When I was younger I wanted to be a witch. I’m not talking about signing my soul to Satan and all that, I just wanted magical powers. I blame my love of witches on shows and movies like Charmed, Halloweentown and of course the OG Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
That was my favorite show as a child. I loved the hijinks and Salem’s sassy lines. I appreciated the love connection between Harvey and Sabrina. There is a lot to love about the original sitcom, but I don’t want to compare it to the newest Netflix reboot.
I’ve had the pleasure of watch The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina early. The show is produced by the same team who brought you the wonderful mess that is Riverdale. The premise is simple: Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka), a half-witch, half-human must choose between her mortal life or the path of darkness. It’s a trope we’ve long grown tired of. A woman forced to choose between two things she really loves! What will she choose? How will she muster up the strength to leave her boyfriend behind?
Yes, it is a tired trope. But by the end of the season, Sabrina Spellman grows into her own, not only as a witch but as a woman. From the first episode we see Sabrina struggling to accept the fact that on her 16th birthday, the day of her dark baptism, she might be signing away her autonomy.
Once a witch signs her name in the book of the beast, she belongs to the Dark Lord. Sabrina wants the power, but she always wants to retain her freedom. It’s Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), a marvelous witch, who reminds her that having both freedom and power is an unrealistic feat for women like them: “He’s a man, isn’t he?” It’s this dichotomy between freedom and power that really sets a grim tone for the series. These women are powerful but also trapped in their own prison created by the Dark Lord himself. Even the Church of Night is dripping with sexism.
It’s the sumptuous visuals and self-aware lines that really portray a haunting and chilling world of Greendale. Sometimes I was frustrated with Sabrina’s love of the mortal world (Let’s be real, being a mortal is a snoozefest). The world of Wicca is enticing and much more interesting than anything the world of Greendale an ever offer (Orgies! Sacrifice!).
There is a lot to say about the season, but I would break down the highlights and downsides of the show.
The highlights were, of course, most of the female characters. The best ones, the evil ones, were fully fleshed out and human. Witchcraft has always been viewed as a practice for women. A community of women sticking together and having their own power.
Aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto) are of course here to lead Sabrina and guide her. The two are completely reimagined from the sitcom, with Zelda being much sharper and witty then Hilda. Netflix’s version of Aunt Hilda is sweeter and more docile, which isn’t bad. I just wish there was a little more edge in her character.
Ambrose Spellman (Chance Perdomo), Sabrina’s cousin and guide is also a delight. He’s pansexual (hello representation), smart and yes very handsome. His character arc doesn’t rely heavily on Sabrina, he can shine as his own separate entity. I hope to see more of him next season.
The A+ role goes to Ms. Wardwell or otherwise known as Madame Satan (Michelle Gomez). She is cunning, manipulative and evil. Everything a good witch should be. Even when she’s trying to manipulate Sabrina into doing her bidding (per order from Satan himself) you kind of almost… root for her.
I would also say that the side characters, Susie (Lachlan Watson), Roz (Jaz Sinclair), and Prudence shine in their own light. While Susie’s storyline could use a little more character development, the two other characters who are black women prove they’re more than just tokens. Roz deals with the possibility of disability and Prudence struggles to maintain her own power.
The greatest downside, however, is attributed to the focus of the mortal world and Sabrina’s romance. Sabrina and Harvey falling in love is canon. You cannot tell the story of Sabrina the teenage witch without including Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch). The problem is the relationship between the two of them is so boring I found myself rooting for Sabrina to fall in love with the sexy, charming warlock Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood). It came to a point where I was yelling at her from my screen.
Why is she so in love with him? I mean is that love really worth giving up a life of awesome magic, for a man with the personality of a wet towel? I would say no.
Besides the failed Harvey romance and lack of voice from our favorite cat, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a deliciously wicked show. The intertwining of themes like freedom, power, and womanhood really blend together to bring wonderfully supernatural horror show.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina streams on Netflix on Friday, October 26th.