Lachlan Watson

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e11 – A Midwinter’s Tale

It’s a Christmas special—or a Winter Solstice special—set before winter break for the teens, which adds to the weirdness because even though Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) said farewell to beau Ross Lynch last episode… turns out they’re still going to the same school. Yes, even though she’s all in on the witch stuff now, Sabrina’s still going to the human high school.

Even though back at the beginning of the series it was assumed if she went all in on the witch stuff she’d just go to witch school. So when she went all in and said her farewells to the humans, you’d think that meant she was changing schools.

But no.

She’s still doing human school during the day and witch school at night. I guess being a witch means you don’t have to sleep? It’s about the only way anything in the show makes sense, twenty-four hours in a day.

The episode’s interesting because it does appear to have been filmed after the first season—so a real holiday special—because Tati Gabrielle’s all of a sudden got a new haircut, which you think Shipka’s going to mention then doesn’t, and the show seems to have realized it didn’t have any phones. There are two ostentatious phone calls this episode.

The initial main plot is Shipka deciding to hold a seance for her mom (a frankly eh Annette Reilly; they really should have stunt-casted the part). Even though everyone tells her not to do it and even though everything Sabrina’s done in the last, say, five episodes has resulted in emotional turmoil and worse for her, her friends, her family, she goes ahead and does it anyway.

And because of the seance, the house gets infected with “Yule lads,” basically invisible gremlins led by witch of some sort maybe Heather Doerksen. Doerksen’s real good.

But the Reilly stuff and Doerksen stuff is all just prologue to Lachlan Watson getting kidnapped by a child-killing demon. Sabrina’s got to save her, with the help of aunts Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto, which is pretty cool because seeing Otto kick ass is fun.

There’s some more with Lynch—Shipka uses their temporary holiday reprieve to… poison his father. For a good cause but still… poison his father.

The show really doesn’t seem to know how to do Shipka “out” as a witch to her human friends. All of a sudden Jaz Sinclair and Lynch are just at the house, even though they never went there earlier in the season and Watson didn’t even know Davis by sight. Even though the episode opens with a flashback to she and Shipka as kids going to see Santa.

Did they not have a show bible or did they not share it with all the writers….

There’s also a resolution to Otto’s adoption arc, which might be the biggest red herring of the show so far.

It’s an effective episode—Watson’s the most sympathetic character on the show—but… with some major qualifications.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e10 – The Witching Hour

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Ross Maxwell co-write, sending off of “Sabrina”’s first season, with a deus ex machine of an episode where Michelle Gomez decides she’s been waiting too long for Kiernan Shipka to embrace the Dark Lord and it’s time to get drastic about things. If Gomez can’t sabotage Shipka’s friendships with mortals—in addition to the big action, Shipka also reconciles (enough) with boyfriend Ross Lynch and other friends Jaz Sinclair and Lachlan Watson embrace her immediately upon the big “I’m a Witch” conversation in the high school bathroom.

Incidentally, I don’t think the show’s writers know how to deal with telephones in general. Sinclair and Watson tell Shipka they’ve been calling her all weekend and apparently Shipka just hasn’t been answering… but they’d have to answer the phone at the house because it’s a mortuary and a business. Sure, they eat the bodies in the closed caskets, but it’s still a business.

Anyway, it’s a telling oversight. Same goes for astral projection, which was a huge no no in the first or second episode but now is literally how the witches check in with one another because they don’t have cellphones. Astral projection is the texting of “Sabrina” world.

Gomez brings back thirteen witches to destroy the town; the sequence where she brings them back is the only good use of the digital Vaseline filter in iMovie the series has done (and, sadly, not in all the shots), but it works because Gomez is flipping amazing in the scene. Just awesome.

So the witches are going to protect themselves and let the ghost witches eat the townsfolk and Shipka, along with Lucy Davis, Miranda Otto, and Chance Perdomo all decide they’re not going to let the mortals die, causing a rift between various parties. But the scene where Otto decides to play hero is pretty great. And Davis has some very nice stuff this episode, particularly with boss slash love interest Alessandro Juliani, who has been around for a while on the show but hasn’t made much impression apparently because I thought he was Taika Waititi.

Doesn’t matter. Nice stuff this episode.

Lynch and romantic rival Gavin Leatherwood team up to protect Lynch’s drunk-ass dad, while Sinclair and Watson protect Sinclair’s grandmother, L. Scott Caldwell, from the ghost witch attack. Throw in Shipka’s turn to the Dark Side of the Force—relatively speaking—Zelda kidnapping one of Richard Coyle’s newborns, Perdomo joining Coyle’s Jordan Peterson-esque like cult of male students, not to mention Gomez’s big reveal where she lays it all out to her captive audience.

Literally captive audience; she narratives the episode, from the beginning, like every episode is some tale she’s telling to her listener. As the episode progresses, we find out more and more about the listener, but we’re all in it together. Fantastic finish, fully delivering on all the promises of Gomez’s character throughout the season, including expectations from the comic. It’s very good.

In fact, everything’s so good it makes up for Shipka’s wanting arc. Once she gets the proverbial Force Lightning, she stops being the protagonist and becomes the subject of the show. Not a great place for the next season setup, though maybe it’d work better if they hadn’t wasted a couple minutes flashing back through the entire season when Shipka’s got to make her big choice. Instead of let her act the season, they let the clips do it for her. Not a good move.

But otherwise a successful end to a very successful season. Though I do hope they get Shipka back as show lead next season. They didn’t take it away from her—turning it into an ensemble—until the very end of the episode, but they’ve been moving in that direction for a while now. Fingers crossed for next season.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e08 – The Burial

Maggie Kiley directs this one and Kiley’s so far the best director on “Sabrina,” so I went in with high hopes. It doesn’t disappoint, which is something given how much the episode does. It starts with a mine collapse in Greendale, last episode’s cliffhangers—mean girls Abigail Cowen and Adeline Rudolph (but expressly not Tati Gabrielle can’t forget) smash effigies of Ross Lynch and Justin Dobies with rocks (payback for hunting and killing a witch’s deer familiar), while they’re in the mine, hence the collapse. Lynch gets out but Dobies doesn’t.

Again with the first act bait and switch—the episode sets up one expectation, then turns it into just a plot point—Lachlan Watson is the only one who can fit in the collapsed mine to search, which leads to her just finding a crushed helmet. A crushed helmet Lynch and Dobies’s dad, Christopher Rosamond, is more than happy to bury the next day so he can collect on the insurance. Writers Christianne Hedtke and Lindsay Calhoon Bring do not shy away from Lynch confronting Rosamond and the repercussions, which only stay “calm” because Miranda Otto’s not going to allow any fighting during a funeral. It’s a great sequence, easily the most impressive acting from Lynch in the series to date.

So Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) gets the great idea to resurrect Dobies—even though they technically don’t know for sure Dobies is even dead—which violates the witch’s prime directive; they can’t meddle in mortal affairs. There’s also the problem resurrection spells don’t work right on humans, Shipka can’t even convince cousin Chance Perdomo to help her, and the whole thing would have to be a secret from Lynch as well. But Shipka’s got to do it because—the whole town agrees—with Dobies around, Rosamond will beat Lynch to death because he’s an extremely abusive drunk. There’s a beat everyone just sits with, “oh, yeah, the dad will totally beat him to death, for real, no joke, hashtag real talk; it’s sad, huh.”

Subplots include High Priest with the pregnant wife at home Richard Coyle sniffing around an interested Otto and Lachlan having more visits from her ghost ancestor, Anastasia Bandey.

There’s some of the virtual Vaseline rub and it’s bad but the episode holds. It’s got a terrifying cliffhanger too.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e02 – The Dark Baptism

I started this episode very happy Lee Toland Krieger was directing and then immediately regretted it because Krieger uses these camera filters—the iMovie version of wiping Vaseline on the lens—to center viewer attention. So while “Sabrina” has that questionable streaming 2.1:1 aspect ratio… the action takes place in a traditional 1.33:1 TV frame. Not even 16:9.

It gets really, really, really annoying this episode, which just turns out to be a testament to the rest of the show’s quality. Save Miranda Otto, who’s not good enough, not opposite Lucy Davis, Kiernan Shipka, or even Chance Perdomo. Davis gets an amazing scene this episode. She’s a star reserve player.

Continuing from last episode are the days of the week title cards, including a very nice homage to Halloween, and by the finish, it’s clear Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote this episode and last as the pilot. I wonder how it plays without an artificial break, like a two-hour pilot or like a very open-ended two-hour feature. I’m thinking the former, just because of Aguirre-Sacasa’s attention to detail.

Sadly some of that detail is in a… I’m not even sure what the right phrase is—a gay panic blackmailing bit. Shipka’s done with the football players who are bullying friend Lachlan Watson and decides to teach them a lesson. So she enlists the mean girls from the witch school she’s going to be attending to help her. Her plan involves using witchcraft to get the guys to do gay stuff, then taking polaroids and blackmailing them. It doesn’t play well. Even if the scene ends up being effective because lead mean girl Tati Gabrielle is good and because Shipka’s able to act through even when the script’s off, which is both a good and bad thing.

The episode resolves what Shipka’s going to do about her sweet sixteen, which is also when she signs her soul over to Lucifer and goes off to witch boarding school, leaving her human friends behind.

The beginning of the episode has some more bonding with secretly possessed teacher Michelle Gomez—who’s awesome—the end is mostly about the soul signing ceremony and fall out. Dark Pope Richard Coyle is a little more effective when not a peculiar stunt cameo but he’s still not enough; Shipka, even when she’s playing coy, dominates their scenes. Coyle’s bombastically clawing at scraps while Shipka’s nonchalantly walking all over him. It works for the character too. The show, two episodes in (one episode in?), is a great showcase for Shipka.

Though type-casting fears are probably justified.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e01 – October Country

The opening titles of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” are, for the most part (if memory serves), Robert Hack art from the source comic book. Now, not only is the comic super-gory, it’s also a period(ish) piece; the show is set modern but none of the teenagers has a smartphone, so it’s a bit removed from reality. The episode opens in a movie theater, with Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) hanging out with her group of very modern friends. While boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch) is a non-jock White guy, Jaz Sinclair is the only Black girl in the town, and Lachlan Watson is non-binary. There’s a somewhat awkward thing about the bully-enabling principal—a fully dramatic Bronson Pinchot—isn’t an ally.

So some of the dialogue’s a little forced, but all the acting is good and, hey, at least there aren’t some mean girls causing problems too. Just some jocks, who bully and—oh, wait, physically assault—Watson, which Pinchot’s cool with because Watson doesn’t want to give up any names. Shipka tries to convince Bronson otherwise to no avail, which will eventually lead to her using witchcraft to even the playing field.

Shipka’s got the opening narration to set everything up: half-human, half-witch, raised by aunts Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto, T-minus five days until Shipka’s got to sign her soul over to Satan and go off to witch school in New England. Only Shipka’s not entirely sure she wants to leave her human friends, especially since her future witch classmates are mean to her for being half-human.

Further complicating matters is Michelle Gomez, one of Shipka’s teachers who just happens to have been possessed by a witch from Hell, whose job it is to make sure Shipka commits to her future as a minion of Lucifer only Gomez has to pretend to be the teacher. Of course, Gomez is playing a character from the comic and the show seems like a sequel to said comic, which show creator and episode writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa never finished because he started making TV shows. So I’ve got baggage and expectation with Gomez.

But it all works out, partially due to the great pacing.

Though Richard Coyle seems to be going way too hard on a Ewan McGregor impression; Coyle’s the cliffhanger arrival guest star… the Dark Pope, arrived to tempt Shipka to the cause. For the amount of build-up he gets, it’d be better if it were Ewan McGregor… It needs a final oomph.

Or would if Shipka’s acting weren’t on point enough to cover, which it is, which she does.

The show works because it’s well-written, Shipka’s a great lead, and the soundtrack is awesome.

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