This Chilling Adventures of Sabrina article contains major spoilers for the show’s second part.
In a series packed with dynamic relationships, none is as complicated as that of the pairing between Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) and Zelda Spellman (Miranda Otto). More of a business relationship than a romantic one — although the occasional flagellation session also factors into it — the Blackwoods are together for their mutual gain.
The just-released second part of Chilling Adventures of Sabrinashowcases the pair’s wedding day, a ceremony that is performed in the immediate aftermath of the Antipope’s slaying and one that is interrupted by Sabrina and Nick posing as Edward and Diana Spellman… not to mention a knife-wielding Ambrose.
It’s hardly the traditional nuptials, not that anything about this couple is ordinary.
During a visit to the show’s Vancouver set last fall, Den of Geek had the opportunity to speak with Richard Coyle and Miranda Otto about their severely dysfunctional, to understate it wildly, relationship and how it flavors their characters actions in the new season.
“He’s an arch-manipulator and is a self server,” Coyle tells us about Father Blackwood, cementing the point that his union with Zelda is about manipulation, not love.
“You quickly realize he doesn’t really do a lot that isn’t serving himself in some way. Everything is calculated. He doesn’t do anything just because it’s what his heart tells him to do. It’s all because of a plan.”
Throughout the season we see Father Blackwood behaving more cruelly to Zelda, to the point that when she returns from their honeymoon he has cast a spell over her to make her forego her independence and become fully subservient to him. (In one of the show’s many illustrations of the dangers of the patriarchy). Does Coyle think there are moments when he reveals any tangible feelings to Zelda?
“There are some moments where you sort of get a glimpse of something that’s real,” said Coyle. “It was quite interesting to play with them. Even those things, it’s good to put question mark on the moments that looked like these are genuine, like emotional heartfelt moments, and then I can hopefully plant the seed where you go actually even that is calculated. It’s serving something in the sociopathic character.”
But Blackwood more than meets his match in Zelda, a woman who cannot be contained and does not need a man to assign her the value she already knows that she possesses. We asked Coyle if his character knows about Zelda’s desire for power and is aware of the cat-and-mouse game the Blackwoods play?
“I think he enjoys that she’s kind of his equal in some respect and that in that regard she also has that self serving side that it comes out.”
Unlike her sister Hilda (the great Lucy Davis), Zelda is way more interested and involved with the sinister machinations of the Church of Night. She is in a way a mirror reflection of Father Blackwood, just minus the gaslighting and generally gross behavior. But the desire for power is still there, which is something that Otto is very aware of in terms of the character that she portrays.
“Zelda’s journey in the second season is very much about attaining power. Like try to realize some of her ambitions. She’s attracted to power like a moth to a flame really.” As for the quick journey from lusty asides to a trip to the altar, Otto sums up the atypical relationship by telling us that “Relationships move fast in the witch world. They don’t muck about.”
Otto is quick to note the complexity of their relationship, and her role in it.
“At first, she feels that the affair that they’re having… that he should recognize her more,” noted Otto. “So she decides to abstain from being with him, and that kind of puts him in a difficult place. And then finally, around the time of Lupercalia, he actually proposes to her. And as much as we think that Zelda is really in love with Blackwood, we find out that she actually confesses to Hilda that she’s not in love with him at all.”
“She’s really just after the power of being in the position of being the High Priest’s wife,” continued Otto, “and everything that would ensue, and basically for the family. Like trying to reinstate the Spellman family at the top of the covenant. That’s her whole modus operandus, but it’s not going to be an easy marriage.”
As the season draws to a close, Father Blackwood is on the run and the Church of Night’s future is uncertain. Since Zelda has the most unflinching faith her beliefs, it will be interesting to see what Zelda does next in Part Three.
“I don’t think she would know who to be outside the Church of Night, you know?” said Otto about her character’s approach to religion. “It’s a very integral part of her, whereas I think Hilda could exist outside that world pretty easily. So she’s institutionalized in that way.”
“Her faith is strong and real, but there are times when she’s challenged,” continued Otto. “Like I think the Feast of Feasts is challenging for her. When things happen to Sabrina it’s challenging for her. She’s you know, in that way I feel like she’s like a politician, and there are things that the party do and that the party does, that she’s not great with but she sticks with it.”
With Chilling Adventures of Sabrina already renewed for two more parts, we will see more interplay between the characters to come — their relationship ever evolving and changing. With Zelda now serving as the High Priestess of the Church this is bound to result in a confrontation with Father Blackwood (with whom she is still legally married to).
While their characters’ interactions will continue to be fraught with peril, the performances of Otto and Coyle will bring more joyful chaos to viewers for as long as the series remains on the air.