Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
A Midwinter’s Tale
Directed by Jeff Woolnough
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Donna Thorland
* For a recap & review of Chapter Ten, “The Witching Hour” – click here
* For a recap & review of Chapter Twelve, “The Epiphany” – click here
Midwinter, for those who don’t already know, refers to the winter solstice. Fits in perfectly with all the pagan stuff. So, we start a week before Christmas in a time years ago when young Sabrina Spellman (Mckenna Grace) was at the mall to see Santa Claus. She only wanted to see her mom again.
Cut to this year, right before the winter solstice. The Spellman mortuary is lit up. Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) gets scolded by Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) for calling the tree a Christmas tree: “It‘s a Yule tree.” Again, they’re pagans! So it’s traditions from the Old Country. They celebrate Yule/Jul. All the same, Hilda (Lucy Davis) likes to celebrate a semi-Christian Christmas with stuff like It’s a Wonderful Life and other holiday movies. They light the Yule log to ward off “malevolent forces” and other such stuff.
Sabrina’s living in the aftermath of signing her name to the Book of the Beast, giving herself over to the Dark Lord. She isn’t sure how to feel anymore. She isn’t sure if she acted correctly with Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch). Not only that, she saw her mother in Limbo, and it means there’s unfinished business.
And what about Madam Satan a.k.a Ms. Mary Wardwell (Michelle Gomez)? She gets a visit from Ms. Spellman, who wants to hold a seance in hopes of contacting her mother Diana (Annette Reilly). The sly older witch acts like she’s reluctant, but it’s certainly of interest to her what could occur. We all know it won’t go easily, or properly, or neither. Madam Satan’s going to make sure of that.
Sabrina tells Susie Putam (Lachlan Watson) and Rosalind Walker (Jaz Sinclair) about being part of the seance. They’re not really ready for participating in any of her witchy rituals. Not yet, anyway. Plus they’ve got their own holiday plans. Susie’s playing Jingles the Elf in a Christmas production. Not to mention Sabrina and Harvey have a chat after not seeing each other for a while. She gives him “enchanted” pencils to use, which again shows the mortals in her life aren’t totally ready to accept her witch identity. At the Academy of the Unseen Arts, Sabrina finds things a little easier— just a little. She asks Prudence Night (Tati Gabrielle), Dorcas (Abigail F. Cowen), and Agatha (Adeline Rudolph) to take part in her seance, and they agree.
At Santa’s Playland, Susie helps Mr. Bartel (Brian Markinson) cleans up after they do their act for the kids all day. She’s creeped out by one of the dolls that seems to cry. She also discovers it was a mistake to work with Mr. Bartel. He’s looking for children “to harvest.” He found the perfect one this year without much work.
In Sabrina’s room, she and the Weird Sisters began the seance. They lay Diana’s wedding dress inside a circle of candles. Agatha starts the seance, then Sabrina asks her mother how she died, getting a response from the other side. From out of nowhere, Diana is channelled into the room, standing before Sabrina in her dress. There’s interference with the seance and Agatha can’t hear Diana clearly. Downstairs, the Yule log goes out and the tree smashes. Something else is present. Aunt Zelda finds the seance going on, which causes Diana to vanish, and things at the house aren’t happy for the holidays any longer.
AND FINALLY, THE SOLSTICE HAS ARRIVED!
While Sabrina feels helpless with her own mother, she makes a special recipe from Aunt Hilda’s book to give to Harvey’s dad. This is her plan to rid the man of his alcoholism and maybe make things easier for the Kinkles. Elsewhere, Roz and Mr. Putnam are realising that Susie didn’t come home the night before. Poor Susie is in the clutches of Mr. Bartel. But he’s preparing her for something far worse.
Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) is experiencing weird things in the morgue. He’s preparing a body, but when his back is turned the corpse is up and about. Children laugh. The morgue drawers clap open and closed. Then, the corpse is up again, and the lights go out. Upstairs, Hilda’s preparing dinner, and she’s having issues keeping track of the knives and other dangerous utensils around the kitchen. Looks like the malevolence definitely crept in while the Yule log was out. Even worse, little baby Leticia goes missing when the demonic presence in the house starts to play. The aunts follow the baby’s cries until they find her stowed away in the preheated oven.
The Spellmans have been visited by the “Yule Lads” and their mother Gryla, a witch— she is based on the mythical giantess of Iceland, a famous painting of whom you can find here. She hates men, and she eats them. She was basically conned into eating her own child along with other witches during a famine. Either way, she’s a nasty piece of work.
Good soundtrack stuff: “Magic is the Moonlight” by Rosemary Clooney
Zelda invites Gryla (Heather Doerksen) into their home to try and get her children out. They offer her Christmas foods. The witch would like some gin for a drink. Things become tense when Gryla finds out there’s a baby living there. She wants it, and she knows it doesn’t belong to Zelda or Hilda. Diana appears to face Gryla, refusing to allow the child to be sacrificed. Except they’ve got to tear the baby in half. Not exactly a great decision. Zelda can’t bring herself to do it, and so Gryla is given the baby.
That’s not really what happened. Sabrina pulled an “old changeling trick,” switching the real baby out for a teddy bear, all with the help of Diana’s presence. Mom doesn’t stick around long, but at least they’ve got Gryla out of there. This still leaves Susie out there in the clutches of a demon. Bartel, you see, refers to a Krampus-like figure from Southern Austria, and Mr. Bartel is actually a hideous thing who likes to steal kids in his own way. So the witches use Gryla against Bartel. She doesn’t like anybody stepping on her territory. She goes after Bartel, turning him into a “Festival of Lights” all on his own, and she frees Susie.
At home, Zelda decides they need to get baby Leticia somewhere else to the learn the “Old Ways” and be protected, away from Gryla or any other trouble that might come into their lives. And someday Faustus will find out, somehow. The child is better off. And y’know, Madam Satan is out there, keeping her evil eye on things. There’s always danger.
The next day, Sabrina finds out Harvey’s dad will quit drinking. At the same time, he doesn’t want her to use magick on him or anybody in his life. He doesn’t trust the magick. He returns the pencils, too. Some people can’t deal with it, and that’s his choice. Will they be able to come back together? Or has the magick irreparably altered their relationship? Only time will tell.
Oh, and Three Satanic Wisemen emerge from the mine. That can’t be any good.
“And Satan bless us, everyone.”
Fun holiday episode! Nice to see Gryal and the Yule Lads, as well as the Bartel demon. So many weird Christmas and holiday spirits/demons out there, particularly in the Nordic countries, it’s exciting to see horror’s using these nowadays after people took so well to Krampus. Can’t wait for more Sabrina in 2019!