We all know by now that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is an unapologetic boundary-pusher. In its first two seasons, the show questioned divisive modern issues, such as traditional gender roles, sexuality, and organized religion, in ways that felt natural and revolutionary. (But not without ruffling a few feathers. The Satanic Temple did sue and settle with the Netflix series after the show featured the temple's copyrighted Baphomet statue.)
"Obviously, this show is largely about Sabrina wanting to smash the patriarchy, and I'm happy to say that we continue to do so," Sabrina actress Kiernan Shipka matter-of-factly told MTV News and other reporters during a recent visit to the show's Vancouver set. "And in the process, a lot of stuff that the show tackles I think is really important, because we are, in a way, making it all part of the world instead of putting some major emphasis on any sort of particular thing. I think that's what the show does so well with representation, is that it kind of just is, which is why I love it so much. And I think that Part 3 does that especially."
Part 3, currently streaming on Netflix, seeks to push those conversations forward, fully utilizing the characters you now know well enough to genuinely care about. It’s something the actors appreciate — "fun" was a word that came up repeatedly on set — and, as a fan, it keeps the show feeling fresh three seasons deep.
The latest installment picks up not long after the final scenes of CAOS Part 2 — after Lilith, the self-crowned Queen of Hell, ushered a despondent Nick (who was holding the devil hostage in his body) toward her throne; after Prudence and Ambrose set out to find and kill Father Blackwood for his treacherous behaviors; after Zelda and Hilda took charge as their coven faced a theological breakdown; and after Sabrina enthusiastically enlisted Theo, Harvey, and Roz for her next adventure. “Let’s go to Hell and get my boyfriend back,” she said, ending one chapter and moving right into another.
In keeping pace with Parts 1 and 2, that task is breezily completed in the first episode of Part 3. The foursome find their way into the gates of Hell, through a Wizard of Oz-inspired maze, and in front of the graces of Lilith, Nick chained and dressed as a court jester by her side. They make a deal to bring him back — and from there, the repercussions trickle down, on top of brand new challenges and surprises that arise when a mysterious carnival comes to Greendale, run by Pagans intent on reviving the reign of their ancient gods.
But even though the balance between Heaven, Hell, and earth is at stake, life goes on for the citizens of Greendale.
Theo Finds Love Among the Chaos
Theo's journey coming into his body has played out in ways that felt really personal to actor Lachlan Watson over the past two seasons. "It felt for a while there that my entire character synopsis was just struggle and sadness and, 'Oh, what bruise do you have today?'" Watson said. "It got to be a lot."
In Part 3, Theo's exploration of his body left the internal entirely. That's right: Theo joins every other character on the show in exploring life's carnal pleasures when he meets Robin (Jonathan Whitesell), a newcomer to Baxter High and a Pagan. (Kind, gentle Robin, however, is not a villain.)
"To show the multiple facets of that, yes, you can struggle, but then, yes, you can come out the other end — that's really powerful," Watson said.
Theo and Robin's love story plays out as sweetly as any high school romance. The only moment of tension occurs when Theo tells Robin that he hasn't always presented himself as he does now. "It's ok," Robin says, as they sit atop a ferris wheel. "You're Theo now. And in case it wasn't obvious, I really like you, Theo." They kiss then, marking the beginning of their physical exploration.
"Five years ago, this type of relationship never would have existed in a young adult drama," Whitesell said. "And now it's just like…"
"Here it is," Watson offered.
But the full power of this relationship isn't in its revelation — it's in its normalcy. "It always was there," Whitesell added. "Like, it never wasn't a thing."
Nick Struggles with Inner Demons
Sabrina saved Nick from Hell, but she couldn’t save him from the trauma he'd already experienced. "There've been plenty of jokes about having the devil inside of me, but that's kind of what the seriousness of it is, is dealing with one's own demons," actor Gavin Leatherwood, who plays Nick, said, honing in on the gut-wrenching realities of his storyline.
Housing Lucifer in his body meant that Nick was wrestling with the devil 24/7 — and he couldn’t let up for one second because the future of Hell was at stake. Upon Nick's release, paranoia takes over: When he senses sparks between Sabrina and the gorgeous, newly created Prince of Hell, Caliban (sparks which don’t result in any flame in Part 3), Nick viciously rejects the care she offers and copes with his post-Lucifer life by turning to self-destructive behaviors, like drugs and alcohol.
The metaphor here is lost on no one. Much like Satan, trauma can live in the brain and body long after the event itself has passed, and trauma can express itself in dangerous ways, as it did with Nick. But “coping mechanisms, going through certain vices like this is not a healthy alternative,” Leatherwood said. “It's numbing emotions and blocking communication and having a lack of vulnerability or honesty with the people around you. And it really just kind of leads you down a darker path.”
Prudence and Zelda Explore New Magic with Mambo Marie
In setting out to find Father Blackwood and make him pay for his Part 2 deception against the coven (and against her), Prudence and Ambrose turn to a different kind of magic — specifically, the Haitian voodoo of Mambo Marie (Skye P. Marshall). Under her guidance, the two find Father Blackwood and bring him back to the Church of Night, where his body replaces Nick's as the Dark Lord's prison.
But upon their return, Prudence and Ambrose find their coven's powers are dwindling, and they need reinforcement as they prepare to face the Pagans. So Prudence steps into her own power, taking it upon herself to call for Mambo Marie to help the coven in need.
Prudence is asking herself important new questions: "How do heroic women or heroic people go about their daily lives, and where are the faults in even that? And what does that now look like for Prudence herself?" Gabrielle said. And with those answers, she’s learning to lose the "bitchy mean girl" she once was and "elevate [her leadership] to a whole coven of people and pave a new way."
What's more, Prudence's act of self-discovery extends to the coven's other (more rigid) alpha, Zelda, who initially feels threatened by Marie's arrival, but quickly comes around. "It kind of opens her up to thinking about things more laterally, and thinking of other kinds of magics and actually broadening this church that she's in," actor Miranda Otto said. In fact, Zelda opens up so much that by the end of Part 3, she and Marie have grown quite close — ending the season with a surprising kiss.
"That story kind of grows in Part 4," Otto teased. Of course, given the trajectory Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has followed so far, surely the same can be said for every one of the show’s storylines.
[Note: If Nick's storyline hit too close to home, no matter how big or small your struggles feel, it's possible to feel better. Head over to halfofus.com to find resources, recommendations, or live chat with a professional who can help you out.]