CAOS Part 4 Is A Hellish Snore

WW84 was a Christmas present that filled me with ambivalence. Meanwhile The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Part 4 should’ve been out for Halloween! Here be SPOILERS for a final season that’s sinfully dull. It’s not a rousing way to ring in 2021. Maybe releasing it on New Year’s Eve 2020 was a fitting summation for the year? Why’d I even bother using the “horror” tag? Luckily I can throw in some recommendations for better witchcraft cartoons at the end.

Sabrinas_Spellman

“But how do we ensure nobody likes Sabrina anymore?” CAOS writers’ room

Ambrose, Madam Satan, & Lucifer tell Sabrinas Spellman (black headband on Earth) & Morningstar (red headband in Hell) not to hang out lest they destroy the universe in a temporal paradox. So naturally the two Sabrinas cavalierly hang out all the time. Sabrina Morningstar decides to marry Caliban like a fool, whereas Sabrina Spellman fumes over how everyone has fallen in love except her. Neither teen comes off well. Earthly Sabrina is the least likeable since we spend more time with her & she spoils Hilda’s wedding reception. For better or worse, the implication that Sabrinas are each others’ perfect match is only briefly hinted at.

The hook at the end of last season was Faustus Blackwood unleashing the eight Eldritch Terrors upon Earth. Despite what the name implies, they’re not Lovecraftian. Your mileage may vary as to whether that’s a pro or con. These Eldritch Horrors are meant to be primordial forces of ruination yet only the bookends, Darkness & Void, are in the right conceptual ballpark. Half are banally personified like Darkness being a cadre of My Bloody Valentine cosplayers. Each are defeated within the span of an episode, which further undermines their apocalyptic might. The grimdark version of The Doubtful Guest (Alienation existed since the dawn of existence?) gets duped but at least it kills the insufferable Dorian Grey first. The tentacled one is named The Weird, which is redundant given what eldritch means. Luckily each Eldritch waited its turn instead of striking simultaneously.

For a show with such high stakes, everything is written with such low energy this season. Remember how lively & daring it seemed when it kicked off? Each “part” has grown exponentially worse. Season 2.5 Part IV is only eight installments, & that still seems too long.

Zelda goes all in on turning her congregation into Hekate worshipers. I remain confused as to the theological logistics of this. Switching Divine benefactors is easier than phone providers. Hell is not chagrined that it’s been forsaken. How are the other branches of The Church of Night dealing with this apostasy & are their powers still dwindling? Is there nobody in the Greendale coven aside from Blackwood that was into witchcraft primarily for the Satanism? Since Hekate allowed the Pagans to be massacred by her newbie worshipers, aren’t any of the witches concerned about the long-term quality of Her patronage? Does each Sabrina truly have her own distinct soul as claimed, or is it more like one shared equally by two bodies? Are souls, personalities, memories, & life-forces indivisible or separate? None of these intriguing theosophical concerns are addressed!

Lucifer Morningstar is less threatening than ever before. He alternates between smarmy jokester & irritated chauvinist without bridging those personas. He doesn’t notice the bland Caliban & Beelzebub are plotting against him. Suddenly he’s obsessed with having kids & grandchildren like a knockoff Ra’s al Ghul. Why does a divine immortal ruler want heirs? Wouldn’t he have scores of them already if he cared? (There’s a peculiar emphasis on Caliban’s detachable testicles as if infernal homunculi still need human anatomy to reproduce.) Lucifer inexplicably refers to the Earthbound Brina as “false-daughter,” as if there’s a substantial difference betwixt them. He just personifies patriarchy without saying anything insightful about it.

Newly immortal Blackwood is more menacing if only because he caused this season’s mess. He inexplicably wants Eldritch Terrors to destroy everything while running a demonic revival church to pontificate about nihilism. Meek Christian Mary Wardwell inexplicably joins Blackwood’s new sect (moved from a secluded forest tent to a downtown storefront) despite it being demonstrably unchristian. The aged up Judas & Judith Blackwood continue to take up space without contributing anything. Why are they here? Dorcas still appears (without her actress credited) in the opening titles despite her demise. 

Roz Walker is the low key MVP by being insightful, level-headed, & loyal. Prudence, Mambo Marie, & her granny’s ghost decide Roz is actually a witch. So not only did the hanged Greendale witches curse their betrayers’ bloodline with a useful precognition power, that automatically upgraded them witches too? It makes the Greendale coven look even more racist for not recruiting Roz sooner.

James Urbaniak, better known to aficionados of prematurely cancelled television as the fake clairvoyant on Lodge 49 & Dr. Rusty Venture, is a delightful peddler of mystical trinkets. While displaying his wondrous wares, he’s robbed & kicked into the street. So that sadly mirrors how the better shows he’s been on have been treated.

The formula is shaken up a bit when Perversion turns out to be a golden idol Blackwood uses to pervert reality. He makes it so he’s always been Emperor Of Everything, yet spends his birthdays at the podunk local high school. It’s every “What if the Nazis won?” altverse episode but dumbed down. His regime’s fascist uniforms look very much like those worn in Motherland: Fort Salem. On the bright side it ends with Prudence decapitating her daddy.

Prudence_CAOS

Prudence is kitted out in her finest Fort Salem dress regalia! (Do not click these two links unless you’re prepared for hilarious spoilers for a Motherland: Fort Salem death.)

The battle of the bands at the gates of Hell was so cheesy it completely undermined the horror of the dead rising. (If you hate covers, you’re going to loathe this batch.) That terror was represented Lazarus, who is explicitly too young to be an ancient evil. (Jesus Christ is called The Nazarene as if using a codename won’t offend the Christian fundamentalists who aren’t watching.) Mambo Marie turns out to be Baron Samedi not Marie Laveau. (Skye Marshall is an Air Force veteran, proving nominative determinism is real.) She abruptly breaks up with Zelda for Loa duty lest we actually get anything substantial for that relationship. Theo & Robin break up & immediately get back together again for Aragorn & Arwen reasons, which is both pointless & the only development they get this round. Subplots like these keep dragging the pacing down without providing anything meaty for the supporting cast.

Lilith’s arc to emancipate herself from Lucifer has fallen apart. Her stint as Queen of Hell was woefully short. She’s only still relevant for becoming the mother of Lucifer’s son to save her own bacon. This is a disservice to both Lilith & Michelle Gomez. Why would you do her dirty like this? She does pull a Medea on their baby to spite Satan. (Points deducted for her needing to explain Medea to her ex.) Then the stabs him in the back with the Spear of Destiny to drink his angelic blood & exile him from Hell in the finale. So she basically restores herself to the end of season two status quo. Hooray for her, but it’s a waste of the audience’s time making her scrounge to reclaim what she’d already won.

Earth, Hell, & Heaven start to mash into each other. At first it’s believed this is the bill for there being two Brinas finally coming due. It turns out this is the fault of The Cosmos, which is some alternate Earth, Hell, & Heaven pushing the regular ones out of their alignment? How is this a primordial fear? It sounds more like a recent sci-fi concept like Earth being replaced by Bizarro-World or all existence being erased if our universe touches an anti-matter universe. Maybe it’d seem less random if it was called The Imposter? Pollyanna McIntosh as The Metatron tries to stop this by merging the Sabrinas together, but is killed easily because being a top tier Angel counts for diddly squat on this series. Heaven & Hell look like chumps for not being able to directly avert this celestial annihilation. The Cosmos is defeated once Sabrina Morningstar teleports herself into it. This show feels like it written with Mad Libs but not in a fun way. How much acid do I need to drop before any of that computes?

Morningstar winds up on a TV set with the aunts & Salem from Sabrina The Teenage Witch appearing for cheeky fanservice. Not only does he not get any witty lines, Luke “Lucifer” Cook voices Salem Saberhagen instead of the rightful Nick Bakay! They got Caroline Rhea & Beth Broderick to reprise their roles so why not him too? (There’s no Melissa Joan Hart either.) While the original Salem puppet had charm, the Netflix equivalent is inferior to The Untamed’s animatronic dog. (I wuv that heckin’ hideous pupper!) This meta-episode had the unfortunate timing of premiering after DuckTales & Legends of Tomorrow executed the same concept flawlessly. It still might be the season’s best episode for homaging classic Salem (representing The Endless even though TV shows get cancelled frequently, like this one) & acknowledging he’s the true star of the show worthy of unlimited canned “tuna.” Too bad they they were too pigheaded to let him be the star of CAOS too! Salem the familiar yowls more than usual this year. That’s still not speaking sassy English!

While the preceding seven episodes were snoozy, the series finale is crammed to bursting with too many frenetic plot points! Even if I try to sum up each beat, it’ll still be incomprehensible. Sabrina Morningstar dies on Earth fleeing from The Void. She brought The Endless with her, yet Salem Saberhagen doesn’t participate further. Sabrina Spellman teleports inside The Void to suck it into Pandora’s Box. The Void itself is not a void as it filled with orbs & has its name written on its white walls like a crappy art installation. Her family interrupts her before she can finish by yanking Spellman’s soul out of the void & installing it into Morningstar’s body. This pisses off Lucifer & Caliban, whom declare war with an army of possessed miners. A part of The Void came with Spellman’s soul so she now makes things vanish. Sabrina runs off to become a hermit at The Mountains of Madness despite not dressing warmly enough for Antarctica. Blackwood teaches her how to control her Void powers as part of a protracted scheme to sacrifice her to unleash this force. Sabrina convinces her loved ones to sacrifice her instead so the Void-milk within her will open a portal to recover everybody she inadvertently sent to The Void except Caliban who sucks. Both Sabrinas are buried yet neither rise again despite the Cain Pit. Prudence finally chainsaws her infuriating dad into itty-bitty pieces. One of the Sabrinas (Or did their souls merge back together in death?) is sitting in The Sweet Hereafter, which is the crappy art gallery of afterlives. Nick implies he committed suicide to be reunited with her & their spirits smooch. Why are their souls not in Hell since they signed them away to Satan?

So  that’s the end of The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina! I commend them for going with a ballsy definitive conclusion that killed off the lead. On the other paw, it didn’t really feel it was in the spirit of the show since nearly every tragedy had been magically undone. Did the writers learn Netflix was axing the show at the eleventh hour & hastily rewrite the ending in a fit of rage? Even shippers who wanted Brina to be with Nick not Harvey are infuriated by this conclusion.

This season kept teasing that having double Sabrinas would be calamitous. It turns out that was a red herring. There is no paradox. Even though The Eldritch terrors weren’t her fault, Sabrina takes responsibility to be a big damn heroine. It doesn’t even feel like either redemption or karmic comeuppance since this season turned out to be the most mature Sabrina has been. So it retroactively makes the adults (as proxies for the audience) look like unreasonable meanies for being concerned about the fabric of the space-time continuum when that was never in jeopardy. Why mislead viewers into thinking the lead was still monstrously irresponsible in the first place though?

The cast didn’t know it’d be the last, which prevented Kiernan Shipka from nicking as many props as possible. That seems peculiar given how final the last episode felt. Although its lifespan was relatively short, at least half the series was a waste of audience goodwill. Maybe now that’ll free up everyone from it & Katy Keene to do a grand Riverdale crossover? (Why would Betty & Veronica fight over Archie if he doesn’t have waffle griddle burns on his temples?) CAOS takes place in an alternate reality to The CW so destroying all Sabrinas here shouldn’t be an obstacle. Perhaps The CW’s Salem can be snarky?

With CAOS the TV series over, will Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa finally finish writing CAOS the comic book? He’s tapped to helm an unnecessary revamp of True Blood, so most likely not. (Revive Swamp Thing instead, HBO!) Will new True Blood bring over the cast of his cancelled The Brides? If this is really going to happen, the least it can do is let Gina Torres & Erin Richards be vampires. While on the subject of things nobody wanted, Diablo Cody’s upcoming live action reboot where the girls didn’t want to be superheroines in violation of cartoon canon sounds more traumatic than the Powerpuff Girls of Riverdale.

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The Owl House’s King is what CAOS’s Salem should’ve been! I would’ve never guessed Tati Gabrielle voiced Willow. Hexside no longer teaches the magic of friendship due to budget cuts. Its Sorting Hat equivalent is more overtly evil than the official one.

I got door draft protector that looks like a combination of my kitty & Hooty. It has a bowtie!

If Disney ever insists on making a superfluous live action Gravity Falls, Eugene Levy should be the first choice for Stan Pines. If he declines, get Alex Hirsch in geezer makeup.

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I successfully prioritized Hilda season two over all The Mandalorian! It’s been two years since season one, so my memory was fuzzy on some callbacks. This is my favorite Scandanavian fantasy show made by the British!

“At least the last thing I did was be right!” I may need to steal this epitaph from David.

Wood Man is insouciance goals!

“The Librarian’s” name is Kaisa! She’s named after her voice actress, Kaisa Hammarlund. The librarian with the rose resemble an older goth Dawn (the Linser one, not Buffy’s sister). Bill Cipher is in the library?

The music is so good! Bella Ramsey wrote & sang “The Life Of Hilda,” another reason to watch the credits.

It has a better take on Grýla & her Yule Lads than CAOS, especially with Andy Serkis as Kertasnikir the Candlesnatcher. Both could’ve used The Jólakötturinn though. (Fictitious) Stonstanstil is celebrated but not Christmas? I’m curious about the theological implications.

The extended Twig-centric episode almost made me weep.

Anyone else find it weird that Frida’s familiar is a human?

Not only was the season finale double length, it ended on a cliffhanger! Supposedly there will soon be a special to resolve it. Netflix better not cancel it in mid-production!

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Readership was down drastically in 2020. I was afraid my stats wouldn’t match those of my inaugural year & that wasn’t even a full twelve months. It wasn’t until December that views & visitors moderately topped 2015 levels. While there was less new media being released to write about, I naively expected numbers to eventually return to previous year’s averages once people became accustomed to lockdown & needed extra ephemera to distract them. It dawned on me that it was possible a sizable swath of my readers may have died as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. (My apologies if this sound monstrously narcissistic.) While I knew people who died from the virus, this was one of the abstract moments that brought home the enormous scope of the tragedy. (I’ll never know for certain if this epiphany was accurate or erroneous.)

The most successful article of the year turned out to be my review of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated! Even though I scheduled it to coincide with the release of Scoob!, I did not see that coming! (I haven’t seen that movie yet, but I’m weirdly onboard with reports of how convoluted they made Scooby-Doo’s supernatural origin.) It was probably helped by one of the show’s creators revealing their version of Velma was meant to be a closeted lesbian not a bisexual as I’d interpreted her. My headcanon that its Scooby-Doo is bisexual remains uncontested.

Contrariwise my least read blog was my fifth anniversary one. Go click it! Currently it’s my second worst performing article of all time! Even the blog I hastily threw together to hype up my 300th entry did slightly better.

Instead of a New Year’s challenge, let’s all have an old year challenge where we curbstomp 2020. I don’t yet know what’ll be the next installment of 2021. Journey into mystery with me!

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