Saturday, January 2, 2021

REVIEW: 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' - Fright Club Contends in a Battle of the Bands in 'Chapter Thirty-Four: The Returned'

Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina - Episode 2.14 "Chapter Thirty-Four: The Returned"

As Sabrina longs for a piece of her past, vengeful visitors return to Greendale. The Fright Club competes in a life-or-death battle of the bands.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

"Chapter Thirty-Four: The Returned" was written by Oanh Ly & Ross Maxwell and directed by Catriona McKenzie

The narrative has started to lose momentum. Yes, it is still following the same structure that was previously established. Yet another Eldritch Terror strikes Greendale. The show still finds a creative way to present the dramatic stakes. It is absolutely having a blast - especially when it comes to the actual battle of the bands. However, the core character arcs are mostly just flailing around at this point. An episode ago Theo told Robin to leave. It was a sacrifice he was making because he didn't want Robin to deny his identity and suffer because of it. And now, a situation arises where The Fright Club once again needs Robin and he rushes to be there for them. He and Theo have a conversation about what they want. It's probably a necessary conversation. One that absolutely affirms their love. Theo was scared because he doesn't want Robin to regret the sacrifices he makes for this relationship. There was never any kind of personal strife that the two had to overcome though. As such, that makes all of this drama feel rather empty. The same extends to Zelda feeling betrayed over Marie lying to her about her true identity. Intimacy has been suggested between them. They have kissed a couple of times. Marie has been a main presence at the Spellman home and the academy. However, any kind of romance between them was nothing more than surface level. It doesn't feel like a drastic loss to the show. The entire story is framed around Marie facing off with the latest terror because she has this close connection to the undead. When the strange circumstances begin, she knows exactly what's happening and what she has to do. Once it is all over, she knows that she has to lead these wayward spirits back to their resting places and join them in that fiery realm. That is where her fate leads her. And yet, she isn't the one who prevails over the terror in battle. Instead, Lilith is the one who manages to kill an immortal figure. She is empty because she has been cursed by the Dark Lord after killing their son. It never seemed like she had to actually follow through on that action though. The Dark Lord never questioned her tale of personal destruction to rob him of an heir to the throne. She wanted her son to survive and challenge his father for the kingdom. And then, she killed her child even though her entire story up to that point was protecting Adam from the dark threats that were coming. Again, it's just scattered storytelling. One that sees Lilith teaming up with Caliban to retrieve a miraculous item that can kill anyone. That's a tool that can come in handy given the threats that always seem to exist in this world. For now, it's just used for this one terror. The story suggests that Lilith finds new strength and purpose. It's left very casually open-ended though. That highlights the overall pacing and storytelling issues of the moment. It seems like the show just doesn't want to commit to something firmly. It understands that it's about time Sabrina start taking responsibility for her actions. And yet, one moment she is proclaiming the need to reflect on her life and choices lately. And then, she is right back to relying on Nick for strength in a crushingly unknown world. Them embracing that love now may spell out certain doom by the conclusion of this story. That would buck the expectations. But the show really hasn't shown how this time is different for Sabrina and Nick. He is simply offering his support because she doesn't know how her counterpart is doing in her journey to another world. The show offers no clarity in that regard either. It just keeps moving forward. That one threat has been delayed for now. Whatever happened seems to be working. The threats as they currently exist don't seem to be operating on the same scale though. It's just once again the Dark Lord causing chaos because that is how he has always functioned. Sabrina challenges those norms. She offers support to her friends while also taking the spotlight for herself. Both the "Time Warp" and "Sweet Child O' Mine" moments are high energy and entertaining. The show can provide that camp when it's necessary. It offers something different. That makes it more of a flash than true substance. The latter is needed as the show approaches the final ending for these characters. Sabrina acknowledging the fact that she loves the idea of her father instead of who he actually was just doesn't have the emotional impact anymore that makes a plot beat that prominent worth it in the end.