Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s iteration of his Satanic take on the characters of Sabrina The Teenage Witch comes to a decisive, if slightly confusing, end
Starring Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lunch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Richard Coyle, Miranda Otto, Gavin Leatherwood, and Lachlan Watson
The Netflix cancellation axe falls once again. Just like brilliant shows such as One Day at a Time or Sense8 before it, not to mention countless others, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comes to a decisive conclusion with Part 4. Considering that the cancellation was announced following the filming of Parts 3 and 4, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina still manages to pull out a satisfying end to the show.
We left Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) at the end of Part 3 torn between her competing desires, which she took to the incredible extreme of using a time paradox to her advantage to allow her to exist both as Sabrina Spellman, ordinary/extraordinary schoolgirl/witch and also Sabrina Morningstar, the Queen of Hell. Fortunately, just in case any of the audience are confused, they wear different colours of headband, which is remarked upon with alarming regularity. Additionally, despite the fact that Sabrina has committed a universe-breaking act by allowing herself to exist twice simultaneously, she is remarkably cavalier about anybody finding out about it even early in the collection of episodes, immediately after it was ascertained that it would have to be an enormous secret.
Mind you, the Big Bad that is unleashed upon Greendale might just need two Sabrinas to fix, as Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) has set the Eldritch Terrors upon them. The Eldritch Terrors are an assortment of evil nasties that wreak havoc in the town, from The Darkness to the Uninvited to the Weird to the Perverse, there are eight of these tricky entities which ultimately threaten the existence of the entire universe if Sabrina and co. don’t stop it.
The approach of multiple Eldritch Terrors allows Part 4 to potentially be the most cohesive and easy to follow of the entire series. With a typical Monster-of-the-Week format it allows each of the individual instalments to be considerably pacier, even though it’s still not quite enough to justify almost an hour per episode. However, it also allows each episode to be far more varied and tonally different. Unlike Part 3 where, if you were not overly fond of the Pagan enemy you were out of luck, Part 4 offers many different enemies to fight against.
Highlights of the season include where Father Blackwood creates an entire separate reality in which witches are prosecuted and hunted down, as well as the return of Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick in an alternate dimension as Aunt Hilda and Zelda respectively. It’s quite a bizarre episode, though it’s a healthy dose of nostalgia to see both of them back in these roles, though it is a shame that Nick Bakay doesn’t return as the quick-witted Salem. It’s also remarkable how the animatronic cat somehow looks cheaper on a Netflix budget than it did back in the 90s.
Unfortunately, with so much focus of Shipka in her dual role, it leaves very little development left for the many other characters in the ensemble. Though Roz (Jaz Sinclair) gets a smidgeon more to do with some advancement of her “cunning”, this plotline peters out alarmingly quickly, even though the idea of her grouping with Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) and Mambo Marie (Skye Marshall) had incredible promise and could have received far more focus.
The pairing between Mambo Marie and Zelda (Miranda Otto) also receives little attention, which is a shame considering how enthusiastic the Internet was about that relationship in the first place. It feels more of a tease than anything else, but it’s also surprising that it was included at the end of Part 3 and then never really expanded upon during Part 4 considering they were written and filmed as one block.
In fact, there are many ways that this feels like a completely different beast to Part 3. While it is substantially easier to follow and more cohesive than what came before, Part 4’s unwavering focus is upon Sabrina herself. It’s fitting, considering that it’s the end, but it does mean that a host of other fan favourites, such as Prudence and Ambrose, miss out substantially in favour of Sabrina’s consistently poor decision making skills.
Something else that still isn’t addressed within this final instalment is just how much the show leaned into Satanist concepts in the first place. Even though it’s publicised as being a Horror or a dark take on the teenage witch, which it certainly is, all of the characters within are still portrayed as very moral and ordinary people who ultimately make good decisions and want to do things in the name of good, even though they are meant to worship the Dark Lord. That’s always been something that’s been tonally at odds throughout the series, and there’s little clarification made here.
Ultimately, with the backdrop of the universe ending, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has never felt more epic. There’s more magic than ever before, and each episode is constructed substantially better with a Monster of the Week feel compared to the previous parts. The ending is sure not to satisfy everybody, but it certainly ties everything together in a conclusive manner.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 4 is streaming now on Netflix