Bright Solstice, witches! Rather than giving us coal in our stockings, this year, Netflix granted us the gift of a Chilling Adventures of Sabrina holiday special, which serves as a nice stop-gap between the first and second seasons. After she signs her name in the Book of the Beast to save her mortal friends (and the entire town of Greendale) from being wiped out by ancient witches hellbent on revenge, Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) probably deserves a nice, relaxing holiday with her aunts, her cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), and Zelda’s (Miranda Otto) “adopted” baby Leticia… But of course, relaxation is not in the cards for the Spellman family, even during the Solstice.
Here’s the official plot synopsis for “A Midwinter’s Tale”: The Church of Night, like all covens, celebrates the Winter Solstice—the longest night of the year—when families gather together around the Yule Fire to sing pagan carols, tell ghost stories and huddle against the supernatural creatures that come out to cause mischief. Since the Winter Solstice is when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest, it’s the perfect time to conduct a séance — which Sabrina convenes, to try and contact her mother. But the holidays are also a time for guests and visitors — both welcome and unwelcome — and you never know what might come down the chimney.
Sounds spooky, right? When Sabrina attempts to conduct a séance with the assistance of the Weird Sisters (Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph and Abigail Cowen), meddling from Madam Satan (Michelle Gomez) makes things go awry, much like what happened throughout the first season. This introduces two Icelandic legends into the mix, which makes for an especially interesting Solstice: Grýla, the mountain-dwelling ogress who, in CAOS, is an ancient witch who lays claim to orphans and raises them as her own, and the Yule Lads, who are mischief-making spirits that only respond to Grýla.
As expected, “A Midwinter’s Tale” puts a horrifying twist on the concept of a holiday special episode by invoking poltergeists, demons, and dark magic. It also digs into how Sabrina is dealing with her new, fully-fledged witch status and how her friends are coping with her magical abilities. Here’s a hint: while some of them are cool with it, others are thoroughly freaked out by her magic and don’t want her to use it around or for them. If you’ve seen the first season, you can likely guess who falls into which category.
Meanwhile, the special also sets up season two plots and hints at the series expanding beyond the borders of Greendale (though there’s still no planned crossover with Riverdale beyond an occasional name-drop, as of yet). CAOS comics fans will love the Easter eggs peppered throughout the episode (like Sabrina’s entire outfit when she’s decorating the Yule tree!) and fans of the show will dig the way it continues season one without skipping a beat. “A Midwinter’s Tale” is much lighter than the back half of season one, for sure, but it’s also got that dark touch that makes this show so fascinating.
Perhaps the best part about this episode is the fact that it opens so many new doors into Sabrina’s past. We’ve seen her struggle with her aunts, particularly Zelda, as she’s tried to balance her mortal and magical sides. We’ve also seen her desperately try to gain some perspective on what happened to her parents, especially her mom, who was trapped in Limbo in season one — meaning she has unfinished business on Earth. “A Midwinter’s Tale” finally offers Sabrina some closure, while also providing and impetus for her to dig into her roots as a witch and learn from her family history. One of the most fascinating elements of this series is watching Sabrina attempt to grapple with her dual nature, and season two looks primed to offer even more lessons from her past, which will surely be satisfying to watch and dismantle whenever the episodes premiere.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: “A Midwinter’s Tale” is now streaming on Netflix.
Samantha Puc is an essayist and culture critic whose work has been featured on Bitch Media, The Mary Sue, Bustle, and elsewhere. She mostly writes intersectional pop culture analysis with a particular focus on representation of LGBTQ and fat characters in fiction. Samantha is the managing editor at The Beat, as well as the co-creator and editor-in-chief of Fatventure Mag, an outdoors zine for fat creators who are into being active, but not into toxic weight-loss culture. She lives in Montana with her partner and cats.