‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Part 3 review: awkward musical numbers and distracting sub-plots nearly break the spell cast by Netflix’s witchy teen drama

Wheatus, The Knack and Run-DMC combine to almost ruin the hit show's third season

When Netflix announced they were rebooting everyone’s favourite series about a teenage witch, the news was met with raised eyebrows. But by the time they’d binge-watched Part One of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, even the most sceptical fans had been won over. Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa blended teen romance with low-budget horror to create a charming tribute to the ’90s classic, but with a fresh, vibrant aesthetic. Part Two continued in this vein, but with Part Three – airing now on the streaming platform – the hit reboot has stuttered for the first time. Let’s recap, shall we?

When we last saw Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka), she’d just defeated The Dark Lord (aka Lucifer Morningstar aka her dad) in a huge season-ending battle to save the world. Boyfriend Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) sacrificed himself for the cause, and his body was used as a vessel to trap the the big baddie in. A bittersweet ending, to be honest – and Part 3’s opening scenes are dominated by a pretty miserable atmosphere.

Sabrina, unable to come to terms with the fact her boyfriend is trapped in hell by the evil Lilith (aka Madam Satan, played by Michelle Gomez), vows to rescue him. But after a successful trip to the infernal regions, she returns with Nick only to find that PTSD has turned him into a very different person.

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Elsewhere, last season’s poisoning has depleted The Church of Night (Sabrina’s witch coven), Zelda Spellman (Sabrina’s aunt, played by The Lord Of The Rings’ Miranda Otto) has ascended to High Priestess and a new threat has rolled into the town of Greendale – a carnival of pagan witches.

While these campy storylines are enough to keep the viewer hooked, sometimes it all feels a bit too bizarre. Punctuated by musical numbers that break the tension of the drama, Part 3 feels very tonally uneven. Sabrina and best mate Roz (Jaz Sinclair) join the cheerleading team and crank out a version of Run-DMC’s ‘It’s Tricky’, before Roz, Harvey (Ross Lynch) and Theo (Lachlan Watson) form a band called The Fright Club, covering ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ by Wheatus and The Knack’s ’70s rocker ‘My Sharona’. That sounds great, admittedly, but it isn’t. Trust us.

 

Kiernan Shipka, however, continues to impress as the precocious teenage witch caught between her magical life and her mortal pals. Michelle Gomez is another highlight, jumping between the roles of Madame Satan, and high school teacher Miss Wardwell – and Tati Gabrielle adds further layers to Prudence Blackwood, Sabrina’s delightfully sassy frenemy and rebel without a cause. Part Two saw Prudence struggle to forge a relationship with her Dad, Father Blackwood, and their fraught relationship reached breaking point by the end of the season. Now, in Part Three, she teams up with Ambrose Spellman (Chance Perdomo) to hunt down her errant father and kill him.

The cast of ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Part 3. Credit: Netflix

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With the addition of the Carnival Pagans comes Robin (Jonathan Whitesell), who acts as a love interest for Lachlan Watson’s Theo Putnam. Focusing on Theo’s transition storyline, Aguirre-Sacasa continues to sensitively chart a new course for Netflix teen dramas, with Jonathan Whitesell portraying Robin similarly thoughtfully. Another new face comes in the form of Caliban (Sam Corlett), a Prince of Hell (made out of clay) who becomes somewhat of a rival to Sabrina; although lacking the depth to fulfil his potential as the show’s newest antagonist.

The final episodes of the season are gripping and demonstrate the show at its best, but fans may need to persevere through a sluggish start. This time around, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a little less spellbinding, but still satisfying enough to keep fans on board.

‘Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina’ Part 3 is streaming now on Netflix

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