‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Casts Some Stylish and Chaotic Final Spells To Say Goodbye
Netflix closes down another show with a final wave of spooks and heartbreak for “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” The occult teen drama kept a consistent blend of style and archaic plotting for four “parts” (apparently no one does “seasons” anymore), acting like the spookier cousin of showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s CW hit “Riverdale.” As with that show, Aguirre-Sacasa took a comic book title and mined it for its darker heart. Absurd melodrama suddenly became a conduit for teenage anxieties. In the case of “Sabrina” that means Satanic forces and spells. Since Netflix announced the end of the series in July, the plotting is tied up in quick bursts and rushed resolutions that still give our beloved teenage witch a worthy, dramatic exit.
At only eight episodes, the finale of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” winds it all down to a few showdowns involving monsters from the beyond and Sabrina’s final confrontation with a realm called The Void. This is essentially a smooth continuation of where part three left off, as the Eldritch Terrors were unleashed on quiet, unsuspecting Greendale by the dastardly Reverend Lovecraft (Richard Coyle). Taken from the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the Terrors number at a more than convenient eight, which means you get one terror per episode. Facing them is of course Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) and her usual gang, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), Theo (Lachlan Watson), Robin (Jonathan Whitesell), Roz (Jaz Sinclair) and Harvey (Ross Lynch). As they realize the multiple supernatural threats they must face, the teens also deal with everyday hassles such as trying to get their academy to promote safe sex education. Sabrina also finds a new romantic interest, Carl (Peter Bundic), who makes the classic dork move of having someone else first ask Sabrina if she would be interested.
For the most part the season is a mishmash of plot threads and ideas. There are the usual moments of rituals and new titles being passed around. Sabrina’s aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) dedicates the academy to the worship of Hecate, while then making the other aunt, Hilda (Lucy Davis), part of the new order caring for arcane wisdom and a lot of other witchy jargon. But the show combines all this with some more recognizable teen fare. Sabrina begins to feel left out when all her friends find couples, so she decides to fake a “Bloody Mary”-style ghoul to get her “Fight Club” back in action. These moments have great visuals and fun, “Riverdale”-style humor mixed with bombast. Aguirre-Sacasa knows how to craft visually fun shows where every frame looks plucked out of some glossy magazine. The first Terror to haunt Greendale is a pack of ghostly miners who emerge from old tunnels and have the look of dystopian, nuclear war survivors. Another fun episode involves a Terror that sucks Sabrina into an alternate reality which serves as a brilliant wink at the original, ‘90s “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” sitcom. The alternate reality is even designed as a sitcom set.
It’s near the end of the season that the plot picks up better and more coherent steam. Sabrina visits Hell and gets back in touch with her double, Sabrina Morningstar, which makes her wonder if she’s even working in the correct realm. After all, at the academy she’s a bit of an outsider, while Morningstar deals with cosmic incidents and adventures, even parties done in a ‘40s swing style. This angle of the story eventually spirals into a grand showdown where Sabrina’s actions cause The Void, an all-consuming supernatural entity, to threaten her (meaning our) reality. With her friends watching on, Sabrina undergoes a ritual to then go into The Void and keep it from crossing over. She goes from teenage witch to potential martyr. Newcomers to the show will find these moments hard to follow, since it also involves the return of characters like Reverend Blackwood, and other supernatural beings that have some interest in either attacking our realm or making sure Sabrina stays in theirs. But the final moments are a quite powerful finale, and are written in a way that ensures a revival of this particular “Sabrina” will be nearly impossible to pull off. Then again, we are talking about magic here.
“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” began in its first part as a satisfying show where teen feminist ideas were mixed with some spooky thrills and dark humor. By its final part it becomes a standard monster and death-defying moments show, tossing aside any pretensions of going deeper. Consider that the first part featured some great, sex-tinged music tracks like Sylvia Black doing “I Put a Spell on You” and AG’s “Terrible Thing.” By part four we’re reduced to Sabrina dancing with her double to Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself.” Atmosphere gets replaced by calculation. Still, as a final bow it’s an entertaining good time and Kiernan Shipka, who we watched grow up first in the classic “Mad Men,” came into her own as a leading actor capable of dark turns and emotional moments (she has a good one involving a certain death this season). Even if the potion didn’t always work, there was enough of a lingering spell.
“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” part four begins streaming Dec. 31 on Netflix.