[Ed. note: This review contains major spoilers for seasons 1-3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and reveals some general plot points for season 4.]
Like its title character, Netflix Chilling adventures from Sabrina was always pulled in too many directions. Half-mortal / half-witch Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) began the series by moving her time between normal teenage education at Baxter High, focusing on social justice, studying magic at the Academy of Invisible Arts, and trying to fight, divided the patriarchy that runs the satanic night church and protects the city of Greendale from supernatural threats. Her life and the show’s storyline got even more complicated in season 2 when Sabrina was exposed as the daughter of Lucifer Morningstar (Luke Cook), which led her to use magic in the season three finale to simultaneously be her father in Hell and to rule abide in Greendale.
When Netflix canceled the show in July, it seemed pretty unlikely that showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa would be able to satisfactorily tie all of Sabrina’s subplots to his eight remaining episodes. Emphasizes the show’s chaotic fourth season, which ends on December 31st Chilling adventures from Sabrinafamiliar strengths and weaknesses at the same time. The finale doesn’t do many members of his overcrowded ensemble justice, but it does offer a powerful mix of truly creepy monsters and fleeting romance.
Based on the work of HP Lovecraft, Sabrina and her allies attempt to tackle eight Eldritch Horrors in Season 4, conveniently occurring at the rate of one per episode. Chilling adventures from Sabrina
But that thrill is bogged down in the past by Aguirre-Sacasa and the missteps of his writers. They have repeatedly failed to eliminate characters who have exceeded their welcoming or narrative usage, and the bloated cast means that many characters who feel they deserve compelling arcs are l argely ignored. Sabrina’s best friend Rosalind Walker (Jaz Sinclair) is getting a hefty payoff this season for the oracle skills she developed in Season 1, but her other close friends, Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) and Theo Putnam (Lachlan Watson) have nothing more left but romantic acts.
This was likely inevitable for the foursome, whose garage band and monster hunting group Fright Club is very similar to the Scooby Gang of Buffy: The vampire slayer. As the threats Buffy faced became world-shattering, characters without any connection to the supernatural couldn’t keep up with the power creeps, and real-world concerns felt increasingly irrelevant. SabrinaThe last season follows the same course.
When Sabrina and Roz run for co-president of Baxter High in season 4, Sabrina’s aunt Zelda Spellman (Miranda Otto) points out that Sabrina should focus on defeating the Eldritch Horrors. Sabrina replies that she cannot exactly describe her application to Vassar as “slayer of the Eldritch horrors”. That may be true, but having Roz and Sabrina deliver a rousing speech to defeat some bro straw men feels like a waste of precious screen time on the series.
This also applies to the misogynistic sorcerer Pater Faustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle) and Lilith / Mary Wardwell (Michelle Gomez). Blackwood peaked as the main antagonist of season two, but has crept into the plot in increasingly unnecessary and ineffective ways over the last two seasons. His presence also limits the potential of his daughter, the mean witch Prudence Night (Tati Gabrielle), who spent that time killing him. And Mary has been a constant low-level trouble for Sabrina since her grand conspiracy was resolved. Gomez was amazing when she designed it as Madam Satan and vampire, but both characters feel irrelevant in season 4.
Greendale is Riverdale For goth kids, a vision of small-town bliss where you can buy milkshakes at the local horror bookstore and then watch a midnight show from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The show’s soapy romances have always been just as important as the magical acts, so it’s not surprising that much of season four is focused on making sure everyone gets some form of happiness forever.
Again, the rush to solve everything leaves a large part of these arcs undeserved or wrong. “We’re an endgame,” says Sabrina’s ex-boyfriend Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) in a groaning meta-offer to get back together. His attempt to get to know her fully by enrolling at Baxter High could have resulted in a really fun fish-out-of-water arc, but it barely lasts longer than a scene showing how good he looks in a varsity jacket. An act in which Dr. Cerberus (Alessandro Juliani from Battlestar Galactica) is exorcised from the incubus that owns him and feels like a rejection of the perverse aspect of his relationship with Sabrina’s aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis), as previously they could only have tied sex with him.
Not all romance is too short. Theo has little to do during the fourth season, but his Summer night dream-inspired plot with his hobgoblin friend Robin Goodfellow (Jonathan Whitesell) mixes the supernatural well and juicy. The best overall bow of the season, if not the show, goes to Zelda, who, after a long period of unlucky in love, finds a surprising romance with the voodoo witch Mambo Marie LeFleur (Skye Marshall), but has trouble believing she’s got the affection earned .
One of the most terrifying Eldritch horrors Sabrina has to face is the Endless, which manifests itself in an extremely meta episode in which she is trapped in a sitcom with Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick, who was Sabrina’s aunt in the 1990s Hilda and Zelda played Sabrina the teenage witch. The endless represents both the immutable nature of classic sitcoms and the constant repetition of established traits, but also the inevitability that all things will actually end even if they believe they deserve more time.
Chilling adventures from Sabrina was never a perfect show, but it was a brave one. It was never as sharp or innovative in its direction as Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, but Aguirre-Sacasa tried to make up for any weakness with scripts that were far stranger and hornier. Her inability to get rid of characters is somewhat understandable, as all the actors seemed to have so much fun diving into high camp in their garish costumes and oversized eyeliner. Like Sabrina herself, the show’s writers wanted everything. They never really got the right balance, but it was exciting to watch them try.
All eight episodes of Chilling adventures from Sabrina Season four starts on Netflix on December 31st.