Having signed her name into the Book of the Beast in order to save her town of Greendale, pledging herself to serve the Dark Lord, half-mortal, half-witch Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) leaves Baxter High and her friends in order to fully attend the Academy of Unseen Arts and soon comes to learn more about its various traditions and customs while also beginning a new relationship with master conjuror Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood). But with the misogynistic Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) imposing his will onto the Academy and the mysterious Miss Wardwell (Michelle Gomez) having secret, sinister plans for her, Sabrina comes to learn some dark secrets about herself and her powers as an apocalyptic propechy is slowly revealed.
The first part of Chilling Adventures was a pleasant and enjoyable part of my 2018 telly watching so obviously, I was all too eager to dive back into this YA Riverdale-y world of the popular teenage witch and Part Two provides plenty more of the same kind of escapist entertainment but on balance, it’s not quite as good as last year’s crop of episodes.
The problem is that the series has a great many different writers who take turns to pen the nine episodes (a slightly shorter series length, which is probably for the best) and maybe because of this, most of Part Two is quite unfocused and has trouble in establishing what the main story arc is meant to be. As it moves forward, the main narrative takes several detours that look at the stories of Sabrina’s friends, not really going anywhere with plot threads about Roz’s blindness and clairvoyant ability, her relationship with Harvey, and Susie’s transitioning into identifying as a boy (though it is good to see that such topics are at least being attempted) and the series seems to stall on bringing us the “main event”, at one point having to give us a weak Treehouse of Horror type episode which looks at individual characters and tarot cards for no proper reason.
This series (is it a separate series? Or is it simply Series One: Part Two?) also brings The Dark Lord into the narrative a lot more, setting him up as the series’ main antagonist, but all scenes featuring “Lucifer Morningstar” are instead too silly because his animal form looks tacky and as a human, the actor who plays him is too hammy and melodramatic, apparently playing the role for laughs when he should be a nasty and formidable opponent. This instalment of the show also has Father Blackwood attempting to change
Hogwarts The Academy into a patriarchal and regressive institution where the males have all the power but the problem with this is that the writing in these parts is a little too obvious, pushing the all too recognisable issues into our faces a tad too much instead of subtly putting them across for us. But again, reflecting relevant social issues is no bad thing.
Those are the only major negatives as far as I can see and Chilling Adventures remains a perfectly entertaining show that will appeal to fans of stories about witchcraft and magic and the like – we even get to see the characters actually casting spells, something the previous series lacked a little of, although it relies on teleportation, astral projection and invisibility too much at the end for the sake of convenience! The second half of the series is where the narrative picks up a little steam and in particular, the revelation of just what Sabrina is capable of is the highlight of the series as this is where the story gets the most exciting. The fun cast is still there (Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis are still a wonderful pairing as the formidable Aunt Zelda and the mumsy, but secretly dark, Aunt Hilda), the show still makes sure to include some dark violence and some sexually charged scenes (especially by including the new location of Dorian Gray’s club), and thankfully, the blurry camerawork is kept to an absolute minimum!
But it’s still a shame that Salem the cat isn’t featured in the show more, despite being a powerful and loyal familiar who is more than capable of protecting Sabrina. Why does Kiernan Shipka have to be allergic to cats?!