[Ed. note: This review contains major spoilers for seasons 1-3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and reveals some general plot points for season 4.]
Like its title character, Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has at all times been pulled in too many instructions. Half-mortal/half-witch Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) began the sequence by dividing her time between getting a traditional teenage schooling at Baxter Excessive, specializing in social-justice causes, learning magic on the Academy of the Unseen Arts, attempting to battle the patriarchy working the Satanic Church of Night time, and defending the city of Greendale from supernatural threats. Her life and the present’s plot bought much more difficult in season 2, when Sabrina was revealed to be the daughter of Lucifer Morningstar (Luke Cook dinner), resulting in her utilizing magic within the season three finale to concurrently each rule along with her father in hell and keep in Greendale.
So when Netflix cancelled the present in July, it appeared fairly unlikely that showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa would be capable to tie up all Sabrina’s subplots satisfactorily together with his eight remaining episodes. The present’s messy, chaotic fourth season, which drops on Dec. 31, emphasizes Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s acquainted strengths and weaknesses on the similar time. The finale doesn’t do justice to many members of its overstuffed ensemble, however it does ship a strong mixture of genuinely creepy monsters and escapist romance.
Based mostly closely on the work of H.P. Lovecraft, season Four sees Sabrina and her allies attempting to battle eight eldritch terrors, which conveniently seem at a charge of 1 per episode. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has typically been at its finest when coping with contained monster-of-the-week model plots, and the ultimate season leans into the method with a sequence of unusual and horrible threats: The Bizarre, a primal aquatic parasite that desires to strip humanity of free will, combines parts of Alien and the DC Comics villain Starro. The Uninvited is the manifestation of each folktale that ends in individuals being punished for failing to indicate kindness to a stranger.
However these thrills are slowed down by Aguirre-Sacasa and his writers’ previous missteps. They’ve repeatedly didn’t get rid of characters who’ve outstayed their welcome or narrative use, and the bloated solid implies that many characters who really feel like they deserve compelling arcs are largely ignored. Sabrina’s finest pal Rosalind Walker (Jaz Sinclair) will get some highly effective payoff this season for the oracular talents she started growing in season 1, however their different shut mates, Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) and Theo Putnam (Lachlan Watson), are left with nothing however romantic plots.
This was in all probability inevitable for the foursome, whose storage band and monster-hunting group Fright Membership intently resembles the Scooby Gang of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Because the threats Buffy confronted grew extra world-shaking, characters with out some connection to the supernatural couldn’t sustain with the ability creep, and real-world issues felt more and more irrelevant. Sabrina’s remaining season follows the identical course.
When Sabrina and Roz run for co-president of Baxter Excessive in season 4, Sabrina’s aunt Zelda Spellman (Miranda Otto) factors out that Sabrina ought to be specializing in defeating the eldritch terrors. Sabrina retorts that she will be able to’t precisely put “vanquisher of eldritch terrors” on her software to Vassar. That is likely to be true, however having Roz and Sabrina make a rousing speech to defeat some bro strawmen looks like a waste of treasured display time for the sequence.
So does on a regular basis dedicated to misogynistic warlock Father Faustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle) and Lilith/Mary Wardwell (Michelle Gomez). Blackwood hit his peak as the first antagonist of season 2, however has weaseled into the plot in more and more pointless and ineffective methods for the final two seasons. His presence additionally limits the potential of his daughter, the mean-girl witch Prudence Night time (Tati Gabrielle), who’s spent that point obsessive about attempting to kill him. And Mary has been a continuing low-level annoyance to Sabrina since her main plot resolved. Gomez was implausible whereas scheming and vamping it up as Madam Devil, however each of her characters really feel irrelevant in season 4.
Greendale is Riverdale for goth youngsters, a imaginative and prescient of small-town bliss the place you may get milkshakes on the native horror bookstore, then head to a midnight displaying of The Rocky Horror Image Present. The present’s soapy romances have at all times been simply as necessary as its magic-fueled plots, so unsurprisingly, a lot of season Four is devoted to creating positive everybody will get some type of fortunately ever after.
But once more, the frenzy to resolve every little thing leaves a lot of these arcs feeling unearned or off the mark. “We’re endgame,” Sabrina’s warlock ex-boyfriend Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) tells her, in a groan-inducingly meta bid to get again collectively along with her. His try to get to know her totally by enrolling at Baxter Excessive may have made for a extremely entertaining fish-out-of-water arc, however it barely lasts past a scene displaying how good he seems in a varsity jacket. A plot the place Dr. Cerberus (Alessandro Juliani of Battlestar Galactica) is exorcised of the incubus possessing him looks like a repudiation of the kinky side of his relationship with Sabrina’s aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis), since beforehand, they may solely have intercourse with him chained up.
Not all of the romance falls brief. Theo has treasured little to do all through season 4, however his Midsummer Night time’s Dream-inspired plot together with his hobgoblin boyfriend Robin Goodfellow (Jonathan Whitesell) properly mixes the supernatural and sappy. The very best general arc of the season, if not the present, goes to Zelda, who after a very long time being unfortunate in love finds a stunning romance with the voodoo witch Mambo Marie LeFleur (Skye Marshall), however struggles to consider she deserves the love.
Probably the most horrible eldritch terrors Sabrina should face is the Countless, which manifests in a particularly meta episode the place she’s trapped in a sitcom alongside Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick, who performed Sabrina’s aunt Hilda and Zelda, respectively, within the 1990s present Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The Countless represents each the unchanging nature of basic sitcoms and the fixed reiteration of established properties, but in addition the inevitability that every one issues really do finish, even when they consider they deserve extra time.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was by no means an ideal present, however it was a daring one. It was by no means as sharply written or revolutionary in its course as Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, however Aguirre-Sacasa tried to make up for any weak spot with scripts that have been a lot queerer and hornier. Their incapability to do away with characters is considerably comprehensible, since all of the actors appeared to be having a lot enjoyable diving into excessive camp of their garish costumes and overabundant eyeliner. Like Sabrina herself, the present’s writers needed to have all of it. They by no means actually achieved the proper steadiness, however watching them attempt was thrilling.
All eight episodes of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina season Four launch on Netflix on Dec. 31.