The opening titles of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” are, for the most part (if memory serves), Robert Hack art from the source comic book. Now, not only is the comic super-gory, it’s also a period(ish) piece; the show is set modern but none of the teenagers has a smartphone, so it’s a bit removed from reality. The episode opens in a movie theater, with Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) hanging out with her group of very modern friends. While boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch) is a non-jock White guy, Jaz Sinclair is the only Black girl in the town, and Lachlan Watson is non-binary. There’s a somewhat awkward thing about the bully-enabling principal—a fully dramatic Bronson Pinchot—isn’t an ally.
So some of the dialogue’s a little forced, but all the acting is good and, hey, at least there aren’t some mean girls causing problems too. Just some jocks, who bully and—oh, wait, physically assault—Watson, which Pinchot’s cool with because Watson doesn’t want to give up any names. Shipka tries to convince Bronson otherwise to no avail, which will eventually lead to her using witchcraft to even the playing field.
Shipka’s got the opening narration to set everything up: half-human, half-witch, raised by aunts Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto, T-minus five days until Shipka’s got to sign her soul over to Satan and go off to witch school in New England. Only Shipka’s not entirely sure she wants to leave her human friends, especially since her future witch classmates are mean to her for being half-human.
Further complicating matters is Michelle Gomez, one of Shipka’s teachers who just happens to have been possessed by a witch from Hell, whose job it is to make sure Shipka commits to her future as a minion of Lucifer only Gomez has to pretend to be the teacher. Of course, Gomez is playing a character from the comic and the show seems like a sequel to said comic, which show creator and episode writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa never finished because he started making TV shows. So I’ve got baggage and expectation with Gomez.
But it all works out, partially due to the great pacing.
Though Richard Coyle seems to be going way too hard on a Ewan McGregor impression; Coyle’s the cliffhanger arrival guest star… the Dark Pope, arrived to tempt Shipka to the cause. For the amount of build-up he gets, it’d be better if it were Ewan McGregor… It needs a final oomph.
Or would if Shipka’s acting weren’t on point enough to cover, which it is, which she does.
The show works because it’s well-written, Shipka’s a great lead, and the soundtrack is awesome.