I have a love-hate relationship with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix because they have a habit of advertising such a dark and grim story but then pull back their punches so that no major consequences take place. For those unaware, This adaptation of the “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” tale is a dark coming-of-age story that traffics in horror and the occult. In the reimagined origin story, Sabrina Spellman wrestles to reconcile her dual nature — half-witch, half-mortal — while standing against the evil forces that threaten her, her family — including aunts Hilda and Zelda — and the daylight world humans inhabit. Kiernan Shipka (“Mad Men”) leads the cast in the titular role of the show that is based on a comic series of the same name.
A part of me understands that the show is aimed at teenagers and young adults so there is a major focus on aesthetics and attitude rather than horror but another part of me recalls how much potential this show had to be truly great. One that Sabrina was torn between two worlds one terrible and dark and the other was that of a normal mortal.
In the first season, we watched Sabrina struggle to balance her life as a mortal, hiding the fact she was a witch from her friends, and then attended the School of Night in order to fulfill her destiny as a witch. All the while there was such a thick layer of mystery and intrigue as to how her parents died, why she was so important, and more. They made a promise to the viewer that as long as we kept watching we would be given a “chilling tale” that would shock and awe.
A synopsis of the story thus far:
The third season of the show has Sabrina facing the aftermath of her decision to have Lilith be the Queen of Hell and then lock Lucifer in Nick’s body. Her friend Theo(Who originally was known as Susie and then transitioned) once saw the ghost of her ancestor who was a badass warrior is now…just kind of there. Roz gained the ability to see the future and bypass illusions and is in a relationship with Harvey who is…also just there. Ambrose and Prudence hunt for Father Blackwood by themselves even though they have a track record of screwing things up constantly. Hilda is perfect. Zelda is running the School of Night like a tyrant.
Loss of Hype
Almost immediately Sabrina’s actions are reversed as no one in hell respects Lilith and she has to give over the throne to Sabrina. After such concern and worry about what would happen if this cunning woman would obtain such power, it is snatched away and given on a silver platter to Sabrina. Shortly after that, Nick is also freed from his prison because Sabrina willed it. So many aspects of the show loses its charm when it turns directions at break neck speeds. It feels cheap, especially since this isn’t the first time viewers have been disappointed by story directions.
Sabrina is a Mary Sue
Sabrina gets whatever she wants without any major consequences. Whether it be power, friends, relationships, etc. It is never ever a question of “Wow this seems really hard, how is she ever going to rise to the occasion and accomplish this goal.” it is more of “I wonder what minor inconveniences she is going to encounter while she gets whatever she wants”. All the while, everyone wags their finger at her practically saying “Ohhhh you! If you do this eight more times, I’ll consider doing something bad to you!”.
A few particular scenes are of her taking on the responsibility of walking the sinners to hell. She learns the old man sold his soul to be a chess champion and she forgives him. When she is scolded about not following the rules, she agrees to do the right thing next time and then finds herself faced with the local ice cream man who sacrifices an innocent every seven years in order to avoid selling his soul. Sabrina bypasses the offer and is informed that the little girl is locked away and will die if she doesn’t accept his offer.
She activates her Sabrina powers and goes against what everyone says and ends up saving the little girl while also damning the ice cream man to hell without any consequence. That scene further solidified the fact that nothing they do or say in the show truly matters because it will always result in a win for Sabrina.
Looking at the end of the season, at the height of the drama where Sabrina is out started by Caliban and stuck in stone forever, future Sabrina tells her to do one single thing in exchange in order to restore balance to the past. Yet she again chooses to go against even her own warning and then causes, what we can only expect, more trouble for everyone.Yet for all of her faults, her peers merely look past them.
She can do no wrong.
Aesthetics Over Practicality
Season three explores more of hell, which is awesome since it has been such a focal point of the show’s lore. However, the aesthetics they went with was a mix of Urban Outfitters and a Halloween store with these extravagant dresses next to a guy with plastic skeleton hands and eyeballs. Caliban, who is the Prince of Hell who challenged Sabrina, is white, young, and super fit who almost never wears a shirt that covers his six-pack. He’ll where a vest with talons though!
Was it so hard to have a character who isn’t sexualized? This goes both ways since every single character in the show has time dedicated to sexy time in some way. At the beginning when they were establishing the vibe of pushing the envelope it was more understandable but after three seasons it has gotten so old.
Not only that but for a majority of the season, Prudence, who is a powerful witch, wields a sword for no reason. During the season she whips it out and unleashes cringe screen time. They never explain/show if the sword is magical to justify its use or if she is even trained in using the sword. It would have even been fun if she knew she was horrible at it but just wanted to use it. Instead, it felt that they just wanted to show a female character looking glamourous wielding a sword just to say they did it.
Everyone always looks so pretty and stylish that it removes the sort of authenticity of it all. The Hedge Witches were 100 times more cool than anyone in the School of Night for the sole reason that they dressed the part of devoting their life to their craft without concern for looks.
It is Losing its Charm
The show was fun for the first season since we just craved such controversial content and forgave minor story choices that we didn’t like. But now that we have three seasons and a Holiday Special, there is no excuse. One show that broke my heart was Supernatural where the first six seasons were jaw-droppingly incredible but at a certain point, you could tell the just started to give up and threw anything against the wall that they felt might shock viewers.
When that happens, the viewer loses trust in the writers and the experience feels shallow. This is similar to Game of Thrones Season 8, Dexter, True Blood, The Walking Dead, etc. The issue might actually be with planning for quantity, just pumping out content for content’s sake rather than making a great story.
At the end of the day, I’ll the fool since they will inevitably make another season because people watch. We know that we already gave it 40 hours of our life so what is a little bit more!