When Chilling Adventures of Sabrina reinvented the Archie Comics character for a Netflix crowd (thanks to Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa), fans were wooed by the show’s dark, witchy feminism and star Kiernan Shipka’s delicious take on the teenage magic-user.
Now that the show has entered into Part 2, the second batch of episodes, its nine episodes were met by an audience that now have different expectations: they weren’t looking for Sabrina the Teenage Witch, they were looking for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to build off its Part 1. Now the reviews are out and they’re tinged with a bit of darkness themselves.
After the episodes all dropped on April 5, critics were quick to publish their reviews of the angsty, gothic, demonic drama. Some saw the new episodes as a tightening of focus, while others simply felt the show had lost its way and sacrificed too much for its increased morbidity.
But let’s hear from the critics themselves:
Kelly Connolly at TV Guide calls Chilling Adventures of Sabrina “a bad show that ate a hilarious show.” The camp is strong with this one, the reviewer writes, as the show sees Sabrina discard the easy moral dilemma of the first part and invest in the oddball goings-on of its evil academy. Connolly also critiques the show’s feminism, saying that in Part 2 especially the ideological bent feels more like a namecheck than anything substantial. “Sabrina just doesn't understand its characters' inner lives,” Connolly writes, calling the new episodes plenty flashy but essentially empty.
Uproxx’s Kimberly Ricci also feels the new episodes don’t quite rise to the first batch’s levels, though “what does happen feels more intense and carries more grave consequences.” She doesn’t see the camp factor as strongly, but sees Sabrina slipping to increased hellishness. Her review is ultimately a muted reminder that the show is a fun, spooky watch - but an imperfect one.
Vulture’s Angelica Bastien was less forgiving of the show’s decline, noting that while the show still boasts many of its aesthetic pleasures, “its magic has dimmed a bit in the face of nagging issues that have grown harder to ignore.” That’s because, as others have previously mentioned, the witchy fun and games are great - but they can often feel hollow thanks to the underwritten characters taking part in the rites. The feminism can be overly simple, just like its characterizations, so despite still pressing all the fun, darkly magical buttons (especially in some of its more inventive and bold visual sequences), there’s still something off about Sabrina’s return.
Merrill Barr denoted much the same at Forbes, who says that on top of all the tonal problems and plot sacrifices, the show’s pacing just feels off. The long episodes drag on, and since the content is either equal or worse than that in the first episodes, it exacerbates any flaws. Even its stylish charm is lost on Barr, who sees it as a symbol of the show’s increased vapidity.
The Playlist’s Julia Teti admits that the show can often feel “on the nose,” but her review takes the settling simplicity of the characters as a more focused take on the show’s universe. It may “forsake lesser characters, but the choice allows for a clear focus that Part 1 seemed to lack.” While this was a dealbreaker for some critics, those like Teti found that the show “retains its charismatic magic” despite its foibles.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s Part 2 is now on Netflix.