Netflix did drop “Sabrina” all at once so who knows if this Thanksgiving episode was meant to “air” on Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving theme doesn’t last long—enough to introduce the hilarious idea of Miranda Otto sitting and watching football all day for the violence–but once the witch alternative, the Feast of Feasts, comes in… it’s all about the Feast.
Apparently witches don’t do communal Thanksgiving every year and only some people get to attend. The Spellman family—Otto, Lucy Davis, Kiernan Shipka—just haven’t been invited since Shipka’s been old enough to remember. Because she’d remember the event where a woman is chosen as Queen of the Feast and then eaten at said Feast.
While the episode sets it up for Shipka to be Queen—she demands to be the Spellman Family contestant, even though Otto’s already doing it—that setup is just… garnish. Oanh Ly’s script for the episode is strong, dialogue, pacing, plotting. So it comes as a big surprise when Sabrina (Shipka) doesn’t “win,” losing to witch academy nemesis Tati Gabrielle. But to keep Shipka essential to the episode—“Sabrina” has yet to give any of the supporting cast a showcase, it’s very much Shipka’s show—Shipka becomes Gabrielle’s handmaid, which means pampering her until she gets eaten by the coven. A great honor, especially after Gabrielle moves into Shipka’s; they don’t have a slumber party, in fact Gabrielle doesn’t even invite Shipka to the orgy.
One assumes the teen orgy wouldn’t have made it past Standards and Practices at a network, even the CW.
Shipka’s disgusted at the whole “eating another witch” thing and tries to get Gabrielle to see reason, which doesn’t work, but the subplot does prepare the audience for Shipka then discovering things are not what they seem and maybe it isn’t Satan who wants Gabrielle gone but someone else. The discussions of blind faith are fairly sharp so one’s got to wonder if the show’s aware the commentary it’s making on Christianity or if it’s actually as unaware as it appears to be; along with the lack of cellular technology, the world of “Sabrina” also seems absent the Religious Right.
Pal Jaz Sinclair has a subplot involving grandma L. Scott Caldwell, who tells her about the family curse—the women go blind, but they get the Shining in return. It’s called the Cunning. It’s whatever psychic power the show needs someone to have to nudge the plot along. It’s not an eye-roll so much as a squint and a nod. Sinclair and Caldwell are good enough to get through it.
And now for the big lede bury—Michael Hogan guest stars as Ross Lynch’s grandfather. They’re all going hunting this Thanksgiving, first time for Lynch, which is important family bonding because they used to hunt witches not deer. Lynch being in a family of witch hunters is a great reveal, especially for episode seven; anyway, on the hunt, they kill a witch’s familiar—in the form of a deer—and get on Sabrina’s witch acquaintances’ bad side.
It’s an excellent episode. Not just because Hogan. It’s got the right mix of Shipka’s justness, witch creepiness, and supporting cast material.
Even if it not being a Thanksgiving special seems like a missed opportunity given how funny it’d be to watch Otto and Hogan watch a football game together.