Review: ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’

     A lot of people don’t like re-imaginings, but I’m for it in this case.  Sabrina always felt like a little bit of an odd duck in the Archie universe to me.  A teenager with magical abilities in a town neighbouring Riverdale in a family-friendly environment kind of came out of nowhere.  She felt like an underdeveloped character.  Witches just felt so out of place in the Archie universe, especially when she was just like Archie and the gang in terms of those good old-fashioned, home-spun values.  She was relatable, always wanting to fit in, but I always wished that we would see more of her power.  When I was a kid, I always thought Sabrina was kind of lame.

     On the other hand, I was a bit of a weird kid who loved the Gargoyles animated series, dark fantasy, and all things dark and spooky.

     This version of Sabrina is a breath of fresh air.  You get more development of character, and begin to care for Sabrina early on as she describes how she is torn between the human word and the witch world.  You also get a sense of her powers, as she doesn’t shy away from spells that are a little more advanced than helping a friend not trip on a crack in the sidewalk.  Harvey also feels more three-dimensional as well.  He is not a lumbering moron, but is truly confused that his girlfriend seems to have this big secret to share.

     I did find the acting in the first episode a little bit stiff.  It felt like it was trying to emulate the original comic series before sliding into the dark stuff.  Once the second episode hit, it felt like the actors were more comfortable with their characters, and we were clear as to what kind of version of an Archie character we were going to get.

     The aesthetic of the show is also very comic-like.  The backgrounds are blurred to look like a frame in a comic book when there are longer conversations happening.  The inside of the Spellman mortuary has leapt right from the pages of a comic book.  The credits sequence at the start of the episodes is taken right from the comics themselves, with the title card being the image from the cover of the first issue.

     So far, the only character that I feel that we don’t have enough of a picture of is Ambrose.  He is less smarmy that the comic book, but I feel like the audience needs to know that he is on her side.  There are plenty of gross jocks and snarky witches that are already against her and we don’t need to add Ambrose to the pile.

     This series is also not holding back on some of the subject matter.  There are some pretty brutal looks at sexual assault a la Riverdale on the mortal front.  The showbalsobsticksbsolidly to the comics portrayal of feminism, and how women are underestimated by men.  On the sorcery front, the Devil is not a suggestion; he is a full blown being, hooves and horns and all.  The imagery in some of these scenes involving Satanic traditions blew me away, and as a fan of the Dark Archie comic series, I’m looking forward to some of those, “Well, that escalated quickly!” moments.  I am really hoping for more Salem, as his treatment in the comics that this series is based on is very interesting and different than anything we’ve seen from the character before.

     I can’t wait to watch more of this series.  If you’re looking for the wholesome humour and laugh tracks of the original series, you won’t find it here.  However, if you’re looking for a version of the struggles of a teenage witch that feels more honest to its subject, you can’t go wrong.

Check out the official trailer from Netflix:

*First 2 episodes watched for review***

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