Halloween is almost upon us and it’s time for some witchy fun! Next week, on Friday October 26, two relatively lighthearted supernatural series will join the pack. NBC’s Midnight, Texas, based on the book series by Charlaine Harris, author of True Blood/the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, will return for season 2. And the entire first season of the Riverdale quasi spin off The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, from the same team who brought Archie, Veronica and Bughead to life, will debut on Netflix the same day.
In this post, let’s look at Sabrina, then I’ll make a second post for Midnight, Texas.
Sabrina is based on the teenage witch from the comics, most specifically from the comic series of the same name written by creator and showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who is also the showrunner for the CW’s Riverdale. It’s not connected to the 90s sitcom starring Melissa Joan Hart, though I imagine the writers won’t be able to resist throwing in some inside jokes.
The show stars Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina Spellman, a half human-half witch teenager who has a big decision to make on her 16th birthday. Lucy Davis plays Hilda Spellman, the more maternal of Sabrina’s two aunts, who act as her guardians. Miranda Otto plays Zelda Spellman, a fierce, protective witch who wants Sabrina to follow in her footsteps as a devotee of the Dark Lord. (Guess JK Rowling doesn’t own that phrase.) Ross Lynch is Harvey Kinkle, Sabrina’s sweet, clueless, human boyfriend, who has no idea what’s really going on in the town of Greendale, where Sabrina’s chilling adventures take place. The cast is rounded out by Jaz Sinclair, Michelle Gomez, Chance Perdomo, Richard Coyle, and Tati Gabrielle, who play various friends, allies and enemies of Sabrina.
Updated 10/25/18: Added video of Sabrina’s comic book-style opening credits.
The poster above is playing off of Sabrina’s Riverdale roots: It’s a reference to the season one episode of Riverdale The Lost Weekend (#10), in which Betty forced an unwanted birthday celebration on Jughead, including a creepy a cappella version of Happy Birthday sung as she carried his cake to him.
Collider put up a pretty great review of Sabrina, including a 5 star rating from their reviewer. They describe the show as a scarily good delight and obsession, with “some genuinely spooky moments and decent jump-scares within the series, but not enough to chase away the horror-averse.” Sabrina is a hero who is full of optimism, plopped in the middle of a dark environment.
“Everything ultimately works in concert, including the series’ excellent pacing. If you dare to look away or glance at your phone, you might miss something pivotal, and yet, the show never feels like it’s burning through plot. The overarching question is whether Sabrina will ultimately choose the Path or Light or of Night, and each episodic vignette plays into that in naturally occurring ways. (Another triumph of the series is its organic exposition, especially early on. It jumps right in and explains what you need to know when you need to know it, yet things are never confusing orforced). The show also does a wonderful job giving depth and dimension to its characters, especially those whose motivations are not immediately clear, such as the Snape-like figure of the Devil’s handmaiden, Miss Wardell (Michelle Gomez), who takes the form of a Baxter High school teacher to gain access to Sabrina. Sabrina’s classmates at her new witch school, like Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) — one of the Weird Sisters, who torment her — also end up with shading and depth that illustrate how heroes and villains aren’t always easy to spot in the series. (It should also be noted that this is almost a show that delights in its many varied female characters; this is a show about women).
“No matter what, though, [Sabrina] always barrels forth with unending energy and positivity. That positivity, in the face of such utter darkness, also plays into the show’s humor, which is in abundance…And yet, Sabrina (like its heroine) is ultimately earnest rather than overly clever or cynical. Characters learn from their mistakes, and there are genuinely sweet resolutions.”
I loved season 1 of Riverdale, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s work on Glee. Season 2 of Riverdale went too far off the deep end into serial killers, gang bangers and teenage strippers without enough substance to back up the storylines for me, but I’m definitely willing to give this team another chance. Everything I’ve seen about Sabrina so far looks promising, including a cast full of talented favorites from other shows and a production design to rival Riverdale’s and Glee’s, which was fabulous and underrated.
Season 1 of Sabrina has 10 episodes. It’s already been renewed for a 2nd season. Episodes are reported to be 1 hour long.
Oh, right, there were supposed to be videos! Let’ get on with that!
Inside the World of Sabrina Spellman Featurette:
Clip: Postpone the Baptism
Clip: Salem Appears, and Has the Scariest Cat Voice Ever (He Sounds Like the Devil)
Sabrina’s opening credits, added 10/25/18:
Spotlight Interview with Kiernan Shipka (Sabrina) and Ross Lynch (Harvey)
Media courtesy of Netflix, the CW and Spotlight, except the comic book cover, which is oddly fair use.