costume and make-up design is terrible (they’re all in pseudo-trenchcoats, looking like something from a mid-nineties action movie), and the acting is… not good. Nelson Leis has the most to do as Beelzebub and he’s terrible.
Someone on “Sabrina” must’ve read Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, John Totleben… there’s good ideas out there for visualizing these guys… just saying.
The other big plot is Lachlan Watson’s character, assigned at birth as female, identified as enby (and ok with AFAB given designation) transitioning to male. It’s a great moment for Watson, though Sinclair immediately misgendering him is a bit of jaw-dropper. Like, I get it, show how people are human and are going to make mistakes because their brains misfire or whatever, but it’s pretty harsh.
Later, when explaining it all to Ross Lynch, Sinclair’s got it down. But then that explanation just turns out to be prelude to her accidentally using the Shining on Lynch and discovering they’re going to get hot and heavy in the future.
Watson also tries out for the basketball team—with Madame Satan Gomez telling the sexist basketball coach what’s up in a way you hope she eventually eats him—and Shipka magicks Watson’s abilities so she shows up the other boys, which maybe isn’t going to go well in the future but Shipka doesn’t seem to be thinking about it.
It’s a good episode, Plague Kings aside, with one hell of a cliffhanger.