The Witching Hour is Upon Us! - “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” Review

The revival we’ve all been waiting for, the childhood memories, the nostalgia, with an extreme “BOO!!” factor. On October 26th, a couple of days before Halloween, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” came out on Netflix to spook everyone.

Image Source: IMDb

With each episode having approximately one hour of duration, you’ll have plenty of content to watch ‘till the end of November. This reboot of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” is scarier and very much darker than the original, and is based on the 2014 Archie Comics graphic novel series, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, which also rebooted the previous comic version, “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”, as a more serious, spookier take on the story. The show follows the comic’s aesthetic and has similar vibes to The CW show, Riverdale, since they were both created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.

If you are looking for some light-hearted comedy to watch, this may not be the best show for you, but if you would like to experience something with more drama and horror, this is your chance. And now we'll tell you why.

Image Source: IMDb

From 1996 to 2003, Melissa Joan Hart played our beloved Sabrina Spellman, a student who, at sixteen years old, discovered that as part of a witch family, she had magical powers and needed her two aunts to teach her how to control them. On this new version, Sabrina is played by Kiernan Shipka, Mad Men's scene-stealer.

Shipka is accompanied by names such as Ross Lynch (Harvey Kinkle), from "Austin & Ally" and "My Friend Dahmer"; Lucy Davis (Hilda Spellman), from "The Office", Miranda Otto (Zelda Spellman), best known for her role as Eowyn in Lord of the Rings, and Michelle Dominguez (Madam Satan), from "Doctor Who", for example. And since the original cast - including Hart and Caroline Rhea - has sent their “Best Witches” to the new cast already, and seem pretty excited to watch the revival, it’s pretty safe to assume that we’re all expecting a treat, and not a trick.

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The main plot is basically the same. Except this time Sabrina was raised knowing she’s a witch and needs to make a very important decision: she needs to choose between her family's witch world and her friends' human world. This choice involves a Dark Baptism on her sixteenth birthday, signing her name on the Book of the Beast, pledging her loyalty to the Dark Lord, aka Satan, who’ll bestow her with her full witch powers and a longer lifespan, and leaving Baxter High to go to the Academy of Unseen Arts. Picking one life automatically means saying goodbye to the other, which, to Sabrina, makes no sense.

This dilemma fuels the entire first season plot, cause even though Sabrina has made her decision, that’s not what the Dark Lord has envisioned for her future, he needs her to sign her name on his book. There’s something to say here about religion, the patriarchy and the fact that a woman needs to abdicate her freedom to gain power. But Sabrina, being a child of both mortal and magic worlds, doesn’t settle for that, she wants her power AND her freedom. One of the witches, Prudence Night (Tati Gabrielle), explains it to Sabrina at one point, saying “He’ll never give you that. The Dark Lord. The thought of you, of any of us having both terrifies him.” And when Sabrina asks her why, she simply responds: “He’s a man, isn’t he?”.

Image Source: IMDb

Magic in this show is depicted as a religion and elements of occultism are a big part of the plot. That’s right, witches and warlocks are baptised under the Church of Night, worship Satan, do some satanic rituals, sometimes engage in cannibalism, human sacrifices, etc. All that under the strict leadership of Father Faustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle). The Church of Night claims to be all about free will (is it really though?) and it’s meant to be the complete opposite of the mortal world and the Catholic Church, which they often say is based on a false god. There are actually some funny lines the characters say from time to time, like “Thank Satan” instead of “Thank God”, “Your Dishonor” when talking to members of a court and “unholy shit” as a curse. Beware, Satan is praised quite often in every single episode.

The show deals with some other issues, like censorship and freedom of speech, centered around Sabrina’s friend, Roz Walker (Jaz Sinclair), who uncovers the practice of censoring books at Baxter High and bullying, suffered by Susie Putnam (Lachlan Watson), who’s constantly assaulted by boys for not looking like what’s considered normal for a girl and who later explores her gender identity.

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Kiernan Shipka plays a confident, fierce Sabrina, who’s willing to do anything to help the people she loves. The teen witch is constantly torn between the temptation of her magical powers and her love for her mortal friends and boyfriend. She goes from creating a women’s support group (WICCA, or Women's Intersectional Cultural and Creative Association) in her high school to eventually messing with necromancy and along her story arc her fatal flaw is her hubris. Believing she can navigate both mortal and magical worlds, she sees herself as capable of bending the rules to get what she wants and things (surprise!) don’t always end up the way she expected.

Now, addressing Salem, the iconic character from “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”, no, he doesn’t talk this time (not exactly), or play a big part in the story. But, as everything else in Sabrina’s life, he’s not the usual “familiar”, as proven by his origin story in the show.

Besides Shipka, there are other great performances on the show. Jaz Sinclair and Lachlan Watson are both great as Sabrina’s best friends, outspoken Roz and shy Susie. Ross Lynch plays an endearing Harvey, who has his own dilemma of following his family’s footsteps and working on the Greendale mines or pursuing a career as a comic book artist (deemed by his father as a career not fit for a man). Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto play the dynamic of sisters really well, the first as caring Hilda and the second as strict Zelda and both powerful amazing witches. Michelle Dominguez shines as Madam Satan, major sneaky manipulator who seems to be pulling Sabrina’s strings the entire season and orchestrator of every single event that moves the plot along. Besides all that, you’ll probably get obsessed with the soundtrack, so, to save you the trouble, here’s a playlist.

Image Source: IMDb

If this plot doesn't seem like a good Halloween story, I don't know what does. “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is a great twist on a childhood favorite and a very engaging show (Praise Satan, the second season has already been confirmed by Netflix!), and if you're looking for something other than the classics to watch on the end of this spooky season, maybe this one will draw your attention. Want to see for yourself? You can watch the trailer here.