Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

When I was a child, I recall my sisters watching “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.” I sat with them for a moment and asked questions, perplexed by the premise. I then walked away because the show seemed boring to me; a show about magic that appeared to be no different than “Clarissa Explains It All” or “Full House.” Maybe if the show my sisters were watching was more like “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” I would have stuck around. If “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” is the quirky “Batman and Robin” flick, then “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is “The Dark Knight.”

Though both shows draw inspiration from the Archie Comics series that began in the 1970s, this show is not to be mistaken for its sitcom counterpart. For starters, whereas “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” is basically a reinterpretation of the overall story of the original comic series of the same name, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” has far darker origins.

A spin-off of the “Sabrina” comic series, called “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” as well, was created in 2013 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Aguirre-Sacasa wanted to craft a dark reimagining of the “Sabrina” universe, and the comic was a hit with fans — hence the Netflix series.

Sabrina Spellman is a 15-year-old half-witch whose life is about to grow all the more complicated. With her birthday drawing near, on Halloween no less, Spellman must decide whether or not she’ll take part in her dark baptism. The dark baptism was something Spellman’s deceased father wished she would partake in, but Spellman is hesitant to follow through with it; maybe her hesitance has something to do with having to sign a contract with Satan. When Spellman’s options lie between subjugation at the hands of Satan and becoming Satan’s enemy, there’s little room for error.

Kiernan Shipka is the latest actress to take up the mantle of Sabrina Spellman and, though I’m remiss to make the comparison, she blows Melissa Joan Hart out of the water. This is the first I’ve seen of Shipka, though this is far from her first performance. Having experience in both live-action and voiceover performances, Shipka has truly honed her craft to get to where she is, and it shows. Her gripping performance makes it easy to forget that there was ever an actress to portray Spellman before Shipka.

The CGI used in the show really toes the line between cheesy and uncanny in the best way. The story is decent in its structure and only suffers from the occasional pacing issue. The show can also overplay its hand a bit in the way episodes are structured — sorry, but sometimes I just don’t care about how Spellman’s friends are doing.

I appreciate many of the differences in character styles between the two shows. Spellman’s aunts are less of a plot device and far more complex in their presentation. The inclusion of Spellman’s cousin Ambrose is as welcome as Salem no longer being able to speak. Though Spellman’s friends are the least interesting part of the show, that still makes them the least interesting part of a very interesting show. Rosalind Walker, Harvey Kinkle and Susie Putnam may take up a tad more screen time than I’d prefer, they all still do a good job propelling the story forth without making me want to turn off the TV.

Ultimately, this is the first season of a series based on a rather short-lived comic book spin-off, so it may be too soon to tell how good this show may or may not be. For now, however, I’d say it’s a decent start to what could be a stellar series.

I give this show 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

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Steven Gonzalez
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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

by Steven Gonzalez time to read: 2 min