If you thought Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was going to be a true reboot of the ’90s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, think again.
The whimsy and hilarity of the show starring Melissa Joan Hart has been replaced with darkness and horror in this 2018 adaptation with Kiernan Shipka in the titular role. Coming off the success of Riverdale — the teen drama loosely based on the characters of the Archie Comics — showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa created Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to exist in this same comic-inspired universe. Based on the 2014 Archie comics, the show follows Sabrina Spellman, a half-witch, half-mortal teenager who must choose between the witch world of her family and the mortal world of her friends.
Rather than focusing on the humor that comes from being a half-witch in a fully mortal world, as was the case with the 1996 series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina takes a much darker route to highlight the witchcraft and horror of the supernatural universe. This revival delves into the debate of good versus evil and light versus darkness, which is a nice turn of events as the past Sabrina spinoff felt very one-note.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina makes a conscious effort to remain topical and tackle the struggles of today in regards to gender and power. The show properly unravels this complex notion that both acknowledges the necessity for women to claim power, while remaining acutely aware of the fact that much of this power is still at a man’s discretion.
This struggle for power is most visible in Sabrina’s dilemma of whether to choose the witch world over her mortal world. If she chooses to be reinstated as a full witch, she must undergo a dark baptism, which is a sacrificial ceremony that reaffirms her commitment to the witch world and gives her body and soul to the Dark Lord, the scary male leader of witchcraft. The conflicting irony of having to give herself to a man to relinquish her full powers is too much for Sabrina to handle and causes her to question the entire witching establishment.
While this may seem rather trivial, these are complex issues that women face day in and day out in today’s society. Raising these topics in a new and relevant fashion, as in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, offers more opportunities for these issues to be discussed and will hopefully enact some sort of progress and change in real life.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina maintains its relevance with its action-packed plot lines and extremely likable characters. It’s a good thing that this series is a Netflix original because this is some very binge-worthy material.
As someone who tends to shy away from horror and spookiness, I had my reservations before starting this show. But Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does a great job of using its horror to entice the viewer rather than scare them away. I never struggled to fall asleep after an episode, but the darkness of the show did add an element of surprise that was not present in the ’90s sitcom.
The only real downside of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is that viewers will likely have to wait several months for season two to arrive, so resist the urge to binge. Those 10 episodes will be gone before you know it, and you’ll be sitting there craving more like the rest of us.