The first episode of any Netflix series sets the tone, whether you’re watching nightly, weekly, or binging the entire series in a day (get ready for that judgemental “are you STILL watching this?” message, spelled with a silent “don’t you have a life?”). The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is no different. First and foremost, trying to distance itself from the cheesy Teenage Witch version from the late 90s to the early aughts, Sabrina comes out swinging and doesn’t pull its punches. But is it enough to keep the entire first episode strong and set up watchers with enough stamina to last the series? Warning! Small spoilers ahead!
Lots of folks watched Melissa Joan Hart as the SO-not-a-teenager Sabrina Spellman. But 5 minutes into Netflix’s new series and audiences stop being able to compare the two.
There are several differences, not just in tone and style. Netflix’s Sabrina plays more on the exaggerated teen angst and over-the-top drama that has made Riverdale such a hit, which makes sense. Not only are both shows originally Archie comics, but Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is the showrunner for both.
Sabrina is likely to make fans of the 90s show a bit uncomfortable. Throughout the first episode are several mentions of “the Dark Lord”, and the show doesn’t just hint at who that is. Character name Satan himself several times, even using phrases such as “Hail Satan!”. With references to Salem and the old witch trials, the show is setting itself up for a little bit of backlash. It’s widely known that people during the witch trials weren’t even witches, but those who claim the moniker today have nothing to do with the devil. It makes the show’s subject matter a bit sensitive. But if everyone involved will remember that not only is this a work of fiction, but it’s playing off the legends of the time period of the Salem witch trials.
Also to take into consideration is that it’s only the first episode. There could be some tonal changes as the series progresses, with the first episode setting audiences up to be riled, to talk about it, generate interest and outrage, only to keep people watching. But even if that’s not the case, the show’s acting is on-par with Riverdale, making it worth the watch. Every character has their heart on their sleeve, feeling every little emotion to the fullest. It keeps the show from taking itself too seriously while still drawing in audiences and making them invested in these characters from the get-go. It’s an interesting portrayal of characters and one that’s, for the most part, working. The twists and turns and the way the show is taking the source material and making it its own is fun for those who read the comics and watched the show but aren’t married to a very specific idea of who and what the Spellmans are.
As Sabrina edges towards her 16th birthday, and her “dark baptism”, she battles with the idea of leaving her mortal life behind to become a full-fledged witch. Forces from both inside and outside Sabrina’s immediate circle try to sway her, but Sabrina seems to be a smart, capable, and strong-willed young woman, who won’t be lead around. She wants to make informed choices, not be lead by her heart.
Not everyone in the witchy-world seems to be as dark as others; members of Sabrina’s own family seem normal, they just happen to be in a pact with Satan. This draws people into the world underneath the normal Greendale that Sabrina wants to cling to. Is there more to this “Dark Lord” thing than the first episode would lead you to believe? There seem to be dark and evil witches, but is that the exception or the rule? Audiences will have to tune in to more episodes to find out…
Are you enjoying The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix? Is it not your cup of tea? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter!