Are You Afraid of the Dark? S1E9 “The Tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice”

I’ve said this before, but I love Betty Ann’s stories. Her tale this week verges more on the mystical fantasy than true horror. It’s a tale that, according to Betty Ann, that has spanned centuries. The tale begins in 1966, with a girl with a cobra tattoo trying to hide from some men trying to chase her. She hides something in a basket, and lowers it into water of the school pool.

In the modern day, “The Tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is about Dean and his friend Alix. Dean isn’t good at much. He doesn’t participate in anything and doesn’t have any friends besides Alix.

Like a normal teenager, Dean doesn’t think he has the power to change any of his luck himself, but instead thinks he’s doomed. This is one of those eye-roll 90’s cliches where the name character is cute but we’re meant to believe he’s a loser. But either way, Dean gets pretty bad grades and is desperate to do better.

One day, an archaeologist named Dr Oliver visits the school and teaches Dean and Alix’s class about several of the artifacts she has. It’s one object in particular that catches Dean’s attention. Dr Oliver shows the children a golden sceptre in the shape of a cobra that apparently belonged to a Babylonian sorcerer.

According the inscription on the sceptre, the sorcerer Goth enslaved people to do his bidding, but following Goth would bring the follower good fortune. After class, Dean asks archaeologist if he can have a closer look at the sceptre. As he stares into the cobra’s eyes, they light up and Dean falls under its spell.

Dean, now in a trance-like state, does into the basement of the school and pulls up the basket that has been forgotten for decades. He removes the hidden object from the basket and takes it with him.

In the following days, Dean gains a new confidence. His hair is better, he sits up straighter, he gets better clothes. He becomes Bobby Briggs. One day during a science exam, he turns in a blank test and puts the teacher under a spell that gives him an A+ for a grade.

Alix notices a change in her friend and tries to talk to him. But he’s over her now that he has a gang of minions to help do his bidding (or Goth’s, rather). Though this is typical hormonal stuff, Alix really knows something is wrong when she catches Dean stealing mercuric acid from the science room.

She follows Dean into the basement room where she spies on him an his similarly-clad friends mixing up a sort-of-potion in a barrel. But Alix is shit at spying and is nearly caught when she knocks over something in the room. After escaping the minions, Alix spies on Dean again as he calls forth Goth by playing the orb from the basket into the secptre’s mouth.

To Alix’s amazement, a head appears in the fumes from the barrel. Goth begins speaking to Dean, but is interrupted when Alix yet again knocks some stuff over.

Alix runs away from Goth and Dean and seeks help from her science teacher, but to Alix’s dismay – the teacher is also under Goth’s influence. The teacher asks Alix to join their group, but the girl leaves in fear. She is caught by Dean when she goes to the auditorium. While he initially seems like himself, he tells her that he enjoys all the fortune brought to him by Goth.

Later that night, Dean and his group are at the school moving barrels of mercuric acid. Alix is there trying to spy, but (shockingly) gets caught yet again. Dean tells his former friend that while he gave her one chance, he isn’t giving her a second. He tells his lackeys to keep her near.

Dean and the others head into the school with Alix. On their journey, Dean tells Alix the story of a girl who, decades before, was found in the pool room completely mad. The room was sealed off eventually, but Dean had managed to get the keys for them to enter.

They enter the pool room and Dean orders the others to start pour in the acid into the pool. In an attempt to stop him, Alix removes the orb from the cobra’s mouth, and the others collapse, apparently out cold. But Dean continues his spell anyway. Finally, Goth is raised from his purgatory (or whatever).

When Goth sees Alix, he decides to kill her after all of her meddling. Awoken by the threats on his friend’s life, Dean turns on his master. He attempts to go to Alix’s help, but is frozen in place by Goth. Dean shouts to Alix, telling to get rid of the sorcerer by pouring chlorine into the pool.

Alix does as she’s told and the sorcerer is sent back. The two friends collapse together. When Alix asks how Dean knew how to get rid of Goth, he tells her that it was something he remembered learning in their science class. Apparently the boy actually learned a trick or two.

After the friends and the former minions leave, Dr Oliver appears to pick up her staff. She tells Goth that there will be more chances to raise him as she’s hidden jewels for the sceptre in schools all over the country.

Betty Ann’s tale is a pretty familiar one, and that’s mostly because it resonates so much. Granted we all can’t raise ancient Babylonian sorcerer’s, but so many people turn on their friends in hopes of achieving something greater. And really, it’s not too hard to turn back to them if you’re willing to admit your mistakes.

In the span of these few episodes, it’s incredible how much the quality of the show has improved. The writing was a touch silly, but the acting was a far improvement in “The Tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” The look of the episodes is far less cheap-looking. And this episode proves the show is just about to hit its stride.

Highlight quotes of the episode:

“Al-IX.” – Dean. Every SINGLE time.

“Mystic River! I’ve done it!” – What Dean says when he raises a god (I think. This might not actually be a quote).

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