How 'Sabrina' Part 2 Flipped the Script on Hollywood's Most Annoying Breakup Trope

How 'Sabrina' Part 2 Flipped the Script on Hollywood's Most Annoying Breakup Trope

April 8, 2019

[Warning: Spoilers for ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ part 2, ahead]

It’s a simple Hollywood story, really. Boy meets girl. Boy has a secret. Boy reveals secret to girl. Boy breaks up with girl “to protect her.” Girl starts dating someone else (someone worse than boy, she’s not really that into it). Boy gets jealous and messes everything up. Boy gets back together with girl, because they’re “endgame.”

Don’t believe me? In Twilight, Edward is drawn to Bella but knows he can’t have her because he’s a vampire. She swears up and down that doesn’t matter to her and that she can make her own decisions, but he brushes her feelings aside. When it’s apparent that Edward and Bella are through, she dabbles in a relationship with werewolf Jacob. Jacob is also a supernatural being, but doesn’t let that get in the way…Until Bella and Edward realize they can’t live (do the undead live?) without each other, get married, and have a creepy baby together.


What about every superhero movie ever? You know, the Clark Kent and Peter Parker of it all. They run their respective partners around in circles because they’re terrified of what their enemies would do if their secret identities were ever revealed. Hell, even Jughead Jones, the protagonist of another popular Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa television series, Riverdale, attempts a breakup with his endgame lover, Betty Cooper, upon taking up the mantle of Serpent King.

Perhaps the best thing about Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina part two is how it flips the script on this frankly annoying Hollywood trope, and then dismantles it completely.


A lot has been made of the season’s “love triangle,” which, in actuality, is more of a love square. But the nuances of these relationships are much stronger than a typical teen drama. Part two opens after our protagonist Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) breaks up with the all-American Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) to protect him from the witch world, and the Dark Lord who’s set his sights on her.

Right away, we not only see Sabrina strike up her easy flirtation with Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) as they fight for the position of Head Boy at the Academy of Unseen Arts, but towards the end of episode one, it seems there might be something flickering between Harvey and Sabrina’s best friend Ros (Jaz Sinclair).

But in episode two, when the Dark Lord attempts to turn Sabrina towards the side of evil, she catches wind of the romance brewing between her ex and her friend, who are set to perform the kissing scene of Romeo and Juliette together for class. As Sabrina becomes insecure about her place in the world of witches, she attempts to return to her mortal school, which rekindles old feelings between her and Harvey.

Long story short, the Dark Lord sees his opening, gives Ros chicken pocks, forcing Sabrina and Harvey to partner up for the class assignment. Whatever he’s beginning to feel for Ros fades to the background, understandably, as his first love returns to his life. This culminates, as all TV study dates do, in a steamy make-out session. But when Sabrina stops short, and Harvey realizes their breakup is still on because Sabrina is still trying to protect him, they have an argument I’ve witnessed a million times…the other way around.

Damn. That might be the only time the lifeless relationship between Harvey and Sabrina (not to mention complete lack of chemistry) has had any bite.

Now that Aguirre-Sacasa has flipped the gender script, he goes in to kill the trope completely. The relationships Harvey and Sabrina explore beyond each other are not placeholders: they’re the real deal. The rest of the season finds Harvey deeply investing in his relationship with Ros, who treats him like an equal partner, not a side-kick or worse, a nuisance.

Over at the Academy, Sabrina becomes more and more entangled with Nick, who supports her unconditionally and helps her find herself as a witch and a leader. Sure there are natural moments of tension between the square—it would be weird if there weren’t considering how emotional high school love can be. There are serious discussions between Ros and Sabrina about their friendship, an almost-fight between Ros and Harvey when she worries that his feelings for Sabrina might still be lingering, and an evil Sabrina doppelgänger who tries to take Harvey as her lover. But those are just speed bumps.

By the end of the season, even after Nick’s betrayal has been revealed and then redeemed by sacrificing himself to trap the Dark Lord in his body (so rude, tbh), Harvey’s arm is still firmly wrapped around Ros. As for Sabrina, the final line of the season is her strong declaration, “let’s go to Hell and get my boyfriend back.”

After all this, CAOS still has time to play the Sabrina x Harvey endgame card in part three and four, but I really hope it doesn’t. For one, the chemistry between Kiernan and Gavin is much more fun to watch, while at the same time Ross’ Harvey has much more room to play and grow by Ros’ side.

At times, when it comes to railing against misogyny and the patriarchy, CAOS doesn’t just hit the nail on the head, it bangs it so forcefully it cracks the wood. The themes of female empowerment can often be too on the nose, the Dark Lord and High Priest’s chauvinistic dialogue cringe-inducing. But by making this one small adjustment to a story that got old a long time ago, Sabrina came back from its short hiatus refreshed and provacative.


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