When Netflix said it was rebooting Sabrina (of teenage witch fame), it was a decision that both excited and worried fans of the cult 90s show. Melissa Joan Hart’s depiction of the lead character is so ingrained in childhood memories, that it was almost sacrilegious to touch the story again. The family sitcom was effortlessly charming, and the risk was this would be lost with the streaming giant at the helm. But instead of just recreating the show, instead Netflix revisited the original Archie comic books and as a result, 2018 Sabrina is a very different kind of witch.
Starring Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka in the titular role, Sabrina is the daughter of a mortal mother and a warlock father, being raised by her two witch aunts (the warm and friendly Hilda, played by an enchanting Lucy Davis, and the matronly Zelda, recreated by Miranda Otto). We also see the struggles she faces as a half witch trying to balance her two lives, but it’s with these key factors from source material that the similarities between the two shows end. Instead of the wholesome world of Joan Hart’s Sabrina, we instead have the gloriously campy world of showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who also wrote the Sabrina comic book it’s based on), and it’ll totally bewitch you.
As he did with Riverdale, Aguirre-Sacasa has created a magnetising visual world. It’s impossibly stylish, with every small detail thought through and each shot carefully selected. But although it looks stunning, it’s the acting that’ll shine through.
Kiernan Shipka makes the character of Sabrina her own, as (in her own words), the “woke witch”. “This is totally the Sabrina for 2018, in so many ways,” Shipka previously told Variety, and she’s absolutely right. Throughout the series we see Sabrina grapple with the decision of becoming a “full witch”, not only because she’d have to leave her mortal life behind, but as she’s not comfortable with signing over her entire life to a man. The way the show handles the patriarchal undertones of the “The Dark Baptism” ceremony (the ritual in which Sabrina would have to sign her life over to Satan to become a witch, obviously) is intelligent, and is one of the things that makes the show so relevant.
Another highlight comes in the form of Michelle Gomez who plays Sabrina’s favourite teacher Mary Wardell, who’s possessed by Madam Satan. With her curling smile and devilish delivery, she captivates each time she’s on screen. In fact, it’s the magical side of the show that shines throughout. Whether it’s the teenage rivalry with the weird sisters (a group of girls at Academy of the Unseen Arts), or Sabrina’s smooth talking cousin Ambrose Spellman (Chance Perdomo) using magic to attempt to date whilst he’s under house arrest, it’s these scenes that really bring the show together.
In comparison it’s the mortal world that’s far less interesting for viewers. Sabrina’s relationship with her boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch), who’s clueless to the fact she’s a witch, is a sweet addition, but not one you find yourself wishing you could watch more of; and it’s far more fun to watch Sabrina and her aunts take on a daemon than the young couple chat sappily on the phone.
Not without it’s flaws, as in Aguirre-Sacasa’s Riverdale it can be outrageously over the top, and a little silly; but in general Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina is wickedly enticing watch. Move over gory horror films, here’s your 2018 Halloween viewing, it’ll definitely be more fun.