Get Ready, Witches
This article was written by Coleen McKenzie and Nahjeniq Buchanan
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is anything but similar to the 1996 version, Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The 10-episode series has more twist and turns than one could count, making it truly chilling and adventurous. It isn’t necessarily stated what time period the show takes place in, but given the 50’s look mixed in with today's clothes, one could only assume that it takes place in the 21st Century.
Like the 1996 T.V. show, Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is living with her aunts after her parents died in an “accident.” However, like the comics, she is dealing with all this madness with her cousin, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), by her side. She’s dealing with being half mortal and half witch while going to high school and trying to live a normal life with her boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch). The show could also be compared to any other supernatural T.V. series that has graced our presence in the last decade: Riverdale, Vampire Diaries, The Originals and some incarnations of American Horror Story.
The series starts out with a voiceover from Sabrina Spellman telling a story about a girl who has to choose between the human world and the witch world. The girl turns out to be her. Later on in the night, we see Sabrina marking on a calendar leading up to her birthday on October 31st and the day of her dark baptism.
As the days lead up to Sabrina’s birthday, she starts to question what she wants for her future. She is faced with problems in both realities. In the human world, she helps out her friends Susie and Roz (Lachlan Watson and Jaz Sinclair). And in the witch world, she finds herself getting bullied by fellow witches, and she starts to question if she wants to sell her soul to the devil. Literally.
The first episode kicks off with a daunting yet alluring title sequence from artist Robert Hack, the man who originally drew the Archie Comics version of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. “Some of it is a straight re-creation of his work on the comic and some of it newly crafted to reflect the looks of the actors.” It is beautifully done and sets the tone for the series. As the episode moves along we are immediately enlightened on what Sabrina is struggling with.
Her sixteenth birthday is fast-approaching, and she is still unsure if she wants to sign herself over to the Dark Lord for the rest of her life. Her aunts Zelda (Miranda Otto) and Hilda (Lucy Davis) try to convince her through their own methods, but the show clearly depicts Zelda as the more aggressive aunt as she is revealed to sign Sabrina’s name in the Dark Lord’s book herself when she was just a baby. This does give us a refreshing dynamic between the two aunts that we have not seen before. There is even a moment where Zelda becomes so irked by Hilda’s more affectionate approach that she knocks her in the back of the head with a hammer and stashes her in the backyard. When asked where Hilda is she simply responds with:
“She annoyed me, so I killed her and buried her in the yard.”
It certainly sets a more vengeful mood in the series. Sabrina even feels compelled to cast a spell on her high school principal, Principal Hawthorne, to create a new club for women at her school. The spell, however, attracts a plethora of spiders to his house, and he is extremely arachnophobic. It begs the question if every choice she makes with her magic is entirely necessary, but it is entertaining.
Nevertheless, the show could improve when it comes to character development, particularly with the supporting characters such as Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose Spellman and one of Sabrina’s close friends, Susie Putnam. Ambrose has been under house arrest at the Spellman home for over 75 years. It is a punishment enforced by the Witches Council for a crime he committed, but we never really get to understand why he did it or the man he was before he became Sabrina’s helpful co-conspirator. The same goes for Susie, a girl defying gender roles in high school. She is constantly bullied by the jocks, and as the series progresses, she gains more confidence in herself. But there are plot holes concerning her family life and how her dad feels about her.
Throughout the season, Sabrina deals with bullying, finding her own voice, and ultimately sacrificing herself. The series also offers an element of feminism and trying to upheave the patriarchy. Sabrina’s dilemma is whether she should lean more towards her mortal or witch side. Signing herself over to the Dark Lord will give her all the power she desires as a full witch, but she will lose free-will. When asking another witch (Tati Gabrielle) who has already signed herself away in the book why the Dark Lord will not allow you to have power and freedom she frankly responds with:
“He’s a man isn’t he?”
Netflix executive Cindy Holland states in a meeting with the show’s creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa that “women’s empowerment, women’s sexuality, women controlling their own bodies, all that stuff is happening now.” And the show highlights that within all the spell-casting and dark magic.
The haunting season will leave you wanting more and wondering what happens now. Leaving only one simple question: when is season two coming?
Give this show a shot. You’ll be telling your friends “I’ll bewitcha in a minute.”