BY MELISSA REESE
Netflix’s newest series “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” may be a reboot of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” but the only thing it seems to have in common with the original series is the characters of Sabrina, Hilda, Zelda, Harvey and Salem.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who also reinvented the story of “Riverdale” for The CW, wrote the graphic novel on which the show is based.
“In the town of Greendale, where it always feels like Halloween, there lived a girl who was half-witch, half-mortal, who, on her sixteenth birthday, would have to choose between two worlds: the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends … and that girl is me,” Sabrina Spellman begins the series in a voiceover.
Sabrina is faced with the inevitability of having to sign her name in the Book of the Beast during her dark baptism, essentially signing her freedom away to the Dark Lord. What Sabrina craves more than anything is both freedom and power, but the patriarchal system of the witch community will not allow such a thing, because men fear the threat of women in positions of power and authority.
Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sabrina Spellman, truly shines in this role, and gets to showcase her immense talent by illustrating Sabrina’s dual witch and mortal nature. In the past, she played Betty Draper’s daughter Sally on “Mad Men,” but now that she is a grown actress, she can play more adult roles.
The series maintains its predecessor’s theme of the importance of family. Sabrina relies heavily on her aunts Hilda and Zelda, but more so Hilda, because she is much more nurturing.
The humor of this show is much darker than its original. Where the humor of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” was based on small familial dramatic moments, the humor of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is based on allusions to classic horror films and critiques of the patriarchal structure of Baxter High and the Church of Night.
The series takes the darkness of witchcraft to the umpteenth level.
Not only does the series mainly take place in the darkness of night, but the show also expands upon the inherent darkness in people, thus making it feel more realistic, even though it is a show about witchcraft and magic.
In the original series and in the comics, Harvey Kinkle is a very naïve, clueless character. In this version of the story, he has a much more meaningful connection to Sabrina and is more of a feminist character with an interesting storyline. He battles between loving and distrusting Sabrina and has PTSD from his experience of seeing a demon in the mines and later being forced to work there by his raging, belligerent alcoholic father.
Although the series retains the main characters of the original series, it also introduces the new characters Mary Wardwell/Madam Satan, Rosalind Walker, Susie Putnam, the Weird Sisters, Prudence, Agatha and Dorcas, as well as Ambrose Spellman, Father Faustus Blackwood and Nicholas Scratch.
One of the biggest mysteries of the show is the true motivation and nature of Sabrina’s history teacher Mary Wardwell. At times, she seems to be aiding Sabrina, but it always seems that she is trying to thwart her plans.
“I know you’re scared, Sabrina. Because all women are taught to fear power. Own it,” Mary Wardwell tells her.
This show feels very inclusive with its representation of women, a nonbinary character who is portrayed by a nonbinary actor, people of color and PTSD. Sabrina and Rosalind also start a club called Women’s Intersectional Cultural and Creative Association, a club about women protecting women, after Susie is assaulted by the boys on the football team who rip off her shirt to determine whether she is a boy or a girl.
Some Christian viewers may be off-put by the heavy amount of Satanic rituals and worship and religious zealotry in this series. Father Blackwood almost seems to be the leader of a cult, and Zelda is his most loyal servant and member of the Church of Night.
Sabrina’s aunt Zelda is a true Satanical believer. She is often extremely, and unnecessarily, harsh with her and her sister Hilda, all in the name of worshipping the Dark Lord, Satan.
Viewers of the original series will be disappointed that Salem does not speak in the show. Only Sabrina can hear his voice.
However, the show does elaborate more on the connection a witch has to their familiar. All witches and warlocks have a familiar, a demon goblin that has transformed into the shape of an animal, whose voice only they are able to hear.
One of the most impressive parts of the show is the opening credits sequence in which the graphic novel is made into a thrilling animation for all horror and comic book fans.
This show has a high production value, and each shot is framed in an iconic and beautiful way. The sets, especially the Spellman household and the Academy of Unseen Arts, are elaborately and carefully decorated.
Overall, this series is a fascinating, intriguing and mysterious new take on the story of Sabrina Spellman.
Sabrina’s choice in the season one finale is sure to upset some viewers, so definitely stick with it.
The Flyer gives season one of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” an 8/10.