If you could mix Stranger Things, Riverdale, and the spooks that arise when watching an Alfred Hitchcock film, the result would be Netflix’s latest release Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Although it may not be as adventurous as advertised, the show sets up a plotline that is appealing to current crowds, channeling a ’50s-meets-modern-day vibe in its set design, music selection, and fashion, as well as a progressive voice that touches on issues faced by teens nowadays. Starring Mad Men alum Kiernan Shipka as leading teenage witch Sabrina, the show gives a whole new meaning to the Spellman family name.
Over the first couple of episodes, “Chapter One: October Country” and “Chapter Two: The Dark Baptism,” the show explains Sabrina’s life in Glendale. In the town over from Riverdale—yes that Riverdale—she is raised by her aunts Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto). The quirks of Hilda and Zelda that existed in the ABC show Sabrina the Teenage Witch are not found in Netflix’s take on the Archie comic-based crew, which is a sad loss, but it would not simply fit the theme of the show. Everyone’s favorite boy next door Harvey Kinkle, played by Disney alum Ross Lynch, remains a prominent figure in this revamp. Alongside Harvey are Sabrina’s two best friends Rosalind (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie (Lachlan Watson), who provide strong female voices that help give the show its progressive charm.
Rightfully born on Halloween, Sabrina approaches her 16th birthday, which happens to fall on a blood moon eclipse. Her not-so-sweet 16 is when she must accept her life as a witch, something she struggles with because she is technically half mortal, and sign her name and life away to serving the Dark Lord, also known as Satan. By signing her name in her blood, she is to give up her mortal life, something a 16-year-old girl with a boyfriend and two best friends she loves dearly has extreme difficulty doing. Her aunts, who raised her after her parents’ deaths, are faithful to the Dark Lord and urge Sabrina to join the Church of Night. Sabrina notices hesitation from Hilda eventually and has visions of the horrors that will ensue if she chooses to sign herself away. Sabrina continues to ask the tough questions, including asking what will happen if she uses her free will to vocalize her dissatisfaction with the false promises made to her in her and the Dark Lord’s union. Here is where her character development begins and exceeds expectations.
A few notes must be made on the series, especially regarding its sleepiness factor. Although the show is well cast and each shot feels and looks well thought out, the episodes pack too much into them. The duller scenes between the fast-paced antics lose the audience momentarily. The typical quirks that often exist in shows about high schoolers are present, but unlike Riverdale, these quirks are easier to either overlook or appreciate. When the scenes are good, which occurs most often, the show is worth the viewing. As Sabrina tackles misogyny, the creepiest of creatures, and homophobes, it makes up for the tidbits of lackluster.
Despite its handful of bumps, there is much to be praised in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, namely its cinematic elements. Every scene gives off an eerie vibe, with a slight fog and shades of red not only lining Baxter High but also following Sabrina into the woods and her family’s mortuary. The series echoes its sister show Riverdale, set in another town with an ever-present haze. The scenery, paired well with jump scares, helps keep the audience in awe during the slightly unnecessary filler scenes and on edge during the best of it all.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina hits high notes in regard to creating an enticing witchy world to pull the viewers in for the 10-episode season. As she stumbles through being an honest 16-year-old, along with the added mischief of her half-witch blood, she becomes admirable and real, regardless of her capability to cast a few spells on the principal and bullies. Although outrageous, Sabrina’s journey to take down the Devil provides an opportunity for another series with a strong female lead, who not only has killer retro clothes and quick wit, but also a drive that will have you cheering on Ms. Spellman during her gruesome, humorous, and genuinely entertaining “adventure.”
Featured Image by Netflix