I had a lot of hope and hesitation heading into the third season of Daredevil. With all due respect to the wonderful first season of Jessica Jones, Daredevil has been by far the most consistently good show Marvel puts on Netflix. I had good reason to hope the third season would continue the trend. And yet, the declining overall reliability of Marvel on Netflix worried me. Could Daredevil break the trend?
Yes, yes, yes. Daredevil constructed a fantastic season you could easily argue not only as the best yet for Daredevil, but the best season of any superhero show ever.
The Angel on Our Shoulder
How did they do it? By doubling down on everything that made the first season so good. After the second season’s disappointing adventures with the Hand, Daredevil went back to the themes and character traits which stood out so positively when the series kicked off the Marvel Netflix experiment. Namely, they went back to one key trait for Matt Murdock they let fall aside in season 2.
Matt Murdock is a guilty, suffering Catholic, and boy does season 3 remind you.
It starts with the direct aftermath of the end of Defenders. The Hand building explodes, Matt and Elektra are buried beneath it, only Matt survives in a scene that literally looks like him falling into Hell. He survives, of course, and manages to tell a passerby to bring him to his childhood church run by Father Lantom. Within minutes he’s meeting Sister Maggie, swearing off God, and setting up his internal conflict for the next 12 episodes.
The first and last scenes very much establish season 3 as one of resurrection for Matthew Murdock. More than ever before, he views his costumed persona as a devil within him. Daredevil plays this conflict for everything it is worth. He renounces God. Hallucinations of Fisk encourage Matt to give in to his worst instincts, while hallucinations of his friends sway him away from them. He casts aside the red devil suit. For most of the season, his hideout is Father Lantom’s church.
Season 3 is one of genuine, difficult soul-searching for Matthew Murdock. He spends every scene from the first to the last in conflict over whether he should be Matt Murdock or Daredevil, and it’s one that is only tentatively resolved. He spends it with his soul on the brink, as Matt struggles with maintaining everything good about Matthew Murdock rather than give in to the Devil he represents while costumed. There’s an acknowledgement of the violence and anger within Matt that truly drives him to dress as Daredevil, and this truth is what he fights against.
The season begins in a church and has a major climactic moment occur in the same church. Even more than the first season, it relishes in a visual style of reds and blacks, with symbolic moments involving crosses and coffins. Matt very much battles the devil inside him, both figuratively and literally. Even when he would be better off not fighting, he chooses to anyway.
He spends all season fighting this fight. It’s a familiar theme from season 2, especially, but done with a much better skill. Matt feels at home with suffering. He feels at home with guilt. And damn if guilt doesn’t drive him in season 3.
Daredevil does an excellent job of bringing home all the guilt at the core of Matt’s being. The guilt over his father’s death, over his deteriorated friendship with Foggy and Karen, over Fisk, over Elektra and Stick, over basically everything that has happened since the day an accident blinded him. Season 3 directly references much of this throughout the season while subtly implying everything else. Matt willingly wallows in all this guilt as a form of penance. He walks a hard, jagged road to save his very soul. Daredevil does a fantastic job making you feel every step he takes, forward and back.
And it’s not just Matt; every character is driven forward in some way by guilt. Some by their own guilt, some by others, but they all trace back in some way to the consequences of previous actions and the guilt they feel over them.
More than any other season before, Daredevil truly fleshed out and found a home for its side characters; a home embedded in the same idea of guilt over their pasts. Foggy Nelson has by far his best season as he fights Fisk’s release from prison. Karen finally receives a fleshed out backstory that not only gives her terrific material this year, but retroactively improves everything about her actions in the two seasons prior. I mentioned in my Defenders review how weird I found it for her to call Matt’s vigilantism an addiction. Well, not so much anymore.
Both characters struggle with doing the right thing despite obstacles both internal and external. They each face their own difficulties in addition to their efforts as the better angel on Matt’s shoulders. Foggy’s family receives focus as his famed opposition to Fisk puts their futures at risk. Karen’s past family life and role in her brother’s death inform on her decisions, while events throughout the season play on this already existent guilt.
The result ties the main protagonist trio together better than any season before it. They have never felt so thematically or narratively connected.
For those who read Katie’s excellent Lord of the Rings re-read project, there’s a familiar element to the concept of failure and grace Tolkien describes in her latest chapter re-read. Matt, Karen, and Foggy know they are outmatched by Fisk. There’s a sense of inevitable failure in their efforts. Yet, they trudge along out of a sense of self-sacrifice towards something better. Maybe they won’t succeed, but they hope that by continuing this moral course, they will at least inspire action in others. For such a devoutly Catholic character as Matt Murdock (despite what he says throughout the season), there’s an element of what Tolkin describes grace as, of walking a path that puts him in position to receive divine intervention.
It makes for the most openly Catholic season of Daredevil yet, as seen in the expanded role of religious figures in the story this season.
On the side of our heroes are Sister Maggie and Father Lantom, who provide the largest religious presence the series has ever attempted. Season 1 had its share of Matt/Lantom scenes that were always compelling, but they were more of a side attraction, a way for Matt to bounce fears and insecurities off a religious character as part of the Devil motif. Season 3 gives these scenes a real focus. Maggie and Lantom try desperately to serve as Matt’s moral North Star.
There were many hopes for Sister Maggie, and expectations based on the Born Again comic plotline serving as inspiration for elements of this season. While I can’t speak on those comparisons, Sister Maggie immediately jumped off my screen and was easily one of my favorite characters. She harbors her own significant guilt over past actions. Not to mention, like any good nun, she wields guilt as a weapon better than any master sharpshooter.
Daredevil also doubles down on the foils for Matt/Daredevil. Fisk returns and is every bit the brilliant foil he was in season 1. Season 3 also adds a classic Daredevil villain in Ben Poindexter’s Bullseye, who is given a childhood history similar to Matt’s. Fisk eventually gives Poindexter a copied Daredevil suit as part of a ploy to discredit the Daredevil name.
The intent is clear; Poindexter shows us who Matt would be if he gave in to the devil within. Matt never wears his classic red devil costume and instead has multiple fights against Poindexter while the antagonist wears the suit. Matt Murdock literally fights his devil throughout the season. He battles the person he would be if Stick or Elektra had gotten their way.
This is a season of battling demons. Some failed long ago. Some fail throughout the course of the season. Many of the heroes overcome them. There’s no doubting the intense focus season 3 takes, though, or how well it executes that focus.
The Devil in Our Ear
Not every character fully succeeds, unfortunately. I understand and appreciate the purpose of FBI agent Ray Nadeem, but his character is so steeped in generic traits that I found it hard to engage with him. Your mileage will vary here, for sure. Some will like the federal agent who turns a blind eye to corruption in order to help his family and such, but I’ve seen this story before. I’ve seen it done better.
He also symbolizes the larger, continued problem these shows have with law enforcement. And to be fair, season 3 of Daredevil handles the law much better than other shows have. It still isn’t particularly good. The level of corruption and absurdity at times just makes me laugh. The reasoning for it all existing just doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny.
I understand a lot of this owes to comic tropes carried over for the good of the story. Fisk needs to be this powerful and have immense leverage over federal law enforcement in order to make a hero like Daredevil necessary. Daredevil, to its credit, does make it more plausible than others. Fisk owns the right people at the right positions with the right leverage. I still don’t find any of these characters particularly compelling, and no tearful monologues about threats to their family will change that. They simply don’t match the dramatic gravitas of Fisk, Matt, or any of the other main characters.
As with any superhero show, you’re also going to run into moments testing your suspension of belief. How did they not get caught here? How did a character not know this there? Why did they not just shoot these characters? Again, season 3 of Daredevil does an admirable job limiting these moments or distracting with good content. They still exist, though, and individual ability to ignore it will vary.
I also thought season 3 missed some serious opportunities. As important as Sister Maggie is at the beginning and end of the season, she kind of vanishes in some middle episodes and her presence is missed. I also thought they whiffed on a revelation about her at the end of the season. The focus is instead placed on Father Lantom’s knowledge of this secret. By the time the proper confrontation happens, it’s anticlimactic. The thematic and narrative resolution has occurred and the conversation no longer means what it should have.
Sister Maggie is incredible, but she should have been better.
I’m also a bit iffy on Poindexter’s character. He falls victim to much the same flaw that Ray Nadeem does. Plainly, he’s generic. He has mental health problems at a young age, suffers tragedy, does bad things, and suffers with healthy empathy. He stalks a woman. Poindexter basically serves as a bad guy looking for a good woman to make him better. There’s certainly more to him than that. Elements exist for a more compelling character. I just felt like Daredevil fell a bit short with their intent with him.
And that’s fine. Poindexter is not the main villain. He basically serves as a mirror for Matt. He serves this function admirably. Considering how much screen time he receives, he is an area that could have been improved, though.
I also think the individual plot beats don’t really strive too far outside of a generic comfort zone. They still work really well because Daredevil does an outstanding job making familiar plot points compelling. Still, this is the third season now where Matt has struggled with killing vs. not killing. He again struggles between Matt Murdock and Daredevil. Karen again struggles with direction in her life. While certainly upped in scale, Fisk’s corruption and threat remains familiar to the first season.
If you’re looking for innovation, I don’t think season 3 of Daredevil offers it. It pulls its punches in some areas it would have been better off not, and doesn’t deliver on the promise or expectations of some characters.
A Better Devil
Ultimately, these flaws are not serious but rather hiccups keeping Daredevil from entering legitimate great drama conversation. This season was highly impressive. I don’t hesitate to call it the best season of superhero TV I’ve ever seen.
Daredevil has always strove for something a bit more than its counterparts. There’s an element of effort to the dialogue, plotting, direction, cinematography, and acting that other superhero shows arguably lack. They may not always hit, but they always take a swing. Of course, not all these shows try to be what Daredevil does. They want to be campy, or they want to be more comic-y. They may try for riffs on Blaxploitation like Luke Cage does. They may care more about being a fun, entertaining show than anything trying hard to speak out on society.
It does come down to taste, but for my taste, Daredevil is as good as it gets. And season 3 was as good as Daredevil gets.
This felt like both a lesson learned from past mistakes, as well as a culmination of everything previous seasons did right. It just feels right, like the show finally hit its groove. The fight scenes were the best they’ve ever been. The characters fit together better than ever. It hit visual high marks. Everything gelled into a new high-mark. Season 3 even solved the pacing problem plaguing the Marvel Netflix shows.
With the cancellation of Luke Cage and Iron Fist, the fate of all these shows remains up in the air. Will Netflix cancel all their Marvel shows due to Disney’s impending streaming service? If Daredevil on Netflix has to end here, it picked a great place to do so. Season 3 of Daredevil was the best thing Marvel has yet put on Netflix. It feels like an improvement of everything preceding it.
I hope we get more. I want to see if Daredevil can improve yet again. If so, we may be looking at the first legitimately great superhero drama.
Images Courtesy of Netflix
Carmilla Takes Center Stage in Castlevania’s Mid Season
When a show is centered around the plight against one character, in a traditional sense, there are two things on opposite ends that can either go wrong or right. That villain can be either amazing or dull, and the story will either prosper or fail based on that. What I’ve loved about this season of Castlevania is that the concept of a single overarching villain is practically unheard of. Well, I mean sure if you had to place a name on the villain based on the series namesake it would have to be Dracula himself. However, the way he is portrayed in this series is broken, apathetic, and just seemingly tired of every one and everything.
I’ll forever love the writers for using this to showcase a more powerful, fleshed out, and just generally more bad ass secondary villain in the form of Carmilla. This isn’t to say Dracula is a horrible villain, far from it; with Carmilla though, we get a brand new look at conspiracies unraveling and an upset in the balance of power that was dominating the playing field in the war against humans. Even though Dracula’s forces lost the battle of Gresit in the first season, he was hardly defeated. It was merely a minor setback until Carmilla arrived to be honest.
While she is my favorite among Dracula’s cast of generals, she isn’t the only player moving or being moved. In the mid season we see the manipulation of Hector, the loyalty of Issac, and hilariously how quickly everyone forgot about Godbrand. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the mid season and it’s follow up breathe more life into our cast of heroes as we see real tension rise between Trevor and Alucard upon the discovery of the information in the Belmont library. We also get even more adorable moments between Trevor and Sypha, to which I say keep them coming because I need that cuteness in my life. Coming into the final two episodes of the series, I have to say at this point I have never seen a series so close to perfect that I’m truly sad to see it end.
The Last Spell
This episode opens with Issac meditating outside the castle and seemingly releasing Godbrand’s ashes into the wind while Carmilla speaks with an unknown person, telling them to have their forces ready at Braila. It seems her plans are finally coming into motion. After we hear literally the only time someone questions Godbrand’s disappearance.
In the Belmont library, Sypha continues to fangirl over books as she explains her realization of how poorly her people passed down information via an oral culture, until she finds a spell book about…penises. Oh, Alucard, if only Trevor judged you as hard as you do him. Oh wait, he does. Poor Sypha in that case. She’s completely defensive about his broken persona yet so supportive, and oh please stop making them so adorable. Ok I’m done, I promise.
We move to Hector, who seems to be truly enjoying nature while Issac gives his best impression of Anakin Skywalker’s “I hate sand” monologue. The dissent among the generals has caused Hector even more concern as the two speak in secret about Dracula’s apathy towards his own methods of culling the human race. He tells Issac that he wants a united decision between him, Issac, and Carmilla to move on Braila, to unite the army. Issac agrees, believing it will appease Carmilla into obedience. He doesn’t know how wrong he was. Hector returns to Carmilla and she showers him with nothing but praise and admiration. He also doesn’t know how wrong he was.
Issac returns to Dracula, admiring a transitional mirror in his study that is similar to the one in the Belmont library (hint hint cough cough) as he tells Dracula about Hector. Dracula finally agrees to the attack on Braila as he reminisces on his past, and we get a flashback to the slaughter of the merchants from a city called Kronstadt who had disrespected him. We are treated to a bloody spectacle as young Dracula in his prime slaughters with very little effort. That power and passion of course, was never to be seen again. It’s here we get to see a glimpse of the historical figure on whom he is based, Vlad the impaler.
Hector and Carmilla appear as he returns to the present and they bring up the attack on Braila. Dracula truly shows his madness and weakness in this moment. He has no idea that he might have just sealed his fate. It seems Carmilla is in complete control at this point. She moves the castle to Braila, where her forces already wait for an obvious coup; her demon army, made by Hector, moves on the Belmont estate and she stands as the only voice of reason among dissenting generals. Poor Hector finally realizes that he was used and now even he is under her control.
The episode ends with Sypha finding a locking spell to trap the castle in a single location. It isn’t finished but she can complete it, that is until Carmilla’s demon forces finally arrive at the Library.
The following episode begins with the attack on the library by even more famous Castlevania monsters. The fan service is real. Trevor shows his own weakness until Alucard puts his mind into place. Alucard will get the transitional mirror working while Sypha finishes the locking spell all while Trevor defends them by being the awesome Belmont that he is. Alucard and Trevor have another bromance moment as Alucard suggests using the mirror to find Dracula’s castle and end things here and now. Poor fools don’t know what is actually coming.
We finally get to see Vampire Killer in action and Trevor’s beautiful ingenuity. Alucard finally gets the mirror working and the castle into sight as Dracula moves it into Braila. Turns out he didn’t care whether the vampires starved after destroying all the humans. Alucard’s job is made harder now that he has to find the castle again. The attack on the river town finally begins as Trevor unleashes his fury on a giant demon using some damn impressive acrobatics and Dark Souls dodging.
Carmilla begins her secret coup as she had Hector bring back the dead Bishop from the first season. As the Castle’s army marches into the city, she has him bless the river, making the water holy as his body burns away from its power. As the vampire army moves into the city they are greeted by another vampire army clad in plate armor and ballistae. In a stroke of brilliance, the bridge is destroyed and nearly all of Dracula’s army is dropped into the now holy river.
Trevor continues to defend his comrades in a spectacular fight, yet he is continuously pushed back. Toward the end, he is basically fighting with candlesticks, yet with some very real success. Back in Braila, Carmilla’s army use the ballistae to begin their invasion of the castle, and she explains to Hector that he betrayed Dracula while also toppling the patriarchy. The fight continues in the library as Sypha finally finishes the spell and Alucard has the castle focused in the mirror. Sypha begins the spell as the army enters the castle, slaughtering all vampires who oppose them.
Issac runs to Dracula to warn him of the betrayal. Not knowing of the spell currently being placed on the castle, Dracula tries to move the castle but both he and Sypha meet resistance with in another. Carmilla and Hector watch as the castle materializes and dematerializes causing a flood to take out Braila.
When the castle finally transports, it’s located front of the Belmont estate. Upon her success, Sypha gives off the most adorable little clap.
It seems the final battle is upon us. I can’t wait to see what the final two episode have in store for us, so see you all next week!
Images Courtesy of Netflix
Schemes, Plots, and Adorable Things as Castlevania Approaches Mid Season
As the second season of Castlevania progresses, we begin to grasp just how well the writers are doing taking a simple story and weaving it into something with incredible depth and so many moving parts that it almost becomes as complicated as the clock tower in Dracula’s castle. On a side note, screw that clock tower and its stupid cogs. Back to the show, in the first two episodes you could sense that many in Dracula’s court had their own agendas, especially a certain femme fatale named Carmilla who is fast becoming one of my favorite characters on the show.
The third and fourth episode of this season definitely showcase the interweaving of several plots, schemes, and a decent amount of lore and fan service (internally screams….LEON BELMONT!) with the excellent writing to create something truly special to behold. If my faith was ever rekindled in video game adaptations, it was with this series. While we approach mid season, and the announcement of a third season, video game fans can only predict what the final four episodes will contain both in retrospect to the plot of Castlevania 3 and original ideas that the writers will include. But now, let’s get into these two great episodes.
Hector is the main focus at the start of this episode, and we see the start of his morbid obsession with reanimating the dead. It’s disturbing but at the same time almost innocent in intention. In a flashback, we see him happen upon a dead and slightly decayed dog. Using his two magical coins, he sparks life back into it. Of course, this light-hearted scene turns once he decides to bring the undead dog to his home just judging by his mother’s unseen reaction.
We return to the present as he’s is bringing a demon back to life and Carmilla intrudes. She comes to offer praise and Hector gives a short history lesson on Devil Forgers. Apparently there are not many and most of them are in hiding due to the nature of their craft. Carmilla shows her admiration even more, especially because Dracula seems to trust Hector and Issac in ways that make the rest of his army feel uneasy. It’s clear this show of admiration on Carmilla’s part is a ploy to influence others to her will.
She begins to play more on his emotions and his care for Dracula and shares his worry for Dracula’s mental state. Like in the previous episode, she brings up attacking the Belmont state, to which Hector agrees but he still wants Dracula’s permission. Loyal to a fault it would seem. When she realizes the brute force tactic wouldn’t work, Carmilla switches it up to a more emotional oriented ploy.
A flash back of Dracula and Hectors first meeting gives a lot of insight into the way Hector feels about his current master. A somber Dracula calls upon Hector to raise him an army for killing Lisa. The two bond over their hatred of humanity; Dracula’s wants a culling, but Hector wants them to remain livestock. He does not believe in suffering, only effective population control to keep humans from harming the world. Carmilla uses the seeds of doubt in his mind to convince Hector to create a personal army to attack Braila, another goal she is hell bent on attaining.
Back with our trio of Alucard, Trevor, and Sypha, Trevor is as poetic as ever when he sees a tree he played on when he was a child, obviously signaling that they are close to the Belmont estate. What I love most about these three is the dialogue between them all. The sass of Alucard, the unintentional hilarity of Trevor’s grim disposition, and the pure yet wise and funny attitude of Sypha. As they enter the grounds of the derelict and decaying estate, Trevor goes on about his teenage years and we get more bromance between him and Alucard. Apparently Alucard had the better childhood.
Alucard doesn’t let up with the sass as they find the secret entrance to the underground of the estate. Turns out it was sealed by dark magic thanks to Sypha, to which Alucard is happy to make fun of. Honestly he’s my patronus at this point.
Inside the keep, Trevor continues with the history of the Belmonts. Their origins in France, but they moved on with the dark creatures to the east with Leon Belmont as the patriarch. Deeper in the library is a plethora of books, weapons, scrolls, and countless artifacts or as Alucard would call it, an episode of Hoarders.
We get another piece of lore as Sypha asks what Leon Belmont was doing in Wallachia. For those of you who played Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, you’ll know that he was searching for the man who would one day become Dracula, more or less anyway. Even more exciting is that Trevor finds the most iconic artifact of the game series: the famous Belmont maced whip Vampire Killer, or as they call it in the show, Morning Star, which in game is the highest power upgraded version of the former. Alucard is less impressed at the fact that he’s in a museum dedicated to the art of killing his kind.
The episode ends with Godbrand approaching Dracula about killing all of humanity and what they will eat after they run out of rations. It seems Dracula is in no mood as he puts Godbrand in his place in a truly horrifying way. On his way out, Godbrand runs into Carmilla and lets her know his worries as well as the fact that he thinks their master hasn’t fed in some time. She lets us in on her past as well after Godbrand tries to storm off, and suddenly her motivations become a little clearer. Old, mad men will not control her destiny, it seems, and she will make sure of it.
The next episode offers more in terms of action as Godbrand begins a reign of bloody terror, taking a handful of vampires and inflicting a bloody retribution on the local armies. Body parts litter the snow as blood stains the open woods in a vicious spectacle. Sadly for Godbrand, it is only a memory destroyed by a pig given to him to feed on. Back with the heroes, even more sarcasm and sass flow as Trevor finds a magical mirror that no longer works. Sypha does her best to make Trevor and Alucard two work better without fighting.
Back in Dracula’s castle, Carmilla works on Hector even more than she did in the previous episode, bringing up Dracula not turning Lisa. She questions Dracula’s sanity and Hector’s loyalty, saying if Dracula kills all humans, where will that leave him? If he refused to turn Lisa, whom he loved, why would he allow others to live? It is here that the basis of Hector’s future betrayal begins to take root. Braila again comes up. Her plan is to have Dracula’s forces take Braila and while away, a personal army made by Hector for her will usurp Dracula. Hector does not disagree at this point.
As with Hector, we get a flashback to when Dracula recruited Issac. The dialogue is almost Tarantino-like in style, with the exposition told through tales between the two. It seems Issac’s insanity is more in league with Dracula’s motives than Hector’s. This foreshadows the fact that he will not join Hector in Carmilla’s plan, though this is not the only time we will see it portrayed. Back in the present Godbrand losses all sense and takes a pack of Vampires to a local village to feed as they will, against Dracula’s wishes. This doesn’t help with Dracula’s already growing sense that he feels like he is losing the loyalty of his generals.
As Dracula and Issac ponder Hector’s supposed immaturity, Godbrand and his company inflict the bloody massacre upon a nearby town. Slaughtering with no hesitation and with no mercy. This is the series at its goriest, and we can’t even imagine what this would be like in live action—certainly not for the feint of heart. It seems the only light within this dark episode is a moment of tenderness between Trevor and Sypha as the two share a blanket. She talks about the difference between loneliness and sadness. Where Alucard is a lonely soul, cold and distant, Trevor has a melancholy to him that to her, drowns everything around him. I ship them so hard.
The episode ends with the aftermath of Godbrands rampage. He goes to see Issac to insult his self-flagellation, and we learn Isaac’s motivation and demented thought process about purifying the human race through extermination. Godbrand makes the fatal mistake of mentioning Carmilla’s doubts to one so loyal. He even brings up the fact that Alucard presents a very real threat to their war. The final costly sentence hints at his plan to usurp the castle, which in the end causes Issac to violently and mercilessly kill Godbrand in a most bloody fashion. With Issac now knowing about the coming coup, who knows what’s in store for his war now?
Images Courtesy of Netflix and Konami
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Has Plenty of Charm to Suck You In
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!