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The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina & the Resurrection of the Teenage Witch

Surprise witch, I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me…

*Spoiler warning, the following post features spoilers for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Read at your own risk*

Late last week we were blessed with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix. The show is a reboot of everybody’s favourite 90s teenage witch with a dark, and dare I say, satanic twist. I’ve loved Sabrina Spellman since I was a small child in the 1990s. I have also become extremely fascinated with witchcraft in the past few years, so you can imagine how excited I was when this specific reboot was announced. CAOS comes to us from the same creators as Riverdale, but don’t let that discourage you from watching Sabrina.

In fact, the only thing The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has in common with Riverdale, is one small cameo from a secondary character, and a few mentions of the town itself. The new Sabrina is much darker from its nostalgic original, comparing closer to American Horror Story: Coven, than the original 90s sitcom.  Though they kept a lot of characters from the original series, the new Sabrina is actually based off comics from the Archie universe dating back to the 1960s, and most of the show takes its material directly from those comics.  Being obsessed with all things witchy and Halloween, I binged the whole season in less than 48 hours, so that obviously makes me an expert on the life of Sabrina Spellman. I wanted to unpack some of my feelings on the show’s key players, and how they are both alike, and different from the 90s version that I loved so much as a kid.

Salem
Salem the talking animatronic black cat was a big part of what made the original 90s Sabrina so iconic and memorable. In The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Salem does appear, though he doesn’t talk. The 2018 version sees Salem as Sabrina’s familiar. Familiars are animals, or insects that aid their witch companions in return for protection. Familiars are an important element to real life witchcraft or Wicca, so 2018 Salem does add a bit of credibility to CAOS.  If you miss Salem’s sassy, and quick-witted humour, don’t worry. That role is now fulfilled by Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose, who happens to be on house arrest, attached to the Spellman house much like 90s Salem.

Zelda and Hilda
Where would Sabrina be without her wise, and cunning aunts guiding her through both young adulthood AND the spirit realm? The Zelda and Hilda from the 90s sitcom maintained a loving bond through the show’s run.  The 90’s Zelda who was a scientist, is replaced by 2018 Zelda the devoted Satan worshipper, who is always making sure the Spellman name is free of scandal. Hilda, the fun loving, silly aunt, is replaced by Hilda, the free-spirit. The dynamic between the sisters in the new Sabrina are way more intense, and twisted. Though both sets do live in killer Victorian mansions, the 2018 aunts run a funeral business, because why wouldn’t they?

Harvey
90s Harvey Kinkle was a dreamboat, and if you disagree with me you’re wrong. The 90s Harvey was by Sabrina’s side,  but not really an important part of the original series. 2018 Harvey is a lot different than his predecessor. The new Harvey comes from a long line of witch hunters, which should make for an interesting dynamic between the two later on in the series. 2018 Harvey and Sabrina are pretty intense for a couple of teens, way more so than the are they or aren’t they couple from the 90s.

Sabrina’s Coven
Sabrina’s friends in the new series are one of the best parts of the show. Though they’re mortals, they also have special powers. I’m pretty sure Rosalind is clairvoyant (she has psychic visions), and Susie can talk to one of her dead relatives. Susie is also non-binary, a subject that is addressed within the first two episodes, and throughout the rest of the series with sensitivity. Both serve some much-needed diversity to the cast, and keep the mortal half of the show interesting. Within the first two episodes Sabrina and co. create a safe space group for young women, and non-binary students called W.I.C.C.A (Women’s Intersectional Cultural and Creative Association) also(I see what you did there). Both Sabrina, and her friends are incredibly progressive, and a true reflection of what American teens are like in the year 2018.

The Weird Sisters
We first meet the Weird sisters while they are putting a hex on Sabrina in the middle of the woods. Upon first meeting them we are to believe they are her rivals. They immediately aren’t likeable, but then they kind of grow on us. One of their names is Dorcus, and for some reason it’s amazing. The main Weird sister’s is Prudence, and we quickly learn that her favourite thing to do is torment mortal boys, so she’s kind of a queen, and we kind of love her.

Witch School
In the 90s Sabrina, we often see her transporting to the spirit realm via her upstairs linen closet. In CAOS, Sabrina is told that to practice her witchcraft, she must study at a special school for wizard and witches. Her coven, The Church of Night runs the witch school Sabrina, and the Weird sisters all attend. All sorts of spooky classes, and sacrifices go down there, including some really extreme witch hazing. It’s Harry Potter meets American Horror Story: Coven and we’re here for all of it.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina feature darker subjects than it’s light and fluffy original, featuring everything from signing your soul over to Satan on your sweet 16, to witch sacrifices. After I finished the 10-episode season I suddenly found myself wanting to be a teenage witch again. Sure, Sabrina gets into a lot of understandably twisted, and sticky situations, but her life also seems so full of mystery. Where are her parents? Why does one of her aunt have a British Accent while the other doesn’t? Will Salem the cat ever talk? In a whole show filled with witches and warlocks, the story can go in 100 different directions, and I’ve been put under a spell, and sucked right in to Sabrina’s wild world.

So no, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is not Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and quite honestly, nothing will ever touch that level of nostalgia. But CAOS delivers something totally fresh and new, and I’m totally fine with it. The show’s dark themes, and sinister characters are broken up by Sabrina’s infectious optimism. Sure, you may have screwed up a spell resulting in some pretty terrible stuff, but you can totally fix it! Even when Sabrina knows she’s royally messed up, risking the reputation of the Spellman family once again, she always finds a way to calmly fix the situation, and that is truly the feminist hero we need right now. Being a half-witch wouldn’t suck that much either. Happy Halloween Witches!

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