It’s witch season: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Review
Call me clairvoyant, but I had an itch (or a “cunning” if you will) for some Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and on the 26th of October, Netflix blessed us with a chilling revival of the Archie Comics classic.
Although there are few similarities with the 90’s show, there’s still enough to appeal to the nostalgic sensibilities of those who watched it. For the younger viewers who haven’t watched it, but are fans of Riverdale, you may enjoy this revival too as both shows share the same creator and universe.
Half-witch Sabrina Spellman, played by Mad Men actress Kiernan Shipka, must make an important decision on her 16th birthday about whether she will take the path of light (the human world) or the path of night (the witch world).
Having already made strong emotional connections with her human best friends and boyfriend, this proves to be a hard decision. It’s never easy to just pick up and leave everything that means something to you, especially when you’re a teenager. So Sabrina starts to question why she has to choose, if it’s really a choice and what it means for her in the wider sense.
What puts the cherry on top of this show is that it’s not just a story about witches. It’s a story about witches who live in a patriarchal society where they have to sign away their free will to Satan, a man. Sound familiar?
When Sabrina expresses her confusion for why she has to sacrifice her freedom to Satan in exchange for the power of being a witch, Prudence, played by the formidable Tati Gabrielle, explains, “The thought of you, of any of us having both terrifies him.” When Sabrina asks why, she replies simply, “He’s a man, isn’t he?”
Creator, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, so casually interweaves the struggles of growing up as a girl in a boy world and the rise of women empowerment into the witch narrative, that you relate quite easily to Sabrina. Even amidst the spells, curses, resurrections and exorcisms at Greendale, which are carried out in a very American Horror Story: Coven fashion, it makes me wonder, maybe we’re all just witches inside?
In the ebbs and flows of the show, other important themes are explored like having a fervent belief in an affiliation (whether that’s in a church, political group or the dark lord), sexual fluidity and gender identity. Sabrina’s smooth and witty cousin Ambrose (who is a new instalment in the Sabrina world), played by Chance Perdomo, is pansexual. To me, he seemed like a talking Salem (Salem the cat didn’t have a voice in this revival), as Ambrose had a similar personality to Salem, who is also a warlock – one that had committed a crime and was punished. He’s a good addition.
In terms of gender identity, one of Sabrina’s best friends Susie Putnam, played by Lachlan Watson, discovers ‘their’ non-binary identity throughout the show, which highlights the struggle of growing up questioning your identity. Lachlan themselves identifies as non-binary, which proves to be a win for non-binary actors. The cast is also quite culturally diverse, which is refreshing to see.
Sabrina’s aunts, Hilda and Zelda, are the dark-humoured comedic release of the show. Their relationship is a testing one, and we watch them battle it out daily, hoping they’ll find Satan and forgive.
Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey, played by Ross Lynch, reminded me of Steve Harrington from Stranger Things and Dean Forester from Gilmore Girls. There are aspects of his story that are interesting, like his artistic capabilities and his family struggles, but he’s mostly this cute and nerdy character that lacks bit of depth. In fact, that goes for most of the human characters, and I felt myself wanting to get to know them a bit more. But it doesn’t take away from the show too much and hey, at least everyone’s well dressed!
The show can be analysed in many ways, but to put it simply, it’s a splendid, spooky resurrection of a much loved story which makes for a great Halloween screening on the couch, with the lights off, popcorn and a side of family and friends.
In fact, I think I may watch it again – thanks Satan and Happy Halloween.