Friday, October 26, 2018

REVIEW: 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' - Sabrina Struggles to Choose Between Her Two Lives in 'Chapter One: October Country'

Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina - Episode 1.01 "Chapter One: October Country"

While Greendale readies for a Halloween eclipse, Sabrina faces a crucial decision and Harvey makes an unexpected declaration.

In 2018, it makes no sense to provide full-length reviews of each individual episode for shows released all at once on the streaming services. Sure, there are some shows out there that value the power of the episode. They do make a point in differentiating each episode to ensure it's not just one big slog to the finish. However, the ability to watch the entire season at one's own viewing pace has largely changed the way we consume and discuss these shows. So, some brief summary thoughts are really all that's actually necessary with these seasons. As such, here are my latest thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

"Chapter One: October Country" was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by Lee Toland Krieger

It has long been clear that Kiernan Shipka is a star. After solid supporting work on shows like AMC's Mad Men and FX's Feud: Bette and Joan, she is now the star of her own show. She is so absolutely stunning and perfect as Sabrina Spellman in this opening episode. It was such strong casting that really nails every single detail of what the show is aspiring to achieve. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was first imagined as a companion series to The CW's Riverdale. However, the sale to Netflix ensured that crossovers wouldn't become a regular thing. The move also probably helped with casting and production values. Shipka is the star but she is surrounded by a solid collection of veteran talent. Moreover, the show is able to succeed while embracing one very specific and horrifying tone. Riverdale can at times struggle because of its willingness to shake up its formula and tell stories in a wide array of genres. With Sabrina, it's much more clear cut. This is a world in which witches exist. They serve the Dark Lord. There are forces at play that are trying to sway Sabrina into becoming the latest witch to sign her name in the Book of the Beast. She has doubts because of the sexist traditions of the coven. She has always felt destined for this responsibility. It's the life that her mother and father wanted for her. It's the life that her aunts Zelda and Hilda have been preparing her for. And yet, she also has her own sense of independence. She has a life as a mortal. She wasn't home-schooled by her aunts. She goes to Greendale High. She has friends and boyfriend she loves so much. She struggles with the choice she has to make. She believes she shouldn't have to give up everything she has ever known just to be a servant for the Dark Lord. The aunts can rationalize it all by saying that he gives them incredible gifts that allow them to live significantly better and longer lives. However, it's also clear to the audience that it's a potential mistake for Sabrina to sign her name during the Dark Baptism. Her favorite teacher, Ms. Wardwell, has been killed by a demon who has now taken her place in this world. She presents herself much differently than the original version did. She wants to ensure that Sabrina chooses the path of darkness. And so, she is encouraging her to use her powers to manipulate the world into giving her what she wants. And yes, it's such a sweet and rousing victory when she is able to torment the oppressive principal at her school and get her new club that will empower women approved. She wants to do this for her friends should she leave school after her baptism. Despite being over sixty minutes long, this premiere doesn't actually include that moment that could forever change Sabrina's life. Of course, it's fully expected that it will happen shortly. It's only a couple of days away after all. But right now, she is questioning the world around her. She is finding her own voice which may actually take her on a separate path. She wants answers so that she can make an informed decision. She wants this to remain a choice for her. The world is acting like it's something that she has to do. That's what makes this such a moving story because of the allegory involved. Right now, it seems likely that this will be a choice that ends in disaster for Sabrina. She sees the future. It's bleak and filled with death. A new witch hunt may already be starting in Greendale. As such, there is the potential for so much change to occur depending on what Sabrina decides about her fate. The various sides are persuading her but the show makes sure to lift up her own perspective when it comes to this decision.