First they began a horror comic called Afterlife with Archie where Jughead talks Sabrina into helping him bring his dog back to life after Reggie runs him over. She does, and accidentally unleashes a zombie plague on Riverdale. This was dark, well illustrated, and popular. This lead two a spin-off, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which brings the formerly bubbly half-witch into a dark world where witches actually worship the lord of hell, devour babies, and hang out with goblins disguised as animals. This show has about as much in common with the fun, after school show of the nineties as Riverdale does to the Archie comics of the fifties.
But is it any good? To find out, read
Title: “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”
Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina Spellman
Ross Lynch as Harvey Kinkle
Lucy Davis as Hilda Spellman
Chance Perdomo as Ambrose Spellman
Michelle Gomez as Mary Wardwell
Jaz Sinclair as Rosalind Walker
Tati Gabrielle as Prudence Night
Adeline Rudolph as Agatha
Richard Coyle as Father Faustus Blackwood
Miranda Otto as Zelda Spellman
Abigail F. Cowen as Dorcas
Lachlan Watson as Susie Putnam
As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. (From IMDB.)
The characters are very engaging. Watching Sabrina assert herself and growing into confident woman was great, but the supporting character of Ambrose was also surprisingly enjoyable, as was Aunt Hilda’s charm. Father Blackwood while never fully being evil to the characters, makes an engaging villain.
Additionally, the show’s opening using comic book art was fun and enjoyable. The panel used for the “Based on comics by Archie” is actually the first panel of Sabrina’s first appearance.
The story uses the “Church of Night” and worship of the devil to tell what it is like growing up in a strong religious family. The caricature of the Christian antagonist, the Wiccan faith, general pagan practices, and just a depiction of those who willingly follow religious customs could easily rub some people the wrong way.
Originality: 4/6 A show based on a comic that was itself based on a mashup of the fears of Puritans and another comic which spun off of yet another comics is hardly original. Taking that and making it feel empowering for a young woman was unexpected, though.
Effects: 5/6 The sets are all very believable and gothic, as though they filmed in every creepy house ever, and the magics are all understated. These aren’t the red glowing bolts of the Scarlet Witch or spinning runes of Doctor Strange, but when magic happens, you get the sense that something is off. This is because the focus is off, blurring the edges whenever it is something otherworldly. It does a good job of letting you know that magic is afoot.
Acting: 6/6 Everyone disappears into their parts. Kiernan Shipka (Sabrina) starts off as merely good before fully growing into her part. The non-mortal characters all do come off as pompous and full of themselves, but it is pretty clear that is because they are all pompous and full of themselves.
Production: 6/6 The episodes are episodic, but still serve to further the overall story arc. This has become typical of Netflix shows, but it’s still done well. Alslo, there are Easter eggs and references through out, though most are subtle enough to be entirely missed so as not to distract you from the show itself.
Story: 6/6 The story contains magic, but that doesn’t feel like the focus. Magic is a tool that is used to let the drama about a girl trying to find her place in her church and which society she wants to join, and how she can shape that society. (It just happens to be an infernal society.)
Emotional Response: 5/6 None of the character choices, even those taken by antagonists, feel like they are unfounded. While it is fully of creepy visuals and is very macabre, it doesn’t exactly leave one feeling “Chilling”, as the title promised. They do avoid descending into campy horror, though.
Overall: 6/6 Even after binge watching it and finishing it in a week, starting over at episode one for a second viewing immediately feels like a good idea.
In total, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” receives 38/42.
Favorite Easter Egg: Eventually, Aunt Hilda ends up serving coffee in a coffee house, and a customer walks in reading Afterlife with Archie.
I will eventually see this, so it’s good to have a recommendation here.
Sabrina’s pedigree is even more mixed than most people realize. I first encountered the character in the Filmation Archie cartoons of the late 60s/ early 70s, which do not hold up especially well. She goes back, however, to Madhouse #22 (1962), Archie’s version of Mad magazine. She’s actually fairly sinister there, albeit in a low-key, parodic way. You know that teen couple that shouldn’t by any logic be together, the star player who misses during the big game, and every frustrating thing about high school that makes no sense? Turns out, that’s a teen witch at work.
After a few appearances, they restrain her and in ’69 put her into the mainstream Archie-verse.
I’m told this show has a number of Easter Eggs (Halloween Treats?) referencing her various incarnations.
The title of this show is taken from a genuine horror comic put out by Archie in the 70s.
The other low point I had was they kept using the sound effect that Cinema Sins uses in their Everything Wrong With titles cards on YouTube, and every time I heard that it really took me out of the show.