Sabrina Spellman played by Kiernan Shipka. Picture: Netflix
Sabrina Spellman played by Kiernan Shipka. Picture: Netflix

'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' is not a nostalgia trip

By Jamal Grootboom Time of article published Oct 31, 2018

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Forget everything you know about the original TV show "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" because the only thing it has in common with Netflix's "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" is the character names.

The Netflix original series takes its cue from the original comic book but with a darker tone and uses Satanism as a metaphor for religious rituals with Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) taking centre stage as the disrupter. 

The first episode kicks off with an hour-long episode and setups up the magical world and the overall tone of the show. Sabrina is approaching her 16th birthday and getting ready for her black baptism where has to sign the Book of the Beast. That means signing her soul over to the Dark Lord, and relinquishing her mortal life to gains magical perks like ageing slowly. 

Sabrina, as a half wich half mortal, is very conflicted with the ideology behind this, as she has a foot in both worlds. 

This is the main theme throughout the show is Sabrina constantly challenging what the other witches willfully go along with as they consider the norm.

And while she does succeed most of the times, there are times that she fails and gains a better understanding of the consequences of magic. 

The characters are also well cast with Sabrina aunts, Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda Spellman (Miranda Otto), gaining real character development throughout the show. 

Zelda Spellman (Miranda Otto) and Hilda (Lucy Davis). Picture: Netflix 

Specifically, Zelda is a hoot. She has some of the best lines and fashion moments throughout. I would personally love a fictional talk with her and Myrtle Snow from American Horror Story with them just sitting around dragging and reading people for filth. 

Her cousin Ambrose Spellman (Chance Perdomo) also acts as her confidant throughout and his relationship with Sabrina is really special. 

Ambrose Spellman (Chance Perdomo). Picture: Netflix

He's also pansexual, is fine as hell and gets a boyfriend which is such a joy having black queer representation.

The show, in general, has great representation across the board. And while the show is a joy to watch, it does have a few problems. Firstly, Sabrina is used as a deus ex machina a lot in the show. With her being the solution to almost every problem while has very little formal witchcraft training yet. Plot points are also either abandoned or ever explained. 

For example, character's mention that Sabrina is special and the Dark Lord sends a whole brigade of demons her way to get her on his side but we never get a reason why. Not an even a prophecy. Nothing. 

Furthermore, the parameters for magic use are also never set properly and characters jump between using Latin for spells and rhyming sentences.  With no one giving an indication as to which one is more powerful.  And the third act is also weak with big bad seemingly coming out of nowhere. Sabrina's mortal side along with her friends and town is also a big snooze. I found myself zoning every time a scene centred on the mortals. 

Overall, this is another home run for Netflix and I hope with the next season we get an explanation as to why Sabrina is so special and explore the lighter side of magic. If you love supernatural shows then you'll enjoy this spooky reimagining. 

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