Warning: spoilers ahead for the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina part 3 finale.
The first rule of time travel? Don’t create a time travel paradox. It’s the basic, unbreakable law of messing with time. But Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) never met a rule she didn’t immediately break, and so that’s exactly what happened in the wild, timey-wimey part three finale of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Netflix’s gothic teen drama bent and then broke that extremely important law of time travel when Sabrina met her future self while attempting to fix her past mistakes. And once she saved the day and brought all her friends back to life, she didn’t return to the spot in the timeline to make sure events went on as they should. Instead, she got the crazy idea to use her other, displaced from time self to rule Hell while she lived as a normal teenager, giving herself the best of both worlds — time travel paradox be damned!
And when EW got showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to break down that shocking ending that throws all the rules of time travel out the window, he revealed that he actually didn’t mean to take the story in this direction. His go-to, concrete rules of time travel come from Back to the Future, and he never wanted to break them at all.
“So 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 says. “I don’t know what happened on our way to the eighth episode but we found ourselves literally creating a paradox. It’s really fun. It probably started about halfway when we started talking about Father Blackwood [Richard Coyle] exploring the idea of time magic, but [laughs] I did not know it was going to be such a big part of the season.”
And the showrunner knows that he’s in uncharted territory when it comes to the ramifications of Sabrina breaking the most sacred rule of time travel. “Believe me, we play up those consequences in part 4, I promise you,” he says with a laugh.
As for where one even starts with figuring out what those consequences look like with two Sabrinas and a broken timeline, Aguirre-Sacasa lays out his thought process.
“We talked about the idea knowing the character of Sabrina — Ambrose [Chance Perdomo] pretty much lays out the risk of doing something, and it’s a classic Sabrina-Ambrose dynamic,” he says. “The second you tell Sabrina you’re not supposed to do something, you know sooner or later she’s going to do it. We started to figure out, okay well what would happen if they got back into contact and is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is it both? Who knows about it and how is she keeping it a secret? We started asked questions about the situation and there’s always been a proud tradition of twins in Sabrina mythology so it was fun to explore.”
And it’s not like the decision to create a temporal paradox is off brand for Sabrina, the queen of Hell and finding loopholes. “It was totally keeping with her character!” Aguirre-Sacasa adds with a laugh. “Whenever Sabrina does something and messes up, we always try to play the consequences. Sometimes they’re easy to contain and sometimes the consequences are huge. Sabrina has never done anything quite like this. I think part of season 4 is Sabrina realizing that even the smallest of actions could have huge, universe-destroying consequences. It’s something that will affect every character and it’s a little bit like that Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors. You can see the two different paths before her.”
For the first two seasons, fans have watched Sabrina struggle with choosing being a normal teen and her witch side, and now with two Sabrinas, she doesn’t have to choose. But there’s no way that is a viable long-term solution, and Aguirre-Sacasa confirms it’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet hole.
“When we were talking about this season and pitching this season, you always go back to the core of a character and for Sabrina, the core of her character will always be her duality,” he says. “It felt like we played that in parts 1 and 2 — in part 1 she was trying to hold onto her mortal self and in part 2 she explored her witch side. In part 3, it was the tension between cheerleader by day, queen of Hell by night. We started thinking about how we can play the duality in part 4 and this amazing gift of the last episode came to us. So it’s really fun to keep investigating that.”
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina part 3 is now streaming on Netflix.