Why it is time for Prudence to take center stage on 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina'
Before the final season, here's a reminder that Prudence Blackwood is the MVP.
A lot has happened since the opening Chilling Adventures of Sabrina episode when Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) encountered the Weird Sisters in the Greendale woods. As the de facto leader, Prudence Blackwood (Tati Gabrielle) took on the mean girl mantle in her bid to make sure the half-witch, half-mortal knew her lowly position in the Academy of the Dark Arts pecking order. Prudence was the unrivaled Queen Bee who was unflinching in her devotion to the Dark Lord and the cruelty her squad inflicted on Sabrina during Part 1.
At times, the Prudence character trajectory has fallen into troubling tropes (including the angry Black woman) while positioning her as the “bad witch” antithesis to the seemingly innocent and naïve Sabrina — this is further complicated by the previous representation of Black witches in pop culture. As the seasons progressed, Prudence has shifted from Weird Sisters antagonist to someone with motives beyond the reductive school bully role. In Part 3, she ditched the stylish matching lace collar and cuff frocks for a more grown-up closet. The latter costume evolution by Oscar-winning designer Angus Strathie reinforced Prudence’s growth while also pointing to the end of the Academy as we knew it — or at least the reign of the Weird Sisters. This shift also reflected her quest to hunt down her father Faustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle) in a bid to stop his nefarious plan and end his life. She wasn’t successful in either, but Prudence goes into the final season with a specific reinforced goal. If at first, you don’t succeed…
Flip-flopping between aiding Sabrina and trying to harm the Spellman witch and her mortal friends could only sustain for so long, which is why it benefits both CAOS and Prudence by having her finally pick a side in the penultimate season. Renouncing the Dark Lord led to a brief spell worshipping Lilith before subsequently choosing the three-in-one deity Hecate. Rejecting the patriarchal forces who have inflicted their rule on the powerful women in this coven is the boost the series required and suggests the final outing will lean into these elements. Hopefully, this means Prudence will be at the front of this battle for survival rather than sidelined to make way for not one but two Sabrinas.
Father Blackwood and the Weird Sisters
Daddy issues were a driving force even before Pru found out that Father Blackwood was her biological father at the end of Part 1. Blackwood used her vulnerability in this department to manipulate the daughter he only claimed as his own when he needed powerful reinforcements. Letting her change her name from Night to Blackwood was an empty gesture, but one locked with meaning for the young witch. To see her fall for these tricks to position her as a foil for Sabrina was a cheap plot device that kept these witches facing off against the other. Turning her into a pawn by the man she was seeking love and approval from was a disappointing narrative choice, which took away her power in a bid to deliver plot twists under the guise of making her unguarded. While seeing the cracks in a character with such a hard exterior is beneficial, it was a misstep to hijack Prudence’s agency in a bid to soften her — as always, Gabrielle sold the hell out of those scenes.
Her relationship with fellow orphans Agatha (Adeline Rudolph) and Dorcas (Abigail Cowan) was at times bound by the cruelty they inflicted on others, but the co-dependency came from a shared desire for family. Agatha would take things too far, whereas Dorcas lacked the confidence of her chosen siblings. In a bid to show some independence, the latter went alone to give an offering to the Pagans in last season’s “The Hare Moon.” Unfortunately, she was turned to stone, and she wasn’t the only Weird Sister to suffer the consequences. Agatha was sent to make sure her sister didn’t mess up this gift and for her trouble, she was driven insane by the Great God Pan (Will Swenson). This set in motion a plan by Blackwood to regain control, which resulted in Agatha killing her sister, which effectively destroyed the Weird Sisters. This loss, coupled with Faustus finding twins Judith (Whitney Peak) and Judas (Darius Willis) will no doubt renew Pru’s desire to commit patricide.
Magical powers don’t make matters of the heart any less complicated and in Part 3, Pru’s relationship with warlock Ambrose Spellman (Chance Perdomo) was delightfully hot and heavy while they embarked on a Faustus hunt at the start of last season. In New Orleans, they were introduced to Voodoo Priestess Marie Mambo (Skye P. Marshall) who Pru subsequently invited to help with the Pagan problem. Zelda (Miranda Otto) bristled at first because Marie’s beliefs reside in a different place, but not only did this witch save Zelda’s life but she is also a new love interest. Prudence longed for a connection with her father, but maybe a mother figure is what she has been searching for. Her relationship with Zelda is steeped in respect that was temporarily muddied when she briefly became her step-mother. Thankfully, the pair came together when misogynistic power-hungry Blackwood poisoned the entire coven. They need to Goodbye Earl the heaven out of him in Part 4.
Meanwhile, as the official best-dressed couple in Greendale, Prudence and Ambrose could not be saved by their fondness for lace, velvet, silk, and lowcut shirts. Because he stopped her from delivering the death blow to her father when she had the chance, she blamed boyfriend Ambrose for Dorcas’ demise, and this is not the key to a happy and long-lasting relationship. To quell her loneliness she hooked up with Sabrina’s ex Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) and a rebound romp is not the worst idea — but no doubt it could cause some unpleasant friction.
Prudence as a leader
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina suffers from framing that rewards Sabrina’s impulsive and often reckless behavior. Yes, she is a 16-year-old grappling with her power and unique parentage but sometimes she makes terrible choices that impact everyone else. This show is not called “Chilling Adventures of Prudence” — a spinoff idea for Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa — however, it would benefit from focusing on this character more often. Sure, she has the best costumes and gets to fight with two swords while wearing leather pants and yet, she is also left short-changed by the storyline. Her pledge to kill her father likely still stands and nothing will come between Pru and this ambition. Rescuing her siblings will also be on her “To Do” list and it would benefit the series to see her leadership take shape at the Academy within the newly formed Order of Hecate.
Prudence has served striking looks, delivered withering retorts, kicked ass, and proved she was more than a witchy mean girl across three seasons across the horror-filled landscape. Delivering a multi-faceted performance, Gabrielle has mentioned that she was inspired by Eartha Kitt, telling Vulture in 2018, “The way that Eartha Kitt carried herself was very elegant, but so powerful. She was like a conjure woman. The way that she moved and the way that she spoke was so pointed.” This combination of attributes has been evident since the outset, but she has risen to the challenges encountered each year. Sabrina might rule hell but there is one witch who takes the CAOS MVP crown.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina returns on December 31, 2020, for the fourth and final part.
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Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.