Rating: 5 stars
In anticipation of Halloween, Netflix released “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” a show based on an Archie Comics series of the same name. Contrary to what many believe, it bears more similarity to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” than it does to “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” It’s much darker, spookier, and more unsettling than its predecessor. It encompasses a love story, a fight for justice, a conspiracy, a ghost story and a new take on the traditional high school experience.
Sabrina, a half-witch, half-mortal girl, balances between two worlds in the fictional town of Greendale. As her 16th birthday approaches, Sabrina must decide whether to embrace her late father’s side of the family and his coven, “The Church of Night,” or her late mother’s mortal side. It’s a choice she struggles with from the beginning, especially because of her mortal friends, Rosalind (Roz) and Susie, and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey.
As part one of the series progresses, the stakes only increase. On top of Sabrina’s struggle between “the path of night and the path of light,” as her aunt Zelda calls it, her family and her coven face many of their own problems. Her aunts struggle with faith and a strained sisterly relationship, and her cousin with his house arrest due to his involvement in a plot to blow up the Vatican City many years ago.
Her friends face issues of their own. Throughout the show Sabrina’s boyfriend deals with post-traumatic stress disorder and an abusive father. Her friend Roz has a chronic hereditary condition and a curse laid on her family. Susie’s struggle with both bullying and her gender expression is constant. Every action the show takes is deliberate; each line, reaction and movement a character makes helps to round out each character and their individual arc.
“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is also painfully socially relevant from episode one, where the audience is introduced to Susie after she faces transphobic violence from several members of Baxter High’s football team. This prompts Sabrina and Roz to start Women’s Intersectional Cultural and Creative Association, or W.I.C.C.A., against the wishes of school principal Hawthorne.
The show also takes on banned books in schools, disability, racism, abuse and other topics that trouble many teens today. This is what makes this show so relatable, and therefore so important, for teenage viewers, and all who may be affected by any of these issues.
Beyond the content of the show, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is all around very well done. In typical Netflix fashion, it combines excellent effects, makeup and casting to give the audience more than they’re expecting. The only thing it seems to be missing is the wisecracking, sarcastic humor that Salem from “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” brought — but the dark humor throughout definitely makes it a different kind of humorous. This time around, Salem plays a minor — albeit important — role as Sabrina’s silent sidekick, which is definitely more fitting to the tone of this incarnation of Sabrina and her family.
Although it shows a very different Greendale than older fans of Sabrina and her family are used to, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is worth all the hype.