GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Selah's Chilling TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix) | I Smell Sheep

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Friday, December 28, 2018

Selah's Chilling TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
TV Series (2018– )
Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Stars: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis
Season 1- 11 episodes
runtime: 1h
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic.

Not gonna lie, when I heard The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was coming to Netflix, I was stoked. I loved the 90's show, but also grew to love her other incarnations, including The Chilling Adventures comics. I was also nervous as hell because the source comics are, shall we say, intense.

So how does the newest version of Sabrina measure up? Let's take a look. The series starts more established than other incarnations, which I like. We don't need a total rehash here, plus it sets this take apart from other versions. Sabrina is already aware and used to her powers, she and Harvey are already close, and she's already an established student at Baxter High. I also like that she has more of an established friend circle. Rosalind and Suzie are solid, interesting characters with subplots of their own. I love that a full range of people is included, and though I've seen different thoughts on how well that representation is actually done, for me it adds to the empowered vibe and is better than a lot of other things airing at the moment. Your mileage may vary. 

The main arc of the show is not just Sabrina keeping what she is secret, but deciding whether to side with her witch side or her mortal side (path of night/path of light). Add in an entity that takes over her teacher, other witches her own age, and freakin Satan, and you've got a hell of a plot on your hands. 

The good: I personally love that we get to see more of Greendale and other points of view than we ever did with Westbridge. Part of that is the format - an hour drama gives you more room than a family sitcom. The fact that the town is incorporated into the witchcraft history, though, grounds things for me. The decision to outright hit plot points that the 90s show danced around for seasons is a relief. Yes, let's please let Harvey and Sabrina's friends know sooner than later so that can actually be explored. Yes, let's bring in the witch hunter lineage from the start instead of a mid-series mcguffin. Let's have tons to work with right off the bat and keep the relationship aspect a subplot. The adjusted focus really brings home that it's a different type of show (Not to hate on the sitcom, mind you, but why do the same things twice?). 
I love the revamp of a lot of the characters. The performances are solid across the board and help push things along in some of the clunkier moments. Sabrina has been developed into a fantastic character - she retains her good intentions and recklessness, but this time the consequences are much higher than in the '90s, the lessons more permanent. Some of the plot elements are a little sudden and it's slow to build in places, but I never felt like it doesn't work.

I love the darkness in this. It brings out Sabrina's choices much more. Characters don't come to play, and it offers a very different take on the decisions that Sabrina and the others face. By incorporating more of the main cast into the mythos, everyone has much more of a stake in things and are affected by her decisions. 
The new additions are fun and generally used well. I feel for Rosalind and Suzie and can't wait to see what happens to them. I love Prudence's attitude and how she learns about all the things going on within the Church of Night. Madame Satan is a beast. Father Blackwood fulfills the questionable authority figure role adequately. It's amazing to see Ambrose brought back from obscurity. His snark and confinement are a smart substitute for Salem and he walks the line between hilarious and sympathetic well so far.

As for the old - Hilda and Zelda fill their roles as mentors but also get to explore their own issues. Harvey...for the first time I get why Sabrina would be into Harvey other than he's cute and she's supposed to. That's nothing against other actors - I think this version is plain given more to do and is allowed to reflect more nuance and empathy.

I also really love the overt discussion of gender roles and talk about struggling for things like power, freedom, and love. Sabrina has always walked a line between a reactionary and proactive character, so to see her still being a little naive but also being more aggressive in her intentions is fantastic. There are some bold choices going on that match the vibe of who Sabrina and how the franchise has grown. It's interesting that this isn't just witch vs mortal. There's a lot of grabs for power within the coven, itself, and how that might play out in the future fascinates me. 

The bad: Salem doesn't talk. How dare you. I'm hanging onto a last-minute reveal in the last episode and keeping hope on that front because come on.
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The setting is also a little confusing. The comics are set in the sixties, but this is more a modern setting with severe retro vibes. Aesthetically it's really cool, but at times the more modern aspects feel out of place, or you start wondering why we aren't seeing more of them. 

The ick/elephant in the room: So here's my take on the Satanism/witchcraft portrayal. Honestly, it doesn't bother me, but I'm also familiar with the source material and not part of the affected groups. This show is a thousand times less dark than The Chilling Adventures comics, for one. It definitely leans into horror with religious tones, so if that bothers you, maybe skip this. It's all very overdone 1800s-ish dark fantasy Satanism, so to me it feels more fantasy oriented. I do like that the magic is more front and center vs a gimmick for adventures or clothes changes. 

Believe me, I love that about the original, but it wouldn't work here. By making the magic have bigger stakes and consequences (and look more serious), it grounds things in the universe a lot more. 

Honestly, the witchcraft aspect has always been a bit clunky. There's no great way to portray it, and it is a little convoluted. If Sabrina's half mortal, that should make witch a race but there are covens which are also called churches and...yeah. I can see where it's hard to know how to take it. My take is that the 90s show had the same problem in different ways, and it distanced itself from real-world aspects as much as it could and still caught flack for it. At some point, you need to turn your mind off and enjoy this for what it is. 

Other than that, there are gore and adult elements. Some work better for me than others. I loved the use of autopsy in Ambrose's dream sequence, the Feast of Feasts is unnerving, but a bit with an evil scarecrow didn't do much for me and looked too obviously CGI. Overall, though, the horror elements bring a creepiness to Greendale that we haven't seen before and emphasizes the divide Sabrina faces. 

But it's not like my Sabrina/the other elephant in the room - Guys. Come on. There's no definitive Sabrina. She started life as a comic character and has had many incarnations and evolutions. Life moves on past the 90s. It's fine to not like something or to prefer a version, but one version does not invalidate the other. That being said, I loved the Melissa Joan Hart show. And I love this show. If you pay attention, there are a lot of little tributes to the sitcom. The dream demon episode feels similar in structure to its predecessor but played straight. A lot of this show feels that way. 

Instead of Libby, we have the Weird Sisters. Instead of playing their codependency for laughs, Hilda and Zelda struggle with their relationship (boy howdy do they) and still have doomed attempts at dating. Rosalind And Suzie are great 2018 replacements for Jenny and Valerie. Nick is a more formidable evolution of Dashiell. Principal Hawthorne is very much a serious take on Mr. Kraft. Sabrina is still campaigning hard for good. Instead of pushing food drives and editorials on studying vs sports, she's focused on fair treatment of students, banned books, and saving the whole town from death. There are little things Kiernan Shipka does that takes me straight back to Melissa Joan Hart's mannerisms. Harvey is even called Farm Boy as an insult and multiple scenes take place at the kitchen counter. Little sequences have similar beats but played for different emotions. There are still plenty of fun moments and plenty of times I caught myself laughing. I honestly don't know if you could put the comics on the screen as is because if you think this is dark, oof. 

If anything, this blends the Chilling Adventures comics with the 90s sitcom and somehow makes it work. This is how to reboot (if you want to call it that) well. 

For me, personally, it finally feels like a franchise grew up with me from an adorkable teen into something that can mean well and not be afraid to be twisted. And that is amazing. Is it dark? Hells yeah. Is it different? Yes and no. Is it fun? If you like horror and can appreciate a different side to the characters, absolutely. 

4.5 sheep (let the cat talk and we'll discuss the rating)

About the Author:
Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.

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