If you grew up watching and loving the comedy of the 1990s, “Sabrina, the witch apprentice”, and are excited to plunge head first into nostalgia with the new Netflix reboot: you may need to adjust your expectations. In Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the focus is on a much darker theme.
Sabrina, played by the actress Kiernan Shipka, is a courageous heroine who, on the eve of her 16th birthday, begins to question her family’s plans for her. Although she was raised in a satanic cult once led by her late father, Sabrina also attended an ordinary school where she has friends and a boyfriend she loves, and now finds herself torn between the Night Church and her ordinary life.
Sabrina Spellman, the protagonist of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, is radically different from her first incarnation of Archie Comics and her predecessors on the small screen. Of course, she remains a half-witch, half-mortal teenager, hiding her powers from the mortal world. However, this new version of the teenage witch, performed by Kiernan Shipka, faces problems that are disconcertingly topical. In particular, women’s rights, which will persist throughout season 1.
But above all, the story of the series is one of the first episodes of Netflix’s new thriller. Indeed, Sabrina negotiates the paradox of the genre of the modern witch. On the one hand, witches must give up their freedom to a patriarchal Dark Lord to obtain 100% power, and on the other hand, their powers allow them to settle scores with the oppressors of the mortal world. And by addressing this precarious balance, the series revitalizes a once frivolous comic book character and positions itself as an opponent.
Sabrina must therefore make a choice between the world of mortals and the world of witches.
We can notice a lot more coolness in this adaptation of Sabrina, which is inspired unswervingly by the classic horror films. In one of the first scenes, a pair of levitating scissors crashed into a teacher’s neck, releasing a stream of blood that accumulated all over the scene. This is the signature of this reboot’s style.
The backdrop to the series is the city of Greendale, which represents a picturesque and dark America. We learn that Greendale had her own horrible witch trials like those in Salem hundreds of years ago. That’s why witches and wizards have been living in the greatest secrecy since then. The last initiate of the Night Church is therefore Sabrina Spellman, if she decides one day to join the cult completely.
Sabrina was born to a witch father and a deadly mother, both of whom had long since died in a so-called plane crash. On her 16th birthday, according to Spellman tradition, she will be able to choose to sign the Book of the Beast and keep her powers, but if she does, she must sever all ties to her mortal life, including her friends and boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle (played by Ross Lynch), whom she loves very much.
Unfortunately, Sabrina doesn’t have much time to think about her future choices. In addition, her aunts Zelda (played by Miranda Otto) and Hilda (played by Lucy Davis) are already preparing her Baptism Obscur, scheduled for Sabrina’s 16th birthday, which will also take place on Halloween night at midnight under a blood eclipse. If she chooses to give up her freedom to the devil, in exchange for power, she will also have to go to the Academy of Invisible Arts, and thus never see her mortal friends again.
Unlike the previous adaptations of Archie Comics’ “Sabrina the Witch Apprentice” character and its serial version in the 1990s, magic is not a laughing matter. The representation of magic through the interpretation of Netflix is closer to the medieval imagination but taking place in today’s world.
Satan, for his part, made a few appearances throughout the first season, in the form of a repulsive monster, echoing the current representations of Baphomet. Salem, Sabrina’s famous black cat (the familiar one), is not just a cat in this version, but a cat that occasionally shows signs of its demonic, fearsome and protective form. The darkest representations of magic in the series give rise to fears that are frightening.
Shipka plays a serious, willful and sometimes vengeful Sabrina.
She is a Sabrina who rises up, often to misuse, against the fundamental laws of the two worlds she frequents. Sabrina’s choices, seem to tackle everything, and have a major role throughout the season. It is the actress’ performance that allows Sabrina to fit convincingly into current conversations about sexual assault and consent. In fact, one of the very foundations of the season is centered on the relationship between men and women. For example, when Sabrina is rejected by the principal of her deadly school, when she wanted to help her sexually abused friend, she decides to teach football players a lesson herself to punish them.
Finally, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is an intriguing and successful series. Whose greatest strength of the series, is the creation of a new Sabrina darker, stronger, provocative even when she is not sure of herself, and determined to regain control of two worlds she absolutely does not want to leave.
And by the horns of Satan, if you haven’t seen the first season, you should run there.