REVIEW: ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Part 2 Could Have Been Much More

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The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 2

The Netflix original series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, is in its sophomore season, titled ‘Part 2.’ The series follows Sabrina Spellman, played by Kiernan Shipka, as she moves through both the human and witch world of Greendale. Developed by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the series follows the Archie Comics’ title of the same name.

Picking up after the holiday special, this season focuses on Sabrina’s duality. Now with her noticeably witchy white hair, which changed after she signed the Book of the Beast, Sabrina struggles to maintain her goodness, her morality, and ultimately her humanity as she goes deeper into the Church of Night.

This season, we see Sabrina dealing with the choices she made last season. Her friends know her secret, she’s fully enrolled in the Church of Night’s school, she’s starting a new romance, and now she is having to make decisions as to whether or not she will do the Dark Lord’s will. The heart of this season is the push and pull for Sabrina’s identity, its fluctuation from passion to morality and how she may not be the one in control of it.

Although the season sees the exploration of the dualities at play in the struggle for Sabrina’s identity, the execution of it is shaky. With everyone around her sitting in the gray areas and their dedication to the Dark Lord less evil and more pragmatic, the stakes don’t seem to heavy. This is backed up when the Dark Lord’s world ending plan can be enacted through Madame Satan’s manipulation regardless of the choices that Sabrina makes, undercutting any agency Sabrina has. To top it all off with there being literal angels in Greendale for an episode, seemingly enacting a large plot point before they’re gone. There is too much thrown in to show a simple concept.

In this movement between good and evil, the showrunners decide to have Sabrina enact a reformation, aiming to dismantle Father Black’s patriarchal ideals. Now, I’m with this, in theory. I enjoy it when shows examine some of the inherent patriarchal ideas and practices in things like religion, but here, it is again, not executed well. This is at the fault of the writing, turning what could be empowering commentary into over the top use of buzzwords and actions that are quickly executed without time to settle in their impact.

It is also surprising that a show that has done the most – and I don’t mean that in a good way – to address feminism neglects potential issues of race. Instead of using fantasy and horror to have detailed looks at social issues, it scrapes the surface of feminism and ignores any other issues that other characters in the witchy world might experience, especially for characters like Ambrose and Prudence, who although they take a spotlight in a couple of episodes, they’re agency is tied to Sabrina’s, which is ultimately non-existent within the broader plot of the season.

That being said, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, sees an old character being true to themselves: Susie is now Theo, a transgender teen. While Theo faces issues of othering from his basketball team, when he begins to transition, his friends and family are supportive. Theo is loved as Theo and the show allows his character enough room to have his story told.

In fact, the best episode for each character this season is in “Chapter Fifteen: Doctor Cerberus’ House of Horror,” it is also the only episode that necessitated a full hour to tell the story. Here, each of our main cast gets tarot card readings which results in answers to some of their deepest problems — even if it’s tainted by the card reader herself.

In Theo’s section of the episode, he deals with body dysmorphia and confronts a reality of many of those transitioning. Although I feel that Theo’s storyline is the most developed with care in the season and the only identity that is explored and executed well, I am a cis woman. This means that my reading of it comes only from viewing and not experience.

Unfortunately, outside of Theo, this season is filled attempts of exploring deep questions of identity fails. Through Sabrina’s quest to become head boy, Prudence’s need to take the Black family name, and Zelda’s position with Father Black, the writers try for camp but miss the mark. The dialogue instead comes off as hamfisted and inauthentic.

With all of this being said, are great things about this season, namely Michelle Gomez as Ms. Wardwell, aka Madam Satan. This season, getting Ms. Wardwell’s backstory, or rather the backstory of the woman in her skin, is heartbreaking. In fact, the most emotion I felt this season revolved around her, her relationship with the Dark Lord, and ultimately the control he has over her.

Gomez is by far the best actress of the cast and her lines are delivered with passion and authenticity, making most of her subpar dialogue well delivered and her portrayal emotional. As we see her motivation and history unfold, you gain empathy for her, previously nonexistent because of her standing as one of the secret protagonists who is trying to kill our main character.

The other part of the season that is extremely well-executed is the creature design, costuming, and set design. When it comes to the world of Sabrina, the costuming does a lot of the heavy lifting. While the script may be weak, the sets build out the world. Their exposition is in the comics on the shelves, in the Cerberus’ and the color palettes of the academy and the town proper. Sabrina’s wardrobe is also filled with amazing references to what she wears in the comic.

Overall, there are some great moments in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 2. Nick and Sabrina’s relationship is touching, and his willingness to experience the human world makes him a better fit than Harvey. Ambrose has a larger role this season and steals his scenes. And the lore of the world is more realized. That being said, the writing really hinders the show, leaving me thinking of the places it could go, the potential it has, and how it could have been more than just buzzwords.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 2 is streaming now on Netflix

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 2
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

Overall, there are some great moments in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 2. Nick and Sabrina’s relationship is touching, and his willingness to experience the human world makes him a better fit than Harvey. Ambrose has a larger role this season and steals his scenes. And the lore of the world is more realized. That being said, the writing really hinders the show, leaving me thinking of the places it could go, the potential it has, and how it could have been more than just buzzwords.