I've been anticipating the release of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina for months. As a a self–proclaimed teen drama fiend, a dark remake of Sabrina the Teenage Witch sounded extremely appealing. Whenever a trailer came out for the show, I clicked right away, and each tease made me for excited for the full season. And on Oct. 26, when the first season of the show came out, I was not disappointed.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is about Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) who is half–human, half–witch, because her father decided to break from witch law and have a child with a mortal. The show begins on the precipice of her 16th birthday, where she has to choose between two worlds, the mortal world of her friends and the witch world of her family. If she chooses her witch side, she will become a full member of the Church of Night and sign her name in the Book of the Beast. Sabrina ends up choosing both worlds, continuing regular school at Baxter High and starting her witch education at the Academy of Unseen Arts.
Since both of Sabrina’s parents have died, she lives in the house at the Spellman Mortuary with her two aunts and cousin, who all have magical abilities. Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) is strict with Sabrina and extremely devoted to the Church of Night. Hilda (Lucy Davis) is extremely supportive of Sabrina. Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), who is banned from leaving the Spellman house for trying to blow up the Vatican, is Sabrina’s confidant, and my favorite character by far.
In her human world, Sabrina has her boyfriend Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch), her best friend Roz Walker (Jaz Sinclair), and Susie Putnam (Lachlan Watson). Sabrina doesn't want to leave any of them behind, which in part leads to her not signing her name in the Book of the Beast, and each of her human friends has a surprising connection to the magical world. At the Academy of Unseen Arts, Sabrina deals with your not–so–average mean girls Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), Agatha (Adeline Rudolph), and Dorcas (Abigail Cowen). She also finds an unlikely friend in Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood), who seems to be a potential love interest for Sabrina.
The show comes from Riverdale developer, show–runner, writer, and executive producer, Roberto Aguirre–Sacasa, and you can easily see the show’s influence on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. They're both comic books that were seen as innocent and were turned into a dark, teenage angst–fest. I enjoy both shows, but find Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to be much more compelling and unique. Where Riverdale’s unbelievable scenarios confuse and annoy viewers, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina revels in its own weirdness and the dark components of the show become the best parts.
When Sabrina leans into her power, the show becomes the most interesting, both in its visuals and storytelling. The darkness in Sabrina shows that, like any other teenager, she wants to help her friends and be a good person, but she's often misguided in the ways she goes about showing it. Also, the exploration of the witch religion, the Church of Night, highlights how you need to challenge overreaching forms of authority and question when a high power “tells” someone to perform a task.
However, with amazing witchcraft and wizardry as one part of the show, the normal life, high school part leaves much to be desired. In Sabrina’s relationship with Harvey, it's hard to see the gravity of their relationship and why Sabrina is so attached to him that she cannot become a witch. There's also the character of Susie who questions her gender and is played by a gender non–conforming actor (props to casting), but this is mostly confusing, making fun of the character’s gender while getting no further exploration.
Sabrina also does what a lot of other shows with widely outrageous premises do, which is take a couple of episodes to really figure out what it is trying to accomplish. This is usually all right, but with a ten–episode first season, it was quite noticeable. From my perspective, a lot of the main plot points of the season were unclear until later episodes and made some of the earlier episodes a bit confusing. However, I think with the set up the show has now, the next season will be much better and more focused.
Overall, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has some pretty clear flaws, but is entirely worth watching. There wasn't a moment in my binge where I was bored or wanted to stop watching. The show is escapism in its truest form, and I would recommend it for anyone looking for a fun fall show. But don't start this before any midterms because by the time I reached the end of the season, I was addicted and couldn't wait to see what happened next.