“So let’s say you’re a kid, a normal kid, with a normal life. And one day you wander into a cave, and this wizard who lives in the cave, says he’ll grant you all these superpowers. In exchange for these powers, you have to give up everything else in your life. Your school, your friends, your girlfriend. What would you do?”
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is an American supernatural horror web television series developed by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa for Netflix, based on the comic book series of the same name.
The entire first season, consisting of 10 episodes, was released on October 26, 2018.
Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) juggles life as a sophomore at Baxter High and as a witch with her Aunts Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto) in this darker coming-of-age series based on the comic book series of the same name.
Sabrina Spellman is about to turn 16—on Halloween no less. She spends her days hanging with her boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch), and best friends Roz and Susie (Jaz Sinclair and Lachlan Watson). However, on her 16th birthday she must fully embrace her witch half through a dark baptism, where she will pledge loyalty to the Dark Lord Satan. But Sabrina is torn, as she must choose between her friends and her family.
Sabrina spends the days leading up to her birthday finding answers to her questions about the ritual. Meanwhile, Sabrina’s mortal teacher Ms. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez) is killed and then possessed by Madam Satan, who seeks to bring Sabrina over to the Dark Lord’s side. Sabrina must also deal with three sister witches known as the Weird Sisters, who look down on her for being a “half-breed”.
Sabrina and her family are visited by Father Blackwood, the High Priest of the Church of Night. Blackwood seeks to reassure Sabrina and answer her questions about her baptism in order to sway her. Meanwhile, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) deals with a corpse for the Spellman funeral home who he believes was a warlock—and possibly killed by a witch hunter. Sabrina’s friend, Susie, is being bullied by four football players, causing Sabrina to take matters into her own hands. She teams up with the Weird Sisters to teach the boys a lesson by scaring them and having fun in the process. However she is still racked with the choice.
Sabrina’s birthday arrives, and she decides to spend her last night with her friends at a Halloween party. As midnight approaches, Sabrina heads toward her dark baptism with unease. The ritual is completely different than what Blackwood described and at the last minute Sabrina denies the Dark Lord and flees, she is attacked in the woods but arrives at her house. There, she proclaims her refusal to sign the Book of the Beast, ending the baptism. Sabrina must deal with the aftermath of her decision to leave her dark baptism, while The Church of Night decides to sue her for going against her promise to the Dark Lord.
What follows is a series of events in which the Spellman family’s past comes to light, along with Greendales’ dark history and Sabrina must ultimately choose a side.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was my biggest surprise of the year, surprising in how much of a disappointment it was. Let me start by saying that I, on the whole, enjoyed the main Spellman family. The best episode of the season was episode 5 because it didn’t cut away to anyone else, it was solely based at the mortuary with our key players. Therein lies a huge problem with this season. Too often the show focuses on side characters, when I signed up for the titular main cast. In the original sitcom you only ever saw the supporting cast in school or if they visited the house. But in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina I’d argue they got equal amounts of screen time as the protagonist.
Additionally, Sabrina’s friends, although important to the plot, feel as if they only exist to push a political agenda. Which is another issue I found with the show. I found their characters boring and they spend way too much time focusing on them.
The Netflix series has a great aesthetic and was shot well, but there could have been more time spent in the witch world. When Sabrina did spend time with witches, it was no fun. The Spellman family rarely crack a smile, which begs the question, who would want to be a witch?
The witches and warlocks in this world seem to use their magic more frugally. Whereas Melissa Joan Hart might change her outfit, or use it for all matter of trivial things. Kiernan Shipka turns on the radio once and although she does use verbal spells, she never uses her magic silently or for simple things. I’m not sure if it’s budgetary reasons or something else, but living as a witch in daily life doesn’t seem that different from being a mortal for Sabrina in this season.
Over all, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina unfortunately really bored me and with its concept that’s pretty shocking. I found myself wanting to spin on through the episode as scenes involving side characters dragged on. The witch world didn’t seem much fun, and I found it taken a tad too seriously when certain scenes (The “dishonours” and the court room scene) were so hammy and silly.
My favourite characters that deserve to be mentioned are Mary Wardwell/Madam Satan and Ambrose, who is basically the human Salem, that was created to fill his spot. They are both only ones who seem to be having a good time.
The saving grace the show provided me with to encourage me to watch the next season is the ending and I hope it continues with that.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina - Season 1