Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e09 – The Returned Man

This episode could also be called Everything Falls Apart. It puts Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) through one ringer after another; Shipka’s antics of the last couple episodes have resulted in some very bad, very dangerous situations—soulless cannibalistic husk people bad and dangerous—and she doesn’t seem to want to take much responsibility for it.

It’s kind of weird when “Sabrina,” the show, has less faith in Sabrina than it’s conveyed to the audience. Sometimes when she makes an incredibly bad choice this episode, it seems forced.

In order to put everything wrong back right, Shipka’s got to manipulate this set of folks, gaslight this set of folks, ignore this set of folks. It’s a very intense time and the pressures eventually blow—coming out in a yelling match between Shipka and Miranda Otto (who’s awesome) before Shipka runs off to Michelle Gomez for a more sympathetic ear.

Even with Gomez obviously operating with a suspicious or worse agenda, Gomez and Shipka make a good team. But will Gomez’s enabling of Shipka lead to success or will it all crap out, getting Shipka and family in trouble with Richard Coyle (who’s just hired Otto at the school and made her night mother to his unborn babes) and possibly revealing the witches to the world.

Though the mortals are starting to figure it out. In addition to counseling her to steal books from the bookstore, Lachlan Watson’s ghost ancestor (Anastasia Bandey) also tells Watson how the Spellmans are all witches, probably including Sabrina. Jaz Sinclair also figures out, because after she tells Shipka about the Shining, Shipka enlists Sinclair’s aid in one of her schemes to fix the disaster in progress and Sinclair’s able to figure it out.

Plus Shipka finally goes too far for Ross Lynch, which leads to a great scene for Lynch where he gets to hear the truth (for the third time) and a bad one for Shipka. She makes forced bad choices and you feel for Shipka; she’s not getting the scene she ought to get.

Lucy Davis and Otto get a great scene together earlier. Don’t want to forget about that one, but the scene with Lynch and Shipka… First it’s clear Craig William Macneill’s direction isn’t cutting it, then it’s obvious Axelle Carolyn and Christina Ham’s script isn’t good enough either. It’s a big scene and too bad the show bungles it.

The epilogue is… okay, but relies entirely on pre-existing sympathies for the characters, particularly Shipka.

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