As I’ve mentioned in other reviews of premieres, I try to go into the shows relatively blind. I don’t read other reviews, I don’t watch a bunch of trailers, I basically try to read the short descriptions ahead of time aka the logline for the shows and make my “sight unseen” prediction before settling in to be entertained. For The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix, I thought it was basically a reboot of the old light-hearted semi-comedy that Sabrina was before…no, not the movie with Harrison Ford in a bowtie, the TV series Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, with Melissa Joan Hart, Caroline Rhea, Soleil Moon Frye, etc.
But for this one, I had three small “breaks” in my info blanket. First, I knew it was a spin-off of some sort from Riverdale. Second, I saw a video online that was being shared around of the cast of the previous series wishing the new Sabrina series regulars well, character to character. Which confirmed it as a semi-reboot. And third, I saw a friend discussing the show on FB with another friend. But they said it was scary / horror, somewhat like Buffy. I had thought “The chilling adventures of” was meant ironically, not literally.
So I had a better than normal idea of what to expect when I started watching. And yet I’m not sure all of the writers on the show got the memo. Sabrina’s mortal friends act as if they are on the old series, light-hearted, over-eager, innocent; Sabrina’s family in the non-muggle world seem more like bad Buffy, with over-acting and portends of doom. And Sabrina is somewhere in the middle. Way more “innocent” sounding than Buffy ever did.
I have to confess, when I heard it was like Buffy, I was excited. Now that I’ve seen the premiere, I feel more like I’m watching a hybrid of the old series and Sleepy Hollow. It certainly wasn’t scary in any way…sure, one woman died, but Sabrina never seemed like SHE was in any actual danger, unlike Buffy where she had to fight back.
Yet, I liked it enough that I’ll watch to the end. Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina may be drawing on her Mad Men experience, but since I never saw her before the premiere, she’s fun to see for the first time. Miranda Otta is a little too serious as Aunt Zelda — almost Narcissa Malfoy serious — and almost impossible to believe was once Eowyn from Lord of the Rings or even the neighbour’s wife in What Lies Beneath. People are frequently enamoured by Lucy Davis who plays the perhaps slightly ditzy Aunt Hilda, and while I liked her in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, I’m not entirely sold on her here. Honestly, the sole bright spot for me after Shipka is Michelle Gomez as the teacher Mary Wardwell. I’ve seen her in occasional Dr. Who episodes but didn’t recognize her, and I was sure I’d seen her in other stuff. She’s delicious in this role, some real sense of happy malevolence about her. The rest of the cast? Meh.
Nevertheless, as long as the demon that is rising isn’t Moloch from Sleepy Hollow or DC Legends of Tomorrow, I’ll enjoy watching. It just won’t be very Buffy-like. Based almost solely on the fact that it’s a spin-off from Riverdale, I was willing to predict renewal. Now that I’ve seen Ep1, I’ll stick with renewal to season 2.