Kiernan Shipka stars in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina , back with another macabre season on Netflix. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is back, delivering another bewitching brew of horror, magic, and the occasional high school hijinks. After a slightly uneven second season, season 3 is an expertly paced thrill ride, as Sabrina grapples with romantic entanglements, daddy issues, and an infernal challenge to her hellish birthright. In the process, Sabrina reveals that it is ultimately a show about power: specifically, who gets to have it, and the consequences of not wielding one’s power responsibly.
(Spoilers for first two seasons below; only minor spoilers for S3. But there is one major S3 spoiler below the embedded video; we’ll give you a heads-up when we get there.)
The series is based on the comic book series of the same name, part of the Archie Horror imprint, and it’s much, (much) (darker in tone than the original) Sabrina the Teenaged Witch comics. Originally intended as a companion series to the CW’s Riverdale – a gleefully Gothic take on the original Archie comic books – Sabrina ended up on Netflix instead. Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who also worked on Riverdale ) has cited classic Satanic horror films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist among his influences. As I wrote in : Both series are smart twists on beloved wholesome characters, and neither one takes itself too seriously. But Riverdale feels more like a (highly entertaining) primetime soap opera, whereas Sabrina embraces full-blown horror without bowing to the niceties imposed by network television. There are murders, demons, exorcisms, blood rites, cannibalism, spells, misguided attempts to raise the dead, a cloven-hoofed devil, and even a witch trial where Sabrina is defended by Daniel Webster himself.
There’s plenty of high school melodrama, too, of course. In the first season, half-human, half-witch Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka, Mad Men
turns sweet sixteen (on Halloween, of course). That’s a significant age for a witch: she’s preparing for her Dark Baptism, a blood ritual where she will sign the Dark Lord’s (i.e., Satan’s) book and fully embrace her witchy nature. But Sabrina — who lost both parents in a mysterious accident and was raised by her aunts — has some lingering doubts, particularly about preserving her free will. She’ll also have to leave her high school and renounce her mortal friends to attend the Academy of Unseen Arts.
Aguirre-Sacasa has assembled a positively stellar cast. Lucy Davis (Etta Candy in Wonder Woman ) Sabrina’s warmly addled Aunt Hilda, while Miranda Otto (Eowyn in ) The Lord of the Rings trilogy) plays her strict, traditionalist Aunt Zelda, and Chance Perdomo plays her warlock cousin , Ambrose. Michelle Gomez (“Missy” on Doctor Who ) is Madam Satan / Lilith, whose primary loyalty is to her own self-interest. Jaz Sinclair plays one of Sabrina’s mortal BFFs, Roz, with Ross Lynch as Sabrina’s S1 boyfriend Harvey, and Gavin Leatherwood as Harvey’s rival, hunky teen warlock Nicholas Scratch. Lachlan Watson shines as another Sabrina pal, Theo ( nee Suzie (Portman.)
In my review of the special Christmas episode “A Midwinter’s Tale,” I noted the strong parallels the show draws between the patriarchal dominance of both the Dark Lord’s “church” and traditional Christianity, predicting that there was a rebellion brewing. That inevitable rebellion makes up much of the main narrative arc for season two, as Sabrina — having signed the Dark Lord’s book to save her friends, family, and general population of Greendale — tries to juggle attending both high school and the Academy. She promptly challenges Father Blackwood’s (Richard Coyle) authority by vying for the post of Top Boy.