Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e14 – Lupercalia

I’m not sure if I’ve ever known the word “fecund,” but thanks to this episode of “Sabrina,” I do now and beware. I’m always looking for a good adjective. It comes up when Richard Coyle is sweet-talking Miranda Otto and, although Coyle is one of the least dynamic casting choices, he’s really coming into his own as the shallow misogynist who’s gaga over Otto. See, it’s Valentine’s Day in Greendale and while the mortals are preparing for their high school dance, the witch academy students are planning their big gendered festival.

Got to wonder if the producers ever got far enough with the CW to pitch them on the teen sex festival, with the adults guilting the unwilling teens into it. Otto’s pressuring Kiernan Shipka to get over the whole virginity thing is a very uncomfortable scene. Ditto now bi Chance Perdomo’s boyfriend being offscreen and out of mind for the episode so Perdomo can get it on with Tati Gabrielle, who’s been reduced to his arm candy and let’s not even get into the optics of the two of the three Black cast members now being paired off. There’s already the queer erasure to talk about, as the festival is just boys and girls.

Sadly the least impressive plot is the main one, which involves Shipka getting serious about Gavin Leatherwood and Leatherwood getting serious about her, a problem as he’s got a werewolf familiar who stalks him and attacks any girls he gets serious about. Weird he forgot to mention it before this episode, which also strongly implies Taika Waititi clone Alessandro Juliani could Lon Chaney Jr. during the full moon. Juliani has a nice little subplot with Lucy Davis, who’s done flirting with him and ready to get serious about their obvious feelings towards one another.

So subplots—in addition to aunts Otto and Davis and their beaus, mortal teens Ross Lynch and Jaz Sinclair are speeding forward with their dating thing (though, again with optics, Lynch has this moment where it’s like, wait, I only invited you over for sex but why are you assuming Sinclair wants to have sex given you’ve only been romantic for one and a half dates). It all turns to tragedy as Sinclair’s predicted blindness hits just in time for the cliffhanger. Pairing Sinclair off with Lynch so quickly, much like with Gabrielle, just reduces the potential for Sinclair’s character. She gets a scene with Shipka where Sinclair gets to be moral support regarding Shipka’s planning her first sexual experience, but… mostly Sinclair’s around to give Lynch a subplot.

As opposed to Lachlan Watson, who doesn’t just get to have an extremely difficult scene discussing his gender with straightedge farmer dad Adrian Hough, but also has a showdown of sorts with bully Ty Wood. Watson’s character development is the most important thing he’s doing on the show, whereas Sinclair only gets character development through melodrama.

The best subplot in terms of amusement factor has to be Michelle Gomez, who discovers her mortal host had a wholesome fiancé, Alexis Denisof, who’s been off saving the world in Doctors Without Borders. Gomez had been planning on killing the high school en masse for shits and giggles, then in comes Denisof–with the extremely triggering name Adam—and Gomez gets a kind of romance subplot. You go from wanting her to eat his face off to just morally corrupting him beyond the pale. Lots of fun; “Sabrina” still gives Gomez the best material.

Strangely ineffective main plot for Shipka and Leatherwood aside (not to mention the gendering stuff), it’s a very good episode. I think it’s Oanh Ly’s second episode as credited writer; she’s definitely one of the show’s best writers.

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