Sabrina Loses Her Magic
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Netflix’s “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” a TV adaptation of the comic based on the Archie franchise, dropped a couple weeks ago. The series, comprised of 10 hour-long episodes, follows teenage girl Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka). Half mortal and half witch, Sabrina is told to choose between the two worlds on her 16th birthday, and season one chronicles the chaos as she tries to balance her loyalty to both.
Right off the bat, it’s hard to get a sense of what the show is going for. At times it feels like an attempted Rosemary’s baby-esque supernatural horror, but it reads more like “Charmed.” The gore and violent scenes are overdone. It’s more laughably cringey than it is scary or sexy, the production value of the show not nearly high enough to justify it reaching for a really frightening premise. It’s written similarly to Riverdale—essentially a soap opera—with the dialogue stiff and often overdone. That doesn’t stop the series from continuing to push the horror angle though, with frequent cameos from “Satan,” a goat-headed creature that’s more ridiculous than fear-inspiring.
The show also tries to take on the sexism of the original comic by turning Sabrina into a feminist superhero, which pretty much falls flat. The portrayal of Sabrina and her friends’ feminist crusade is entirely cliché, and it feels much more like a commodification of dissent than an actual feminist message. There’s no nuance or dimension; the girls take on a blatantly sexist principal with no character development, without satisfying resolution. Other than that, the feminist group Sabrina started doesn’t do much of anything aside from making long inspiring speeches. The plotline is so underdeveloped that it can’t be taken seriously; it’s not portrayed as an actual passion of Sabrina’s, but rather as just another manifestation of her superhero-esque sense of justice, which doesn’t do the show any favors.
There are a few bright spots in the series. Shipka is, as always, charming on screen, gifting Sabrina an intelligence that’s definitely not written into the show. There are moments when the viewer genuinely connects with Sabrina. She’s played with a sincerity that’s appealing, even when the script falls short. Sabrina’s aunts, Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto), are another highlight, their dysfunctional relationship a source of much needed comic relief when the show gets too heavy or self-righteous.
Still, this isn’t enough to save the series from itself. Though the idea is appealing, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” just can’t master the balance that its predecessors have—such as shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where dark humor balances out a genuine serious undertone. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” doesn’t quite reach the threshold for a really fear-inspiring show. Instead it comes off like any other soap: amusing, but not quite memorable.