WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 2, streaming now on Netflix.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has been overt in its feminist messages from Season 1. While Season 1 was focused on Sabrina figuring out her identity while questioning the Church of Night’s beliefs and rituals, Season 2 appears to be devoted to dismantling structural misogyny. Of course, Sabrina still questions the Church any time she feels it's complicit in “murder and cannibalization of young witches.”
By the end of the latest batch of episodes, in both Greendale and in Hell, women ascend to positions of utmost authority. Zelda Spellman becomes High Priestess, while Lilith controls Hell. Tracking both of their arcs this season makes for an interesting commentary on how women have had to push back against the patriarchy to feel empowered in their relationships and their careers.
At the beginning of Season 2, it’s clear that Father Faustus Blackwood is using Zelda since he’s getting everything he wants without giving her a label -- a classic jerk move for men afraid of commitment. When she puts her foot down and says that she’s not doing anything, flagellation or otherwise, until he makes them legitimate, it’s a win for everyone who’s been in that situation.
Mind you, this is where Zelda’s arc begins this season. As we learn, Zelda is using Blackwood as well for her own personal gain. When they get married, she takes his name but hyphenates it with hers as Spellman-Blackwood. In a series where names are so significant -- “my name is Sabrina Spellman, and I will not sign it away!’ -- it’s telling that Zelda holds on to her Spellman identity. Blackwood likely picks up on her independent nature (it’s pretty obvious, to be fair), so when we see Zelda post-wedding, there is a huge red flag.
The red flag is Zelda defers to Blackwood, saying “my husband knows best in these matters” with an inane grin on her face, and even worse, wearing a silk floral dress. Something is clearly wrong with her. Indeed, it took Blackwood putting a spell on her to make her into this Stepford Wife ideal he has. This is not who Zelda is, but it’s what Blackwood and misogynists want women to be: dutiful, quiet and pretty to look at.
Hilda and Sabrina break the spell over Zelda, and she’s disgusted with what happened (and also her dress). She acts like she’s still under the spell to get information on what Blackwood is plotting for the coven, and it’s bad. Blackwood poisons the members of the Church of Judas, and Zelda and the Spellmans teleport them to their home to heal them. This is when Zelda assumes leadership as High Priestess of the coven.
Clearly, Zelda deserves this position. Not only is she knowledgeable, but she has also proven herself shrewd enough to protect her coven’s members, particularly the witches who would’ve suffered under Blackwood’s new tenants (“As Lilith served Satan, so must witches serve warlocks”? No thank you). She was able to act like a lobotomized version of herself for the greater good of her family and her coven. If she protects the coven as she has always done her family, they will all be in capable hands.