Let's agree on something, initiates to the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina fandom: Cousin Ambrose, played by newcomer Chance Perdomo, is the absolute best. The Sabrina the Teenage Witch Netflix reboot has been out for all of three days, and there are already fan videos devoted to Sabrina's pansexual, mischievous, robe-wearing cousin on house arrest for mysterious reasons.
For those of us who grew up watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch reruns on the WB, Ambrose is an unfamiliar presence. The earlier sitcom's version of Sabrina Spellman (Melissa Joan Hart) didn't bounce ideas off a housebound criminal cousin. She had another sassy criminal for a best friend: Her cat familiar, Salem. Twenty-five years prior to the show's action, Salem Saberhagen had been turned into a cat by the Witch's Council as punishment for plotting world domination. In Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Cousin Ambrose serves a similar role as Salem once did: Part partner-in-crime, part comic relief. But even if he's new to us, Ambrose is not a new character in the Sabrina-verse.
Like many of the characters in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Ambrose is a reimagining of a character first found the the original Archie comic books from the 1970s. Since then, Ambrose has made appearances in various Sabrina spinoffs, including the Sabrina the Teenage Witch animated cartoon in the '70s, and the short-lived computer animated series Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch, which ran from 2013-2014.
In all of his appearances, Cousin Ambrose is, unsurprisingly, Sabrina's cousin. But his actual role in the narrative is different each time around. In 2013's Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch, for example, Ambrose is a 15-year-old warlock-in-training with a fear of ice giants. Ambrose’s comics-to-Chilling Adventures transformation is particularly stunning. In the 1970s comics, Ambrose is a middle-aged mustachioed bachelor who bumblingly helps Sabrina on her quests to be a good witch. He's a burly adult figure. Ambrose in the Netflix TV show, however, straddles the line between peer and adult. He helps Sabrina with her hijinx, but also simply knows more about the witching world than his younger cousin. Essentially, he's quite an upgrade.
This particular incarnation of Ambrose — who Perdomo described to Shadow and Act as being "a bit of Captain Jack Sparrow, a bit of David Bowie, a bit of Jimi Hendrix, and a bit of Loki from Thor magically rolled into one super entity" — dates back to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's 2014 comic book, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. In the comics, the Witches Council sentences Ambrose to indefinite house arrest after he reveals his powers to a mortal (as in the world of Harry Potter, outing yourself as magic is a big no-no). Ambrose moves from the Old Country to the Spellman women's house, carting along his two cobra familiars, Nag and Nagaiana. Likely, the snakes' names stems from the same myths as Voldemort's Nagini: In Indian folklore, the Nagas are shape-shifting cobras.
In the Netflix adaptation of Aguirre-Sacasa's dark comic books, Ambrose is still on house arrest, but for slightly more rock'n'roll reasons. As Ambrose off-handedly mentions to fellow warlock Luke (Darren Mann), he was arrested for attempting to blow up the Vatican. Ambrose elaborates his crimes further in an episode 8 conversation with Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle). "My father died young. He was killed by witch hunters. I drifted from university to university, trying to find a father figure. And then, I found one," Ambrose says, before telling Blackwood about the alluring pull of "a young Crowley," who recruited him to his cause. Likely, this Crowley is famous occultist Aleister Crowley, whose teachings incidentally influenced Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Ambrose was not the only warlock involved in Crowley's (still vague) scheme 75 years ago, but he was only one arrested. When Blackwood offers him freedom in exchange for giving up his co-conspirators' identities, Ambrose refuses. Blackwood rewards him for loyalty with a position at the Academy of Unseen Arts, slightly loosening the terms of his house arrest.
In season 2 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, we can expect to learn more about Ambrose's past as a raconteur warlock who taught Houdini magic and painted with Surrealists. Ambrose's past is still largely a mystery. Where's his mother? Where did he grow up? How is he technically related to Sabrina? Why do he and Hilda (Lucy Davis) both have British accents, and Zelda (Miranda Otto) does not? All these Ambrose-related questions can only mean one thing: He'll play an even bigger role in season 2.
And who knows? If Ambrose is ever fully liberated from house arrest, we might get a Cousin Ambrose spin-off. Now that would be must-see TV.