Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, Chapter Three Review: The Trial of Sabrina Spellman

by Rachel Bellwoar

The Dark Lord and Sabrina settle their differences in a court room? Sure, the Infernal Three are about the creepiest judges I’ve ever seen (and get a load of that Mad Max bailiff) but if episode three feels a tad too civilized, it’s because the Dark Lord’s playing legal instead of vindictive and, of all the demons in Hell, the Dark Lord shouldn’t be accused of being more bleat than bite.

Diyah Pera/Netflix

Sabrina’s aunts are on trial, too, and the aging makeup and hair they’re subjected to does put more pressure on Sabrina to come up with a solution. She doesn’t seem too bothered by the 333-year death sentence hanging over her own head. We saw more panic when she thought she was attending a different school, so when that’s the compromise – Sabrina is transferring to the Academy of Unseen Arts – you’d expect her to be more upset by it. Logically, yes, witch school is a whole lot better than ending up dead but what place does logic have among witches? Where’s the emotional blood spilling (Zelda knows what I mean) when the Dark Lord’s been disobeyed?

In all actuality there’s a long tradition of witches’ councils on TV shows. Growing up I didn’t really watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch (and more the animated series than the Melissa Joan Hart sitcom) but I did watch Bewitched and the witches’ council was always trying to interfere in Samantha’s marriage to a mortal man. In that sense it’s cool to see the legacy continue, with a new group presiding over witch law (and Chilling’s is the scariest, without competition – sometimes all Samantha did was stand on a pulpit dressed to the nines surrounded by clouds and a voice spoke down to her).

Daniel Webster (John Rubinstein) is hired as Sabrina’s lawyer and between him and Zelda we get two very different sides of Sabrina’s father and his marriage to Sabrina’s mom. Which is more reflective of the warlock Edward was – his training of Daniel in the nuances of witch law or his selling of his daughter’s soul, to save his marriage? And how much of a marriage was there left to save, if Sabrina’s mom felt she needed to baptize Sabrina in secret (and after sitting through the trial, there clearly was a need, since her actions save Sabrina’s life)? Sabrina makes her aunts promise to stop keeping secrets but since neither volunteers information about their brother and sister-in-law, they’re not keeping up their end of the bargain. It’s just a matter of whether Sabrina catches them in a lie (though one wonders what it was about the witch mark test that goaded Hilda into speaking at last).

Other thoughts on “The Trial of Sabrina Spellman”:

Courtesy of Netflix
  • What does it mean for Aunt Hilda, to be excommunicated from the Church of Night?
  • So, it turns out Sabrina’s friends don’t need the Dark Lord to have problems. “The Trial of Sabrina Spellman” is the best episode yet towards servicing Harvey’s character. Maybe it’s the fact that he doesn’t take advantage of Sabrina’s request for help with her witch mark search (and takes it seriously, even though it’s a confusing request), but I’m starting to come around to the idea that sweet Harvey might not need, or come with, a catch. His brother, Tommy (Justin Tobies), makes a welcome addition and will the Dark Lord remember Harvey, when they inevitably re-cross paths?
  • Roz’s banned books crusade is the biggest stretch so far, in giving Sabrina something to do that warrants a storyline at Baxter High, but it could become a big deal depending on where the show goes next. Assumedly Roz has known about her eyes for a while and the witches aren’t the reason she’s losing her sight (though her eyes did go black for that moment in the mirror), but maybe they, in the form of Miss. Wardell, could convince her to make a deal that turns Roz into the villain she started out as in the comics.

Season 1 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is streaming on Netflix.

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