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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A memory wipe leaves the gang on Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina fighting monsters and each other

Illustration for article titled A memory wipe leaves the gang on Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina fighting monsters and each other
Image: Liane Hentscher/Netflix
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For a show like Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, once the initial novelty of a fantastical world becomes the norm, the constant introduction of new creatures provides the best way to keep challenging your characters. And there’s few methods more effective than the creature that causes the memory wipe.


That’s what the Imp of the Perverse ends up doing to all of Greendale once Faustus decides to use it to make himself Emperor…of Greendale. Sure, ruling over one town may seem like small potatoes for a guy who used to be a high priest of the devil, but he’s ultimately using it to get to Sabrina, which works really well for him right up to the point when Prudence cuts off his head.

But before she gets to that point, the show takes Sabrina and Roz on a tour of Greendale for the perverse, where Harvey is part of the secret police, and none of the other Spellmans recognize Sabrina. Instead, the duo has to try and piece together what’s happening while various of their friends are endangered by Blackwood’s tendency to accuse everyone of being a witch. Both Sabrina and Roz try different methods of snapping people out of it—Sabrina gets through to Zelda briefly with a spell, while Roz gambles on Harvey being basically the same decent person he’s always been, just one without memories. They meet with mixed results, and it’s eventually Ambrose who comes up with a method of breaking free that works. Blackwood may have wiped his memory, but even he can’t suppress Ambrose’s native tendency to get paranoid and frantic when things get bad, which they clearly are. He bolts for the border, where he immediately gets his memory back, only to learn he’s going to lose it again if he goes back into Greendale.

That’s courtesy of the peddler selling trinkets, played somewhat surprisingly by James Urbaniak. The peddler is a confusing entity in the show’s current universe, frankly. The other terrors have come to Greendale of their own accord, and the peddler doesn’t seem to be the personification of the Imp or anything. In fact, he does what he can to prevent the Imp from falling into Blackwood’s hands, and then once it does, he gives Ambrose the solution to his problems for free. Did he come upon the Imp and get sent to Greendale because of whatever mystical force is sending the other terrors to Greendale? He seems to know what’s going on, and he acts to subvert what’s going on, but who is he?

Illustration for article titled A memory wipe leaves the gang on Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina fighting monsters and each other
Image: Diyah Pera/Netflix

The show’s general looseness around its own mythology can often be a distraction, and the events around the Imp are particularly prone to this issue. Sabrina and Roz are immune from the effects because they’ve interacted with other terrors, but Ambrose spent the last episode interacting pretty closely with the Weird and gets memory-wiped nonetheless. And once people start to get their memories back, it’s hard to tell who actually remembers real life–when Sabrina asks what happened to Roz, Hilda says she was taken by “that little monster Harvey Kinkle,” which doesn’t really sound like something she would say if she had her memory back. But why wouldn’t she have her memory back at that point? By the end of the episode, it’s also not very clear who even remembers what happened. Roz and Sabrina do, clearly, but it’s hard to tell who else does. Nick confesses he still has feelings for Sabrina, but is that because that’s been true for a while, or because he remembers flirting with her when he was memory-wiped? By the same token, Harvey also seems to be changing his behavior…but it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with what’s happened.


Ultimately, none of this exactly affects the outcome of the episode. What you need to know is that Roz and Sabrina and the gang were able to save the day and stop the latest eldritch terror. But it’s frustrating to keep pulling at these threads while the show moves on. Any show with a mythology this deep encourages obsessing. Why can Sabrina do what she does? What are the rules of magic in this universe? Part of the fun of watching a show like this is diving into the particulars, and every now and then, it would be nice if the show slowed down a bit to give the viewer more to chew on.

Stray observations

  • Was Father Blackwood writing with a twig?
  • For those of you who aren’t musical theater fans, that was “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” a song sung by Nazis in the musical Cabaret. That makes two episodes with musical theater references, and also two songs sung by Nazis, which is a weird coincidence. Let’s get some Music Man in there or something.
  • What was with all the rustling and thumping when everyone was trying to hide from Harvey and Billy at the bookstore? At first I thought it was intentional, to draw Harvey back there and dose him with the stone soup, but no, they’re all just extremely bad at hiding. Also, there are like 14 people back there. They couldn’t overpower two teenagers?
  • For the most part, CAOS stays away from markers of the modern world, and then every now and then the veil gets lifted briefly and it always sounds awkward, like Nick declaring that he and Sabrina are “end game.” Does Nick spend a lot of time on Tumblr or something? It felt like the show putting its thumb on the scales to confirm to fans that Sabrina would still have an epic romance this season and that this one was the meaningful one.
  • It was nice to see Sabrina and Roz team up on an escapade, although it would be good to see Theo be more than a background character this season.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Lisa is a writer and editor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.