Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is back, and we didn’t realize exactly how much we missed it. This new batch of episodes takes our characters — led by Kiernan Shipka’s titular teenage witch — down a darker path than ever before. (Which is super fitting seeing how Satan is a supporting player in the series).
Just as is the case with its sort-of companion series Riverdale, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a series that rewards paying close attention with pop culture and Archie references a plenty. Here then is an overview of what allusions, reference, Easter eggs, and other noteworthy notables we noticed while devouring the season.
A quick note: As we continue to binge the second half of the season, we will be updating this piece in the days ahead. Keep checking back to get caught up with all the cool, hidden stuff that we noticed!
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 12: Chapter 12: The Epiphany
“As Sabrina prepares for a spellbinding showcase, Susie embraces a series of new beginnings, and Ms. Wardwell finds greater purpose at Baxter High.”
– During the scene in which Sabrina attempts to find the perfect outfit to wear, she listens to Devo’s 1980 single “Girl U Want” — proving that even her musical taste is magical. This sequence is also a riff on the 1990s Sabrina the Teenage Witch series’ opening credits.
– Ambrose cracks “too soon for resurrection jokes?” in reference to the events of last season when Sabrina brought Harvey’s brother back from the dead with disastrous results. It’s very on brand for a warlock to engage in some gallows humor though, so Sabrina probably didn’t stay mad at him for long.
– Among the people mentioned as being in attendance at the Academy of Unseen Arts are Brother Lovecraft (a clear reference to famed occult writer/racist H.P. Lovecraft) and Brother Veers (a name possibly inspired by The Empire Strikes Back‘s General Veers?). Also mentioned is Sister Shirley Jackson, who becomes Zelda’s nemesis for the first half of the season and is named after the acclaimed horror writer. In a bit of network synergy, Jackson’s arguably best-known novel, The Haunting of Hill House, is also a Netflix series.
– Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s equivalent to Riverdale‘s La Bonne Nuit is Dorian’s Grayroom, a warlock lounge whose proprietor Dorian Gray (Jedidiah Goodacre) is in fact the very same character from Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray…which in the TV Archieverse is apparently a biography. (Also, last time we checked, The CW has a Dorian Gray-inspired TV show in development.) We actually see the tortured portrait itself in the fifth episode of the season. Dorian’s Grayroom also books talent with a Wilde theme, with Salomé dancing there. (Salomé being the tragic biblical figure that was the focus of an 1891 Oscar Wilde play).
– The Three Plague Kings featured in this episode are obvious dark counterpoints to the Three Wise Men from the nativity. Since the Plague Kings were seen in the dream sequence at Sabrina’s birth, this adds furtherweight to the prophecy that runs throughout this season that Sabrina will be extraordinarily crucial to the Church of Night’s future.
– Father Blackwood refers to Anne Boleyn as a “sorceress,” echoing the myth that Henry VIII claimed his wife — whom he had beheaded at the Tower of London in 1536 — was a witch. (Formal charges of witchcraft were never placed against her, though rumors swirled that she had used dark magic to win the stout king’s heart).
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 13: Chapter 13: The Passion of Sabrina Spellman
“A sinister guest visits Spellman Mortuary. Theo faces a cast of cruel critics, and Roz and Harvey pursue an extra-steamy school assignment.”
– Afterlife with Archie (in which Sabrina launches a zombie apocalypse by resurrecting Hot Dog) and the horror-themed Archie’s Madhouse comics are seen in Doc Cee’s store. Harvey also has Archie comics posters on his bedroom wall. This would seem to indicate our part theory that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina takes place in a different universe than Riverdalein which Archie and the gang are comic book characters. This theory would also explain the paradox of how the character of Ben Button died in completely different ways in both shows (committing suicide in Riverdale and being eaten by Madam Satan on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina).
– As the Academy of Unseen Arts prepares their production of The Passion of Lucifer Morningstar (the Church of Night’s very own passion play), Sabrina mentions that she starred in Baxter High’s mounting of Bye Bye Birdie –which was showcased prominently in her previous series, Mad Men.
– In regards to the Lilith character in The Passion of Lucifer Morningstar, Sabrina tells Nick that “I’m not sure I could handle playing such a subservient character.” Little does Sabrina know that the actual Lilith, known to her as Mary Wardwell and viewers as Madam Satan, exists in her inner circle. So subtle shade-throwing there, Brina.
– Hilda’s story about how the Dark Lord gave her a box to press a button on is a homage to sci-fi legend Richard Matheson’s 1970 short story Button, Button. (Which was adapted into the not-as-bad-as-its-reputation-suggests 2009 film The Box).
– Billy puts feminine hygiene products in Theo’s locker to torment him, a la the “plug it up” teasing sequence in Carrie. Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is a huge fan of the Stephen King story, he wrote the 2011 remake, and made the musical version the subject of our favorite Riverdale episode from last season.
– The packs of gum have ghoulish-themed flavors.
– Another comic glimpsed in this episode is by the artist Franco, who often does Little Archie stories.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 14: Chapter 14: Lupercalia
“Love and lust sweep through Greendale as Harvey surprises Roz with a sweet gift, and Sabrina explores a romantic ritual … and her feelings for Nick.”
– The teens of Greendale love some 1980s pop, as we seen with the Academy of Unseen Arts students whooping it up to Erasure’s “Chains of Love” at the start of this Valentine’s episode. The song also subtly foreshadow’s Hilda’s resolution of her romantic problems with Dr. Cerberus…
– Hilda is reading “The Desires of Fallen Angels,” a Harlequin-style romance novel. Since a fallen angel was the foundation of the Church of Night, Hilda’s reading choices are in tune with her religious beliefs…even if, as of this episode, she is still ex-communicated.
– Adam Masters (Alexis Denisof of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) debuts here as Mary Wardwell’s fiancé. The Dr. Masters character has a long history with Archie Comics, debuting in 1964 as a heroic doctor who would pop up in the printed Archieverse from time to time. The comic’s counterpart, a Dr. Steven Masters, already appeared (and has been killed off of on) Riverdale. And while Adam Masters isn’t the same character per se, it seems like a tip of the hat to Archie history to feature another Dr. Masters on the second Archie-inspired TV show.
– Adam Masters works for Physicians Without Frontiers, a riff on Doctors Without Borders organization.
– Werewolves and sex demons are among the other supernatural characters that exist in this series’ universe. (The latter of which Zelda has apparently had her experiences with).
– Adam is seen rubbing Madam Satan’s feet here, an act done with love that is the polar opposite to how she had to care for Satan’s hooves after losing her bet to the Dark Lord in the last episode.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 15: Chapter 15: Doctor Cerberus’s House of Horrors
“Sabrina, Theo, Roz, and others attempt to navigate the lines between fact, fiction and fate when a mysterious stranger sets up shop in Cerberus Books.”
– Sci-fi/horror icon Veronica Cartwright guests in this episode as tarot card reader Mrs. McGarvey (actually Madam Satan wearing a glamour). Cartwright is, of course, best known for her work in Alien. Especially her iconic scream of “oh god” when the chestburster appears, a sound byte that should be everyone’s ringtone.
– The show has some garish fun with one of the most famous magic tricks ever, showing Nick literally sawing a woman in half.
– We learn here that magic or no magic, witches still can’t survive in the vacuum of space. The more you know!
– Theo picks up a copy of Kafka’s The Metomorphosis, which hints at the changes his body will undergo during the tarot reading vision.
– Hilda references the Meryl Streep favorite Sophie’s Choice, in our favorite dark deep cut joke of this season to date.
– In Zelda’s wedding reception dream sequence we see a demon in a tuxedo in the background of a few shots. Even the unholy need formal wear sometimes.
– The Rhode Island facility Harvey goes to study at is the Arkham Colony of the Arts, a tip of the hat to the Batman/DC Universe.
– Nikolai Witschl plays Howard, Harvey’s roommate at the Arts Colony. The actor also portrays Dr. Curdle Jr. on Riverdale. We don’t know Doc Curdle’s first name and don’t get Howard’s last name, so it’s entirely possible that is supposed to be the same character, a la what the series did with Ben Button last year.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 16: Chapter 16: Blackwood
“Tensions rise as Zelda and Father Blackwood’s union draws near. Amid the chaos, Sabrina greets a familiar vision and Ambrose uncovers a dark truth.”
– Another member of the Church of Night gets a horror reference name: Brother Barker (Clive Barker of Hellraiser infamy).
– The always wonderful Ray Wise appears here as the Antipope. Wise is best known to genre TV for his Twin Peaks work, but also has experience doing these kind of occult shows. He played the Devil in the underrated series Reaper, a show in which Lucy Davis also co-starred.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 17: Chapter 17: The Missionaries
“As Hilda and Sabrina attempt to save Ambrose, Ms. Wardwell considers a crucial move, and a violent group of witch hunters targets the Church of Night.”
– The appearance of the witch hunters in this episode is directly inspired by that of Mormon missionaries.
– Ambrose realizes that it isn’t the real Hilda when she claims to love Fawlty Towers. Hilda is one of my favorite characters in this series, so it’s super upsetting that she doesn’t enjoy what is arguably the greatest Britcom of all time.
– It’s also possible that this is a reference to Lucy Davis’ work on the UK version of The Office, a beloved series that is often given the same praise that Fawlty Towers receives?
– The pissed off, levitating Sabrina that appears at the end of this episode does bring to mind Jean Grey in the Dark Phoenix saga, something that Harvey mentions early in the next episode — resulting in Sabrina’s hilarious response of “are you seriously talking to me about comic books right now?” Meta humor never fails to entertain.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 18: Chapter 18: The Miracles of Sabrina Spellman
“On the heels of a most perplexing spectacle, Sabrina dives deeper into her newfound power, and Zelda slips into the role of Lady Blackwood.”
– Sabrina’s breakfast cereal of choice is “Graveyard Pops!,” which needs to be a real thing ASAP.
– Ms. Wardwell’s secretary tells Sabrina that her mentor is out for the day because “she ate something that didn’t agree with her.” TOO SOON!
– Sabrina’s love for 1980s music continues when she plays Cyndi Lauper’s all-time banger “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” at her house party — a song whose female empowerment themes perfect suits the series.
– Theo proves he is well versed in contemporary horror when he references the 2005 Neil Marshall chiller The Descent.
– Having some fun with the comic’s most beloved iconography (and classic witch lore), this episode ALMOST gives us Sabrina flying around on a broom. Maybe next season!
– William B. Davis, best known for his work as the Cigarette Smoking Man in The X-Files, portrays creepy Witch Council member Methuselah. In case you were staring at him for a minutes like “where I do I know him from?” (We totally were).
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 19: The Mandrake
“An ominous discovery leads to a desperate search for answers — and a risky spell for Sabrina. Meanwhile, Father Blackwood makes a bold announcement.”
– Ambrose and Sabrina make a golem down at Sweetwater River, a regular setting on Riverdale.
– One of the members of the Judas Society is named Dario, in tribute to horror icon Dario Argento.
– When Adam enters Sabrina’s bathroom wearing a sheet over his head like a ghost, this scene honors a similiarly creepy moment in the original Halloween where Michael Myers gets uncharacteristically playful before one of his kills.
– When Mandrake Sabrina discovers that the versions of her friends she was making have been destroyed, she points at the real Theo, Roz, and Harvey and makes a horrible screeching sound a la 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a film suitably about evil doubles taking over the world.
– Father Blackwood put Zelda under a ‘Caligari Spell’ that had her basically sleepwalking through life aware of what she was doing but with no control. The spell’s name is taken from the German expressionist classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, in which a sleepwalker is used to commit murders. (And the film itself is still an incredibly unsettling watch).
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 20: Chapter 20: The Mephisto Waltz
“Light and night cross paths once more as Greendale faces the Dark Lord’s prophecy and Prudence challenges Father Blackwood’s ruthless plan”
– Not an Easter Egg, but how great was it when Sabrina gave Lilith shit for killing her favorite teacher?
– When Father Blackwood gets taken down with “I knew Judas by the way, you sir are no Judas,” this is a direct reference to when Senator Lloyd Bentsen called out Dan Quayle by famously telling him he was “no Jack Kennedy” during the 1988 vice presidential debate.
– The song that Sabrina et al perform is “Masquerade,” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running The Phantom of the Opera, and this sequence was pure magic.
– Sabrina declares “not today Satan,” a popular pop culture saying that is relatable to anyone who is alive during the shitshow that is modern times.
– Sabrina’s Archie thermos can be glimpsed on the desk in her bedroom.
– Whether deliberate or not, the intimidating Satanic seats that Lucifer and Sabrina sit at during the cornonation scenes are visually reminiscent of the Iron Throne. Or maybe we’re just obsessed with Game of Thrones?
– Father Blackwood makes his followers drink poison a la cult leader Jim Jones during the Jonestown massacre of 1978.
What did we miss? Let us know in the comments!