Chilling Adventures of Sabrina review: A must-watch reboot

Sabrina Spellman is returning to the small screen in Archie Comics’ latest live-action drama that will become a must-watch when the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina arrives on Netflix.

Up until January 2017, it’s safe to say that not many expected Archie Comics to join the comic book TV world the way it did by joining the likes of what DC and Marvel have done for the last five or six years. Who knew the impact that Archie and his friends would have in The CW’s Riverdale? The dark Archie drama continues to make a splash, now in its third season. But now another iconic Archie character is joining the success that Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa started, and it’s a hero many grew up with: Sabrina Spellman.

While the majority may know of Sabrina the Teenage Witch through the Melissa Joan Hart sitcom in the ’90s, what Netflix is getting ready to reveal to the world is a whole new take on the iconic witch. As nostalgic as this reporter will always be for the sitcom, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina elevates Ms. Spellman to a whole new level. Based on the comic series that Aguirre-Sacasa — who is also the CCO of Archie Comics — worked on before Riverdale, Netflix’s Archie drama is a delicious and bloody expansion on the Sabrina mythos that was born for television.

Without revealing too much, for those who read the comic the show is based on, it’s fair to say that it does borrow a lot from those books. But it’s definitely not a straight-on adaptation, which is a plus for the show as you won’t know what’s going to happen in advance. There are definitely a few nods here and there to specific elements from the comic. It certainly helps that the show is run by the same writer who worked on the book. As someone who loved the comic series, it feels safe to see Aguirre-Sacasa returning to this world and continuing doing a remarkable job adapting these characters from panel to screen.

Kiernan Shipka and Ross Lynch as Sabrina Spellman and Harvey Kinkle. Photo Credit: Diyah Pera/Netflix

Something that many will see in the show’s leading lady Kiernan Shipka, best known for her work on Mad Men, is that she isn’t simply playing Sabrina; she is Sabrina. Shipka’s portrayal of this icon features a young heroine of two worlds. You will love her as much as you will fear her for what she is capable of. It is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role after having seen the first season. Shipka’s Sabrina is inspiring, powerful, a hero who doesn’t need a cape, but simply her heart with a little magic. If I had to pick one thing that is most appreciated about what Aguirre-Sacasa did with Sabrina, both on the show and the comic, it’s the edge that she has been given. Shipka’s take on the character still embodies everything that many know of Sabrina but also fleshes out her agency.

Just like with Shipka, David Rapaport (the Arrowverse, Riverdale, Titans) assembled another magical cast who fits these characters perfectly. For any hardcore Sabrina/Harvey fans out there, your heart will melt seeing Ross Lynch and Shipka’s chemistry. Lynch’s Harvey will definitely have a few surprises that fans of the original Sabrina series won’t see coming. Two other supporting characters that will capture many hearts are Sabrina’s besties, Rosalind Walker (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie Putnam (Lachlan Watson), who definitely get big arcs of their own.

Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis as Zelda and Hilda Spellman. Photo Credit: Diyah Pera/Netflix

There is no Sabrina without Aunt Hilda and Zelda, who are portrayed by Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto in the Netflix reboot. You will love them both equally, but for so many different reasons. Davis has the adorable charm that you love with Hilda while also having a badass side to her. Otto’s Zelda is, without doubt, one of the show’s more complex figures. You will feel for her while at the same time not always agreeing with the choices Zelda makes. Together, the two stars are a blast to watch as these iconic aunts, whether they are bickering or working together to be there for their young niece.

One thing the sitcom version of the Spellman family never had was Ambrose, who is the show’s breakout star. What Chance Perdomo brings to the table is so compelling, to the point where you can’t imagine the show without Ambrose. As someone who read the comics, this Ambrose is someone who is easier to get a read on as opposed to the version in the source material. While the series features several antagonists, no one will outshine Michelle Gomez’s Madam Satan. As scary as the Dark Lord himself can be, you’ll fear Madam Satan even more because of how unpredictable she is. While Richard Coyle’s Father Blackwood is no Madam Satan, it would be unwise to underestimate what this player is capable of.

Michelle Gomez as Madam Satan. Photo Credit: Diyah Pera/Netflix

When looking at the show’s take on magic, it has stakes and rules that make Sabrina’s journey fascinating as you get sucked into this world. There are consequences and risks with how they use magic here which grounds the supernatural drama. Most of the choices that involve magic on this show are incredibly imperative. Visually, the show has a Riverdale look to it — undoubtedly in part because both shows film in Vancouver — but with an amplified dose of the supernatural to it. While Riverdale has its serial killers and criminal gangs, Greendale is far more dangerous around most of its corners. What is fascinating is that it has a timeless feeling to it, as there will be questions for sure as to what the timeline for the show is. The production values need to be applauded among the many ways in which the series excels.

For any fans of horror and supernatural movies, you won’t be disappointed with the first season’s 10-hour tale. Like many of the products that Netflix delivers, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina feels more like a 10-hour movie as opposed to a show. Something that is surprisingly appreciated with Sabrina’s return is that her human problems are just as intriguing as her witch struggles. Despite the fact that it’s told from a teenager’s POV, the writers behind the series manage to make you devoted to the struggles she experiences as a half-human, half-witch. Previewing the series, the question that definitely came up was if Netflix’s Sabrina would fit well into the world of Riverdale. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see these two universes coming together, but it all depends on what happens in the ongoing season of Riverdale.

Sabrina’s return to TV will be a must-watch as it fully embraces the great potential of the character’s mythology, from the great comic book series to serialized television, where it’s a perfect fit. With a star-studded cast and one of the greatest supernatural stories on TV, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will stand out not only as a comic book show, but also as phenomenal quality programming at its highest. If there is one perfect treat for Halloween this year, it is Sabrina Spellman’s glorious return to TV.

Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, starring Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Michelle Gomez, Miranda Otto, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Jaz Sinclair, Richard Coyle and Tati Gabrielle, drops its first season on Friday, Oct. 26.

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