"Chapter Eleven: A Midwinter's Tale" is the eleventh episode of the first part of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and the eleventh episode of the series overall. It premiered as a Christmas special on December 14, 2018.
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.
The episode opens during the week before Christmas several years before the events of the series. A younger Sabrina Spellman and Susie Putnam are lining up at the local mall in Greendale to pose for photos with the mall Santa Mr. Bartel. Mr Putnam chats with Hilda Spellman about the disappearance of local children. Mr Bartel poses for photos with Theo and Sabrina. Theo wishes for a truck while Sabrina wishes that she could see her mother.
Years later, Sabrina is helping her aunts to set up their Yule tree. Aunt Zelda Spellman has gotten baby Leticia several presents. Ambrose Spellman points out that Zelda technically kidnapped Father Faustus Blackwood's daughter. Zelda responds that their official cover story is that Leticia is a relative from the "old country" whom they are raising. Sabrina tells her aunts that she wishes she could have celebrated one Solstice with her parents. Hilda tries to cheer up Sabrina with the prospect of food and gifts while Ambrose says that he will like to read A Christmas Carol.
Zelda lights the Yule log, saying that they must keep it continually burning in order to ward off malevolent elements on the shortest day of the year. Zelda leads the family in saying the Solstice blessing.
Ambrose asks Sabrina about her moodiness. Sabrina says she has kept away from her friends since signing the Book of the Beast to give them some space. Ambrose thinks that she should spend more time with them to reassure them that she is still their friend. Sabrina says that she wishes that she could chat with her mother for advice. She wants to ask her mother how she reacted when her father revealed that he was a warlock. Sabrina confides that she saw her mother in the Limbo. Ambrose thinks that Diane must have some unfinished business keeping her in that realm.
Sabrina proposes having a séance with her mother since Solstice is the time when the veil between the living and the dead is weakest. Ambrose is uncomfortable with the idea because they are burning a Yule log to keep malevolent influences out. Sabrina responds that her mother is not evil.
Meanwhile, Mary Wardwell prays to the Dark Lord and asks why he has not called her home to the Pit. She asks the Dark Lord to give her life meaning. Sabrina visits Ms Wardwell and tells her that she saw her mother there. Sabrina asks Ms Wardwell if she could borrow her Book of the Dead so that she can conduct a séance. Ms Wardwell consents but warns Sabrina to be careful. After Sabrina leaves, Wardwell talks to the taxidermized corpse of her late familiar Stolas. Mrs Wardwell decides to disrupt the proceedings in order to prevent Diana Spellman from telling her daughter "disturbing things."
Sabrina visits Rosalind Walker and Susie Putnam ton enlist their help in the séance. Her mortal friends feel uncomfortable and have other commitments. Roz is having her cousins over while Susie is working full-time until Christmas Eve as the mall elf Jingles. Susie describes Mr. Bartel, who is playing Santa, as the Grinch. Sabrina sees Harvey Kinkle standing by a bookshelf.
In private, Sabrina tells Harvey that she wanted to give him some space since their breakup. Sabrina asks Harvey if he is still troubled by the death of his brother Tommy Kinkle. Harvey says things are improving but that his dad has taken to drinking alcohol. Sabrina gifts Harvey some enchanted coloring pencils that her Aunt Hilda got from England. Harvey thanks her and says he will see her after the break.
At the Academy of Unseen Arts, Sabrina meets up with the Weird Sisters Prudence, Dorcas and Agatha and seeks their help with a séance. She learns that they are free that night and that Nicholas Scratch has gone on a holiday to the Unholy Lands. The Weird Sisters agree to help and Sabrina promises to leave her window unlocked.
Roz meets Susie at the mall and tells her that she looks amazing as Jingles. The mall Santa Mr. Bartel reminds her that her break is over. Susie introduces the children to Santa. Roz experiences the Cunning and senses something is wrong with Mr Bartel. Later that night, Mr. Bartel compliments Susie for her work. Susie takes an interest in Mr. Bartel's wax structures of children. Mr Bartel tells Susie that usually he has to go out and find the children but is happy that this year the child came to him. He then covers her head.
Later that night, Mary Wardwell casts a spell to quench the Spellman's Yule log, exposing their housing to demonic influences.
Back at the Spellman's house, Sabrina brings her mother's white dress for the séance with the Weird Sisters. Agatha summons Diana Spellman's spirit. Sabrina asks the spirit about the circumstances of her death. The spirit says 2321 and Sabrina recalls that was the flight number of the crashed plane that her parents died in. Sabrina wishes she could see her mother again. Diana's spirit channels herself into the dress.
Sabrina is delighted to see her mother, who says thank you. Sabrina asks her mother why she is Limbo. Diana warns that Sabrina is not safe. Agatha senses an interference as several spirits enter the Spellman house through the fireplace. The spirits topple the Christmas tree. Zelda relights the Yule Log while Zelda discovers Sabrina and the Weird Sisters conducting a séance. Diana disappears. Zelda is furious with Sabrina and orders the Weird Sisters to leave.
Sabrina denies quenching the log during the séance. Zelda is furious that Sabrina chose to conduct her séance on the eve of the Solstice. Sabrina tells them that she encountered her mother trapped in Limbo. Zelda says she and Hilda would have helped her if she had told them so. Zelda says that she would have done anything for her brother’s wife. Ambrose says that he has checked every corner of the house and thinks that whatever entered the house may have left when Zelda relit the Yule log. Zelda thinks whatever entities entered the house may have been hidden. Zelda allows Hilda to share the room but warns her not to snore due to the presence of Leticia.
In private, Ambrose asks Sabrina what she found out. Sabrina says she didn't get the chance to find out what her mother was doing in Limbo. Ambrose is sympathetic to Sabrina, who says she will try again after the Winter Solstice.
The following day, on December 21, Aunt Zelda plays with Leticia. Zelda chats with Hilda. Sabrina apologizes but Zelda makes a Shakespearean quote likening an ungrateful child to a serpent's tooth. Sabrina counters that Zelda kidnapped babies and that she only wanted to contact her mother. Sabrina denies putting out the fire. Zelda accepts Sabrina’s apology and says that they can contact her mother after the New Year.
Sabrina asks Hilda what she did wrong. Hilda reassures Sabrina that she did nothing wrong and that Zelda regretted her hostility towards Diane when she was still alive. Hilda says that Zelda is overprotective of Sabrina because she has something to prove. Sabrina tells Hilda about a special eggnog she made for Harvey’s dad to cure his alcoholism. Hilda asks Sabrina where she found her secret recipe.
Later, Sabrina visits Harvey and his father with Hilda’s special eggnog. Sabrina lies that there is rum in the eggnog. When Harvey asks about the gift, Sabrina claims that she and her aunts made a lot and that these are extras. Meanwhile, Mr Putnam finds that Susie has not returned home. He calls Roz, wo learns that she didn’t come home last night. Elsewhere, Susie awakes in Mr Bartel's lair and finds herself chained to a table. She screams in terror.
Back at the Spellman home, Ambrose is chatting with a mouse while deciphering some spells for Father Blackwood. While peering through a mirror, he sees a spirit. Ambrose thinks he is imagining things until a spirit possesses one of the corpses on the mortuary table. Ambrose hears the laughter of children as the lights close and hatchets begin banging.
In the kitchen, Hilda is preparing dough when her tools begin disappearing. Something topples her bag of flour and she hears the laughter of children. Sabrina sees footprints in the flour. The spirits then rain down knives around her.
Upstairs in the bedroom, Zelda and Leticia are disturbed by the noise. Zelda tries to comfort Leticia but the spirits switch on the sewing machine, sewing the message "We have the baby" on a quilt. The spirits kidnap Leticia and hide her around the house. Zelda and Hilda search the attic before heading down to the front hall. Following the baby’s cries, they head into the living room and kitchen. While Zelda searches the living room, Hilda searches the kitchen and finds Leticia inside the oven. Hilda comforts Leticia.
Ambrose joins them, having bound the corpses and every hatchet in the mortuary. He tells them that they have an infestation of poltergeists. Shortly later, Sabrina returns and asks what is going on.
Later, Zelda and the others discuss the Yule Lads home invasion. The Yule Lads won't leave until their mother Gryla tells them to. Zelda explains that Gryla was a witch who made a pact with another witch from her coven during a famine. They would eat their own children to survive. They cooked and devoured Gryla's son first but the other witch broke her pact. Devastated, Gryla spent the next millennium finding children to add to her family, taking an interest in orphans. Zelda says that they have to summon Gryla to make an offering.
Zelda tells Ambrose that he has to leave during Gryla's visit because she hates men due to her abandonment by her husband. Ambrose says that he has been invited for a Solstice party with Luke Chalfant. Zelda says they have to hide baby Leticia. Sabrina offers to look after Leticia in the mortuary.
Later that evening, Zelda allows Gryla to visit their home after she agrees to abide by their rules. Zelda and Hilda ask Gryla to take her Yule Lads home in return for an offering of fresh-baked Christmas solstice cookies, a cone of sugar, a pound of marzipan, some mince pies, yummy teacakes, and fruit jelly. Gryla agrees to drink gin with Hilda and Zelda.
Meanwhile, Ambrose meets Luke at a Solstice dinner. After drinking gin, Gryla summons her “children” home. However, their movement awakes baby Leticia. Gryla claims that she has a greater right to the baby since Leticia does not belong to Zelda. Zelda protests that she is a midwife but Gryla counters that a midwife is not her child. The Yule Lads bring Sabrina and Leticia to them. However, the ghost of Diane Spellman appears and tells Gryla to leave the baby alone.
Diane says she will decide who owns the babe. She explains that Sabrina summoned her here with the help of the angel Lucia and the demon Lucy. Possessing their authority, Diane sets up a contest where the winner is the one who is able to pull the baby out of a circle of salt. Gryla and a reluctant Zelda accept Diane’s terms. Zelda and Gryla hold the baby’s arms.
Unwilling to hurt Leticia, Zelda concedes and says she won't tear the baby to pieces. Diane grants Leticia to Gryla, who offers to give her a home. Gryla leaves with Leticia and the Yule Lads. Hilda asks Sabrina and Diana how they could do that. Sabrina reveals that they did not give Leticia to Gryla but that the used a Changeling trick to disguise Ambrose's teddy bear as Leticia. Sabrina says that her mother appeared after Leticia cried out and taught her the spell to make the switch. Zelda thanks Diana, who disappears.
Shortly later, Roz visits the Spellmans and tells them that Susie has been missing since last night. Susie’s father Mr Putnam has spoken to the police. Roz also confides with Sabrina that she experienced one of her Cunning visions while visiting the Knight of St Bernard mall where Susie was working. She thinks that Mr Bartel is a demon and has been taking children and dipping them in wax.
Hilda points out that Bartel is the name of a Yule demon. Zelda is able to track down Mr. Bartel’s address using the Greendale White Pages. Zelda warns that they will need help from Gryla. Sabrina points out that Gryla will be mad but Zelda reassures her that Gryla would side with them if they lead her to the lair of a demon who preys on children. Rosalind agrees to babysit Leticia while Sabrina, Hilda, and Zelda leave to confront Mr Bartel and rescue Susie.
At Bartel's house, the demon tells Susie that the wax is almost ready. He tells her that she will make a splendid addition to his collection. Before he can gloat, the Yule Lads enters his workshop, startling him. Gryla soon joins them and confronts Bartel for his crimes. She pins Bartel by stabbing his hand with a knife while the Yule Lads laugh. Gryla frees Susie and asks her if she is alone in the world. Susie responds that she has a father. Gryla allows her to leave while she punishes Bartel. Susie finds Sabrina, Zelda, and Hilda outside. Sabrina embraces Susie. To avoid startling Mr Putnam, Hilda has baked some enchanted shortbread cookies that will convince Mr Putnam that the past twelve hours were a dream. The Spellmans leave with Susie.
Later, Gryla and her Yule children celebrate the solstice and welcome the imprisoned souls of Bartel’s wax children. She lays the shoes of the liberated children. Bartel is shown to have been burnt with wax with several candles on his head and hands.
Returning to the Spellman home, Sabrina finds that Ambrose is feeding Leticia with milk. He explains that he teleported Roz home before her parents began to worry. Due to the recent events, Zelda reveals that she has decided to take Leticia to Dezmelda after the winter holidays. She says that Ambrose is right that they can’t keep Leticia from Father Blackwood forever. Zelda fears that Gryla might return next week. Hilda asks about returning Leticia to her father. Zelda rules that out and responds that Dezmelda will teach Leticia the “old ways” as is her birth right.
Later, Sabrina asks her mother what “unfinished business” does she have. Diana replies that she was afraid that her daughter wasn’t going to be loved and protected as she would have loved and protected her. Diana is pleased that Sabrina has mothers and a family that adores her. Sabrina tells Diana about her friend Harvey Winkle and says she doesn’t know what to do with him. Diana replies that when she learned that Sabrina’s father was a warlock he followed him down the path of the Church of Night. However, Diana says that she would not recommend it to anyone else. Sabrina says she thinks that she will understand. Diana wants to hold her daughter but the Yule log goes out.
On Christmas Eve, Ms Wardwell eats a Gingerbread figure of Sabrina. Harvey tells Sabrina that his dad has given up drinking ever since he has eaten Sabrina’s eggnogs. Harvey is grateful to Sabrina but warns her not to use magic on him or his family again. Harvey understands that Sabrina had good intentions but is still bitter over the loss of his brother Tommy Winkle. Harvey returns her coloring pencils and says that he hopes that Sabrina will understand. Sabrina is sad, but she understands. Harvey wishes Sabrina Merry Christmas and she wishes him a Happy Solstice.Sabrina returns to the living room to join her aunts, Ambrose, and Luke. They drink a toast to Satan while Ambrose reads a passage A Christmas Carol. Meanwhile, three demons exit Hell in the Greendale forest.
- The episode title comes from Kenneth Branagh's 1995 British romantic comedy film of the same name.
- Notably, the film was known by a different title upon its release in the United Kingdom — In the Bleak Midwinter.
- The opening credits include a new scene depicted in the comic art style wherein Sabrina and her aunts watch Santa and his reindeer passing through the night sky.
- Though he does not appear in the episode, Jedidiah Goodacre is credited as guest starring.
- This is the first episode where a main cast member does not appear, as Richard Coyle is credited but does not appear in the episode.
- The trailer for the episode (that was released on December 4) included a scene that depicts Sabrina wearing a white gown as she watches a man hand over a baby to what appears to be the Dark Lord. This scene does not appear in the episode at all. The scene was later shown as part of the opening scene of the following episode, "Chapter Twelve: The Epiphany".
- On November 21, the Satanic Temple reached an amicable settlement with Warner Brothers over the use of the Baphomet with Children statue. A spokesperson for the Temple stated that the statue would get proper credit in the credits for the subsequent episodes of Sabrina. True enough, this episode reflects such acknowledgements in the episode's credits and is the first to do so.
- ↑ Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Conjures a Christmas Special — Watch Teaser TVLine
- ↑ Satanists & Warner Bros “Amicably” End $50M ‘Sabrina’ Copyright Battle – Update - Deadline