This review contains spoilers.
1.3 The Trial Of Sabrina Spellman
“Think of it as dual citizenship”
Following her encounter with a devil-possessed Principal Hawthorne at the end of episode two, this instalment opens with Sabrina beginning to understand the consequences of spurning Satan. Up until her Dark Baptism, the devil was more of an abstract concept than anything else. But now that she’s seen him in her vision at the ceremony and more or less come face to face with him at Baxter High, Sabrina has her first real inkling that living a divided life as a witch and a mortal will not be without its own unique complications.
Upon her arrival home, she gets a bummer way worse than a jury duty summons – she is to be tried in Witch Court (!) for breach of promise due to her failure to sign her name in the Book of the Beast. Needing assistance to navigate this field of legal landmines she needs to cross, Sabrina enlists the help of Daniel Webster (John Rubenstein), a mortal lawyer and “total legend, rumoured to have once beaten the devil himself.”
Well, not exactly.
It seems that Webster made a Faustian bargain that allowed him to be a hugely succesful attorney, albeit one whose cases helped some of the guiltiest people in history get off scott free with no consequences whatsoever. How very 2018. Sabrina finds out this secret when Ms Wardwell stops time and secretly leads Sabrina to a scrapbook of Webster’s misdeeds.
After confronting her would-be lawyer, the truth is revealed. Even more than costing Webster his soul, his deal with the devil cost him the life of his daughter after one of the men he represented went free and murdered the child (the ghost of whom Wardwell and the devil have been using to manipulate Webster and Sabrina). Now that the truth is revealed, Webster drops another bombshell: He was taught Witch Law by none other than Edward Spellman himself.
But the trial has an impact on Sabrina’s beloved aunties as well, as their powers have been stripped and they begin ageing rapidly while the youngest Spellman waits for her fate to be revealed. As it turns out, Edward promised Sabrina to the Dark Lord mere days after her birth, as a concession for being able to marry a mortal woman. Zelda was in on the plotting, which rightfully has Sabrina – someone whose independence is of paramount importance to her – pissed off. She compares the deal to being pawned “to the Dark Lord like a used car.”
Hilda to the rescue! “You’re not the only one with secrets,” purrs the kindly aunt and a shock twist is revealed: Hilda and Diana Spellman had Sabrina baptised in the Catholic church before her name was signed in Satan’s ledger. Therefore the devilish deal is mostly null and void, and Webster chalks up a genuinely heroic victory. As a result, Sabrina gets to maintain her mortal life, but there’s a catch: she must also attend the Academy of Unseen Arts and attend black mass on a weekly basis. As for poor Hilda, Father Blackwood excommunicates her from the Church of Night, although both her and Zelda get her powers back.
Sabrina views this as an opportunity to learn all about the witch world and to take Webster’s advice to “learn everything about your adversary and fight for what’s yours.” He may be destined to suffer in hell, but if Sabrina manages to take down Satan, that doesn’t have to be the case.
Over in this episode’s B-plots, Roz is determined to uncover the truth about banned books at Baxter High, partially because she wants to read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye but also because she is suffering from myopic atrophy, which will cause her to go blind within three months – and she wants to read all she can while she can. The episode ends with the typically scheming Ms Wardwell annoucing that WICCA meetings will double as a banned book club, one that will allow her to prey upon Sabrina’s friends with hopes of breaking their bond with that troublesome teenage witch.
Elsewhere, Harvey reveals that he is terrifed of the mines his father and brother works in because he thinks he saw a demonic creature in there when he was a kid (yeah, he totally did), and Ambrose befriends Luke, an ex-boyfriend of the slain warlock who he instantly hits it off with. With the groundwork of these storylines, er, laid here, the rest of the season’s continuing storylines are established. These plot points don’t get much screentime this episode, but they will largely pay off in future instalments.
This episode is noteworthy as it puts to rest what has been the season’s primary obstacle for our lead thus far – Sabrina’s non-signing of the Book of the Beast. (Although you can bet this will come back into play later). It also allows Sabrina to open her eyes a bit and realize that even though she is getting what she wants for the time being, she must prepare herself for a future confrontation with Satan.
At the start of this episode, she was trembling in his presence, so shaken by his possession of Hawthorne that she raced to the bathroom to vomit. But by the time the end credits roll, Sabrina is determined to do what it takes to develop her witch abilities and take on the evil that is probably responsible for the death of her parents.
It’s not a very well formed plan as of yet on Sabrina’s part, but as we have learned about her over these first three episodes it is that she is has an impressive strength of will and a determination to go after what she wants regardless of the realities that stand in her way. As she will soon discover, these traits can also be her potential downfall…
But first, Sabrina must get through her first day at Hogwarts the Academy of Unseen Arts. More on that in our next review.