I give a quick review of shows that have new seasons out which I have reviewed previously. Letterkenny, Sabrina, Cobra Kai, etc.
Letterkenny (Season 9) – Hulu
If you aren’t watching Letterkenny, there’s not much I can tell you other than you are missing out on one of, if not the, funniest shows on television. Despite how long the show has been going, the clever writing and great performances never fail to keep me laughing the whole time. It’s absolutely amazing how hard this show subverts the idea of rural people being idiots and does it in an honest way. Then again, it’s Canada.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Season 4) – Netflix
Sabrina comes to a strong conclusion by having the lead character face off against the 8 Eldritch Terrors, 8 monsters pulled straight from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft. It changes a lot of the dynamic of the show since it focuses less on her trying to balance her mortal and witch lives, but it allows the series to really start swinging for the fences and some of those attempts pay off. It helps that they finally do the straight throwback to the original sitcom, in one of the funniest episodes of the series. It does feel like the ending is a bit rushed and a little odd, but I don’t know how much it was forced by Covid. Either way, it was a pretty good ending to the series.
Cobra Kai (Season 3) – Netflix
There is no fear in this dojo and there is no quit in this show. Despite changing networks, the Karate Kid continuation just keeps switching up the character dynamics in believable ways and ends up delivering a season worthy of the name. It does play up the reality of having dueling “karate gangs” in the year 2020, namely that it’s freaking ridiculous. It also manages to deal with the Karate Kid sequels in a way that makes me almost not dislike them. Impressive.
The Haunting of Bly Manor (Season 2…kinda) – Netflix
I realize this is technically not a second season of The Haunting of Hill House, but it feels like it is. What the Haunting of Hill House nailed in terms of terror and gruesome imagery, this season… mostly missed. The story, however, is just as strong and the performances are solid. It also pulls in more stories than just the main narrative and it helps to keep the show a bit more compelling. It’s still a little slow, but if you can deal with that, you’ll like it.
Transformers War for Cybertron Trilogy: Earthrise (Season 2) – Netflix
Much like the first season, this is a very dark adaptation of Transformers. It still suffers from a lack of actually explaining backstories, but it does a hell of a lot better than last season, where I felt like I’d have been lost if I hadn’t watched Transformers as a kid. However, this season does have a lot of great character moments. If you only were okay on the last season, this one will be a step up. If you liked the last season, you’ll love this one.
The Devil is in her boyfriend, the throne of Hell is up for grabs, and a whole new class of weird comes to Greendale.
At the end of Part 2, it was revealed that Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) is in fact Sabrina Morningstar, the daughter of Lucifer Morningstar (Luke Cook), the fallen angel and king of Hell. Her boyfriend, Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood), sacrifices himself to imprison the Devil within his body and keep the forces of Hell from conquering Earth. Lilith (Michelle Gomez), the mother of demons, takes the throne of Hell and leaves Sabrina on Earth. Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), the head of the Church of Night, having betrayed the coven, is now on the run, leaving the school in the hands of Hilda and Zelda Spellman (Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto).
This season, Sabrina, Harvey (Ross Lynch), Theo (Lachlan Watson), and Roz (Jaz Sinclair) head to Hell to rescue Nick, while discovering that no Devil means no Satanic magic. At the same time, no Devil also means that the throne of Hell is up for grabs, leading Sabrina to compete for it against the Prince of Hell, Caliban (Sam Corlett). With the Dark Lord no longer claiming dominion over parts of the Earth, other gods and other worshippers start trying to take the place of the Devil and his coven and intent on bringing their own Apocalypse.
This Season is probably the one I’ve enjoyed the most so far because it actually ties most of its plotlines together effectively and stays pretty focused on them as the season progresses. The season plays out what happens when there is a sudden power vacuum due to an abdication, but from almost every level. We not only see how the day-to-day operations of Hell are run (and how Sabrina wants to change them), but we also see that the vacuum prompts challenges both from within and from without. Admittedly, this does result in a lot less of the high-school drama elements that were in the last two seasons, but I didn’t really miss them. We do see Sabrina join the cheer squad, and before you ask, yes, we see her perform “Mickey” by Toni Basil (as well as weirdly “Tricky” by Run DMC).
Aside from cheering, the biggest adolescence issue in the season is mostly about virginity. In the magical world, orgies are pretty common, so Sabrina being a virgin is almost an anomaly. At the same time, her ex-boyfriend Harvey is struggling with the idea of losing his virginity to Roz (who is not a virgin despite being the preacher’s daughter). Theo, too, is having issues about his sexuality due to him being transgendered, issues which come to a head when he starts seeing new kid Robin (Jonathan Whitesell).
While the other seasons of the show mostly focused on Sabrina trying to balance her life as a witch against her life as a teenager, this season mostly moved past that. Her friends know she’s a witch and they don’t really seem to care anymore about it, aside from getting dragged into magical hijinks. They’re also not above using her abilities for their own interests, which is exactly what someone in their position would do. In this season, the split is between the Sabrina who is dedicated to her friends and family versus the Sabrina whose responsibilities are broader and ambitions are greater. This season is also the first time that the witches and warlocks are shown losing their powers for good, meaning that they finally start to learn what it is like to be helpless, including Sabrina. This leads her to want power more than she ever had before.
I admit the season feels a little scattered at the beginning, but it does become much more coherent and powerful towards the end. Even though the ending does kind of feel like an ass-pull, it actually sets up for a much bigger conflict in the next season which I am now looking forward to.
Sabrina returns in a new season with a few changes to the formula that worked well.
Following the events of the Midwinter Special, Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) takes a break from her mortal side and enrolls more seriously in the Academy of the Unseen Arts, mostly to avoid her awkward break-up with Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch). However, it quickly becomes obvious that a lot of the policies of the Academy will be completely against her relatively progressive moral code, bringing her into conflict with the more archaic policies of the Dean, Father Faustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle). A lot of stuff happens after that, but spoilers and such.
While the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina clearly demonstrated that Sabrina and her mortal friends were very presenting a progressive agenda, it was usually secondary to the plot of the episodes. In this season, it usually isn’t. Several of the episodes are Sabrina finding out about some absurd rule that the Academy has and fighting to change it, while Roz (Jaz Sinclair), Harvey (Ross Lynch), and Susie/Theo (Lachlan Watson) do the same thing to a rule or policy in the Greendale School in the B-Plot.
While most of the time the show did a solid job of trying to make some points about the nature of feminism and equality, I admit that the show did sometimes feel like they were presenting straw-men to represent their regressive opponents. I mean, it isn’t exactly subtle when your main regressive figure is Father Blackwood, whose daughter was literally kept from him on the basis that everyone believed he’d kill her to make sure his first legitimate child was a boy. Any time he’s the adversary, he’s taking a position that is openly “women are lesser.” While it does make for some interesting plotlines, it kind of hurts the narrative that it’s hard to believe that he’s supported in saying this in Witch society, where we’ve seen many witches who flat-out dwarf warlocks in power. Or maybe that’s the point and I would get that if I were a woman.
Similarly, in a plotline involving Susie/Theo (he identifies as a boy as of this season, although the show originally said he was non-binary) trying out for the basketball team, the coach is an exceptional dick, as are most of the other players, to the point of being unbelievable. It even kind of undercuts the message when the coach himself points out that Theo wouldn’t be able to get on the team if he just gave him a regular tryout, due to Theo not being tall, athletic, coordinated, or particularly good at basketball, eventually getting on only due to Sabrina magically enhancing him. I will say, however, that there is a scene in the locker room where Theo is being ogled by the other players that came off as simultaneously horrifying and also realistic in how it portrayed the mistreatment of transgender people.
In the first season review I said that the version of Satanism presented in the show is more akin to a perverted version of Southern Baptism than actual Satanism, and that has carried through to this season, only with the added element of being set more in a church school. They even address some of the issues with revisionist doctrines contained in religious education systems by having Father Blackwood propose his own “revised” version of Satanism… something he hilariously doesn’t get approved by Satan. It turns out that even the Great Adversary of God doesn’t want to support some misogynist prick.
The acting and writing in the show has always been pretty good in my opinion, but I think there were three major improvements over the last season. First, the chemistry and interplay between Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto) got much better. I thought they really started to seem like sisters. Second, they added Adam (Alexis Denisof) as the fiance of the woman who is now possessed by Lilith (Michelle Gomez), and that opens the character up a bit, rather than making her just an antagonist. Third, the humor got a lot sharper, particularly coming up with good lines. Heck, Satan has a line to Sabrina that made me laugh for like a solid five minutes.
Overall, I thought this was a marked improvement over the last season.
Throw your Yule log on the fire and get ready for tales of child abduction and murder from two separate sources, it’s Sabrina’s Christmas Special!
It’s the holidays: a time for family, for decorations, for love, and for warding off evil spirits through the use of magic rituals. In this case, the Spellman household is gearing up for the winter holiday that they celebrate: Solstice (which takes place on December 21st instead of the 25th… and occasionally on the 22nd, I guess… and in June if you’re on the Southern Hemisphere… stopping now). Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is still having a little bit of a difficult time adjusting to the recent events of her breaking-up with Harvey (Ross Lynch) and signing her soul away via a signature in the Dark Book of the Beast in order to gain the power to save Greendale. However, she is at least a little relieved that she doesn’t have to hide her witch nature from Harvey or her friends Roz (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie (Lachlan Watson).
Susie is excited that, for the first time, she was allowed to play the Christmas elf for the local Santa, Mr. Bartel (Brian Markinson). However, she is soon shocked to discover that his famous wax elves that accompany him in his workshop are actually the trapped souls of children that he killed by dipping in wax. Also, he’s a demon, but the first part is more important. He kidnaps Susie and prepares to dip her in wax.
Meanwhile, Sabrina enlists the weird sisters (Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, and Abigail Cowen) to help her in a seance to speak with her mother who is trapped in Limbo. They succeed, but are sabotaged by the efforts of Madam Satan (Michelle Gomez) who undoes the Yule Log that wards off evil spirits during Yule. As such, several mischievous ghosts called “Yule Lads” enter and start to play tricks on the occupants of the house, including Zelda (Miranda Otto), Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), and a visiting Hilda (Lucy Davis).
The elder Spellmans reveal that the Yule Lads are all the ghosts of orphaned children that were abducted (but apparently not killed, only cared for until they died) by a powerful witch named Gryla (Heather Doerksen) to make into her family. They invite Gryla over to ask her to take the ghosts back. She does, but she also discovers that Zelda’s recently adopted/stolen baby Leticia is in the house. Sabrina and her mother’s ghost trick Gryla into leaving without the baby, right as Roz arrives and announces Suzie is missing. Hilda and Zelda deduce Mr. Bartel’s demonic identity and realize they can kill two birds with one stone: Gryla will forgive their deception if she is told of the identity of a demon that preys on children, because she apparently hates things that kill kids that have parents. Gryla kills Bartel and saves Susie.
Zelda makes a decision to give Leticia over to someone else to raise so that she won’t be found by her father, Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), who would kill her. Sabrina cures Harvey’s dad’s alcoholism, which upsets Harvey who doesn’t trust magic now. They stay broken up. At the end of the episode, Sabrina and the Spellmans read A Christmas Carol before the fire as three mysterious demonic figures emerge into Greendale and the episode ends.
So, as far as specials go, this one doesn’t really feel like a “special” as much as another episode of the show that happens to take place at Christmas, which is what it probably was supposed to be. This is backed-up by the fact that it’s just listed as Season 1, Episode 11 on Netflix. Nothing major happens in the episode aside from Zelda giving up Leticia. None of the character relationships are particularly changed and, aside from the three demons walking out at the end of the episode, nothing happens to set-up season 2. Given their resemblance to three Demonic Magi, the demons might even just be a Christmas joke that I missed during the episode, rather than a lead-in to the next season.
But, aside from that, this wasn’t a bad episode. It’s interesting to see how the Satanic Witches, who I again maintain are just Southern Baptists with a few name changes, celebrate the holidays. It’s honestly not that much different than how most people celebrate Christmas: They have parties, they drink, they make cookies, they decorate, and they read holiday stories. The main difference is that everything is focused around the solstice and the height of demonic power associated with it.
Gryla is an interesting character and I’m glad she was brought in. Her backstory is that, during a famine, several witches agreed to eat their children to survive. Her kid was eaten first and the others all changed their minds afterwards. Since then, she’s collected orphaned children to raise and add to her family. Given the voices of the children, it appears that she might specifically collect the ghosts of orphaned children, but we also see her try to adopt a live one. Given her hatred of people hurting children, it doesn’t sound like she kills them, so… I guess the ones that grow up just live their own lives? I dunno, but I hope they bring her back for answers.
I’m going to have nightmares over the thought of someone being encased, alive, in wax. Even in most versions of House of Wax, the people aren’t still alive when they’re made into sculptures and in none of them are their immortal souls being tormented inside of the statue. That’s super cruel, guys. At least in most horror films, death is the end of the pain.
Overall, it’s a solid addition to the series, but now I really just want the next season not to be 4 months away.
As many of you who read this blog regularly will already know, or anyone who sits near me for even a brief period will find out, I hate the show Riverdale. It strikes me as a generic CW show that only distinguishes itself by being based on Archie Comics, which also pisses me off because the comic book Riverdale was supposed to be like Mayberry: It’s a place where people are who they should be. They’re not perfect, but the good try to be better and the bad are taught to be good. Instead, this Riverdale is full of darkness and teen angst. This is the only kind of reboot or reimagining that I usually will protest: It’s profaning that which its source held sacred, but not doing anything imaginative with that profanity. And yes, I watched the entire first season to give it a fair shot. So, when they said they were going to do a spin-off of the show featuring Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, most people thought I would oppose it.
THOSE PEOPLE WERE WRONG.
While Riverdale stands against everything that Archie Comics originally stood for, Sabrina the Teenage Witch has always been a little creepy and macabre. Even the 90s series with Melissa Joan Hart had a lot of stuff that, in retrospect, was dark as hell. I mean, she regularly manipulates memories, changes people’s personalities, causes giant weather phenomenon, and punishes people with curses for arbitrary reasons. Those are all things that, in a less comic setting, would be objectively horrifying. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is just taking that to its logical conclusion.
Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) is about to turn 16 years old on Halloween under a Blood Moon… at which point she shall have to undergo her “Dark Baptism” and sign her soul into the Book of the Beast and pledge herself to the Dark Lord Satan. However, Sabrina is a rare existence, a half-witch half-human, which gives her a choice: She can embrace her magic side and gain longevity and power, or she can stay in her human life with her human friends, including her boyfriend Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch). Her aunts, Hilda and Zelda (Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto) and her cousin, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), are all practitioners of the Dark Arts who give her guidance… and sometimes commands that she disobeys.
Ultimately, this choice and how she tries to avoid it, negotiate it, or pick a third option is most of her character arc for this season. At the same time, her magical presence is revealed to be impacting Harvey and her friends Susie (Lachlan Watson) and Roz (Jaz Sinclair). Additionally, she has to deal with the dark path offered by Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), the head warlock of her coven, the temptations of Ms. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), a demon inhabiting the body of her teacher, and the semi-racist ire of the Weird Sisters, three witches that act like the Plastics from Mean Girls (Adeline Rudolph, Tati Gabrielle, Abigail Cowen).
Like most of Netflix’s shows, this is a serial that builds towards the season finale… which itself mostly just sets everything up for the next season. Since Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has already been given an order for a second season, this isn’t much of an issue. I think the pace of it is pretty solid, moreso than most of the Netflix Marvel series. There are a lot of subplots that start off fairly slow and do a great job building over the course of the season, while the main plot involving Sabrina keeps shifting enough that it doesn’t feel overly repetitive. Some of the episode gimmicks seem a little cliche or lame but, honestly, the show’s acting and atmosphere consistently overwhelm any of those issues.
The performances are pretty great. My favorite character has to be Chance Perdomo’s Ambrose, who is under house arrest throughout the series. In one of his first appearances, if not his first appearance, he’s shown having a laptop outside of the Spellman home, signalling that he is much more modern than any of the other witches and warlocks depicted. He is pansexual, and also genre-savvy and sassy as hell, which would normally make him the only sane man in the show, but his constant love of mischief, rebellion, and boning instead make him appear as a roguish mage, which… well, works.
Hilda and Zelda are both great characters as well, each one encouraging Sabrina in different ways and directions. Susie, Roz, and Harvey are all really great at selling the idea that they’re close to Sabrina and would be worth forsaking magic for. Then there’s Sabrina.
I think what surprises me most about Kiernan Shipka’s portrayal is that it both seems similar to Melissa Joan Hart’s Sabrina and yet is completely distinct. She’s very loyal, supportive, and upbeat, but has an enormous dark side (the kind where she accepts that she’s going to be bathed in human blood and pledged to wed Satan). The best thing is that she represents a lot of kids out there, just in a twisted way: She’s in a family that is firmly rooted in tradition and devotion to god (just… not the Christian God), but she wants to be independent and question why things are still done this way. It’s an old trope, but it’s one that’s been beautifully turned on its head by the show.
Another thing that I love in the show is the atmosphere. The town it’s set in, Greendale, is described as being a place where every day feels like Halloween, and the show really took that to heart. The trees, the stores, the characters, everything feels like it’s got a layer of cobwebs over it. But it’s still got the feeling of a small town underneath, where people still walk to school and work in coal mines and watch black-and-white horror films. It’s Real American Nostalgia, but with pumpkins.
And I can’t go without mentioning the Satanism. I think the way they handle Satanism in the show is literally the best part. Look, the show doesn’t beat around the bush: Everything that the witches do is suuuuuuper messed up. They eat people on holidays. They steal organs and blood from corpses. They alter memories and commune with demons. However, aside from when they’re actively doing those things… they’re Southern Baptists (or any equivalent small-town religion). I grew up in a Southern Baptist community, and all of the times that the show has a witch saying “hail Satan” is the exact moment when a Baptist woman would say “praise Jesus.” Sabrina is constantly told that things are just done a certain way and not to question it, she’s told to not fool around with her boyfriend (and she doesn’t), and everyone views the church as the social, political, and moral center of the community. Every time she tries to be “progressive,” her family loves her but they wish she’d just quit ruining their perception in the church, even if she’s right. That’s why it’s so easy to buy the way that the witches worship in the show; they’re literally just a dark reflection of an existing culture.
Overall, I loved this series. It’s dark, but in a good way. It’s got actual morals and themes to discuss, even if it’s disguised them beneath a layer of blood and goblins. It’s progressive, but it’s not exactly preachy about it. The sets, music, and acting are all wonderful, and the end of the season shows that things are really just heating up. WATCH IT NOW!