This piece contains major spoilers for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 3.
Movies and TV often use witches as a lazy analog for the idea of strong women. Giving these women an inherent magic allows writers to avoid exploring the people behind the powers, and how having those powers affects them. And most importantly, what they choose to do with them.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has battled with that issue since its first season, with “girl power” seeming like more of an aesthetic choice than a mission statement. But in its third outing, the show finally seems to be delivering on the female power and agency that were promised. In the show’s newest iteration, CAOS actually commits to the idea of female power and the power of all women… not just the young white witch at its center.
From her corny characterization as a shallow mean girl in the first season to that abhorrent hanging sequence, Prudence has long been a character whom fans wanted more for. (This is mostly thanks to Tati Gabrielle’s performance.) Part 2 began to build on Prudence, her compassion, power, and inner life. The show paired her up with the ancient warlock (and Sabrina’s cousin) Ambrose in one of its smarter moves; as Part 2 ended, it promised her vengeance on her controlling and corrupt father Lord Blackwood, who had poisoned the entire coven except for Prudence and her siblings.
The newest entry of Chilling Adventures delivers on that promise. Prudence and Ambrose embark on a globe-trotting tour of the world, hunting Lord Blackwood and any monsters that get in their way. We get to see Prudence on a mission that doesn’t pit her against any other women, and doesn’t exist to service Sabrina’s story. Prudence is the hero, voice of reason, and romantic lead.
Aunt Zelda and Aunt Hilda
Finally released from the shackles of Lord Blackwood, Zelda shines this season as she gets to explore her life and power outside of The Church of Night. Well, sort of. Most of the witches spend at least half of this season without much power at all, which allows the matriarchal siblings to work out what they want from life. Played masterfully by Miranda Otto, Zelda has always had potential to be the show’s true powerhouse, but her obsession with both the Dark Lord and Lord Blackwood have held her back.
Here, she gets to come to grips with who she is outside of those men and their church. When she needs to, she draws on the power she has inside of herself and the women around her to save the thing most important to her: her sister. Another nice character beat here is that Zelda falls for Mambo Marie, a New Orleans witch who comes to the coven’s aid. It’s a natural evolution that breaks the problematic cycle of Zelda as a childless spinster who fills her life with powerful distant men.
Hilda also gets an arc here that feels radical in its own quiet way, as she rejects the Church and her sister’s new version of the academy. Hilda doesn’t want to be all-powerful; she doesn’t even want to teach the next generation of witches and warlocks. What she really desires is a quiet life with the man that she loves. It feels sweet and satisfying that not everyone has to be a kickass heroine—though let’s not forget, Hilda is immortal—and it’s okay to just want to eat delicious food, watch The Munsters, and settle down with the person you love.
Roz was cured of her magical blindness in Part 2, which was sort of a blessing. Disappointingly, the series often resorted to tropes equating disability with curse. Now that Roz has risen above her almost-disability and the fact that she happens to be dating Harvey (Sabrina’s ex), she’s has finally come into her own.
Though we’d still ideally like to see Roz get to do more—she spends an episode or so turned to stone in Part 3—the fact that she’s a powerful supernatural hero who just so happens to be an intelligent, politically minded, sexually active teenager with her own agency and interior life feels radical. Roz knows what she wants and gets it, as well as getting to be angry, sad, jealous, and never judged for any of it.
We now get to see Roz as a powerful seer who regularly saves her friends using her hereditary psychic powers. In fact, this chapter of Sabrina builds on the power of fighting alongside each other, with each of her friends playing a vital role in saving the world. Plus, in the finale, Roz gets to wield a sword to slay a gorgon, which is really cool.
The Church of Hecate
Though Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was sold on the strong women at its center, the witches spent the first ten episodes in service of a male herald of Lucifer: Lord Blackwood. Despite the fact that the first part of the show saw some of the witches questioning his power, the series seemed loathe to actually explore the role of women in the Church and how their male leaders used and abused them.
That began to change in the second part, with Lord Blackwood chased from the Church and Sabrina finding out the truth about her lineage: she’s the daughter of Satan himself. In the third season, we actually get to see the witches breakaway from Lucifer, his family, and his church.
After the mayhem and madness of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 3, the church is in disarray. Sabrina struggles to take on her role as the new leader of Hell and the coven’s powers wane as they lose their connection to Lucifer. Though nearly the entire group dies in episode seven, Sabrina returns from the underworld and, with the help of some time travel shenanigans, manages to reunite the crew and regain their powers as a coven.
The witches and wizards of the Spellman Coven finally turn to their own power, and furthermore embrace a female deity for the first time. As the show ends, we know that this newfound solidarity and cementing of where their power comes from will play a key part in the wars to come. The fact that it seems like the newly founded Church of Hecate will be led by a pair of powerful lesbian witches makes it even better.
You can watch Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 3 on Netflix right now.
Featured Image: Netflix