WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 1, streaming now on Netflix.
Few emotional connections are as complicated as those shared by siblings, who can torment and defend one another with equal fervor. As such, viewers can no doubt detect a glimmer of their own family dynamic in the fraught relationship between the steely, domineering Zelda Spellman and the warm, more passive Hilda Spellman on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. That is, until the second episode, when a fuming Zelda kills her seemingly unsuspecting sister with a hammer, and then buries her in the cemetery in front of the family's mortuary, in an act reminiscent not only of the biblical Cain and Abel, but also their DC comics namesakes.
Asked by cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) where Hilda is, Zelda (Mirada Otto) coolly responds, "She's annoyed me, so I killed her and buried her in the yard." It's a shocking turn of events, particularly for those who have warm memories of the aunts from the 1990s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch. It's simultaneously made better and worse when, that evening, Hilda (Lucy Davis) claws her way out of the grave. "Took you long enough," Zelda observes while casually smoking a cigarette on the front porch. "Each slaying it takes you longer to resurrect. Eventually there will be a time when I bury you, and you will stay buried."
It's then when we realize, with no small degree of horror, that Zelda has been killing Hilda again and again, for years. "I'm your older sister, Hilda," Zelda states flatly when Hilda objects. "It's my Satan-given right to kill you as many times as I please."
It's a page borrowed from the relationship between DC's Cain and Abel, hosts of the publisher's classic horror anthologies H0use of Mystery and House of Secrets, but perhaps better known to modern readers as prominent residents of the Dreaming in The Sandman. Originally depicted as rivals, that dynamic took on a more physical, and homicidal, tone in The Sandman, in which Cain is depicted as having an obsessive-compulsive disorder that causes him to frequently kill Abel, in a reenactment of the first murder, only for his brother to be revived each time, within hours. Despite his apparent hatred for his younger brother, Cain is distraught when Abel is killed permanently by the vengeful Kindly Ones, and petitions the new Dream to restore him (only to become enraged with the revived Abel shortly thereafter).
Although in the comics it's apparently that the murder is committed by Cain that permits Abel to be revived, on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the means of Hilda's resurrection is a specific plot in the cemetery of Spellman Mortuary. In the family for generations, the so-called Cain Pit contains soil believed to have been taken from the garden of the biblical Cain, and soaked with Abel's blood. "The most fertile soil on Earth," Hilda explains.
That plot plays a central role in Episode 8, the aptly titled "The Burial," as Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) seeks to cheat death and resurrect the older brother of her boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch), with tragic results.
Available now on Netflix, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stars Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina Spellman, Ross Lynch as Harvey Kinkle, Michelle Gomez as Mary Wardwell/Madam Satan, Jaz Sinclair as Rosalind Walker, Chance Perdomo as Ambrose Spellman, Lucy Davis as Hilda Spellman, Miranda Otto as Zelda Spellman and Richard Coyle as Father Blackwood.