CHILLING ADVENTURES: Part 2 Featured

I have no idea why CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA elected to refer to this second batch of episodes as “Part 2” as opposed to Season 2. In practice, it makes sense as Part 2 does redeem much of what I did not like or bumped on about Part 1. Part 2 has a clearer path for Sabrina, better subplots for the supporting players, and a generally more confident approach to storytelling. Ideally, there would have only been Season 1, not a bisected sectional release. However, with Part 2 now available — or will be available this Friday, in any case — I admit to liking a show I initially wrote off as a bit of silly, sloppy fun and little else.

CHILLING ADVENTURES: Rosalind, Harvey, and Theo
Jaz Sinclair, Ross Lynch, and Lachlan Watson have some dreary times ahead in CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA. (Courtesy of Netflix)

Meet the New Sabrina, Same as the Old Sabrina?

From the jump, Kiernan Shipka ranked as the best part of CHILLING ADVENTURES. Nonetheless, my regard for her performance increased in this new set of episodes. The difference comes from Shipka digging deeper into the character’s motivations and making them harder to take simple conclusions from them. In the first half of the season, she was often presented as vocal, sometimes to the point of galling. It made perfect sense. Sabrina, after all, had her entire life both opened up in front of her and turned utterly upside down. If she seemed…intense, one could certainly forgive it. In the second half, however, you can see she feels a higher level of control.

A bit ironic, perhaps, considering part 1 saw her signing her soul away. Nonetheless, this strange form of empowerment makes her feel less hurried and less frantic. With the slowing down, her motives become less clear. For instance, she immediately crusades for equal rights at the unsurprisingly male-dominated Academy of Unseen Arts. However, Shipka makes sure to wrap up her performance with just enough subtlety that Sabrina’s motives are difficult to discern. Is she upending the patriarchy for the greater good? Or is it a smoke screen for her to get more power all to herself? Moreover, how sure is she even of what is driving her? With this depth, Shipka has given Sabrina even more depth and, in turn, given the show even more possible avenues of storytelling.

CHILLING ADVENTURES: Auntie
Lucy Davis would really prefer you not trifle with her right now. (Courtesy of Netflix)

CHILLING ADVENTURES Supporting Characters Find Purpose

CHILLING ADVENTURES supporting cast could perhaps best be described as wide but not deep in the first half of the season. While the show took great pains to populate Sabrina’s world, it often seemed uninvested in making those people more than scene partners for our teenage witch.

In Part 2, however, CHILLING ADVENTURES gets around to making them feel not just nice to have around, but necessary. The best of these subplots come from Lachlan Watson’s rendering of Theo Putnam (dead name: Susie). As you might guess from the name change emphasis, Part 2 sees him more actively advocating for himself and informing the people in his life of who he really is. In the midst of demons, black magic, a school of witches and warlocks and more, this entirely human story packs an understated wallop that even watching Satan try to get Sabrina a juicier part in the school play just cannot match.

Other necessary shout outs have to Michelle Gomez’s Madame Satan wearing Mary Wardwell’s skin. Gomez’s ability to make her seem as if she has considerable tricks up her sleeve while also showing us how being a principal is a lot more difficult than this supernatural creature ever anticipated proves a real treat. Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto as Sabrina’s Aunts come into their own more as well. This is especially the case for Otto who shows a kind of commitment to Sabrina that you may not have anticipated during Part 1. I could go on, but, to this one, Part 2 just treats CHILLING ADVENTURES supporting players so much better.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA: Sabrina
Kiernan Shipka and her friend hang out, play with matches. The usual. (Courtesy of Netflix)

The Look of CHILLING ADVENTURES

Like some of the supernatural television shows, even ones on Netflix, CHILLING ADVENTURES wears its budget on its sleeve a bit. Darkness is employed to cover up shortcomings, monsters have a quaint rubber quality to them. Generally, this kind of thing does not bother me. I grew up with the likes of BUFFY and the X-FILES that faced similar restrictions, especially early in their runs. That said, CHILLING ADVENTURES aesthetics gained a kind of meta quality in the season’s second half. You see, so much of the show is organized around how little it can take to slip off the path.

The same Satan that demands Sabrina’s soul also wants her to steal a pack of gum. The whole show has that feel to it: massive stakes marked by almost miniscule choices. Therefore, the rubber and darkness of it all connects with that as well. This is the end of the world kind of stuff but it sneaks up on if you focus too much on how non-threatening the ghost beast would look in full light or how petty a fight it is to be named “Top Boy.”

Worth Going Back to Greendale?

Absolutely. If you liked Part 1, Part 2 is an improvement. If Part 1 leaves you a bit frustrated, as it did me, Part 2 goes a long way towards addressing those shortcomings. I still would not put this on par with some of the best urban/suburban fantasy television that I have loved over the years.

But then, truth be told, those shows did not obtain their heights in the second part of their first seasons either. So, yes, hop on that bus called Netflix and plan another visit to Greendale.

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