On her 16th birthday, a half-human, half-witch Sabrina Spellman must sign the book of the Dark Lord Satan himself and finally join her family’s coven. It will grant her prolonged youth and enormous power among other things, but there is a great price to be paid: if she signs the book, Sabrina must renounce her human part, and that includes her school, friends, and her boyfriend.
Confused as to why she has to deny an entire part of herself, Sabrina is determined to get some answers before making the most important decision of her life. She refuses to blindly follow the rules she doesn’t understand and/or agree with and challenges the old order at every turn.
The show, among other things, explores themes of agency and personal choice. Sabrina’s biggest concern about signing the book is the loss of her freedom. She doesn’t want to be at the Dark Lord’s command. So instead of just accepting everything at face value, she asks questions and demands answers.
Apart from its titular heroine, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (CAOS) has plenty of great characters to go around: there’s Sabrina’s family, aunties Zelda and Hilda, who are very different in their approach to both life and witchcraft. Zelda is a strong-willed and traditional, fiercely loyal to her coven and its High Priest. Hilda is a more gentle, open-minded soul, but not without a strong core. There’s also Ambrose, Sabrina’s charming pansexual cousin who isn’t allowed to leave the Spellman house as a punishment for a crime (no spoilers, but it’s a fun one).
Ros and Susie, Sabrina’s schoolmates and best friends, aren’t there to just be background props. Sure, Sabrina is understandably the focus of the show, but they’re still allowed to be their own people, with their own adventures and struggles. Ros is a vibrant and outspoken daughter of a minister. Susie is a non-binary teen, struggling with self-identity and bullying and looking for a place to belong.
Then there’s, of course, Harvey Kinkle, Sabrina’s boyfriend. He is sweet and supportive, with a passion for drawing. When he’s not making googly eyes at Sabrina, he’s dealing with his brute of a father shoving that good ol’ toxic masculinity down his throat. Thankfully, Harvey has an older brother Tommy who is nothing but supportive of Harvey’s hopes and dreams.
The magic part of Sabrina’s life includes a strict High Priest of the Church of Night (Spellmans’ coven), antagonistic young witches aka Weird Sisters with the absolutely fabulous Prudence Night as their leader, a seductive warlock classmate Nick Scratch, and a cunning teacher with a secret agenda, Ms. Wardwell.
One of my favorite things about the show is Sabrina’s relationships with her witch side. Her magic isn’t a burden, she isn’t scared or embarrassed by it. Sabrina enjoys having powers, and she fully embraces them. She also isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, when the situation calls for it. If helping her friends calls involves a murder, then so be it!
But of course, like everything in life, CAOS also has its flaws. The overall feminist message of the show is pretty basic; they didn’t exactly move any mountains. The Harry Potter-like parallels between fictional and real-life oppression also gained some attention, mostly because white Sabrina is the one being prejudiced against, while a mixed woc is the antagonist (at least in the beginning). There are definitely things that could’ve been handled with more consideration, but for what it’s worth, Tati Gabrielle’s Prudence remains of the most interesting and memorable characters of the series. Here’s hoping for more of her side of the story in S2.
On a personal note, I would’ve loved if the show was a little more tongue-in-cheek, a little goofier maybe. But on the other hand, I do appreciate how dark they were willing to go at times.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a visually beautiful, cozy tale of spells and womanhood, perfect for the Halloween season. The show’s main driving force is its many diverse female characters, full of their individual strengths and weaknesses. It has plenty of fun to offer but also has a place to grow. So if you’re in a mood for some hellraising, literal or otherwise, give a try!