Review: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The creators of Riverdale are at it again folks, between writing shirtless scenes for Archie Andrews and forcing Veronica to sing yet another Kidz Bop version of a timeless classic ( Elton John’s Saturday Night I’m looking at you ), they have managed to write and release Part 3 of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina ( CAOS). The newest season debuted on Netflix January 24th, 2020 and consists of 8 episodes. Part 2 left us with many questions, what is going to happen to Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) now that he has the devil trapped inside of him? How will Sabrina get to hell and back to save him and how is that going to stretch over the entire season? Well, the answer to both questions appears to be, quite easily. Instead, this season focuses on the coven’s waning powers, Sabrina’s heritage and witchy obligations all with a healthy side of teenage angst and carnival- going.

Unlike other teen series on the market, CAOS manages to approach issues such as sexuality, drug addiction and trauma with tenderness and normality. Instead of exploiting the character’s issues, it demonstrates to the audience that these are not sensational situations that make a person interesting, but instead a genuine and difficult part of life. When the show first aired in 2018, it was a refreshingly modern take on the teen fantasy genre that melded old satanic myths, practices and beliefs with contemporary attitudes and problems. Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) was a strong, feminist character that challenged the institutions that tried to take her autonomy and power away. Part 3 has carried the show’s feminist themes throughout all 8 episodes, particularly bringing joy to audiences when Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) was able to enact her power and authority over the coven rather than having it as an extension of her marriage to Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle). In Part 3 we see many secondary characters blossom, new relationships are formed, old ones are solidified, and some relationships even come to their natural end, a brave choice to make and one that I admire greatly in a story. Characters who have previously served as boosters to Sabrina’s central plotline are now forming identities and stories of their own, some of which are arguably more interesting than Sabrina’s.

However, the show began to wander into sticky territory when the script turned away from the witty and emotional dialogue we were used to and brought a gratuitous ‘wokeness’ into the mix. What CAOS did so well, unlike its Archie Comics counterpart, was use slang terms and social issues that resonated with their teenage demographic to create humour and engage in broader dialogue. Now the speech sounds forced and unnatural, positively bloated from feminist and social justice-esque one-liners peppered throughout. There is also a disappointingly high number of musical performances clumsily shoehorned into the episodes. It appears these musical moments serve no other purpose apart from monetary gain, as they will no doubt sell full versions of the covers as part of a soundtrack, and as an odd place marker in the story, with lyrics that hold tenuous links to the overarching themes of the season. 

Admittedly, some moments warranted a genuine chuckle and pulled a small smile from my lips, but overall I was laughing more to distract myself from the moments of awkward dialogue and slightly convoluted plot lines. The newest season while mostly entertaining appears to be falling for the same trappings that turned Riverdale into arguably one of the most baffling and joked about series of our current time. I’ll commend the writers and directors on one thing – Nick Scratch appearing chained up and referring to himself, more than once, as ‘Daddy’ and the addition of a certain very attractive clay-man, Caliban… these writers know their audience. I only have one question about Part 3 left unanswered, why the heaven did Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) start a band?