What’s this?, you ask. Just now, you’re finally getting around to reviewing Chapter 23 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina?
Admittedly, it has taken me a while. The third season or third part or whatever the Hell you want to call it of this show was released on Netflix all the way back in January. That’s a long time ago even by normal standards. In May of 2020 (this is May, right?), January seems as if it might as well have been a decade ago. You remember what the world was like in January — Iowa caucuses, open movie theaters, strong economy, and no social distancing — and it feels like some sort of lost age. Case reviewed the first two episodes of Sabrina‘s third season back in February. I was supposed to review episodes three and four as soon as I got back from my vacation in March. Of course, as soon as I got back, the entire world went into lockdown and it was easy to get distracted from the latest Greendale drama.
Plus, I have to be honest. So far, for the most part, I just haven’t enjoyed Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. There have been a few tolerable episodes and Kiernan Shipka deserves to be a bigger star but the show itself often feels like a dead end. The pace is often maddeningly slow and, other than Sabrina, almost all of the characters are rather flat and dull. With the exception of Sabrina, everyone gets one defining trait and the show tends to beat viewers over the head with that trait. As such, Aunt Zelda is always going to be arch and dismissive. Hilda is always going to be naive and neurotic. Ambrose is always going to decadent in the most boring ways possible. Harvey is always going to be a dullard. Roz is always going to be boring. Beyond the one-dimensional characters, the whole look of the show bugs me. Why does no one in Greendale ever turn on a light? Why do I always have to strain my eyes trying to see what’s happening? It gets frustrating. Working up any enthusiasm to sit through another one of Sabrina’s adventures can be a struggle.
And yet, I will continue to watch the show because I do think that it has potential. Now, to be honest, some of that is because the show is often so bad that it has nowhere to go but up. But occasionally, there will be an interesting twist or a line of dialogue that doesn’t crash to the ground with a thud. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen enough that I keep hoping Chilling Adventures will get things together. My main hope is that, someday, the show will actually be worthy of Kiernan Shipka’s consistently excellent lead performance.
Just take the third episode of Part Three for example. On the plus side, this episode features a trip to a wonderfully creepy carnival. And even though the carnival itself is pretty obviously borrowed from Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, it’s still a lot of fun and effectively surreal and ominous. However, to get to the carnival, we have to suffer through a lot of underlit drama featuring one-note characters. We have to sit through Roz and Harvey having the least interesting relationship ever to appear in a Netflix drama. We have to deal with Nick and his PSTD. We have to deal with Miranda Otto delivering all of her lines in the same monotonous style. We also have to sit through yet another quest. In this case, Sabrina has to find three artifacts to hold onto the title of the ruler of Hell. She manages to find Herod’s Crown but she still loses it to her rival for the throne, Prince Caliban. So, I guess Sabrina is going to have to find the other two artifacts over the course of the season. I’d probably care more if Hell, as presented on this show, wasn’t so damn boring. Presenting witchcraft as being tedious might make for an effective short film but making an entire series out of it is another thing all together.
And yet, Kiernan Shipka gives such a good performance in the lead role that you can almost overlook how annoying the show itself tends to be. Shipka brings so much sincerity to her role that you want Sabrina to succeed. I just wish the show was more often worthy of the talents of its star.
Oh well. Fear not! I actually liked the episode that came after this one. I’ll be rewatching and reviewing it soon!