Nov 10, 2018

[TV] Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Season 1 Review

Tobie and I have yet to even try to get into the recent Riverdale TV series mainly because it's really not the genre of show that we'd appreciate. It's for similar reasons we stopped watching How to Get Away With Murder among other shows as we tend to favor stories of a different genre flavor.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was a not a show we expected to try watching but initial social media reactions were pretty strong and so we eventually checked it out. I suppose the old ABC TV show Sabrina the Teenage Witch also plays a factor in terms of potential expectation the light comedic tone of that show is worlds away from what this show endeavored to do.

Synopsis: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is an American supernatural horror television series developed for Netflix by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. The series was based on the horror comic book series of the same name that itself was a reimagining of the Archie character Sabrina Spellman.

As Sabrina Spellman's (Kierman Shipka) 16th birthday draws near, the time of her dark baptism as a witch is also imminent. Her aunts Zelda (Miranda Otto) and Hilda (Lucy Davis) have been helping her to prepare for this event, which marks her fully embracing the witch half of her nature over her human half as this is when she fully commits herself to the Dark Lord.

But fully becoming a witch means leaving her friends behind and her longtime boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch). Plus there are some aspects of joining the Church of Night that aren't too clear to Sabrina just yet. But with Father Faustus (Richard Coyle), head of the Church of Night, directly involved in the preparations for her dark baptism, there pressure to go through with things is mounting. On top of all this, the season begins with a particular change to Mary Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), who is Sabrina's favorite human teacher and at times mentor, that will push things along in surprising ways.

What I Liked: I was surprised that this show took more of an American Horror Story sort of tone with a greater focus on Sabrina's supernatural struggle and the world of witches just beyond view. The series has a lot of interesting narrative moments and a fairly rich internal mythology that really fleshes out the world over the course of the season. And that helped us really get on board with the show despite the rathered measured pace of the first few episodes.

Of course I'm going to rant and rave about Michelle Gomez's performance in this series because she's absolutely amazing. We already loved her as Missy in Doctor Who but she's a completely different level of fascinating in this show that is a credit to both how she was written and how Michelle really embodied the role. And then you have Miranda Otto as Zelda, which is a much darker take on things versus what most of us remember from the older comics or the ABC show. She's quite the class act and she really brought some presence to her character that made her more than just Sabrina's surrogate parent over the years.

What Could Have Been Better: Ironically it's the likes of Sabrina and Harvey that turned out to be some of the weakest actors in the show despite their fairly central role in things. The back and forth on whether Sabrina is ready to leave her human life behind because of Harvey and her other friends didn't quite pan out nor did it really make me feel the emotional struggle.

And then we have all the side characters who potentially had great stories but things didn't get handled quite fully. Chief among them is Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), who had one little excursion and then a weird b-roll story that didn't really work for me. And then you have Sabrina's human friends who each had semi-mystical story arcs that sort of connected to the season finale but didn't do so in a great way. So why'd we go through all that trouble?

TL;DR: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a surprisingly good show that lives outside of the world (and narrative tone) of Riverdale and thus has a stronger appeal for geeks like us. The story is pretty cool but the world building is richer and the characters brimming with potential. Thus the first season gets a great 4 excuses to invoke "Hail Satan" out of a possible 5.

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