REVIEW: CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA – PART 2

Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, and Gavin Leatherwood in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

Starring

Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men)
Ross Lynch (Muppets Most Wanted)
Lucy Davis (Wonder Woman)
Chance Perdomo (Killed By Debt)
Michelle Gomez (Bad Education)
Jaz Sinclair (Slender Man)
Tati Gabrielle (The 100)
Adeline Rudolph
Richard Coyle (5 Day of War)
Miranda Otto (Lord of The Rings)
Lachlan Watson (The Ultimate Life)

Kiernan Shipka in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jedidiah Goodacre (The ORder)
Christopher Rosamond (Van Helsing)
Jaz Sinclair (Paper Towns)
Darren Mann (Giant Little Ones)
Ty Wood (The Haunting In Connecticut)
Emily Haine (Deadpool)
Liam Hall (Arrow)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Gavin Leatherwood (Wicked Enigma)
Alexis Denisof (Buffy: TVS)
Adrian Hough (The Fog)
Spencer Treat Clark (Unbreakable)
Ray Wise (Robocop)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Luke Cook (Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2)

Kiernan Shipka and Ross Lynch in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina hammered feminist themes in its first season, with Sabrina Spellman challenging the patriarchy at every turn, facing off with the principal and jocks at her high school, the leadership of her coven, and even Satan himself. The teenage witch embraced supernatural forces, even as she fought against them, and ultimately sacrificed her principles — not to mention her immortal soul — to save her town, and her family and friends. It’s reminiscent of the path begun by Buffy Summers more than two decades earlier.Kiernan Shipka, Tati Gabrielle, Abigail F. Cowen, Gavin Leatherwood, Chance Perdomo, and Adeline Rudolph in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)If the similarities to Buffy the Vampire Slayer weren’t apparent last season, it’s probably because the show, and the audience, was so immersed in the mythology and history of witches in not-so-sleepy Greendale, and with Sabrina’s struggle to hold on to her mortal life, even as it slipped away from her. But with the heavy lifting of world-building out of the way, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is free to go full-Buffy in its second season, which arrives Friday on the streaming service.Lucy Davis and Alessandro Juliani in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)That shouldn’t be read as a criticism. After just one season, and a winter special, Sabrina’s world is already richer, and more nuanced, than Buffy’s was after seven. With the characters, rules and stakes firmly established, the show’s writers can throw into Sabrina’s path rebellious Kings of Hell, a jealous werewolf, a murder conspiracy, the schemes of the Dark Lord and, worst of all, Valentine’s Day. And that’s only in the first five episodes made available for review.Tati Gabrielle, Abigail F. Cowen, and Adeline Rudolph in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)Picking up shortly after the events of “A Midwinter’s Tale,” whose ending ties directly into “The Epiphany,” Season 2 finds Kiernan Shipka’s Sabrina seemingly settle into life at the Academy of Unseen Arts, only to upend one of the school’s oldest traditions by challenging Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) for the position of Top Boy. The shot across the bow of the patriarchal structure held dear by Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), and the three challenge of witchcraft that follow, would be plenty for the premiere, except Sabrina — in the finest of Buffy traditions — also has demon troubles, which hints at the season’s overarching plot. Of course, the angry, entitled Plague Kings are perhaps the least of Sabrina’s problems, given that the Dark Lord also comes calling to collect what’s owed him, and the intentions of Michelle Gomez’s delightfully manipulative Mary Wardwell remain as inscrutable as ever. That’s all complicated by Sabrina’s determination to make a go at the Academy, which includes a new romance with Nick, but her inability to leave Baxter High, and her mortal friends, behind.Lucy Davis in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)Those friends, who had relatively little to do until the Season 1 finale, flourish in these new episodes, with Lachlan Watson’s bullied Susie Putnam emerging as the show’s heart as he musters the courage to tell his friends, father and tormentors who he’s always been: Theo Putnam. Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) and Roz Walker (Jaz Sinclair) are also given lives separate from Sabrina’s that, nevertheless, test her commitment to the Academy, and to Nick. So too is Sabrina’s family given room to develop beyond their (admittedly entertaining) roles as protectors and moral support. Lucy Davis’ quirky Aunt Hilda, who pinballed in between comic relief and (repeated) murder victim in Season 1, here reveals the depth of her ferocity and devotion. Although cracks had already appeared in the chilly facade of Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto), in Season 2 she displays a willingness to waltz into danger for the sake of the Spellman family. And cousin Ambrose? Let’s just say that Chance Perdomo’s fan-favorite character experiences a complicated arc.Ross Lynch, Jaz Sinclair, and Lachlan Watson in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)With more room to breathe in its second season, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina settles in for a little fun, bouncing between the (yes) Buffy-like “The Epiphany” and the holiday-themed “Lupercalia” before drawing influence from The Twilight Zone with “Doctor Cerberus’s House of Horror,” in which a mysterious stranger tells the key characters their fortunes. The latter could be easily dismissed as a throwaway episode, except that the twisted visions of the future hold elements of truth.https___blogs-images.forbes.com_merrillbarr_files_2018_12_CAS_102_Unit_00166RThrough the shifts in influence and tone, and the side trips into the stories of secondary characters, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina doesn’t lose sight of what made the first season so enjoyable: the moral choices, and failings, of a teen witch who wants to do what’s right, but is frequently forced to follow a dark path. Season 2 underscores that, with witchcraft having unintentional consequences, and those around Sabrina suffering because of her decisions.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: THE CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA – A MIDWINTERS TALE

Chilling-Adventures-of-Sabrina-A-Midwinters-Tale-Netflix-review

Starring

Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men)
Ross Lynch (Muppets Most Wanted)
Lucy Davis (Wonder Woman)
Chance Perdomo (Killed By Debt)
Michelle Gomez (Bad Education)
Jaz Sinclair (Slender Man)
Tati Gabrielle (The 100)
Adeline Rudolph
Richard Coyle (5 Day of War)
Miranda Otto (Lord of The Rings)
Lachlan Watson (The Ultimate Life)

Sabrina-1

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Abigail F. Cowen (Stranger Things)
Heather Doerksen (The Uninvited)
Mckenna Grace (Young Sheldon)
Adrian Hough (The Fog)
Brian Markinson (Sanctuary)
Christopher Rosamond (Siren)

sabrina-midwinter4Considering the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina delighted in toppling the patriarchy and undercutting nostalgia, in between proclamations of “Praise Satan,” it should come as no surprise that the Netflix holiday special takes a relatively unsentimental view of Christmas — or, rather, solstice. It’s a time for family, both living and dead, but it’s also a dangerous time, when mischievous spirits scurry down the chimney, demons kidnap children, and transgressions are forgiven, but not necessarily forgotten. In short, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Winter’s Tale is ideal viewing for fans who can’t stomach another saccharine Christmas episode that shovels on platitudes like so much December snow. There’s probably a moral to be gleaned here, but any excessive sweetness is tempered by sentiments like, “Satan bless us, every one!”sabrina-midwinter7However, “A Winter’s Tale” isn’t a standalone episode that can serve as a welcoming introduction to Sabrina. It’s directly connected to the events of the first season, and some of its threads will no doubt continue into the second. A platinum-haired Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) remains distant from her mortal friends, determined to give them time to come to terms with the revelation that she’s a witch. That won’t be easy for Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch), who admits he still sees his undead brother every time he looks her. Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) is trying to settle into her new life as a mother to Letitia, the infant she secreted away from Father Blackwood, while cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) slowly stretches his wings now that he’s no longer on house arrest. Then there’s the demonic Mary Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), who’s desperate to learn why Satan has seemingly forsaken, yet still up to her old tricks.sabrina-midwinter8aAppropriate to the season, “A Winter’s Tale” leans hard into the Yuletide folklore of Iceland and Central Europe, with key roles for the mischievous Yule Lads, a version of the giantess Gyra, and Krampus, or at least his not-too-distant cousin. They provide another layer to the developing mythos of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, while adding a nice holiday touch. But as fun as they are, they’re merely garland; the centerpiece is, of course, is Sabrina and her friends and family. The episode serves those characters well, carving out room for them to grow, even if they don’t always learn in each instance. Sabrina, for example, determines her friends’ new boundaries, only to promptly overstep them with her present to Harvey and her well-meaning attempt to help his hard-drinking father. Driven to reconnect with her dead mother, whom she encountered in Limbo, she enlists the Weird Sisters to help perform a seance, with predictably disastrous results. But while Sabrina appears doomed to repeat her mistakes, Harvey learns from his, and decides he can’t allow any witchcraft — even the beneficial kind — around him, which promises to further complicate their already fraught relationship.Sabrina-Christmas-EpisodeLikewise, Zelda’s heart-breaking conclusion about baby Letitia, which exposes an emotional depth to the frequently cold auntie previously only glimpsed, is certain to have a ripple effect across Season 2. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Winter’s Tale is, at turns, joyful, somber and spooky, but never, ever cloying, with an ending that’s immediately relatable to anyone (whether witch or mortal) who’s had to muster a semblance of holiday cheer for the benefit of loved ones. Because, really, isn’t that what solstice is about — family, friends … and home invasion?

REVIEW: THE CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA – PART 1

Kiernan Shipka in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

Starring

Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men)
Ross Lynch (Muppets Most Wanted)
Lucy Davis (Wonder Woman)
Chance Perdomo (Killed By Debt)
Michelle Gomez (Bad Education)
Jaz Sinclair (Slender Man)
Tati Gabrielle (The 100)
Adeline Rudolph
Richard Coyle (5 Day of War)
Miranda Otto (Lord of The Rings)
Lachlan Watson (The Ultimate Life)

Miranda Otto, Lucy Davis, and Kiernan Shipka in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Bronson Pinchot (Lois & CLark)
Abigail F. Cowen (Stranger Things)
Adrian Hough (The Fog)
Gavin Leatherwood (Wicked Enigma)
Justin Dobies (Get The Girl)
Kurt Max Runte (Elektra)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Smallville)
Ty Wood (The Haunting In Connecticut)
Darren Mann (Giant Little Ones)
Gavin Leatherwood (Wicked Enigma)
Alvina August (The Intruder)
Megan Leitch (The X-Files)
Alessandro Juliani (Man of Steel)
L. Scott Caldwell (Lost)
Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica)
John Rubinstein (Angel)

Kiernan Shipka in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is the latest incarnation of a long-running teen archetype — the half-witch, half-human, all-American girl, fighting to grow up on her own terms and being front and center in an ever-mutating story about girldom and its discontents. Every iteration is different — the Archie comic book, the groovy Seventies cartoon, the post-Sassy Melissa Joan Hart 1990s sitcom, the macabre new Netflix thriller. Like A Star Is Born, it’s a story gets told over and over, because each generation’s Sabrina has a new tale to tell. But there’s always the premise there’s something inherently occult about being a teenage girl in a hostile world — that growing up female means living a secret life the straight world will never know.Michelle Gomez, Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Jaz Sinclair, and Lachlan Watson in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)And the superb Chilling Adventures is the first version that’s an outright horror story. Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa takes the Archie Comics milieu and gives it a dark and edgy makeover, as he did on the CW’s fabulously lurid Riverdale. Mad Men‘s Kiernan Shipka is a truly fearsome teen, trapped in the interzone between high school and the netherworld. This time, instead of tangling with Britney or N’Sync, she’s taking on her devil-worshipping coven and its misogynistic satanic patriarch. “This is totally the Sabrina for 2018, in so many ways,” Shipka told Variety. “She’s a woke witch.”Kiernan Shipka in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)Sabrina started out as just another bit player in the Archie Comics universe. She made a brief Archie’s Madhouse appearance in in 1962, when it hard to say if America was more terrified of “teenage” or “witch.” But tellingly, she never came into her own as a Sixties character, and didn’t get her own comic book until 1971, after the show became a hit — it was TV, not the comics, where Sabrina blew up into an icon. Her story really starts with the 1970 Saturday-morning cartoon, from the era of Scooby Doo or Josie and the Pussycats. She’s just another fun-loving student at Riverdale High who keeps her witchcraft a secret, hanging with Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and the gang. The occult was huge on kiddie TV at the time, from the Groovie Goolies to The Funky Phantom, but there was something about Sabrina that set her off as a star. She lives in a haunted mansion with her old-school witch aunts, bubbling cauldrons and all, though she uses her ear-tugging magic to battle the forces of evil or just flip the record on the turntable. As the theme song explains, “Her magic power can get her out of trouble!”Miranda Otto, Richard Coyle, Lucy Davis, Kiernan Shipka, Tati Gabrielle, Abigail F. Cowen, and Adeline Rudolph in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)The next Sabrina debuted in September 1996 — one of the decade’s funniest and realest teen shows. Melissa Joan Hart, already familiar from Clarissa Explains It All For You, lived her so-called life with a couple of Lilith Fair-era feminist aunties and the gayest cat in TV history, a glorious feline bitch queen named Salem. It was full of the uncoy feminism that saturated Nineties girl culture, with guests from Da Brat to Blondie to Britney Spears. Melissa and Britney teamed up for the epochal 1999 “You Drive Me Crazy” video — clearly a friendship too perfect for this world.Kiernan Shipka in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)Of all the Nineties’ teen superheroines from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Powerpuff Girls, the sitcom’s Sabrina had the most authentic ordinariness. It wasn’t a dark show — it was full of Nineties optimism that these young women were about to take over the world and get their due. (Broomsticks are so last century.) Like the time that Sabrina sneaks off with her friends to a Violent Femmes show — “classic Eighties rockers!” Gordon Gano serenades the girls with “Please Please Please Do Not Go,” after she dazzles him by casting a “half-hour infatuation spell.” The aunts are proud of how Sabrina behaves herself, so they let her take her first solo flight. The perfect song blasts on the soundtrack: Liz Phair’s “Supernova.” Sabrina’s face is pure joy as she surfs the astral plain on her vacuum cleaner, bopping to Liz’s guitar. In a way, this episode sums up all the best hopes and dreams of American pop culture in the Nineties, just as The X-Files‘ “Memories of a Cigarette Smoking Man” summed up what we feared about ourselves. Patriarchy was a nightmare Sabrina was waking up from, along with the rest of Gen X. We believed teen witches were our future.chilling-adventures-of-sabrina-season-1-spoiler-free-review-sabrina-harveyThe Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a darker show, for darker times — the optimism of the 1970s or 1990s versions would look absurd now. This is Resistance Sabrina. For the first time, our heroine has male authority figures running amok in the witch culture she’s inherited. Shilpa’s supernatural adolescent has to battle jock bullies at her human high school, but she also has to battle the Dark Lord, who wants her to sign herself over to him in the Book of the Beast. She belongs to a coven called the Church of Night, who are heavily into devil worship with human sacrifices and flesh-eating. She also attends the Academy of Unseen Arts, where she’s menaced by high priest Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) and a trio of mean girls inevitably known as the Weird Sisters (the excellent Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph and Abigail Cowen). And just as the 1990s version had Paul Feig as her high school teacher, now her principal is Bronson Pinchot, from that show’s TGIF predecessor Perfect Strangers.Screen-Shot-2018-10-03-at-10.43.00-AM-1000x570Shipka has the gravitas to make this Sabrina the toughest yet, a violent femme who comes on like Joan of Arc crashing into a mastermix of Harry Potter and The Craft. Shipka broke out of Mad Men as Sally, Don Draper’s reckless daughter. She became one of that show’s biggest revelations, the rarer-than-rare case of a child performer who grew up into a real actress, capable of pushing the drama further. (When the series began, there’s no possible way anyone could have guessed how lucky they got casting Shipka — her chops made the historic heights of Seasons Four and Five possible.) And just like Sally Draper, her Sabrina is growing up well-versed in the evil that men do. In Chilling Adventures, she’s visibly realizing she’s going to fighting this battle long after high school is over — a young woman already steeling herself to be the bad-ass senior-citizen witch she knows she’ll have to be. This Netflix I-love-you-but-I’ve-chosen-darkness YA scream is more than just a great high-school horror trip. It proudly carries on 50 years of teenage witch tradition.