A walk down the ‘Path of Night’ with Sabrina

Sabrina Spellman has some tricks up her sleeve for her human and witchy accomplices alike, with Part 2 of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” making good on the Netflix series’ promise to get even darker and more sinister. With Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) balancing her attendance at the Academy of the Unseen Arts with the mortal world’s Baxter High, we can see the half-mortal, half-witch truly begin to accept the unconventionality of her powers and birthright. The first part of the series premiered in October, marketed as a companion series to Riverdale, which is claimed by showrunners to take place in the same universe. Part 2 was released Friday for viewers eager to return to the dual-sided antics of Greendale. The series as a whole is based on the comic book and TV series “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”

The orphan of the previous High Priest of the Church of Night, Sabrina, sought to take control of her unprecedented fate at the beginning of the season. She did not want to denounce her stake in the human world, but she also discovered the thrill and confidence that accompanies the use of her power. In this second part, we follow the teenage witch as she learns to take advantage of the darker side of magic. However, the series shows us that just because she embraces her tutelage of spells and such at the Academy, that’s not to say she’s at the Church of Night’s beck and call. She’s learning on behalf of her own agenda, which makes this part’s plot more complex and layered than the beginning.

The ominous theme that underlies the saccharine high school tropes of the early episodes returns in this part. There’s the raucous and provocative nature of the witch community who all work for their own ambitions, including her witch aunts and warlock cousin, but there’s also Sabrina’s loyal and trusting high school friends. With the contrasting music of banging bass beats at Sabrina’s school dances (not just Baxter High, but the Academy, as well) to the haunting melodies that typically accompany horror films, viewers can appreciate how the two complement the theme of Sabrina’s character as she too needs to balance the two identities.

Part 2 continues the season’s exploration of the discriminative patriarchy that dominates witchcraft and follows as Sabrina seeks to abolish the system as a whole. At one point in the recent episodes, she lets the current High Priest know of her motivations to become Top Boy and High Priestess, both roles that are traditionally for men. It would seem audacious for any typical teenager, but considering how many rules Sabrina has broken thus far, with her own birth being a scandal, as well as her contention between her two identities, it seems only fitting that the witch lies at the head of the so-called revolution.

As a whole, the feminist and otherwise strong motivational arc is pivotal and grounded, but does falter in its execution at times. The series sometimes is too overt or preachy with theme, and performs better when characters and their actions are more subtle in their motivation. However, the bluntness of the execution seems to suit Sabrina all the same, considering her inclination to drastic change as a teenager. Her attitude toward her two love interests, mortal ex-boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch) and fellow warlock Nick (Gavin Leatherwood), exhibits a similar feminist approach. She’s not choosing either boy, and instead puts her desires and ambitions first —but not without having some fun.

Like most premiere seasons, the first of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” isn’t the best, but carries over its strong points from the first half of the season. The growing complexity and more sinister theme doesn’t hurt either. I, for one, love seeing Sabrina embrace her darker side and denounce both worlds in favor of forging her own path. We can only hope she doesn’t stray from it in the next season.

Rating: 4/5


Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at hollianne.lao@uconn.edu.