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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e20 – The Mephisto Waltz

So, Luke Cook, who plays Lucifer this episode, looks a lot like Taylor Kitsch. Enough I thought they maybe paid for Kitsch. They didn’t, they got Cook. Who doesn’t seem to have voiced goat Satan in the previous episodes.

Anyway.

It’s the big finale, with Kiernan Shipka unintentionally letting Cook out of Hell and letting him assume his original appearance. There are flashbacks to Lilith and Lucifer’s time after the Fall, with Jenna Berman in for Michelle Gomez in the flashback, and we learn how Cook was originally beautiful but the longer he was out of Heaven, the faster he turned into a goat demon.

Cook’s got some big reveals for Shipka, including some hard truths about her father and mother, as well as a bone to pick with Richard Coyle. You think you’re going to get a great Coyle vs. Satan scene and then you don’t. Instead you just get Coyle being a weasel, as usual. It’s a missed opportunity but not a surprising one—Coyle remains the show’s only significant casting mistake. He’s nowhere near as good as the other adults.

Then there are some big reveals for Shipka’s love life; not just because it’s the season finale but also because it figures in to the finale.

It’s all hands on deck trying to foil Cook’s plans: mortals Ross Lynch, Jaz Sinclair, and Lachlan Watson go into the mines to find the gate to Hell while Shipka and witch family do the magic stuff. Michelle Gomez plays for both Cook and Shipka throughout, leading to both good humor scenes and some more serious contemplations on gender structures and power between Gomez and Shipka. There’s a lot of good acting in the episode, even if it basically reveals the season could’ve easily been seven to ten episodes. When Chance Perdomo and Tati Gabrielle reunite after having been lovers, mortal enemies, and whatever else, it’s like they haven’t seen each other in forever. But it’s only been a week in show time since she was torturing him.

There’s also the problem with Shipka and friends all of a sudden getting great ideas, great enough to outsmart the Great Deceiver. Where was this imaginative thinking throughout the season when Shipka couldn’t breath without screwing something up.

And the season two teasers at the end, the promised developments, aren’t great for Shipka and the teens. The setups for the adults at least promise to amuse.

It’s a solid show but twenty (actual) hour-long episodes is a lot of investments for a conclusion and setup the show could’ve done in half the time, if not even less.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e19 – The Mandrake

This episode gets off to a rough start wrapping up last episode’s cliffhanger—Sabrina and the gang discovering a shrine to her in the mines, which is at least hundreds of years old. Kevin Rodney Sullivan’s direction is peculiar in a bad way (unless there’s a good reason for it like they reshot all of Ross Lynch’s one-shots). Then there’s Joshua Conkel’s script, which has Gavin Leatherwood forgetting Lynch’s name even though it’s been established Leatherwood obsesses over Lynch as a romantic rival for Kiernan Shipka.

Luckily, once that not good scene is over, The Mandrake turns out to be rather excellent. Shipka decides she’s going to get rid of her powers and so she and cousin Chance Perdomo make her a mandrake root clone, which is going to magically syphon off Shipka’s powers. Only they don’t think it works so they go off to try something else. Meanwhile, turns out the cloning did work and so now there’s a different Sabrina (Shipka) around; it’s got all her powers, the non-clone one is depowered. After some fun scenes with the saccharine sweet clone, Shipka gets to start being weird and evil to her mortal friends. It’s very cool (eventually), with a great Invasion of the Body Snatchers reference, even if the scene with Shipka the clone and Lachlan Watson is icky as hell. Watson gets to play hero later, which is great.

Meanwhile, at the witch academy, Richard Coyle is instituting his “Church of Judas,” which is basically just a He-Man Woman Haters club for warlocks. Miranda Otto tries to tell Tati Gabrielle not to trust dad Coyle but, continuing her lousy arc as of late, Gabrielle doesn’t listen when she should and instead needs the point hammered in three times. Lucy Davis is sort of part of this subplot, working behind the scenes; some excellent moments for Davis as far as acting goes, just not the best use of her (or the audience’s) time; it’s filler.

The other big, nearing the end of the season development comes as Shipka finally figures out Michelle Gomez isn’t actually her guardian… angel, but a Machiavellian villain. It’s not the best stuff material for Shipka, who’s too busy with her clone subplot; however, when Gomez and Leatherwood realize Shipka’s unintentionally going to unleash literal Hell on Earth, great material for Gomez. The episode ends up successful enough you’ve got to wonder what happened with that opener.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e18 – The Miracles of Sabrina Spellman

So following Sabrina showing herself off as a possible messiah, Richard Coyle gets back to town with Miranda Otto—Otto’s totally Stepford Wives—and convinces his bosses she’s a heretic and they’re just going to have to kill her.

Meanwhile, Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is enjoying her new powers. She can make it sunny out, she can cure blindness, she can teleport objects, make it rain rose petals; so like anyone would, she starts proselytizing to her fellow witch academy students—she gets back in, because the show doesn’t just introduce characters to get rid of them after three episodes, it does the same thing with subplots (if anything, “Sabrina” might be an example of why shorter seasons are better as far as plotting goes too). She and boyfriend Gavin Leatherwood are restored to the school and the High Council, who are above the Dark Pope but maybe not above the demons Shipka and Lucy Davis conjured last episode for help, but also maybe below them? It’s unclear. Anyway. The High Council gives Shipka twenty-four hours to come up with proof cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) is innocent of murder. Otherwise he’s going to be executed.

Complicating matters are Coyle sending Otto in as a spy and saboteur to mess up Shipka, Leatherwood, and Davis’s attempts to clear Perdomo’s name.

Shipka also decides—if she’s able to pull off saving Perdomo—she wants to get the mortals and the witches together, even if it means she has to show everyone she’s a witch. Leatherwood does not approve.

Meanwhile, Michelle Gomez is making a monster (from her rib, nice touch) and Ross Lynch and Lachlan Watson decide the middle of the night is the best time to go monster hunting in the mines and what they find is going to change everyone’s life… forever! Especially Shipka’s.

It’s a rather well-paced episode, even if Shipka’s lofty dreams of mortal and witch cohabitation are a little naive. Plus some great moments for Otto. Bummer Gomez doesn’t get any. Soon, mayhap. Though, at this point, it’s impossible to say where “Sabrina”’s going and how soon it’s going to get there.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e17 – The Missionaries

So, actually, no, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” apparently hasn’t hit the darkest hour or the point of no return yet because this episode just sort of shrugs at all the disastrous things gone wrong for Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) and her family. Cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo—who’s great this episode) is locked away and Shipka and aunt Lucy Davis are trying to get him out, but life’s still going on as usual for the most part.

Miranda Otto and Richard Coyle are off honeymooning in Europe, with Tati Gabrielle (whose character arc is a disappointment) minding the school. Shipka’s banned from witch academy so she’s just back at the human high school because she… can just sit in, apparently. Meanwhile beau and fellow expelled witch academy student Gavin Leatherwood’s just drinking away his sorrows and being mean to Shipka.

There’s some stuff with Davis trying to get in to see Perdomo, which is good enough thanks to Davis and Perdomo, but isn’t super compelling because it’s too drawn out. Then there’s Ross Lynch and Roz Sinclair freezing out Shipka because they think Shipka’s the one who made Sinclair blind. It’s intense.

They drive Shipka away. When she gets home, she soon answers a knock on the door to reveal Spencer Treat Clark, who the audience has already met because he’s a Christian missionary kid who’s already killed a witch. The episode opens with Clark killing off Darren Mann, who the show forgot for a few episodes just to bring back and kill off.

Turns out Clark’s not alone—he’s got a team of witch hunters—and it’s going to be up to Shipka and Davis to save the day (and Perdomo). Big surprises in store for Shipka in the finale, including some of the show’s most impressive special effects to date.

Michelle Gomez gets her subplot too, of course, which is just the show getting rid of Alexis Denisof three episodes after it introduces him. It’s not a great use of time in general, worse it seems to be wasting Gomez.

But the stuff with Shipka and the witch hunters? Awesome. Even if “Sabrina” introducing the idea of an interventionist God seems a bite bigger than it can chew, only without realizing it. It’s not a flex, it’s a misjudge.

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.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e15 – Doctor Cerberus’ House of Horror

I was ready to love this episode. I wanted to love this episode. Ross Maxwell’s one of the names I like seeing on the writing credit. But this episode is a big whiff.

Alex Garcia Lopez’s direction not being good is one of the problems. The other one is concept really not paying off. It plays like a “recap” episode but “Sabrina” is a streaming show so you wouldn’t need a recap episode after a break.

The episode opens, charmingly, with Lucy Davis and Alessandro Juliani rained in at his shop. Veronica Cartwright appears out of nowhere to interrupt them from canoodling; she reads tarot, can she set up, stay out of the rain. Of course she can. And wouldn’t you know… a bunch of the cast is going to come into the shop during this rainstorm.

Even though they never run into each other at the shop. People appear in each other’s breakout stories—each tarot reading is some ominous future prediction, which usually has something terrible happening to everyone involved. Kiernan Shipka’s involves a talent show where the Weird Sisters (Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, and Abigail Cowen) have hold over beau Gavin Leatherwood and it blinds him to their sinister plans for Sabrina (Shipka). Leatherwood escapes a reading, but then it turns out Lachlan Watson is roaming the store looking for something to steal.

Cartwright gives him a terrifying tarot read, followed by Jaz Sinclair, Miranda Otto, Ross Lynch, and Chance Perdomo. All of the readings are terrifying, most of them are disgusting, and some of them are witty; it’s an effective show. It’s just somewhat pointless treading water episode—especially when you get to the reveal at the end—like is it a drawer episode? Why does a Netflix streaming show have a drawer episode?

Shipka talking to Cartwright at the beginning reminded me the show used to rise and fall on Shipka’s performance and narration. When’s the last time she narrated? When’s the last time she didn’t just bicker and actually got to talk.

Also the show cold disses Tati Gabrielle again; her two episode romance with Perdomo is forgotten because part of his reading involves his missing boyfriend, which then figures into Perdomo joining High Priest Richard Coyle’s He-Man Girl-Haters Club. And the resolution to the stuff with Leatherwood and Shipka doesn’t play. I’m getting sick of them dating. Leatherwood’s not paying off.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e14 – Lupercalia

I’m not sure if I’ve ever known the word “fecund,” but thanks to this episode of “Sabrina,” I do now and beware. I’m always looking for a good adjective. It comes up when Richard Coyle is sweet-talking Miranda Otto and, although Coyle is one of the least dynamic casting choices, he’s really coming into his own as the shallow minsogynst who’s gaga over Otto. See, it’s Valentine’s Day in Greendale and while the mortals are preparing for their high school dance, the witch academy students are planning their big gendered festival.

Got to wonder if the producers ever got far enough with the CW to pitch them on the teen sex festival, with the adults guilting the unwilling teens into it. Otto’s pressuring Kiernan Shipka to get over the whole virginity thing is a very uncomfortable scene. Ditto now bi Chance Perdomo’s boyfriend being offscreen and out of mind for the episode so Perdomo can get it on with Tati Gabrielle, who’s been reduced to his arm candy and let’s not even get into the optics of the two of the three Black cast members now being paired off. There’s already the queer erasure to talk about, as the festival is just boys and girls.

Sadly the least impressive plot is the main one, which involves Shipka getting serious about Gavin Leatherwood and Leatherwood getting serious about her, a problem as he’s got a werewolf familiar who stalks him and attacks any girls he gets serious about. Weird he forgot to mention it before this episode, which also strongly implies Taika Waititi clone Alessandro Juliani could Lon Chaney Jr. during the full moon. Juliani has a nice little subplot with Lucy Davis, who’s done flirting with him and ready to get serious about their obvious feelings towards one another.

So subplots—in addition to aunts Otto and Davis and their beaus, mortal teens Ross Lynch and Jaz Sinclair are speeding forward with their dating thing (though, again with optics, Lynch has this moment where it’s like, wait, I only invited you over for sex but why are you assuming Sinclair wants to have sex given you’ve only been romantic for one and a half dates). It all turns to tragedy as Sinclair’s predicted blindness hits just in time for the cliffhanger. Pairing Sinclair off with Lynch so quickly, much like with Gabrielle, just reduces the potential for Sinclair’s character. She gets a scene with Shipka where Sinclair gets to be moral support regarding Shipka’s planning her first sexual experience, but… mostly Sinclair’s around to give Lynch a subplot.

As opposed to Lachlan Watson, who doesn’t just get to have an extremely difficult scene discussing his gender with straightedge farmer dad Adrian Hough, but also has a showdown of sorts with bully Ty Wood. Watson’s character development is the most important thing he’s doing on the show, whereas Sinclair only gets character development through melodrama.

The best subplot in terms of amusement factor has to be Michelle Gomez, who discovers her mortal host had a wholesome fiancé, Alexis Denisof, who’s been off saving the world in Doctors Without Borders. Gomez had been planning on killing the high school en masse for shits and giggles, then in comes Denisof–with the extremely triggering name Adam—and Gomez gets a kind of romance subplot. You go from wanting her to eat his face off to just morally corrupting him beyond the pale. Lots of fun; “Sabrina” still gives Gomez the best material.

Strangely ineffective main plot for Shipka and Leatherwood aside (not to mention the gendering stuff), it’s a very good episode. I think it’s Oanh Ly’s second episode as credited writer; she’s definitely one of the show’s best writers.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e13 – The Passion of Sabrina Spellman

Big development this episode… Satan, Lucifer, the Dark Lord, et cetera, is an active character. He appears as a goat-headed demon and whoever does the voice isn’t credited (whoever’s doing it isn’t the right casting) and He wants to get Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) to do his bidding. Not because He needs her to do His bidding for any particular reason, but because Michelle Gomez bets Him Shipka’s not really a bad girl and the Devil needs Shipka to be a bad girl for His future plans for her. She’s going to be His herald when the gates of Hell open, which is either in continuity with the Sabrina comic or the Afterlife with Archie comic. Or both. But I think the former.

So while the Devil is trying to tempt Shipka to misbehave and she’s trying to resist, He starts messing with the people around her, just like she worried… last episode. Things happen pretty fast between last episode and this one, with Ross Lynch and Jaz Sinclair basically ready to get busy if only Lynch would break it off with Shipka, which does seem to end up happening this episode, but more to get Shipka ready to pursue things with warlock Gavin Leatherwood. Sinclair fairly ingloriously disappears this episode, which also has Shipka returning to Baxter High as a student. Just in time to watch Sinclair and Lynch practice Romeo and Juliet while she’s stuck with bully jock Ty Wood. Wood should be sympathetic as the show has previously suggested he was raped in summer camp years earlier by other boys and his parents beat him to shut up about it but… well, somehow the show manages to make him still unsympathetic.

Like, he’s unsympathetic to the point when he gets his graphic, gory comeuppance… they could’ve held the shot a little longer. Would’ve been fine.

Meanwhile, Shipka’s still doing evening classes at witch academy, where Richard Coyle has tasked Miranda Otto to direct the annual performance of The Passion of Lucifer Morningstar, which turns out to be a terribly written play and the scenes with everyone congratulating the kids over a shitty school play is some real talk. Leatherwood’s the lead, Shipka’s the understudy for the female part—Lilith, you know, Michelle Gomez only back in biblical times—and the Devil thinks Shipka should have the main female part.

Also Miranda Otto has to deal with the other teachers at the academy being catty to her, which gives Otto some great material but it eventually turns out to be Gomez’s episode. Especially given Coyle’s adaptation of the Satanic Bible story has been updated to be misogynist and reduce Lilith to a subservient position because Coyle’s a shitty guy. Gomez gets to watch the play and her silent performance is phenomenal stuff. So good.

“Sabrina” is basically Gomez’s show at this point.

It’s a fairly good episode, with Lynch’s teenage cruelties to Shipka a little weird all things (like Coyle’s misogyny, not to mention him slut-shaming when she decides it’s not the right time for them to have sex for the first time) considered. Lynch has been a sympathetic character to this point, but he’s quickly—and effectively—doing a one eighty on it.

I’m very curious what happens next episode as pretty much everything outstanding has been tied up here; “Sabrina”’s got no patience for its B and C plots. Kind of like how Shipka can’t make it though an episode without magicking something better without thinking about the repercussions of her magicking.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020) s01e07 – Dethroned

Based on his interviews this episode, it appears Jeff Lowe spent years getting Joe Exotic more and more enraged over Carole Baskin so at some point Lowe would be able to convince Exotic to hire someone to kill her. Possibly even just Allen Glover. Both “Doc” Antle and Joshua Dial think Joe was set up. Lowe attests he did mean to encourage Joe to do it, which isn’t a crime apparently.

A number of people find it highly suspicious the government let Lowe and Glover go, including reporter Sylvia Corkill. Meanwhile federal prosecutor Amanda Green cooperates with the filmmakers so much she performs some of her closing arguments at Joe’s trial for them?

Except they didn’t just get Joe on trying to hire someone to kill Baskin, they got him on violating the endangered species act because it turns out Joe killed five tigers at some point. It really pissed off the zoo employees at the time, which means directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin maybe knew about it and decided to just keep it quiet for best effect later.

The jury finds Joe guilty and he’s sentence to twenty-two years. Once instead he decides to sell all the big cat owners he knows out to PETA, which is good. There’s a card at the end about how “Doc” Antle got raided; Joe says Antle has a gas chamber to get rid of the aging tiger cubs, so, you know, fuck him.

Despite “investigating” her for murder, “Tiger King” gives Carole Baskin a positive send-off. Her husband comes off like a tool but whatever.

And things don’t go well for Jeff Lowe. He screws over major creep Tim Stark leaving him without a zoo partner, which really just screws over the tigers. No one really gives a shit about the 200 tigers Joe Exotic had in his zoo. Given one of the interviewees even brings it up, you’d think it’d get some attention but no.

Rick Kirkham plays victim again, says how bad he felt showcasing an abusive-to-animals Joe Exotic and making him appear loving, which doesn’t track with his previous interviews or the other footage of him….

As for Exotic, there’s at least some footage showing he’s aware of the damage he’s done to the animals.

Oh, and James Garretson playing himself as the hero in the whole thing is ick.

“Tiger King” is extremely compelling and ultimately distressing.

I don’t think I want to see a movie of it, even with a dream cast. It’s too much, too sad.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020) s01e06 – The Noble Thing to Do

So now we’ve got the downfall of Joe Exotic, promised in the first episode, the pieces not aligned until now.

Businesses undefined businessman Jeff Lowe has returned to Oklahoma after basically getting run out of Las Vegas to discover Joe has been forging his name on multiple documents in addition to using zoo money on his presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Like, campaign manager Joshua Dial is obviously on the premises all the time, clearly Joe wasn’t hiding it too much.

So after hearing the Feds are investigating Joe Exotic and now the embezzling, it’s time for Joe to go. Somehow he has enough time to burn all the documents showing his fraud and all the computers, plus sell a bunch of the animals for cash, and run off with new husband Dillon Passage and at least one cub. Joe’s on the lamb. From what, no one knows yet.

Except James Garretson, strip club owner, who’s helping the Feds investigate Joe Exotic. See, James knows how Jeff Lowe and Joe Exotic planned to have Carole Baskin killed. Or something. Jeff Lowe talks about it a lot, so he’s clearly not worried about being prosecuted—he was the only one who could use Google Maps—but then again, maybe it’s just the deal Jeff made because after James turns CI and sells out Allen Glover (prison Nazi maybe Allen Glover so he’s completely unsympathetic), Jeff Lowe wants to rat out Joe Exotic too. Everyone wants to drop the dime on Joe Exotic.

A lot of it is low-key homophobic. Something about the way Glover and James talk about Joe and the husbands… plus last episode established Lowe’s a bigot too.

But, wait, given the show plays so fast and loose with its interview timelines and whether or not interviewees are alive or dead… did Glover kill Carole Baskin? Nope, he took Joe Exotic’s money and got high and didn’t do it and can’t remember anything, which sounds like absolute nonsense but then… what’s Glover going to admit on camera.

The episode ends with Joe in prison, whining, and one hoping local news reporter Sylvia Corkill, who covered a lot of Joe Exotic news, gets to write a book about it at least.

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