Chilling Adventures of Sabrina season 3 review: Netflix series has lost a little of its magic, but its ending is enchanting

The Kiernan Shipka-fronted show keeps its core of female empowerment and teenage angst

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA
4.0 out of 5 star rating

It’s a case of hell hath no fury like a Spellman scorned as Kiernan Shipka’s wily witch is back on her broomstick for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3. With fans still reeling from the fiery Part 2 finale, it was always clear things were going to get darker before they could get brighter in the next run of episodes.

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With Father Blackwood on the run, Lilith on the throne, and Zelda ruling over the Church of Night, it’s very much a woman’s world in Part 3. However, Sabrina wastes literally no time in going straight to Hell (in a handbasket) to rescue BF Nick Scratch from her father’s hooves.

Elsewhere, Prudence and Ambrose go on their own Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? quest to track down Father Blackwood. It’s a game of cat and mouse as both sides outfox each other at every turn. The unconventional lovers are assisted by the enigmatic Mambo Marie as Skye P. Marshall channels some serious American Horror Story: Coven vibes. Mambo’s own goals soon put her on an unconventional path toward Zelda.

Speaking of which, Aunt Hilda and Aunt Zelda continue to hold down the fort in Greendale.

The comedy double act of Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto once again bounce off each other as though they’re real-life siblings. Hilda is the warm and motherly Ying to Zelda’s frosty Yang, but it’s Hilda who has arguably the biggest transformation (figuratively and literally) in Part 3

Aside from Chance Perdomo’s Ambrose slipping neatly into the role of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Giles as the de facto expert on all things occult, the real star of the piece is Michelle Gomez. Pulling double duty as Ms. Wardwell — back in the land of the living — and the powerful Lilith, Gomez brilliantly balances the nervous disposition of Wardwell and the acid-tongued Lilith we’ve come to love and loathe. Richard Coyle has a similarly tough task as he portrays everyone from Father Blackwood to Satan, and even Aunt Hilda.

When it comes to the rest of the newcomers, Jonathan Whitesell’s ‘elfish’ Robin gives Theo’s arc much more of a presence as the most interesting member of the Fright Club. Finally, Sam Corlett steps out from the shadows as the dishy Caliban – the self-titled Prince of Hell — but sadly fades into the background as just another pretty face.

Worse than this, Caliban doesn’t fill his potential as Part 3’s big bad. There’s still a more menacing presence as Lucifer gives Sabrina some serious daddy issues by holding up inside both Nick and Father Blackwood.

At the centre of the series is the idea of love and loss, with happy endings being just out of reach for the main characters. Was anyone really buying that Blackwood would simply roll over, that Nick and Sabrina were for keeps, or the vain hope we’d get to see Salem go full Sabrina the Teenage Witch and start talking?

The coven is down on its luck, and with power waning, it allows a more sinister presence to roll into town. The simple premise of the ‘regular’ witches being the good ones and a carnival of Pagans being the bad is forced a little too hard, making this a travelling circus of problems.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA

The third season of many shows is where they hit their stride, and just like Game of Thrones shocked with the Red Wedding, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina doesn’t hold back in its penultimate episode. Still, there’s an argument Part 3 doesn’t quite raise the stakes enough.

Throwing together Pagans, Father Blackwood, Lucifer Morningstar, Lilith, and Caliban, Part 3 becomes a melting pot of villains that don’t quite come together. (The final episode sets up even more of these in Part 4, where it looks like there could quite literally be double the trouble with a clever nod to the ‘90s sitcom.)

There’s also a feeling that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s hellscape isn’t quite as dark as it could be. There’s plenty of imaginative imagery that looks like it’s been plucked from a Nightmare on Elm Street movie, while things go very Wizard of Oz as the Blood Red Road leads right to the heart of Hell with some creative homages to L Frank Baum’s world. 

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA

But the show also occasionally strays into Glee territory on a couple of occasions, leading to frankly bizarre renditions of Run-DMC’s It’s Tricky and Toni Basil’s Mickey. The cheerleading feels out of place as a way to remind you Sabrina is still supposed to be a high school teenager. The Fright Club’s musical interludes with tracks like Teenage Dirtbag also feel shoehorned into episodes like mini ad-breaks. 

Still, while some are undoubtedly disappointed the usual run of episodes have been shrunk to just eight, it’s at least helped writers tighten everything up in Part 3 – admirably, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina still keeps its core of female empowerment and teenage angst. If not for the batsh*t ending putting the pieces in place for Part 4, there’d be a convincing argument that Sabrina has lost a bit of her magic, but thankfully, she’s sure to keep casting a spell over Netflix’s viewership.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 is streaming now on Netflix