Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 4 Review
The End is finally upon us, as Spellman and company unite to fight off against the cosmic horror of the Eldritch Terrors, unleashed by Father Blackwood. It’s a battle teased of epic proportions, the likes of which we’ve never supposedly seen in the series so far. So, how does the battle between good and evil, Spellman vs. Terrors play out, and does it serve as a satisfying conclusion to Greendale’s story?
Between the Eldritch Terrors coming and two Sabrinas running around within the same universe, there are two incredibly fascinating set-ups to explore much further. Not for Sabrina, however, who has formed an innate jealousy to the relationships around her – she’d much rather focus on getting herself a boyfriend for the umpteenth time. Sabrina has been stagnating as a character since season two, constantly ricocheting between Nick and Harvey, with her ultimate struggle seemingly being the pursuit of heteronormative romantic love. She constantly repeats the exact same mistakes, indulging in clearly wrongful decisions, lying to the aunties about her actions, failing to consider anyone, until she’s finally pushed into a miraculous realization of her wrongdoing, propelling her back to ‘heroine’ status. For someone who quips about casual misogyny and condemns the patriarchy, Sabrina is ironically defined by the male love interest she’s pursuing.
Kiernan Shipka does immensely well to elevate the character above the frankly pathetic lack of development or motivation given to Sabrina by Aguirre-Sacasa; funnily enough, your lead female character who is the DAUGHTER OF LUCIFER and a WITCH, can have more problems and troubles than simply her love life. Her characterization of Sabrina has always been a shining light through the troublesome path she’s given, and I think she has given us a fantastic Spellman that will be remembered, at the very least. Sabrina has the potential to be an incredibly complex character, neither a Morningstar nor Spellman truly, yet simultaneously both at the same time; she’s an inherently fractured character, bestowed with extraordinary power alongside a troubled emotional state, and this struggle of one’s own power against a crisis of identity would’ve resonated infinitely more than what we were given.
It’s difficult to critically assess everything narratively, simply because Part 4 is stuffed to the brim with narrative material – everything develops, unfolds and concludes at such a pace you struggle to comprehend the supposed true power, nor weight of events that occur or characters that’re beaten. Part 4 has three different narratives constantly screaming for attention – the Dual Sabrinas, the Eldritch Terrors, and the Riverdale-esque Teen Drama of High School.
The Eldritch Terrors, for example, are almost all disposed of by the Greendale Crew immediately; in Part 3, they failed to prevent the Pagans from conquering the world, and yet in Part 4 these monsters of unfathomable power apparently don’t hold a candle to them. It’s laughable how the Terrors themselves are depicted – half of them are simple male vessels who display little-to-no actual power, such as The Darkness and The Uninvited, or are dispatched with a surprisingly simplistic method such as The Weird. It’s clear that Aguirre-Sacasa only had designs on the final two Terrors themselves, and simply had to pad for time.
Perhaps Aguirre-Sacasa’s greatest crime is poisoning Sabrina with the same vitriol he injected into Riverdale – there is a painful tonal whiplash that pulls you back-and-forth, as though the High School mundanity has remotely any importance at this stage of Sabrina. In the middle of building to the climax of the Eldritch Terrors, we’re suddenly thrown into a simplistic Battle of the Bands with little-to-no-consequence. Using a Monster-of-the-Week framework right before your series-ending climax is nonsensical and pulls you completely out of any dramatic tension. But hey, at least we have those quirky, pop-culture song covers we all love so much from Riverdale, right? It’s not as though we have multiple characters whose development is either stunted or artificially overdeveloped without any care.
Lilith and Roz are the worst victims of this Riverdale-ification of Sabrina. Lilith, who should be a major player given her influence throughout the series, is imprisoned to a specific room for much of Part 4, essentially locked away by Roberto under the guise of “protecting her baby”, only to then contradict that very purpose – yet another powerful and complex female character completely undermined and warped into a perverse female stereotype.
Roz, on the other hand, is the victim of unstoppable propulsion, going from Mortal to Witch to Weird Sister to Sentinel, in the matter of just two episodes. Heaven forbid we slow this runaway narrative train for Roz to process these changes, to grow with this new responsibility – the little development that IS offered through Harvey’s slight annoyance at dating ANOTHER witch is forgotten as quickly as it’s brought up, since character development appears to be the sworn enemy of Aguirre-Sasaca.
As we eventually begin to draw toward our endgame, Roberto decides he has one final trick up his sleeve – shamelessly coping Supernatural’s The French Mistake to much more diminishing returns. While the return of the original aunties is sweet, in addition to Luke Cook’s charming Salem/The Endless depiction, the more I witnessed of this parallel universe, the more I hated it. It seems as though Roberto is attempting a playful, self-reflexive critique of his own directing and show running of Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, but it just felt as though he was mocking the viewer for sitting through what he has created. Perhaps he failed to even perceive the very things he mocked in this parallel universe are the VERY things that he is criticized for injecting into Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. While elements of it are creatively interesting such, as The Endless’ motivations behind the construction of the parallel universe, it feels intensely false and patronizing rather than humorous and self-reflexive.
However, the biggest slap in the face is by far the ending to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. After an unsuccessful attempt to trap The Void in Pandora’s Box, a piece of The Void becomes trapped within Sabrina, making her, in effect, The Void itself. Sabrina essentially becomes god-like (possibly for the third time in the show’s run), but this time unable to control her power. She flees, where Blackwood finds her and places her under his tutorage about The Void. While later it’s supposedly explained away as Sabrina manipulating Blackwood, it doesn’t feel like that at all – at the end of everything, Sabrina is powerless, alone and completely at the whim at the hands of possibly the show’s weakest villain of them all. She becomes yet another object of male desire and domination, who, even after Blackwood is disposed of, still performs exactly what Blackwood was intending to do in the first place.
What Sabrina deserves is a devastating and memorable confrontation where she finally unleashes her true power and demonstrates to all that Sabrina is neither a Spellman nor a Morningstar, but something new entirely; but she instead bleeds out on a table slowly and gradually, until she eventually succumbs, her final words dedicated to Nick Scratch rather than the Aunties, her friends, or even Salem. That is the end of the powerful, confident and passionate Sabrina Spellman. It’s hard to put into words but seeing this conclusion for Sabrina filled me with both a deep anger and disappointment; funnily enough, it felt as though a void had suddenly devoured my fanatic status for Sabrina within that moment.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa can’t help but twist the knife further, as Sabrina cannot simply pass on into the afterlife alone – hell forbid it, without a man!? – as Nick appears and heavily implies taking his own life as a gift to Sabrina; now they can live the rest of their lives together, the godlike daughter of Hilda and Zelda Spellman, and a sex addict warlock who only made up with her, what, five episodes ago? It’s the final insult to anyone hoping that Sabrina’s ending could at least be one defined by herself, rather than anyone else, let alone some man.
Simply put, Sabrina deserved far better than what Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa made her to be in the end, a sacrificial helpless lamb to preserve the world, rather than the godlike witch we always knew her to be.