Review on ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’

Remake Series Has Flawed Writing, Captivating Plot


Graphic by Deana Trautz

In “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” Netflix recreated “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” casting actress Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina.

Deana Trautz, Editor-in-Chief

Witches, demons, spells, rivalries and teenage romance. Netflix had to know that these things would boil together into the perfect Halloween series when they released “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” their remake of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” The original show, which went through seven seasons, is dated all the way back to 1996. The plot is seemingly complicated, but basically, Sabrina is a witch and has a warlock dad and mortal mother.

There are several differences between the two versions. In the original, age 16 is when Sabrina finds out she is a witch, while in the new version, she always knew who she was. Her parents are also dead in the new show, which is why she lives with her aunts, Zelda and Hilda. In the old version, the parents simply were taken away from seeing her before she turned 16 and had to get the aunts to look after her for a couple of years. The list of variances goes on and on, but let’s jump into the review.

My impression of the show is that the director or writer just did not have a solid grasp on what they wanted to create. In the trailer, they bring out the most suspenseful and creepy clips from the show, while the actual content is not that chilling after all. They also try to make it clear that Sabrina comes from Archie Comics by making the intro comic strip style. This is all fine and good until they decide to make this intro into a painful one minute and 34-second short film. Luckily after a few episodes, Netflix assumed that I would skip it and went ahead did it for me. I hoped that the show would live up to all of this buildup.

One of the best aspects of the show was how timeless the filming made it out to be. In one scene, Sabrina called her boyfriend Harvey with a large wired phone, while he was only shown holding a mysterious square black object. The director seemed to deliberately not show the viewers what exactly he was holding, which left the show up to interpretation as to whether the show was based before iPhones.

As for the writing, there were definite pros and cons. Parts of the writing made the show worth watching, like how her family of witches was also Satan worshippers and members of the Church of Night. While real-life Satanism can be pretty intense and intimidating, the show sometimes veered away from this dark view and turned it into comedy. Sometimes the aunts would say “Praise Satan” in place of the typical “Thank God” that we often see on film. They also refer to God as a “False God” which is a way for the Satanists to basically call fake news on Christianity. I found this perspective of a family raising their teenager in a Satanic household to be one of the highlights of the show.

Just as a side note, it was pretty funny (and sad for Netflix) that The Satanic Temple filed a copyright suit for at least $50 million against Netflix for using their trademarked Satan statue in the show. The trademarked statue they used was of Satan, with a girl and boy child on either side, when the free-use version does not have the children. Netflix announced a season two for the show, maybe to continue to plot, maybe to pay off their bills. To me, being sued an actual Satanic temple is true dedication to a remake.

The flaw in the writing became clear in episode two, when my mom and I lost much hope for this show. They began the series with a clear standpoint on equality, as Sabrina and her friends made a feminist club to fight back at the football boys who picked on her friend for dressing androgynously. In episode two (spoiler alert) there was a revenge scene against these football boys conducted by Sabrina and other teenage witches. The witches convinced the boys to follow them into the woods, and once they found a clearing, the girls began making out with the guys. This was a pretty sexual makeout scene, especially seeing as there were no signs of this show being nearly as sexual up until this point. I was confused, but they revealed that the witches had cast a spell on the boys, only making them think they were kissing the girls, when they had really been kissing each other. This bait and switch that made the boys kiss people they did not consent to shows the double standard that women do not need to ask for consent.

This is not the only problematic aspect of the scene.

When the boys opened their eyes and saw that they were kissing other boys, they quickly jumped back in sheer embarrassment.  It is completely unacceptable to use homosexuality as an insult, threat or form of humiliation, especially in a show that is aimed at an impressionable audience. I think that with the acceptance of gay people coming about more recently, writers still struggle with portraying homosexuality and what true acceptance looks like on TV. It is clear that the show was made to be a progressive one, and other plot points like their feminist club showed it, but I can only picture a few writers just throwing together the episodes without minding whether they are presenting a problematic viewpoint.

Additionally, it stuck out to me that this misrepresentation of homosexuality was sprinkled throughout the series. There was a gay couple in the show, and I did not think that the romance between them was filmed as aesthetically as romances between the straight couples. I appreciate the fact that they featured a gay couple at all, but they definitely could have used more mindful writing and filming. It simply felt like the writers were checking the homosexuality box on their ‘how to be a progressive show in 2018’ checklist, without understanding how to normalize things like homosexuality. This for me was a major flaw in the show.

The writing, otherwise, was somewhat corny. The way that the characters frequently used each other’s names in conversation was off-putting and reminded me of the show Gilmore Girls, which I am not a fan of. As the 10 episode series progressed, the writing also had less purpose throughout. The beginning and end to the show were quite strong and captivating, but the few episodes in the middle did not contribute to the overall plot. I had to keep thinking why the few middle episodes were even placed in such a short series.

Some of the plots were also confusing as we continued watching. There was one character that we could not figure out, named Ms. Wardwell. She was Sabrina’s English teacher at her school, but she got possessed early on by a queen of demons. This seemed to give her some confusing motivation to ruin Sabrina’s life. At one point, my mom had to pause the show to talk about her confusing intentions and we actually decided which set of intentions we would stick with so the plot made more sense.

I loved the idea of a remake of this admired show, and it did keep me around for 10 hours over the span of a few days. At the least, the series was entertaining and fun to watch, and the plot was usually interesting. However, the unclear plot points and the lack of attention when incorporating homosexuality into the writing were two major negatives that I noticed. Despite these things, I did continue to finish the series- partly to follow the storyline and partly because I had to follow up with the concerns I had in the writing after episode two.

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