Chilling Adventures of Sabrina opens with a gorgeously animated introduction that looks as though it was torn straight from the pages of the original comic book, though redesigned to give its performers a pulpy, comic makeover. A blood-red font introduces the cast, with gory sights abound as well as some particularly fantastic music. Sabrina herself looks menacing and determined.
It's striking, eye-catching, and a fantastic way to set the series tone. Unfortunately, the show doesn't live up to its amazing animated opening. It's cringeworthy, riddled with bizarre plot threads, and often disappointing. But it didn't have to be. It could have brought the comics to life in a far more entertaining manner — for instance, as an animated series.
Yes, the strange and frightening tale of Sabrina's journey into the world of witchery would have made far more sense as an animated feature done up in the style of its brilliant opening. In its time on the air, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has captivated viewers around the world due to its darker portrayal of the Sabrina Spellman most of us grew up with on ABC. But instead of making its mark as a unique and engaging tale, it misses nearly every opportunity to shine.
Beneath the underwhelming portrayals of the characters and their story threads, there's potential, though. Beyond the forced (and ultimately failed) messages of empowerment, there's an underlying current that gives the show, in general, a curious vibe. It could be interesting with a wholly different wrapper. It just needs to doff its real-world trappings and cast.
Western animation has proven that, like classic anime series, it can handle dark and mature themes in an entertaining way, much like with Netflix's fantastic Castlevania. By ridding itself of reality, i.e. the supernatural effects that require underwhelming live-action edits and bad costumes, the show could truly shine. Sabrina's trial and the ensuing chaos as she stretches herself between the mortal and the magical realm would be much more ghastly, as would the spells and the show's decor itself.
Sabrina Spellman is a deeply interesting character, as is the world she lives in. From her magical aunts to boyfriend Harvey, cousin Ambrose, and even her familiar Salem, she's someone we all want to hear more from. Perhaps a future season could opt for a much more comic-Sabrina appropriate take and go the route where more carnage, more magic, and more authenticity could exude from the carefully inked scenes.
If nothing else, it would at least mean the showrunners could give Salem a voice again, right?