What the 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' Holiday Episode Means for Season 2
Netflix released a holiday special of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina over the weekend that ties up some Season 1 threads and further sets the stage for Season 2 in the spring. We talked to showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa about the new "A Midwinter's Tale," which involves Sabrina's attempts to talk to her mom in limbo, via a séance, and also high jinks relating to the sacred winter solstice. He also teased what the theme of next season might be -- that hell hath no fury like a Madam Satan scorned.
Thrillist: Was the holiday special built into your Sabrina roll-out plan all along, and will we see other specials before Season 2 arrives?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: I always love that stuff, but the circumstances have to be right. We didn't start out saying, "Oh, we're going to do a Christmas holiday episode." It just sort of organically happened. And then Netflix was like, "Well, what if we dropped this as more of a Christmas treat?" I really excited at that possibility, and I was like, "Let's do it!" It meant working six weekends in a row editing it, but I think it's so fun. And weirdly, even though Sabrina is about the occult, the show has still got a core about family, and it makes sense. It's not spoiling anything to say that our show starts on Halloween, which is the Dark Baptism. We did an episode that was Thanksgiving, which is the Feast of Feasts. And we did the winter solstice, which is Christmas. I think it's safe to say that we will explore other holidays, including a Valentine's Day.
Is it fair to say that this episode simultaneously clarifies a few things and raises even more questions, particularly pertaining to Sabrina's mom and Madam Satan?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Yeah. It's funny. One of the tricky things we had to do with this episode, knowing that it was going to kind of drop on its own, was tell, as much as possible, a standalone story but still keep it in continuity. So we came up with a story that was more or less self-contained, but then had enough to carry over from Season 1 into Season 2. I had really wanted in the first part of Season 1 to do a séance episode. I really wanted Sabrina to contact her parents, and we just didn't get a chance to do it. So when the idea for a Christmas episode came along, I thought, you know, there's such a tradition of ghost stories around Christmas that it felt like the perfect opportunity to do that. A lot of the story is set in the Spellman house, with Sabrina and her aunties, but I also really love Sabrina's interactions with her mortal friends. There's an air of melancholy about them, because the truth is that her relationship with them has shifted. And so it's a little bittersweet, a little melancholy around the holidays, and I really love that this episode has an element of that, as well as the fun.
In the comics, Sabrina's mom isn't wandering around in limbo -- she's in a mental hospital. But there's a nod in the episode that she isn't sure of what's real. When she uses the flight number to verify her presence, does that mean she's also verifying that this is the way she died?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Yeah, I mean, I think it's at least verifying that she was on that flight, and verifying that someone knows what that flight number was. But as always, we like to keep things a little ambiguous and mysterious on the show.
So I take it you can't reveal anything about what the prophecy is, or what Satan's plans for Sabrina are?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.
Well, perhaps you can at least clarify exactly who Madam Satan is? It can be a little confusing. She tells a story about being a witch who once loved Sabrina's father, which gibes with her calling him a "bastard" in the first episode. But at the end of Season 1, she identifies herself as Lilith. During the exorcism, one of the names she calls upon is Lilith. Why would she need to call upon herself?
Aguirre-Sacasa: I think, for me, the story is Lilith. On the show, we don't really get the history of who Lilith is, or what her relationship to Edward Spellman is. Everything she says to Sabrina as Miss Wardwell may or may not be a complete cover story. And you know, the girl at the beginning, she doesn't say she was in love with Edward. She doesn't say he threw me over when he married a mortal. She just says that he broke sacred witch law. So there, it's not really exactly what was presented in the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic book, intentionally. And at the exorcism, no one else knew she was Lilith. And it would be weird if they invoke all of the witches, and they don't invoke the first witch, which was Lilith.
In this particular episode, she's feeling a little forsaken by Satan. He's ghosting her.
Aguirre-Sacasa: Yep. Big time.
How is that going to shake things up in Season 2? She was kind of serving Sabrina up to him before, but what if she changes her mind and goes against him?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Madam Satan is his handmaid, she's his soldier, and she had a very specific goal, which was to get Sabrina to sign the Book of the Beast. She succeeded in that goal, and like any good soldier, she's waiting to be called home, or to be sent out on another mission. But the Dark Lord has forsaken her. He hasn't said anything. So she's sort of in limbo herself, waiting for the next missive. And yeah, I think we'll start seeing shifting power dynamics between Madam Satan and Satan in the second half of the season.
Interesting. And what about Aunt Zelda, who's not falling in line behind Father Blackwood as much as she used to?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Yeah, we'll definitely see a lot of that. There are big, big, big story pieces for Zelda and Blackwood, that's for sure.
Nick Scratch is presenting himself as a viable suitor to Sabrina. Is he a good choice? I worry, given that both of his names are epithets for the Devil.
Aguirre-Sacasa: Usually on these kinds of shows, there's the good boy next door, and then there's the bad boy. Harvey is obviously the good boy and Nick is the bad boy. And both Nick and Scratch are nicknames for the devil -- Old Scratch, Old Nick -- so I thought it would be fun to name someone Nicholas Scratch. But whatever implications that might have about his identity, I cannot speak to right now! [Laughs] I do think they have a lot in common. They both have a relationship with Edward Spellman, and Sabrina obviously has a lot of questions about her father. Nick says he's a big acolyte of Edward Spellman. She's pretty powerful, and I think he's turned on by power. There are some definite similarities, for sure.
Why are there so many orphans at the Academy of the Unseen Arts?
Aguirre-Sacasa: You know, I don't know! All the best characters are orphans, aren't they? I always feel like it's a little bit of a cop-out when we hear that a character's motivation is that they were trying to please their mom or their dad. And I like the absence of parents. If anything, it's an opportunity to create your own identity, as opposed to being an extension of your mother and father.
What about Sabrina's father? A lot has been changed from the comic in the adaptation, but there are clues in there that Edward Spellman was secretly pulling a lot of strings.
Aguirre-Sacasa: There's still a lot left to learn about Edward, definitely. It's not a one-to-one correlation to the comics. There are certain things on the show that are from the comics -- Sabrina's baptism is a really big one. And now we're producing more episodes of television than stories I produced in the comic book! So there are definitely a lot of stories that we didn't get to tell in the comic book that are working their way into the show. It doesn't mean that when I pick the comic book back up, we won't be able to tell those stories.
You had a little crossover this season with Riverdale, in the form of Ben Button delivering a pizza to Madam Satan. Can you clear up whether or not the poor guy is alive or dead?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Well, that's a really good question. [Laughs] I would say that it's still hard to say in Greendale who's alive and who's dead. And I say this to every actor I work with: "Just because you're dead, doesn't mean we've seen the last of you."