Sabrina Spellman has jumped from the comic pages of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and put a much more potent spell on audiences with Netflix as her medium. Before the Netflix series had a chance to air, we made a prediction on what to expect based off of the comics that inspired he show. With Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa being the writer of the comic and the creator of the Netflix series, there was reason to believe there would be heavy similarities. The actual result feels like Aguirre-Sacasa took the strongest plot elements of his comic series and developed them into a deeper, even better story. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina TV series feels like a second draft that showed what the story was truly capable of being. Now let’s take a look at just what the changes did for a very beloved witch.
Warning: the rest of this article contains spoilers for both the comic and TV versions of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
The horror: Those viewers looking for a similar level of horror were not left disappointed. Unnatural things are still summoned up, humans (and a witch) are consumed, and a dead person is brought back to life. Viewers are also treated to a deeper look into the Church of Night and its Dark Lord worshiping ways. While some scenes are cut to not be as blatantly on screen gruesome as possible, it is still obvious this Sabrina tale is not the ’90s family-friendly offering.
Sabrina Spellman: The plot changes of the TV series really brought out more depth to Sabrina’s character. The idea regarding a disastrous Dark Baptism was kept, but instead of feeling like a sabotage, it was driven by Sabrina’s choices. While her comic counterpart had every intention of signing herself to the “Path of Night,” our TV heroine isn’t so certain. She struggles with wanting to exist in both the mortal and witch world, and doesn’t understand why she can’t do both. She has to be reassured of her right to her free will before she agrees to the Dark Baptism, and when the oath she is asked to take requires her to give up her freedom of choice, she backs out and refuses to sign herself away. Sabrina fights hard to take the path of her own choosing. The TV series could have easily made her fight entirely about “the Harvey of it all,” but instead made Harvey another one of the choices she’s fighting to have. She doesn’t want to abandon the boy she loves, but she also doesn’t want to abandon Roz, the friend facing an impending life of blindness, or Susie, the friend being physically and verbally assaulted as she faces a genderqueer journey (more about Susie’s gender identity is covered in an interview with Lachlan Watson). When Sabrina finally does sign her name away, it is because she needs the power promised to protect these friends and everyone else she cares about.
Edward and Diana Spellman: In this version, Sabrina’s parents died in a plane crash that no viewer believes was accidental in any way. The Weird Sisters hint that there was nothing accidental about their deaths, while the current Lord of Night claims otherwise. Sabrina sees her confused mother when she goes to mortal limbo to retrieve a soul. Diana claims that “they” told her Sabrina died after her baptism at two days old. Sabrina also learns that her father promised her to the Dark Lord in a ceremony when she was three days old as part of a deal to pardon him from marrying a mortal. Something doesn’t add up, including why Sabrina’s vision of the ceremony with the Dark Lord included two babies—one with cloven hooves. There is far more intrigue regarding what became of the Spellman parents.
Zelda and Hilda Spellman: In the comics, Sabrina’s guardian aunts were more of a unit, and much less individualized. In the TV series, they each bring their own influence to the story. Hilda is more sympathetic to Sabrina’s fight for her freedom, while Zelda feels it is her duty to keep the family devoted to the Dark Lord. Aunt Hilda seems to start gaining more appreciation for mortals, and Aunt Zelda’s strongest moments come when she follows her own moral code. Their best moments, however, come when they are united in a cause.
Salem: A cursed human in the comics, the Salem of the TV series is a summoned creature who agrees to be Sabrina’s familiar by choice. The sarcastic warlock serving a penalty for past crimes role actually goes to Cousin Ambrose. He is an occasional accomplice but oftentimes attempted voice of reason for Sabrina. He is given a chance to lessen his sentence by working for the Lord of Night as a sort of “community service.” How this plays out tends to make a more interesting character than a man we honestly never wanted to see leave the body of a cat.
Harvey Kinkle: While Harvey escaped the gruesome death the comics held for him (and the awkwardness of being a host for Edward Spellman), poor Harvey still does not get out easily. Instead of the all-American football jock, he’s an artist born to a mining family with a legacy of witch hunting. His overbearing father wants a son who goes hunting and works the mines like Harvey’s older brother Tommy. Harvey can’t stand the idea of killing anything and has PTSD regarding an incident where he got lost in the mines as a kid and came across a demon. Tommy is killed by two of the Weird Sisters and Sabrina desperately tries to bring back Tommy for her boyfriend. Instead Harvey is put through the agonizing duty of having to kill the soulless husk that was his brother. It nearly destroys his relationship with Sabrina, until she signs herself away to protect Harvey and the town. Harvey wants Sabrina back in his life, but she fears what her new darkness might do to him. Whether or not Harvey can help anchor Sabrina to her mortal side is something that will have to be explored in the next season.
Madam Satan: In the comics, her goal was to bring back her former lover, Edward Spellman. In the TV series, she is also known as the Lilith, and seeks her place as the Queen of Hell. Just like in the comics, she has killed one of Baxter High’s teachers and is wearing her skin to get closer to Sabrina. She also acts as a more subtle influence, trying to guide Sabrina’s choices until it’s too late for the teen witch to get off the Path of Night. Sabrina is a prophesied witch, and the Dark Lord could use her as a soldier. Her true weakness in the series is underestimating Sabrina’s bonds to her mortal friends, and their acceptance of hers. She was a powerful antagonist in the comics, but her mission becomes trickier in the series. Madam Satan is positively smug when she gets Sabrina to sign herself to the Dark Lord, until it’s pointed out to her that perhaps the Dark Lord wants Sabrina as the Queen of Hell and not a soldier. What trouble Madam Satan might bring after she potentially set up her own rival promises a great story for next season.
The Weird Sisters and Nick Scratch: The Weird Sisters provided guidance to Edward Spellman to marry a mortal and father Sabrina, prophesied to be a very special witch. Here they are the mean girls of the Academy of the Unseen. They are both a danger and a help to Sabrina, a wild card that can go either way. Nick Scratch is unique to the TV series; he is presented as a warlock interested in Sabrina, a potential rival to Harvey. However there is a streak of nobility in him. He goes to help protect Harvey when Sabrina asks and encourages Harvey to forgive Sabrina’s attempts to bring back his brother. It seems that he can’t quite feel love in the way mortals can and is a little bit in awe of it. With Sabrina now committed to the Path of Night, it is unknown if either the sisters or Nick will encourage her mortal ties or work to sever them. A concerning note is that “Old Nick” and “Old Scratch” are alternate names for the Dark Lord. Is the Dark Lord presenting himself as a teenage warlock to try to woo Sabrina into being the Queen of Hell? Only the next season can tell us for certain.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina isn’t just a worthy adaption of the comic, it does much more justice to both the characters and plot lines, and, with a second season already confirmed, there is still much more story to unfold. Have you seen the Netflix series or read the comics? Let us know your thoughts on this new adaption in the comments.
3 thoughts on “Does Netflix’s ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Cast as Good a Spell as the Comic?”
I tried to watch the first episod, but I fell asleep 🙁 No I’m not at all convinced.
Not every one will love every show and that’s okay. Some reviewers did feel that it took the first few episodes for the story line to build up but felt that there was payoff for it.
I’ve watched the entire series, parts 1 and 2, twice. I agree with the author here. Theees room for a wider exploration of the characters in the show, but I think he’s shooting it in a very graphic novel style and keeps with some of the really traditional language of the characters! I LOVE IT!
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