L ast October’s debut of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was a delightful, diabolical surprise. After quickly burning through the plotline of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s excellent graphic novel, the Netflix adaptation took on a life of its own—becoming a funny, frightening, and feminist-forward parody of organized religion. And, in the process, Sabrina became the current reigning teen soap opera. Not bad for a show that revolves around Satanism!
In the first season of Chilling Adventures, Sabrina (a fantastic Kiernan Shipka) was introduced as a brassy, sassy teenager who, on her 16th birthday, was initiated into her local witches’ coven after pledging her soul to the Dark Lord... not that Satan had an easy time of it. To get the confident, smart Sabrina to finally sign her name in blood took a full-court press from all the devil’s minions—including her aunts Zelda and Hilda (the amazing Mirando Otto and Lucy Davis); Father Faustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle), the headmaster of the Academy of the Unseen Arts, a witches-only high school; and one of Sabrina’s teachers, Mary Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), who also happens to be a wannabe bride of Satan.
Chilling Adventures’ second season—or “Part Two,” as the producers are calling it—picks up from there, exploring Sabrina’s self-imposed exile from her mortal high-school friends and her immersion into the study of dark magic. But Sabrina’s time at the Academy of the Unseen Arts comes with familiar challenges, in the form of bullies, institutionalized misogyny, and (of course) boyfriend troubles. Meanwhile, the pressures of sex are looming large, and Sabrina’s growing romantic relationship with a young, hot warlock (Gavin Leatherwood) directly conflicts with her lingering feelings for Harvey (Ross Lynch), her former (and mortal) boyfriend.
But the most exciting and wonderful part of the first five episodes of Part Two that were allowed to preview is the show’s continuing commitment to the powerful feminist message at its core. Though Sabrina may be forced to play along with her new school’s misogynist systems, she’s also constantly finding clever ways to subvert them—and these same progressive attitudes are at play within Sabrina’s life at her mortal high school as well, a place that has become substantially more interesting since Part One.
More than anything, Chilling Adventures Part Two is fun as hell: At this point, the writers have correctly recognized the reasons each character works, and they’ve amped up the volume accordingly. Sabrina’s former high school teacher (the delightfully scene-chewing Gomez) has been promoted to principal, and after some unpleasant run-ins with bad boyfriend Satan, is developing feelings for a doting mortal (Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Alexis Denisof). Romance is also in the air for Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), her aunts, and her high school friends, and rest assured, every relationship is its own particular brand of messy.
And therein lies the gooey caramel center of this smart, beautifully rendered series: empathy. Naturally, there’s empathy for Sabrina and the plight of the women in her circle, but a sympathetic eye is also cast on the men who are trapped in the vicious, restrictive systems of their own making. If you have a teenage daughter, sister, or niece—or any woman in your life that makes your world a better place—Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is required and immensely enjoyable viewing.
Part Two of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina streams Fri April 5 on Netflix.