‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ disappoints with new season

Written By Amanda Andrews and Tia Bailey

Everyone’s favorite teen witch, Sabrina Spellman, is back—this time to rescue her boyfriend from Hell—in the third season of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”

Netflix released season three on Friday, Jan. 24 to stream. This season has eight episodes in total, each about an hour long. Minimal spoilers for the series ahead.

To recap, Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) is a teen half-witch, half-mortal, who is trying to balance life as a normal teen at Baxter High while practicing witchcraft and attending the Academy of Unseen Arts.

The first season dealt with Sabrina trying to live a more normal life but ended with her signing her name in the Book of the Beast, meaning she was bound to do the Devil or, as he’s known in the show, Dark Lord’s bidding whenever he asked.

The second season followed Sabrina as she embraced her darker, witchy side with plot revolving around the shocking revelation that she was actually Lucifer Morningstar’s daughter. He wanted her to conquer the Earth and rule Hell alongside him, but her boyfriend Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) stopped that from happening by trapping Lucifer (Luke Cook) inside of him. Lilith (Michelle Gomez), the new queen of Hell who also masqueraded as Sabrina’s favorite high school teacher, took Nick back to Hell with her to ensure Satan would never be freed.

The third season begins with Sabrina determined to rescue Nick from Hell. Meanwhile, her cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) and Prudence Blackwood (Tati Gabrielle) search the world for revenge against Faustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle), a power-hungry warlock who has served as an antagonist through the seasons. The Academy of Unseen Arts and the witch coven is being run by Sabrina’s two aunts, Zelda Spellman (Mirando Otto) and Hilda Spellman (Lucy Davis).

The first few episodes follow Sabrina as she actually rescues Nick, and has to become the Queen of Hell in order to stop Caliban—the Prince of Hell—from ruling Hell himself. This comes with many challenges, such as bringing people who have sold their souls to Hell, and an eventual competition when Caliban (Sam Corlett) challenges Sabrina for her position on the throne.

While this is happening, Sabrina’s coven is slowly losing its powers, which Zelda and Hilda desperately try to find ways to fix. However, Sabrina has brought Nick/Lucifer into the Academy, where an angry Lucifer wreaks havoc on the coven.

Meanwhile, Sabrina’s high school friends, Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch), Rosalind Walker (Jaz Sinclair) and Theo Putnam (Lachlan Watson) are helping Sabrina in every way they can while still balancing their own lives as well. Harvey and Roz contemplate taking the next step in their relationship, while Theo meets a new love interest, Robin Goodfellow (Jonathan Whitesell), who is new in town.

A whole new cast of allies and villains alike were introduced this season along with the old favorites. Besides Caliban, the coven and the world itself face deadly threats from a group of supernatural pagans disguising themselves as a human carnival troupe. Prudence and Ambrose also make a friend in Mambo Michelle Marie LaFleur (Skye Marshall) who is drawn to the coven—and more specifically, Zelda.

As obvious as it may seem, part three of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” has many plot points and far too many at that. The season only has eight hour-long episodes to tell at least six major storylines, not to mention the dozens of other minor ones scattered throughout the episodes. There are even instances in the writing where it is clear the creators have either forgotten or ignored events that happened in just the previous season alone.

Romance and sex are also at the forefront of this edition and not in any particularly sexy way, either. Some characters are shamed for being virgins, while others for being sexually promiscuous. And, in true teen drama fashion, most characters are unable to stay in any committed relationship, and the story comes up with very conspicuous obstacles to keep particular characters apart or, alternatively, force them together.

Even more frustratingly, much of what had been praised last season was completely undone throughout the episodes in part three, concluding with an extremely dissatisfying, puzzling finale that tried vainly to replicate Avengers’ Endgame time travel logic, despite this being a show about magic.

The show continues to be darkly lit, a recurring problem from the first two seasons, although it seemed to be exacerbated this season. At a variety of points too, there are awkward close-ups on characters’ faces among other noticeable technical problems.

It is also obvious that the showrunners are attempting to tie “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” closer to the CW’s “Riverdale.” Both properties are based on Archie Comics and many of the same executive and production teams work on both shows. There is even an episode where Sabrina and Ambrose travel to “Riverdale,” and the actor portraying Robin, Jonathan Whitesell, originally starred in “Riverdale.” Fans of the last two seasons may be dismayed to find unnecessary singing characteristic of “Riverdale” features in several episodes.

A multitude of viewers and fans have voiced their complaints on social media about what felt like a half-baked idea of a season, feeling as though their favorite characters were wronged in one way or another. Others have given resounding support, so the overall reception is fairly mixed.

The standout performance of the season was easily given by Mirando Otto as Zelda Spellman. Her struggle to maintain order within the coven, scramble to keep her family together and prevent the end of the world is by far the most compelling and comprehensive storyline. Beyond just the writing, Otto masterfully conveys emotional nuances that a novice actor could not possibly pull off. Without giving too much away, her performance in the last two episodes is a particular delight to watch.

Despite the newest installment of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” feeling rushed and bloated with unnecessary storylines and characters, ardent fans will probably want to watch to satisfy their curiosity from last season’s ending. Here’s hoping part four will make a little more sense.