Netflix is stepping it up in terms of spookiness this Halloween, and in the absence of a new “Stranger Things” season, nothing fills the void more than the hauntingly creepy reboot of the beloved show “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”
But, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is so starkly different from the quirky mid-90s sitcom that it is nothing like a reboot at all. Instead, this 10-episode series completely flips the script in order to make it new and modern.
Executive producer of “Riverdale,” Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, is also the producer of this spin-off which is adapted from the “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” comic book series. This show serves as a sister show to “Riverdale” since they are both Archie Comics adaptions and draw on similar elements. Plus, “Sabrina” is set in the fictional town of Greendale which is right across from the town of Riverdale.
In nature, the show is more similar to the mysteriously brooding “Riverdale” than it is the lighthearted “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” we grew up with. The differences are vast and, in fact, it seems the characters as well as the premise are the only things that remain intact. The main difference though is the much darker take this show has on the original story.
The headstrong protagonist Sabrina Spellman, played by “Mad Men” star Kiernan Shipka, is still a half-mortal, half-witch trying to balance her mortal life with that of her witch heritage. She also still lives in an old mansion with her aunties Hilda and Zelda and is dating high school sweetheart Harvey Kinkle, played by former Disney star Ross Lynch.
Though Sabrina still dabbles in the woes of high school drama, the show primarily focuses on the fact that her family’s coven worships the devil and practices satanic witchcraft.
In the first few episodes, Sabrina is preparing for her 16th birthday as well as her Dark Baptism, which will basically sign her soul off to the devil but reward her with immense power. In the process, she will have to say goodbye to Harvey and her two best friends, Roz and Susie, as she begins her new life as a full-time witch at the Academy for Unseen Arts. So, Sabrina must choose between her destined path of darkness or her mortal life.
The hints of Satanism are not something that hasn’t been seen already in some of the most popular shows in the supernatural genre like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Supernatural” and “Charmed,” but with this series, the depictions of the devil are everywhere. Also, gone are the common emphases of white magic or “good magic” used to fight off evil because with the Spellmans, they are the evil.
The show has everything it needs to be a spellbinding success, and it is. Its appealing combination of teenage angst and the use of black magic contributes to its eerie, thriller-like storytelling. Even supporting characters like Aunt Hilda and Aunt Zelda, the evil Prudence and the mysterious Miss Wardell have amazing development, only adding to the shows allure.
The normalization of worshipping the devil is what really gives this show a unique twist though, as no show has ever really gone there before or done it quite as well. The main plot line of Sabrina having to choose between power or freedom also leaves an impact because as a woman, it is explained that she can’t have both. This gives the show a perverse feminist angle as Sabrina internally struggles with accepting subjugation to a man (the devil) or being free but powerless and her determination to achieve both.
Throughout the 10 episodes, Sabrina goes head to head with demonic forces while modern day issues like bullying, sexuality, feminism and more are also worked into the plot lines. Representation of all kinds can be seen as well through characters such as Ambrose, Sabrina’s pansexual cousin or Susie, Sabrina’s non-binary best friend.
This show should definitely be your next wicked binge. If you were a fan of the original, no need to worry about this new series recreating or ruining the legacy of the OG “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” even if her cat Salem is no longer the sassy, talking cat we remember him to be. “Riverdale” fans will also love this new hit and will find themselves praying for a future crossover between the two.