Warning: There are spoilers for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina part 4 ahead.
From its inception, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina tried really hard to be something different from the '90s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch. And aside from having some of the same character names, the Netflix series succeeded in telling a much darker tale about devil-worshipping witches who were saddled with solving gruesome murders and defeating terrifying monsters. But in the final season, the show made a major callback to the '90s series that preceded it by bringing the original Aunt Zelda and Aunt Hilda back, played by Teenage Witch stars Beth Broderick and Caroline Rhea.
Naturally though, the way they came back was less like a TGIF sitcom and more in line with COAS' signature darkness. In the penultimate episode, Sabrina's (Kiernan Shipka) hell-ruling duplicate Sabrina Morningstar (also Kiernan Shipka) travels into a parallel universe to confront an Eldritch terror. In the other world, she's not a real witch — she just plays one on TV. Her real aunts Zelda and Hilda (Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis) are played by Beth Broderick and Caroline Rhea. But it's not actually that simple, and the fake Zelda and Hilda turn out to be servants of the Void who end up eating Sabrina's real aunts. You won't find that plot line on a Melissa Joan Hart sitcom.
CAOS showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa said on Instagram that this episode actually taped last, bringing the two series together one time before all was said and done. "What a high to go out on," he said. "[Broderick and Rhea] were, as you might imagine, hilarious and total pros. I’m so happy we got to honor them and tell this story with them."
Shipka told Refinery29 at the COAS junket that she also loved filming with the character's OG aunts, because it helped bring the series to a close in a fitting way. "Even though we didn’t know it was the last season, all these things that happened — there was a lot of closure there," she says. "I don’t feel like we would have done the show justice if we didn’t include the aunties. It felt like a touchstone. And I’m so happy that we got to have them. They’re wonderful."
And if it felt like a total surprise to you, just know that these major cameos were kept under wraps as long as possible — even from the actors themselves. "I don’t think anyone knew. I think in the script it’s like, ‘Sabrina steps into another comedy show.’ Like it wasn’t super specific. It’s like ‘Face You May Recognise says...’ I think they were being pretty low-key about it," explains Shipka.
Eventually though, the cast learned what was up. "The table read with them was epic," Jaz Sinclair (Roz) adds to Refinery29. "It was so cool. Because their voices are the damn same as they were when they did Sabrina back in the day."
However, it should be noted that Netflix didn't wait for people to watch the show to unveil the big return of the aunts. The streaming site dropped a clip of Sabrina taping the sitcom in the parallel universe with Broderick and Rhea reprising their beloved roles. They hardly skipped a beat jumping back into their characters, with Rhea-as-Hilda immediately joking to Sabrina that she hadn't "been worried since bottomless mimosas" to the uproar of the laugh track.
Now that COAS is over, it may be time for a Sabrina the Teenage Witch rewatch. At least that's what Shipka is doing. She told Refinery29 and reporters on set in January that she initially avoided watching the full show before taking on her role, but now that she's done — she's ready to dive in. "I was reluctant just because I wanted to create my own character without any sort of voices or noises from any sort of outside sources. I was like, ‘I need to create the Sabrina that I want to create.’ End of story," Shipka said. "And now I feel like I’m in the place to go back and watch it. Which I totally will."
That said, it might be a little hard to re-watch the goofy comedy so close to watch Aunt Zelda and Hilda go all demon-faced and cannibalistic on CAOS.