Riverdale's Sabrina crossover tackles the spin-off's controversial ending

Photo credit: The CW
Photo credit: The CW

Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina spoilers follow.

Note: The following article contains discussion of themes including suicide that some readers may find upsetting.

Halloween is long gone, but it's still the season of the witch in Riverdale season 6, and not just because we're in the spooky realm of Rivervale right now.

Four episodes in, Riverdale season six has finally given us the Sabrina crossover that we've longed for ever since Netflix cancelled Chilling Adventures last year (and even before that too). As if that wasn't exciting enough, Kiernan Shipka's return to the role also goes some way towards fixing one particularly troubling aspect of Sabrina's final episode.

Photo credit: @kiernanshipka - Instagram
Photo credit: @kiernanshipka - Instagram

But first, how did Sabrina even return in the first place? When we were last in Greendale, the Spellman's were holding a funeral for everyone's favourite teenage witch after she ended up dead in the Hereafter.

No mention is made of Sabrina in Riverdale's latest episode until the last ten minutes when Cheryl reveals that an old friend is on their way to help complete a tricky spell. "Well, well, well. Look at what the black cat dragged in," Cheryl says playfully as she answers the door to a seemingly older, wiser version of Sabrina.

The pair joke that it's been centuries since they've seen each other last, and that could very well be true given all the wibbly wobbly timey-wimey stuff that's been going on in Rivervale lately.

On this very special cosmic night, Sabrina has arrived to help Cheryl cast a spell of transference where Nana Rose's spirit is swapped with Cheryl's, 'Freaky Friday style'.

Except, Cheryl never was Cheryl. She was actually Abigail, and then Poppy, the women we met in the flashbacks who were made immortal by a warlock's curse. The idea was to give Nana Rose another shot at youth while Abigail could finally be laid to rest in Rose's dying body, thereby reuniting her with Thomasina in death.

It's a lot, which is saying something for Riverdale, but let's focus on what's important here: 1) There was plenty to love for Choni fans in this episode, and 2) Sabrina is back from the dead, effectively undoing her character's tragic end in the spinoff.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

When asked about the mechanics behind this resurrection, Shipka told TVLine that: "It’s very unlike Sabrina to just kind of chill in the Sweet Hereafter. I think she would get bored and want to find her way back to her friends and her family, and vice versa. Her aunties and her friends and Ambrose would do anything for her, so to me, it makes sense that her death wasn’t a forever death."

That's all well and good, but in regards to that final episode, it wasn't Sabrina's death that bothered fans so much. The real problem was how Nick essentially killed himself just to join her in the afterlife. This so-called sacrifice was heavily romanticised by the show, reframing teen suicide as a happy, fairytale ending.

Netflix has been criticised for this irresponsible approach in the past, as anyone who watched 13 Reasons Why can probably recall. But the way that Sabrina equated true love with teen suicide ended her show on a particularly distasteful note, one which not even a deleted scene hinting at their resurrection could rectify.

Bizarrely then, it falls on Riverdale to make amends, which might be worrying for those familiar with the show's general track record when it comes to anything that needs to be handled sensitively. But to the writer's credit, Sabrina's return in the latest episode does hint that Nick's suicide may not have been what we thought it was.

During a chat with Decider, Shipka was still unclear on where Nick might be now — "I hope he’s around" — but there is talk in the crossover of how witches can never truly die.

When asked if the teen formerly known as Cheryl had really passed, Sabrina said, "No. There is no death for witches. Only transformation... I mean, I died and came back."

While Nick isn't directly mentioned, the implication here is that he couldn't have died either then, at least not in a traditional sense. That means his "suicide" probably didn't feel like a real end to him. Nick knew that his physical death would simply transform him, taking his soul to a new plane where he could finally be reunited with Sabrina.

But even with this knowledge, the romanticisation of Nick's suicide remains just as troubling and just as dangerous, particularly for Sabrina fans who wouldn't even make this connection with Riverdale's crossover episode. Whether death really meant death for Nick or not, the message was still the same, regardless.

Because of all this, Nick's future onscreen is still up in the air, but don't be surprised if Sabrina crosses Sweetwater River again very soon. "I think that that’s definitely a strong possibility," Shipka told Decider. "I don’t think that we’re done with Sabrina entirely... I think the image of Sabrina and Archie together would just be unbelievable. I see that in my head so clearly."

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

The last time we saw Archie, Cheryl had just ripped his heart out in a pagan ritual, but now that the Rivervale saga has almost come to an end, it looks like the bear fighter extraordinaire will soon be on his feet again.

And if things go how Shipka wants them to, perhaps Archie will eventually take Nick's place by Sabrina's side. Because we have a feeling that Riverdale's season of the witch isn't over just yet...

Riverdale airs on The CW in the US. In the UK, you can stream via Netflix.

We would encourage anyone who identifies with the topics raised in this article to reach out. Organisations that can offer support include Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org), and Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 or visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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