This review contains spoilers.
1.9 The Returned Man
“You must really love that mortal boy to risk everything for him.”
As the last episode of Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina came to its exciting conclusion, viewers were led to believe that the thunderous knocking on the door of the Kinkle home was from a newly revived Tommy returning home. Fake it! As it turns out, it was Sabrina checking in to make sure that everything was okay. And it is! Tommy is back where he belongs, safe and sound. All is well.
Except none of it is. Well shit.
While Tommy’s body is up and moving, he isn’t eating on talking. But a doctor says he is just in shock and should be right as rain in a couple of days. Still falsely believing that her plan worked, Sabrina returns home and the other shoe drops via an astral-projected visit from Nick Scratch. Nick just popped by to tell Sabrina that Agatha is not recovering well from her murder and rebirth at all.
The next day, the situation goes from bad to worse, as Aunt Hilda discovers the truth about what her niece has been up to. Then the bodies of the other workers killed in the mine accident arrive for Ambrose to prepare for burial, and it seems that good old Tommy has been snacking on them. Fun.
Back at the Kinkles, Tommy – operating on pure instinct – goes after his dad with a murderous vengeance. He is a body with no soul.
Now completely clued in to Sabrina’s toying with powers far beyond her control, her Aunts rightfully read her the riot act. “No one in their right mind would do what you did,” Sabrina is told. But our teenage witch is convinced that she can still make everything right, simply by traveling to mortal limbo, finding Tommy’s soul then reuniting it with his body. (Yes, I am currently humming Death Cab for Cutie’s “Soul Meets Body,” what of it?)
Agast at how Sabrina just doesn’t get it, a despairing Zelda confides in Hilda that they should have let this problem child be raised by her late mother’s family.
Sabrina storms out, back into the overeager arms of Ms. Wardwell. They conduct a very Poltergeist voyage to limbo where, after a confusing run-in with her mother that will likely be dealt with in season two, Sabrina does in fact find Tommy. But she is unable to bring his soul back to the world of the living.
Distraught, she has no other option than to lay it all on the line with Harvey — who takes the news that his girlfriend is a witch who has been secretly casting spells on him and, oh yeah, also unsolicitedly brought his brother back from the dead about as good as anyone could. He tells Sabrina that uh yeah, he needs some time. Capping off a perfect day, he then has to put a bullet in his sibling’s head. (Thereby saving Sabrina, Prudence and Dorcas from doing the dirty work).
With Tommy now truly dead, the ‘life for a life’ ouroboros swallows its own head and Agatha returns to normal. A tearful Sabrina returns to Zelda, who embraces the youth in her welcoming arms.
Except that’s not all.
Roz had another vision, one that showed Sabrina as a withered witch. Elsewhere, Susie is still chatting with her dead Aunt Dorothea who casually asks “are they still witches, the Spellmans?”
By the end of the episode, all of the mortals either know or suspect the truth about Sabrina…
This is an exhilarating hour of television that throws one life-changing event after another at our characters. That it still has time to deliver some big laughs (like Zelda’s ridiculous leading of the Academy of Unseen Arts choir in a rendition of “Do Re Mi”) is truly impressive writing work.
All of our leads get some big emotional moments to play here, with Kiernan Shipka going from cockiness to utter despair in the course of this episode. Her confrontation with Zelda is fairly devastating, but that’s only the appetizer for the main course of emotional despondency that his her revelation with Harvey. We saw back in episode five that coming out as a witch to him was Sabrina’s greatest fear. He handles it much better here than in her nightmare, but his response is hardly what ‘Brina was hoping for.
Special attention must be payed to Michelle Gomez’s work in this instalment. Playing an overly arch character like the forever-scheming Ms. Wardwell is no easy task, and Gomez is given the most scenery chewing to do of all the regulars throughout these first ten episodes. Now, Wardwell is closer than ever than achieving her goal (the extent of which will become clear in the next episode). Due to this, she is handling Sabrina with kid gloves, still utterly controlling her, but in the kindliest, dare I say human matter yet?
There’s a real sense of impending dread in this episode that is palpable. Or is that just life in 2018? Hard to say really.
Next up: The biggest challenge of Sabrina’s life is upon her, and the fate of Greendale hangs in the balance.