Possible spoilers ahead!
Sabrina the Teenage Witch is back on tv in the new Netflix series “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” But Sabrina’s world is far darker than anything you’ve seen before. In other words: forget the old tv show. This time around, Sabrina Spellman is played by Kiernan Shipka (“Mad Men”). She’s a soon to be 16-year-old high school student who is half mortal and half witch.
As her birthday rapidly approaches, Sabrina struggles with her upcoming Dark Baptism, a ceremony which will see her bound to the dark lord himself. She understands signing the dark book is her calling, and by joining she’ll become a full witch and have use of all her witchy powers. But given the violent apocalyptic visions Sabrina encounters before the ceremony, she can’t decide which path to take.
Going ahead with the baptism requires Sabrina to attend a secret academy for witches, which means leaving behind the only family she’s ever known: aunts Zelda (Miranda Otto), and Hilda (Lucy Davis). Sabrina would also say goodbye to her town, school, and friends Ros (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie (Lachlan Watson), and her wholesome and devoted boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch).
Sabrina has a tough choice ahead of her. One that isn’t made easier when outside forces appear to be pulling her in different directions.
Forget everything you ever knew about Sabrina the teenage witch from the old Archie Comics and the ABC TGIF family-friendly sitcom starring Melissa Joan Hart. The new Netflix series, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” is reinventing the entire formula from scratch with a unique mix of darkness, humor, drama, scares, and fun. And it worked on me!
I am rather shocked at how much I enjoyed the “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” It’s been a couple of years since I binged a Netflix show as I did with Sabrina. Normally I’ll watch one or two episodes a day, but with Sabrina, I watched the whole thing before game four of the World Series. The show hooked me from the first episode, perhaps this is due to the show’s darker yet fun tone. But more than likely it’s due to leading lady Kiernan Shipka.
Shipka gives the role of Sabrina a ton of depth, and in a number of ways. From her first love to not wanting to disappoint her aunts, to wanting answers so she can make the best decision possible for her life. She’s sweet an innocent, and one of the most loyal friends you will ever have. Kiernan Shipka nails every dramatic element the script requires. But she does it in such a way that as the viewer, you’re almost instantly like her and are rooting for her.
Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis play Sabrina’s adoptive aunts, and they serve as a bit of comic relief. But nothing like in the ABC show. In the new series, Davis’ Hilda is good-natured and sweet, always looking out for Sabrina. Whereas Otto’s Zelda is an authority figure who wants Sabrina to join the coven whether she wants to or not. But Zelda also takes time from her work as a funeral director to sit on the front porch for a smoke break.
Then there’s Chance Perdomo as Ambrose Spellman, Sabrina’s witch cousin from England. He’s often a voice of reason and occasionally her partner in crime. But Ambrose is forbidden from leaving the Spellman home after being placed under house arrest by the Witches Council for attempting to blow up the Vatican.
Last but certainly not least is Michelle Gomez as Mary Wardwell. She’s Sabrina’s favorite teacher and mentors at Baxter High, but that was before she became possessed by the devil’s handmaiden to become Madam Satan, a cunning manipulator who seems to have her own agenda. Gomez is brilliant in the part, and she’s clearly having a lot of fun with the part.
Sabrina’s friends also deserve mention. Ros (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie (Lachlan Watson), and Harvey (Ross Lynch) are all well-developed. Each got back stories and each one has something to deal with at home. These characters weren’t cartoons like in the old show, and I loved how Sabrina would do anything for them, and they in return. Friends like these are hard to find in the real world.
In the end, the “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is a welcome addition to the expanding, reimagined television world of Archie Comics. This is a show that packs a ton of story into each episode, making each chapter more like a mini-movie than an individual episode.
The sets and cinematography are incredible throughout, giving the show a unique and timeless look. Add in a solid cast led by the talented Kiernan Shipka, and you got a winner, and one of my new favorite Netflix shows.
“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” score: A