Netflix’s “Sabrina” scares up new kind of magic: Review


Alex Jowanovitz

COMIC BOOK ROOTS. The opening credits for Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is stylized like the comic book it is based on, but the new show could not be more different. Comic book adaptations can be tricky, so not everything crazy that happens in the source material are bound to be to show up in the show. “With a comic book sensibility, all the rules can go out of the window,” said “Chilling Adventures” production designer Lisa Soper.

Warning: This review contains spoilers for both the “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” television show, as well as the comic book of the same name.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch has returned to TV, but not in the way you may remember her.

From comic book character to sitcom star, Sabrina Spellman has undergone many changes over the years in many forms of media, but not many people expected her to go through one more transformation: horror icon.

Thanks to streaming service Netflix, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” takes the titular teenage witch and places her into a world of dark secrets, mysteries, and demons.

While some may be turned off by this sudden tonal shift (the original show was a comedy, after all), the transition from lighthearted to full-on horror is not as jarring as it sounds, considering the history of the character.

The new show is mostly based on the recent “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” comic book, written by “Riverdale” creator and showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and illustrated by Robert Hack.

The comic takes the original “Archie Comics” character and focuses on the darker side of magic, and portrays the witches, including Sabrina’s aunts, Zelda and Hilda, as devout worshipers of Satan.

The premise is that on her sixteenth birthday, Sabrina, seeing as she is half-witch, half-mortal, must choose to live the rest of her life as a witch and follow in her father’s footsteps, or as a mortal, and stay in Greendale with her friends and boyfriend.

The new show takes the main premise and elements from the comic, and while it does embrace darker elements, like exorcisms, demons, and the aforementioned Satan thing, it does not go to the extremes that the comic does.

In the comic, Sabrina chooses to sign the Book of the Beasts, which leads to her boyfriend, Harvey, being killed. Sabrina attempts to resurrect him, but he comes back with the spirit of her deceased, psychotic father instead.

In the show, on the other hand, Sabrina chooses not to sign the book and instead chooses to forge her own path living between both worlds, which creates further tension between her and the rest of the witches in Greendale.

While the outcome of her choice is drastically different between the two versions, Sabrina’s choice in the show allows for the viewers to become more invested the mortal side of her life, and the interactions she has with her human friends.

This is a welcome departure from the comic, as we get to see more of Sabrina and Harvey together as a couple. Actors Kiernan Shipka and Ross Lynch have wonderful chemistry and provide one of the most realistic teen romances that I have ever seen on screen.

The supporting cast is phenomenal too, with standouts being Chance Perdomo as Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose, and Michelle Gomez as the delightfully evil Madame Satan.

The ten-episode run of the first season allows for a lot more character moments and interactions than its comic book counterpart, which only has eight issues as of this writing.

Of course, the show also allows for more time to develop the plot further along than the comic, opening up the floodgates to more supernatural elements, mysteries, and more demons for Sabrina to battle.

While the new “Sabrina” show is not as scary as the book it is based on, it makes up for it by creating deeper and realistic relationships, as well as furthering the story beyond the comic in ways that are still dark and unexpected.

Nevertheless, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is a welcome addition to the darker “Archie” television universe that has spun out of the popularity of “Riverdale”, and I cannot wait to see more from this iteration of the character.

Halloween may be behind us this year, but “Chilling Adventures” is a great, spooky time that can be enjoyed all year long.