Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Chapter Fourteen: “Lupercalia”
Directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield
Written by Oanh Ly
* For a recap & review of Chapter Thirteen, “The Passion of Sabrina Spellman” – click here
* For a recap & review of Chapter Fifteen, “Doctor Cerberus’s House of Horror” – click here
The title of this episode— “Lupercalia”— comes from an ancient festival. It occurred between February 13th and 15th. Interesting with the tradition of Valentine’s Day in modern times falling on the 14th of February. Any significance?
Nice soundtrack addition of “Chains of Love” by Erasure takes us in, as Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) dances with Nick (Gavin Leatherwood) and parties with Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), and the others. Lupercalia’s coming up. Like Father Gore expected, it’s dubbed “Witches‘ Valentine‘s Day.”
At home, Sabrina asks Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) and Aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis) about the holiday. The whole thing involves lots of weird, slightly misogynistic role play. Like the Matching, during which witches and warlocks are paired randomly, then the Courting, involving the pairs spending a night alone together, and finally, the Hunt. Basically it’s a mock hunt ending in “orgiastic carnality.” Zelda suggests it’s a great time to lose your virginity, whereas Hilda doesn’t want to pressure their niece into sex. Zelda gives the girl a book to study up on the rituals. That night, Sabrina has a look, then she’s interrupted by Nick astral projecting.
Soundtrack note: “Tell Him” by The Exciters plays during the 1st scene at Baxter High
Madam Satan a.k.a Principal Wardwell isn’t happy with the Dark Lord. She’s increasingly pissed off by him relegating her to the role of “unhappy spinster school mom.” (Her line “Oh, what fools these mortals be” is by Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.) She doesn’t want to accept that her Master is going to make young Ms. Spellman his prophet. Things are going to get ugly.
And there’s the Sweethearts Dance for V-Day, which has Harvey (Ross Lynch) asking Roz (Jaz Sinclair) to the dance. She’s already agreed to go with Theo (Lachlan Watson), so the three of them are going to go together. Roz tells Sabrina about hanging out with Harvey and how he asked her to the dance. The young witch says things are over between her and Harvey. At his place, Theo has to deal with dad’s inability to accept he’d “feel better in a suit” as opposed to a dress. A difficult conversation for Theo to have, laying bare all those feelings about gender identity that aren’t easy to articulate.
I’m a boy
Everyone’s been matched for Lupercalia. Next is their Courting in the woods. They’re encouraged to abstain from sex until the end of the festival. Everyone takes a basket of various things to make the whole night more sensual. In one part of the woods, Zelda’s with Faustus (Richard Coyle), and in another Sabrina lies with Nick after they do weird rituals. Everybody hears a wolf howling, which prompts Nick and Sabrina to go back into town for a mortal Valentine’s.
At Baxter High, Madam Satan gets her own surprise when Mary’s fiancee returns to Greendale. His name’s Adam, and she has no clue about him. She meets him later at the cottage, where he gives her a fetish doll— which looks like the one from Trilogy of Terror— that he got from the Shona people. Meanwhile, Sabrina has to navigate the weirdness with Harvey. They’ll both end up at the dance where they’ll each be with different people and it’s going to be SO PAINFULLY AWKWARD.
“The cherries are for popping”
Poor Hilda! When she tries to go back to hit on Dr. Cerberus, she discovers it has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with the fact the man’s a goddamn wolf-like demon. A perfect musical cue leads us to the Sweethearts Dance with “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran. At the high school, Madam Satan’s trying to spike the punch and being dragged off by the fiancee to dance. Theo, sporting his new haircut, runs into Billy, whose leg he broke. The jock apologises, calling Theo by his chosen name.
Off on their own, Nick and Sabrina are nearly attacked by a wolf. He explains to Madam Satan and Sabrina it’s his familiar, Amalia, given to him when he was born. She’s a “scary jealous” beast. Great H.P. Lovecraft reference when Scratch says he banished Amalia to a place at “the base of the Mountains of Madness.” Madam Satan says the familiar must be killed.
Zelda’s called to see Father Blackwood. He says he told Edward of his intent to ask Zelda to marry him years ago, and her brother refused him. Now, Faustus wants to live the life he hoped to have then. He gives her “turtledove hearts” as a proposal. Ahe decides to think it over. Best to keep him waiting, keep him wanting.
At home, Hilda’s visited by Cerberus, who tells her about an “occult tome” he came across once. He tried a spell inside, which got him “possessed by an incubus.” If you don’t know, an incubus is a hideous sexual creature that rapes women. So much confused eroticism in the air around Greendale, what with Lupercalia happening and now this terrifying horny spirit. Christ.
In the woods, Nick finds Amalia and kills her. He wants to leave the Hunt with Sabrina, so they can spend the final night of Lupercalia. He wanted to be done with his familiar in order to have this night for themselves. Will everything still go as planned?
The Hunt has begun! The witches in their Little Red Riding Hoods flee into the trees, followed not far behind by the warlocks dressed in wolf furs. Dorcas grabs Nick before he can slip off with Sabrina.
At Harvey’s place, he and Roz are making out. When they stop, he shows her his drawings. All of a sudden, she can’t see— at all. Has she finally slipped totally into blindness like her genetic fate dictated?
And in the woods alone, Sabrina discovers Nick didn’t actually kill Amalia. The familiar has returned. Perfect imagery for a meeting between the figurative Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood. The witch does her best to talk the werewolf down. Nick arrives, and when he professes his love for Sabrina it makes Amalia incredibly angry. The familiar attacks Scratch, and Sabrina is forced to kill her to save him. In the aftermath, the witch tries telling the warlock love is “not a weakness,” instead it’s a virtue that makes us powerful. At the same time, does she love him like he’s said he loves her? Sabrina constantly feels the lure of the Dark Lord and it’s hollowing her out, bit by bit.
Another great episode. This series has gotten more fantastic by the chapter, and Season 2 is far darker than even the first season got at its creepiest. Excellent writing, so much homage to classic horror and even just to the history of witchcraft(etc).
Chapter Fifteen: “Doctor Cerberus’s House of Horror” is next.