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The ending of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 explained

Since its debut on Netflix in 2018, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina's dark, occult spin on the popular '90s TV series has proven to be as bewitching in its angsty teen drama as it is bloody horror elements. The supernatural coming-of-age tale from the minds behind Riverdale centers on Sabrina Spellman, a half-mortal, half-witch who's grappling with her power and identity while balancing her earthly desires and her fate as Satan's successor. Between juggling school, friendships, a harem of romantic interests, witchy duties, a hellish father (who is actually Lucifer himself), and evil forces that regularly threaten the end of humanity, Sabrina's life is far from ordinary — or easy. But then, what teenager's is? 

Now in its third season, the cool and campy series has done away with its one-side approach to exploring Sabrina's magical teenage dilemmas. In Season 3, showrunner and Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa instead scrambles the world of the light and the night, setting Sabrina up to battle not only a growing number of enemies but contend with her even more impossible choice: Hell or earth? With her coven reduced to just a handful of witches, and her father dethroned and trapped inside her boyfriend Nick, Sabrina began the season trying to unlock the gates to Hell — now ruled over by Lilith — to bring her boyfriend back and restore her life to what it once was.

But as the season goes on, new threats arose with the arrival of the Pagans and Caliban, a challenger to Sabrina's right to the dark throne, stretching the young witch so thin that time itself snaps. If you're looking to understand that time-warping season three finale and how it sets up The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina's fourth run, read on for a spoiler-filled explanation. 

The battle for Hell

At the end of Season 3, Sabrina once again must decide between her family and friends or her throne. After a multi-episode battle with her father, as well as Caliban — the prince of Hell made of Pandemonium clay — she chooses to compete in the final quest for the unholy regalia, a win that would solidify her father's lineage as the rulers of the dark realm. But while retrieving Judas' 30 silver coins, she gets upstaged by Caliban, who then traps her in rock within the ninth circle of Hell. There, in a place beyond time, she waits and waits for someone to save her. And in the end, it's her future self that appears. 

This Sabrina reveals that she's figured out how to wield time travel magic, and has returned so that her trapped former self can save the world the Pagans ended. They're going to achieve this through a time loop, future Sabrina explains, just like in that movie Sabrina'a cousin Ambrose loves: Back to the Future

The two swap places, and with her future self tucked securely into the rock, main timeline Sabrina ventures back out into the world. After wondering a version of Greendale devoid of humans, she stumbles onto Ambrose, the only living person among her family and friends. Together, they use several items collected throughout the season to reverse time. With the clock turned back, Sabrina gets another chance at saving her family, the world and Hell.  

But in true Sabrina fashion, instead of completing the loop as she agreed, the witch dodges her meet-up at the rock and returns to the moment just before Caliban tricks her into handing over the coins. It's here she reveals the future to yet another past Sabrina, allowing her to trap Caliban in the stone and walk away as both the victor and new queen of Hell. 

Sabrina rewinds the apocalypse

In the original timeline, Sabrina chooses to compete against Caliban over helping her family, and it ends pretty badly. Not only does Caliban take Hell, but her loved ones fall to the Pagans and Blackwood. Because Sabrina is not there to help, the Pagan's capture Harvey, Rosalind, Nick, Theo and his boyfriend Robin, sacrificing Harvey to the "Green Man" and unleashing a plant-based apocalypse on Greendale and the world. 

Meanwhile, her Aunt Hilda never returns from the Cain Pit as Blackwood, who now bears the mark of Cain, pays a visit to the Spellmans' house and systematically murders all the hedge witches, his daughter Prudence and eventually Zelda once she awakens from limbo. So, when Sabrina re-enters the world from the ninth circle, she finds it exactly as it was left: overgrown and full of plant zombies. 

But she's got the Unholy Regalia — and its three protectors Vlad the Impaler, Pontius Pilate and King Herod — on her side. Following her run-in with Ambrose, the two realize that the powers of the regalia, once melded down into a medieval ball and chain, can be combined with the stone circle and Father Blackwood's Loch Ness time egg to travel back in time. Before they do that, though, they seek out help from the good old sleep demon Batibat, who Sabrina sics on an unstable Blackwood in exchange for the demon's freedom and the promise that the Spellmans will be left alone. 

With Blackwood out of the way, Sabrina and Ambrose can perform a ritual at their old academy that sends Sabrina back in time and gives her a second chance to stop the apocalypse. She does, starting with some teleportation magic that whisks away her remaining coven and friends from the grasps of Blackwood and the Pagans. Once safely convened in Dorian's Gray Room, Zelda awakens from her limbo quest and reunites with Hilda and her brother, Sabrina's father, possessing the key to saving the witches. 

The fate of Sabrina's coven

All season, Sabrina's coven had struggled to maintain their magic after forsaking Lucifer, the source of their power. But when Zelda arises from limbo, she comes with the answer to their prayers: Hectate. Zelda and the other witches call to the goddess to help bring her sister Hilda back from the Cain Pit, realigning the source of the coven's powers to the ancient Greek goddess of magic and witchcraft in the process. 

The coven then puts the entire town to sleep through an enchanted lullaby before hatching their plan to stop the Pagans. It's a plan seemingly led by Robin, who returns to the Pagans' carnival with Sabrina's teacher Mary Wardwell as a virgin sacrifice for The Green Man. Despite his betrayals, Robin convinces Medusa and Pan to use the teacher, and they proceed with the ceremony. But soon after they begin, The Green Man starts to rot and fall apart, revealing that Wardwell was Pesta, the hedge witch of disease and pestilence. Robin is also magically unmasked as Sabrina under a cloaking spell. As the Pagans realize their plans have been foiled, the entire coven and Sabrina's friends emerge to take their apocalyptic nemeses out. 

They successfully stop the group, with the leading trio — Circe, Medusa and Pan — dying at the vengeful hands of those they hurt. Roz takes Medusa's head clean off after the gorgon turned her to stone, and Hilda uses her gifts of "weaving" to exact revenge on Circe, the witch of transformation who turned Hilda into a spider. Meanwhile, Prudence is the one who kills Pan, the god of chaos, in the name of her sister Dorcas.  

It's seemingly a win for everyone, but Sabrina remembers that in order for things to play out according to the rules of time magic, she must return to the ninth circle to complete the time loop. 

Sabrina creates a time paradox

In Sabrina's first attempt at saving the world, she chose to focus on the competition for the throne of Hell, and as a result, the world ends. When she gets a second chance, she chooses her family, but then seemingly loses Hell to Caliban because she refuses to partake in the final regalia quest. 

The reality is that saving both the world and Hell simply wasn't possible. Sabrina couldn't be in two places at once, and when face-to-face with her past self in the ninth circle, she realizes this very thing. So Sabrina attempts to trick time, going back to the moment she approached Judas with the 30 silver coins instead of the moment she was found in the stone. 

In doing so, she creates another timeline where two Sabrinas co-exist, and a temporal paradox is, to her, nothing more than an opportunity to have her cake and eat it, too. The two Sabrinas cut a deal that would please her family on Hell and earth while satisfying her dual desires. While one is sent to rule by her father's side in Hell, the other returns to her cousin Ambrose and her aunties, Zelda and Hilda, who are (mostly) none the wiser. 

Sabrina spent two seasons in a back and forth about whether she'd ascend as Queen of Hell or live out a semi-normal and entirely magical life as a teenager; in Season 3 of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the witch has finally made her choice: both. But as her past self and Ambrose tell her, there can be dire consequences for messing with time. Hell without its rightful ruler nearly brought the world to an end, but by severing the time loop, Sabrina may have put an end to time and reality. 

The Eldritch Terrors in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The series wastes almost no time showing a direct consequence of Sabrina playing with time. Because she was so focused on fighting for the throne of Hell and saving the world in her re-do, the time egg was left unguarded and ripe for Father Blackwood's taking. 

And take he does, to the middle of the Greendale forest. There he performs a ritual with the egg as his now "mad" daughter Agatha and rapidly aged twins — freed from the dollhouse Ambrose and Prudence placed them in — look on. He calls upon something known as the Eldritch Terrors, asking whatever "abomination" is inside the egg to break through the "skin of reality." After stabbing the egg, bright light and loud shrieks shoot from the pierced object and echo through the forest. Its power is so overwhelming that it brings Father Blackwood and his children to their knees. 

They've birthed the beginning of the end, according to the warlock. In an interview with The Wrap, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa spells out how that will manifest — and Blackwood's role in it — in Season 4. 

"So each episode [of Season 4] has a Big Bad that represents this primal terror, this primal fear," Aguirre-Sacasa said. "We see Blackwood ascend a little bit more again to the level he was around Season 1 as a threat because of what he's unleashed."

Those primal fears will be dipped in the aesthetic of H.P. Lovecraft, one of Aguirre-Sacasa's favorite horror writers, and turned on Greendale, making it a" battleground for this really epic battle between evil and good and horror and sanity," the creative said.  

Whatever that new level of darkness looks like, it might actually require the power of two Sabrinas. 

The ramifications of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina's season 3 finale

From monstrous eggs to two Sabrinas, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina's temporal paradox and time magic were vital not just to bringing Season 3 to its dramatic close, but for setting up what is sure to be a high-stakes Season 4. Yet, part three's somewhat complex ending and part four's dark beginning wasn't actually in the show's original plans, according to Chilling Adventures' showrunner. 

"When we introduced the idea of time travel in episode 5, I was like, 'Guys, we gotta keep it really simple. We cannot create a temporal paradox,'" Aguirre-Sacasa said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "I don't know what happened on our way to the eighth episode, but we found ourselves literally creating a paradox."

Inspired by his love for Back to the Future — and staying clear of time travel theory on shows like Black Mirror and Dr. Who — Aguirre-Sacasa opened up the door to a world of exciting and twisty possibilities for the next chapter of the supernatural teen drama. At the center of it all will be that temporal paradox, proving to be Sabrina's biggest season 3 mistake, whether she realizes it yet or not.

"I love that Sabrina is very casual about these huge things that she does, and then Ambrose is always like, 'You have no idea what you've done. The implications are gonna be insane,'" Aguirre-Sacasa told The Wrap.

Where and how those consequences play out will be both similar and dissimilar to Season 3, according to the showrunner. The upcoming season intends to spend just as much time in Hell as Part 3, but "each episode of Part 4 is like its own mini horror movie," he said. 

It looks like after a mind (and time) bending Season 3 finale, Sabrina's adventures are going to get even more chilling.

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