I did it. I watched every episode currently of the Netflix Original The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and I’ve come out the other side with quite a few thoughts, theories and revelations. One such is how much it reminds me of growing up in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer era.
If you haven’t seen at least the trailer for the first season on Netflix, I can refresh you. Then, we can dip our toes in and discuss just what this show is crushing at as far as fast-paced, teen slice-of-life-with-a-twist thriller shows go.
I can fully admit that I was a bit slow-to-burn when it came to the first season of Sabrina and perhaps a bit of it came from attempting to connect with the lead character played by Kiernan Shipka. Like many people my age and older, we were used to a different Sabrina and perhaps it came from comic books adjacent to Archie and the Riverdale bunch or maybe it came from ABC’s TGIF back in the 90’s. Shipka’s Sabrina Spellman is a whole different kind of beast, truly, as she tends to already understand her family lineage and the dark roots it comes from. This is no homogenized and fairy-dust sprinkled re-imagining. Rather, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina wanes closer to another show from the 90’s and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans would point that out near immediately.
After I concluded the first season, I was quick to leap into the second as the trailer seemed far more quick to the meat and bones of their intended story than the first season. If you’re curious about the trailer, look no further, just do me a favor and watch these seasons as they’re meant to be.
In the 2019 iteration of Sabrina, there are far darker schemes at play. Gone are the more innocent notions of witchcraft and a more folksy concept of where it comes from, and in comes a far more religious tone. In Greendale, where The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is set, the supernatural is ruled by The Dark Lord aka Satan. This means that the tenets of Witchcraft are against the black-and-white portrayals of Good and Evil. Where Sabrina comes in is she shows a nuance to that black-and-white theory and that, just because she was raised within that world, doesn’t mean she necessarily buys into it. This is where the Buffy fans start to see a kinship to Sabrina, I feel, as Buffy knows she is destined for a greater purpose but ultimately despises that she has to. Buffy just always wanted a nice and easy teenage life in Sunnydale whereas it took definitely a couple of seasons to see Buffy fall into accepting it. Sabrina refuses, quite avidly, to be a pawn in a darker purpose and does her very best to live that life she wants and not the one she’s destined for.
Quickly do we find a cast of mortal friends to Sabrina that are not immediately on board with the life Sabrina is trying to account for. Sure, Sabrina attempts to play ball for the sake of her family but not if it means going against her own deeply rooted morals. Her friends have their own stories and troubles and yet, they are an improvement from the original Scooby Gang. Sure, they lean on Sabrina quite frequently but as the series progresses – you see that not only do they stand up on their own, but Sabrina trusts them to do so. Buffy took on a lot and all by herself, even if it meant that she was demeaning her pals more often than not. This meant she was headstrong and it came from a place of always being alone in her destiny long before they came about, sure, but she never quite shook it. Ever. Sabrina learns quick.
There is a self-confidence with this reboot of Sabrina the Teenage Witch that was desperately needed. There’s no new-student jitters, new-kid-in-town awkward moments and instead, she is defiant against those who second-guess her boldly to her face. Sabrina has all of the charm of the old 90’s shows in regards to story but it doesn’t talk down to its audience thanks to not being a network show. Sabrina was intended to be written and filmed and to go on with its story, a fact that means it got its feet off the ground solidly and not as a replacement show that became a cult classic. There’s an intention to these characters, the audaciousness in its ability to make jokes about good-and-evil that Buffy and the Scooby Gang had complications with despite our love for it. There is always and forever an air of darkness looming and not half-seasons of the Creature-of-the-Week episodes that don’t continue having purpose through the season.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Buffy. I own every season, I own the soundtracks, clothing, accessories and even figurines — but hear me out when I say, we wouldn’t have gotten the Sabrina of 2019 if not for the Buffy of 1997. I’m pretty glad that my kid and future kids get to grow up with a strong female to look to and an incredibly inclusive cast of characters same as I did when I was young. This show is ready to carry that and I’m here for it.