Review: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
By Meredith Fuentes
I grew up reading Archie Comics. I would make my mom drive me to the nearest Barnes & Noble, because that’s what we did back then, and buy me whatever issue I thought I hadn’t read yet. I am not a little kid reading comic books in the back seat anymore and now as I have matured, my favorite comic books did as well. Much like the CW did with Riverdale, Netflix has reimagined the Archie Comic Series, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, as a dark, twisted coming of age story. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina shows a darker side of the comic book and 90s sitcom, and I am not convinced that it lives up to my wicked expectations.
The series is centered around Sabrina’s attempt to navigate her life as half mortal, and half witch. Her friends Rosalind Walker (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie Putnam (Lachlan Watson), along with her boyfriend Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch), tie her to the mortal world just as she is supposed to sign her soul over to the devil during her dark baptism on her sixteenth birthday. Sabrina, who is enamored with her boyfriend and concerned for the safety of her friends in a school that is overflowing with toxic masculinity and sexism, attempts to use her powers to protect the people on earth that she loves. This effort, however, is complicated by Ms. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), one of Sabrina’s teachers who has been possessed, and her attempts to convince Sabrina to abandon her mortal life and sign the Book of the Beast.
While Sabrina’s friends hold her firmly in the mortal world, her family tethers her to the witch realm. Her father, a high priest of the church of night, and her mother, a mortal, died in a mysterious accident when she was a baby, therefore she lives with her two aunts, Zelda, and Hilda (Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis) and her cousin. Zelda Spellman is a pious, blunt woman who is entirely devoted to the Church of Night and the Dark Lord. Her sister, on the other hand, you guessed it, is the exact opposite. Hilda Spellman is bubbly and loves engaging with mortals.
Zelda Spellman can be best described as a genuine headache. She is clearly modeled after the devout, God-loving woman we see in real life, reading her bible and passing judgment on anyone and everyone. She is entirely focused on how the Spellman family looks in the Dark Lord’s eyes; she goes to shocking, and honestly disgusting means to ensure that her family name is maintained.
Sabrina’s cousin, Ambrose Spellman (Chance Perdomo), is by far the best character on the show. Ambrose’s character is extremely dynamic. He is clever and wicked, but he is also smitten for a boy he met at one of the funerals held at the family’s mortuary. Ambrose also struggles throughout the series with the status of his house arrest, he is desperate to be in the outside world because he fears that if he doesn’t get out he could disappear and no one would miss him. He loves and supports Sabrina, but he isn’t afraid to criticize her when she makes mistakes. Without Ambrose, the show would be bleak and exhausting.
Speaking of exhausting, each episode of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is about 60 minutes long. SIXTY MINUTES! That is way too long for this series, especially with all the strange and awkward dialogue. I could go through the script with a red pen and cut each one down to a tight 45 in the time it takes to make it through a single episode. The script is worsened by the sometimes painful acting. Ross Lynch’s lines make Harvey Kinkle the sweetest, most devoted boyfriend in the world, but they also make him incredibly cheesy and embarrassing. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina created a 16-year-old boy that would whisper sweet nothings into the heart of every girl watching, which is just a little too unrealistic for me.
Pause. I feel as though I am being a little harsh on the show because I can complain all I want about the awkward script and the crazy plot lines, but the truth is I was entertained. I was constantly kept on my toes and wanted to watch the next episode. I finished all ten in just two days. Also, the show is filled with feminist icons who get things done. The list of strong female characters is long: The Weird Sisters, Zelda, Hilda, Ms. Wardwell, Ros, Susie, and of course Sabrina herself. At the beginning of the show these women mainly tear each other down. Throughout the series, however, they form a sort of sisterhood that causes them to support one another in a world controlled by men. The show has faults, but when season two comes out you can count on me to tune in.