Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Chapter Sixteen: “Blackwood”
Directed by Alex Pillai
Written by Matthew Barry
* For a recap & review of Chapter Fifteen, “Doctor Cerberus’s House of Horror” – click here
* For a recap & review of Chapter Seventeen, “The Missionaries” – click here
With the “Anti–Pope” arriving soon and a marriage near, Faustus (Richard Coyle) gets a visit in his bed chamber from the Weird Sisters. Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), Agatha (Adeline Rudolph), and Dorcas (Abigail F. Cowen) tell him they’ve had a strange dream. They warn: “The Spellmans will be the undoing of the Blackwoods.” An eerie prophesy for the High Priest, who tells them not to worry. Prudence asks if Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) will become a Blackwood, which troubles Faustus.
One compelling thing about Sabrina’s ascension is she mirrors Jesus Christ. This is even reflected in the episode names, such as the earlier “The Passion of Sabrina Spellman” and the upcoming “The Miracles of Sabrina Spellman” which refer to important events in the life of Christ. A dark mirror.
Madam Satan (Michelle Gomez) thinks it’s time to push the young witch, mentioning the subverted Christianity element in Sabrina’s trials, first performing an exorcism, then a resurrection, perverting “the Nazarene‘s miracle.” Madam Satan also has Mary’s fiancee Adam (Alexis Denisof) around as a pain in the ass. He’s dying to get married, too. She really doesn’t dig that.
“Dream no more of blood”
Zelda (Miranda Otto) is preparing to marry Father Blackwood, despite not being in love with him. Then there’s Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), heartbroken over Luke’s death. Not exactly a happy household. They’re all trying to be positive. Big deal for the Anti-Pope to be coming to marry the couple.
Other strange things are going on, too. Like Sabrina seeing the ghost of her father, Edward (Georgie Daburas). He says Faustus murdered them. “Finish the work that I started,” he tells her, referring to his manifesto. However, it’s not actually Edward— Madam Satan is manipulating the younger witch.
Sabrina tells Zelda, Hilda (Lucy Davis), and Ambrose what her father’s ghost told her about Faustus supposedly being involved in killing her parents. Nobody takes her seriously. There’s also the fact Zelda’s seen dead Lady Constance (Alvina August) lurking around the property. Plenty of worries. Ambrose is the only one who may believe his cousin. He tells her about the unsettling tarot reading re: Faustus.
And Sabrina goes right to Madam Satan. She’s told Edward was on his way to see the Anti-Pope to deliver his manifesto, which would reform the Church of Night. The manifesto got lost “somewhere over the Devil‘s Triangle” a.k.a the Bermuda Triangle. Nick (Gavin Leatherwood) astral projects into the ocean to retrieve it, fighting a giant squid along the way.
The witches call Constance forth— she sings lines from “Lavender’s Blue,” a 17th-century English folk song. Hilda and Sabrina try to figure out why she’s returned to cause havoc. We come to see that the wonderfully named Sister Shirley Jackson is interfering. She’s had problems with Zelda for many years. So, Hilda helps lay Constance’s ghost to rest, then puts cyanide in a few treats to be done with the jealous Ms. Jackson.
Faustus is writing his own manifesto to present to the Anti-Pope, just as Edward once did, only something tells Father Gore this one’s quite different. It’s a misogynistic document furthering the patriarchal rule of warlocks over witches in their Church of Night.
The Five Facets of Judas are as follows:
1) The Sons of Satan are the heirs of the Earth.
Take what thou wilt,
as is your right, by fire, blood, or deceit.
2) Mortals are the swine of the Earth.
We must not lay with them.
3) The Sons of Satan are the swine-herds of man.
4) As Lilith served Satan,
so must witches serve warlocks.
5) Warlocks shall claim dominion in the Church of Night
just as their Father rules over Hell.
Ambrose is tasked with guarding the Anti-Pope upon his arrival. He’s likewise trying to help his cousin along with Nick. They read through Edward’s own manifesto for the Church of Night, which, yes, is decidedly different.
Edward’s Five Basic Laws:
1) As mortals are the God spawn of the Earth,
so witches are the Hell spawn.
They share a common home and destiny.
2) Not only may witch-kind lay with, love with,
amongst the mortals,
it is their sacred prerogative.
3) As Lilith was the Mother of Demons,
so all witches must be revered
as the Matriarchs of the Church of Night.
4) Magic is the Dark Lord’s gift to witches,
it can and should be used
for pleasure, for gain, and to satiate the senses.
5) Only the true union of mortals and their witch brethren
will bring the Era of the Morning Star.
The Anti-Pope, Enoch of Antioch, (Ray Wise) soon arrives. He meets the students, though Blackwood tries steering him away from Sabrina. Enoch is glad to meet the daughter of Edward, for whom he had great respect. Faustus also calls Prudence one of the “gutter orphans” rather than embrace her. He then tries to lay out his manifesto for the Anti-Pope in private when Sabrina bursts in to interrupt. She’s brought the manifesto Edward wrote. The Anti-Pope’s going to read both doctrines.
Will Faustus let this slide? Or, will he do the unthinkable?
Madam Satan gets a surprise visit from the Dark Lord. The Master doesn’t like sharing the woman he considers his property. She’s caught between a rock and a hard place. She sees the marriage to Adam as subjugation. She also sees him as kind and loving, as opposed to the Dark Lord’s cruelty. She’s caught in a strange place. Afterwards, the Dark Lord goes to see Zelda before her wedding— another bit of the misogyny inherent in the Church of Night. She gets on her knees as Satan approaches.
In his room, Faustus is nearly stabbed by Prudence. A scream wakes him, and everybody else. The Anti-Pope has been butchered in his bed. Everyone discovers Ambrose and the other guards covered in blood. Father Blackwood kills the first two, then the young warlock casts a spell and disappears.
Ambrose turns up in Sabrina’s room. He’s adamant he never hurt anybody. Surely his stomachache prior to the murder has SOMETHING to do with the confusion. Did Faustus put devilish machinations on the warlock to make him kill the Anti-Pope and, in turn, solve his manifesto issues? Doesn’t look good for Ambrose, given he once tried to blow up the Vatican. Either way, the wedding’s going ahead alongside a funeral. YEE-HAW!
Dorian Gray (Jedidiah Goodacre) hides in his fabled painting while Ambrose takes his form, to throw off people searching for the fugitive warlock. Not long and Ambrose coughs up his own familiar, Leviathan, which was a gift from the High Priest. Dorian says he’s seen this happen before, how warlocks get close to Blackwood util they’re no longer useful to him, like Luke. This pushes Ambrose to angry vengeance.
Sabrina wants to use the metatheatre of Hamlet to help their cause. Can it work?
Regardless of what plans the others have, the wedding gets underway. Faustus is conducting the ceremony himself. Part of the wedding involves a “gift of blood” from a dead animal, which the bride and groom drink from a chalice together. They’re joined at the wrists by a sheath made from “the skin of a mortal.”
The ceremony is interrupted by Edward and Diana (Annette Reilly), accusing him of murder. Metatheatrics, anyone? They order Faustus to confess. He knows it’s Sabrina and Nick in disguise. The young witch demands to be heard, calling the High Priest out. And Ambrose sneaks up on Blackwood, stopped by Prudence before he can stab him. She’s already been given the Blackwood name, proving herself further.
Everything’s real fucked up now. The couple are married anyway, and Prudence is left in charge while the Blackwoods go on honeymoon in Rome. Things are all going the way of the warlock, the way of Faustus— the way of the MAN.
“In the name of Satan,
you shall respect me, obey me, and submit to me.
As Lilith served Satan, so will you serve me.
You will forsake all others,
lift me up,
and exalt me for all eternity.”
One of Father Gore’s favourite episodes of the entire series, and especially from Season 2. Fantastic stuff, all around. Nice to see Ray Wise turn up— Luke’s last name, Chalfont (okay, it’s spelled Chalfant, sue me!, already connects to Twin Peaks loosely, so it’s fun to have another connection. Plus, there’s a ton of compelling stuff converging at once promising to make the rest of these episodes lots of macabre fun.
Chapter Seventeen: “The Missionaries” is next.