Why You Should Be Watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

I first saw the trailer for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (CAOS), a reboot of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, about a week before the show came out on Netflix. Being a fan of the original show, I was immediately drawn to how creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa added his dark twist to Sabrina’s story. However, I was initially skeptical about the show, as I learned that it was the directors of Riverdale who were behind it. This threw me off — I feel as if Riverdale has a much younger target audience, and the plot and script have often frustrated me (I stopped watching after the second season, simply because I had no motivation to). As I’m sure many others can relate, I didn’t want to put in the time to watch a show that could ruin my perception of the greatness of the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sabrina, creates the perfect balance between the character’s two ‘sides’.

I still decided to give CAOS a shot anyway — I have a soft spot for any movies or TV shows with fantastical characters (The Vampire Diaries, Twilight, Harry Potter… the list goes on), and the aesthetic of the trailer really drew me in. I started binge-watching it as soon as it came out, on October 26th, and I simply couldn’t stop until I had finished. My previous doubts about the show melted away as I got to watch the characters of Sabrina Spellman, Harvey Kinkle, Aunt Hilda & Zelda, and many more develop as the plot thickened, and more terrifyingly exciting twists were added to the story. As I was intently watching the episodes, taking in all of Aguirre-Sacasa’s artistic choices, I urged those around me to watch it, too.

Every time magic (whether through a being or a spell) was introduced, the outer edges of the scene would blur, creating an eerie, foreboding tone to the story.

I found that the way COAS was filmed was incredibly unique — I’ve read a couple of reviews that don’t understand Aguirre-Sacasa’s filming style, but I think it’s complementary to the supernaturalness and magicalness that seeps through the entire show. Every time magic or otherworldly occurrences are introduced, the outside edges of the scene start to blur unnaturally, in a way that’s almost unsettling to the viewer. It piques your attention and gives you a warning of something that could be coming Sabrina’s way — something otherworldly. This, paired with the costume choices (lots of gothic/vintage looks), creates an aesthetic that fits with the storyline of Sabrina being a half-witch and half-mortal.

Sabrina at her Dark Baptism, or her initiation to becoming a full witch and accepting the full extent of the powers that Satan can offer her.

Another aspect of CAOS that impressed me from the start is the underlying message that it shares with its audience. CAOS deals with tough topics that most mainstream TV shows tend to ignore: discriminating people who are transgender, white supremacy, and a patriarchal society. The series begins with Sabrina worrying about her Dark Baptism, which is where she signs the "Book of the Beast," giving up her freedom to the "Dark Lord" (Satan) for more power, but she has to obey his every command. Aguirre-Sacasa uses Satan as a metaphorical male figure that controls and takes advantage of these witches, taking away their right to choose. Notice how the photo above shows the dynamic between 16-year-old Sabrina and one of Satan’s "messengers," a "High Priest" (leaders of an "un-holy Church"). These High Priests are all men (surrounded by a band of warlocks, or male witches) and often take advantage (mentally and physically) of the women around them. At the end of the season (trying to minimize spoilers), you see some of these women breaking from conventional norms and reclaim what they can or can’t do.

Susie, pictured left, and Rosalind, pictured right, are Sabrina’s best friends from the human world. They face and overcome their own struggles, learning to accept themselves in the process.

 

I eventually fell in love with the show, and my only regret is that I watched it too fast. I love all of the little details that no one sees coming, the character arc that Sabrina gets as she matures and discovers her half-witch side, and the themes of love, power, sacrifice, and justice that are at play throughout the series. I’m already looking forward to season 2 (rumored to be coming out around Valentine’s Day) and I can’t wait to see what chilling and haunting adventure Sabrina embarks on next.

If you’re like me and spooky season is all year round, grab some snacks, maybe a friend, get comfortable, and watch The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

 

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