This Post contains spoilers for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina follows the tale of the youngest Spellman as she quests for balance in her complicated life. While that sounds like every teenager in existence, Sabrina’s situation is a bit more complicated. Born half mortal and half witch, she has to make a decision of which path to follow. Also like every teenager, Sabrina believes that she can have it all. But, as her Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) would remind her: all things come with a price.
Sabrina’s mortal life is pretty standard. School, boyfriend, a couple of besties, and the seemingly never-ending journey of surviving high school. Her witch life is a different story. The metaphor of that survival slips to the sidelines as the young witch begins to play with abilities she’s yet to understand while the story brings forth its primary question of what’s more important: freedom or power?
That question has an obvious answer, but few things in life are black and white. Those waters get even muddier when you throw magic into the mix. At the beginning of the season, Sabrina is sure of her convictions. Her name is Sabrina Spellman, and she will not sign it away. Unfortunately for the young witch, it’s the responsibility of one Madam Satan (Michelle Gomez) that she does just that. And Madam Satan isn’t accustomed to losing.
There are several dark whispers in Sabrina’s ear while she stumbles her way down her complicated path. On one side is the abruptness of Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), doing all that he can to force the girl to do as he wishes. On the other is the aforementioned Madam Satan, masquerading as Ms. Wardell. By inhabiting the body of Sabrina’s unassuming teacher, Madam Satan has an advantage that Father Blackwood lacks. But it’s her patience that eventually wins her the prize. As if those two weren’t enough to contend with, Sabrina also has to deal with slimes like Baxter High’s deplorable Principle Hawthorne (Bronson Pinchot), the insufferable (and exceptional) witch sisters Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), Agatha (Adeline Rudolf), and Dorcas (Abigail F. Cowen), and the unending expectations of her family name.
With witches, zombies, familiars, and feet firmly planted in the fantastic, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has so much potential. Like Sabrina’s conviction, those potentials are squandered by the time the final credits role. But, like those convictions, it’s not quite as black and white as “good” or “bad”.
Many of Sabrina Spellman’s motivators are rooted in her human friends. Her relationship with Ros (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie (Lachlan Watson) is incredible. Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) on the other hand, is basically a soggy piece of white bread. This isn’t a shot on the actor; Ross Lynch acted out what he was given. Harvey’s simply destined to be bland and ultimately useless. Unfortunately, many of Sabrina’s decisions hinge on her relationship with him, making a decent portion of the show tedious when there’s little reason for it. Season one could almost be an allegory for the way Satan views Sabrina. It’s filled with endless potential that it refused to live up to without justifiable cause.
The production of the show is great (outside of the use of that awful blur effect). It’s often beautiful, even. CAOS has endless interesting characters and pairings just waiting to be explored with people like Prudence, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) and Susie sitting on the sidelines while we’re forced to suffer through more of Harvey’s innocent farm boy routine. There are countless story threads that remain frustratingly untouched, with her parents’ obvious murder hardly registering on Sabrina’s radar, and her friendship with Susie and Roz going criminally underused.
It’s important to remember that the show was picked up for two seasons, with the first ten episodes intended to act as a primer for the next. But it’s also important that a season is able to stand on its own two feet. Season one gives us plenty of questions, drops in a couple of answers, and sets up a foundation for season two. That’s all great, but at the end of the day it’s almost as if season one was somehow a ten-hour pilot episode that ultimately ends with the protagonist going against every belief she had at the drop of a hat.
The first season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does its job, but only partially. It sets up plenty of interest for the next season, but not in any way that’s memorable. We learn that the men of the coven feel that it’s their time to rise (despite said coven already being run by a dude), but with so much left to explore from the show’s first year, we’re curious to see how things will shake out.