Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e16 – Blackwood

Back when they were writing Alien, screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and producer Gordon Carroll disagreed where the end of the second act falls. Gordon said it was “the darkest hour,” whereas O’Bannon countered with “the point of no return.” The idea being a point of no return is less subjective.

This episode ends at the darkest hour. Zelda (Miranda Otto) has ignored niece Kiernan Shipka’s warning and pleading not for Otto to marry High Priest Richard Coyle. Shipka knows—through cousin Chance Perdomo—Coyle wants to enact regressive policies to reduce women to a subservient role in the Church of Night. For Coyle, everything goes swimmingly, for Shipka, Perdomo, and Gavin Leatherwood (as Shipka’s beau), everything goes wrong. Coyle has got all the high cards and is even able to bring illegitimate daughter Tati Gabrielle onto his side at just the right moment, even though he’d made it a practice to push her away.

There’s a lot of good material leading up to the big showdown—though, admittedly, Otto being so passive is not great—including one of Lucy Davis’s best moments on the show. Shipka and Leatherwood’s attempts to save the day are a little too cute and there are—as always when the show introduces an established witch ritual or detail—some logic gaps. Shipka’s never heard of the Dark Pope of their Church, even though she’s been acquainted with it for the last sixteen years.

Ray Wise guests as the Dark Pope. It’d be nice if it were a good cameo because Ray Wise is actually someone but it’s not a great part. The problem with Coyle outsmarting everyone is Coyle’s not very smart. He’s only smart to his gaggle of teen male followers, who see him as Jordan Peterson or something. Even when Coyle’s at his best, he’s nowhere near good enough to make the part work.

There are no mortal subplots this episode; instead, Michelle Gomez argues with the Dark Lord over her new human lover. It’s fine, but not a great use of Gomez’s time. Especially when she’s saying how she needs to be protecting Shipka and instead she’s messing around with her dude. The stuff with Gomez talking to her crow familiar is great though.

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