The credits are rolling on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina as Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s hit series comes to an end after just four brief seasons. Despite being one of Netflix’s big hitters, the gritty reimagining of Archie Comics’ wily witch is casting its final spell for eight episodes of teenage terror.
More than just dealing with Sabrina’s coming of age and her usual angst of juggling Baxter High alongside the Academy of Unseen Arts, Part 4 raises the stakes (and the wands) for a Deathly Hallows-inspired finale where literally anything could happen. Expect romance, rivalries, and rivers of the red stuff. Just don’t expect that Riverdale crossover Aguirre-Sacasa had planned for Part 5 – more on that later.
With a more mature Sabrina facing the realisation she’s not a girl, not yet a woman, Part 4 heads toward its own graduation with the arrival of the Eldritch Terrors – and there’s a distinctly Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme to Part 4 as each Terror plays out in a “monster of the week” formula.
These beings from beyond are of course the doing of Richard Coyle’s Father Faustus Blackwood, who takes his seat as the de facto villain of Sabrina’s swansong. Rarely does a show keep a villain throughout its entire run and do it so well. For those hoping that justice is served, Blackwood has his own fitting farewell before the curtain call.
Being the end of the road for the series, everyone is back for one final hurrah. It can make the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina cast feel bloated at times, but this is alleviated by some of the best actors pulling double duty. Although there’s not much that separates Sabrina Spellman and Sabrina Morningstar (telling them apart by a headband), Kiernan Shipka playing both the Queen of Hell and a simple girl from Greendale is a huge win. Speaking of dual roles, Michelle Gomez is an easy highlight as the acid-tongued Lilith and meek Ms. Wardwell. Lilith is up there with Mirando Otto’s Aunt Zelda and Tati Gabrielle’s Prudence in terms of the show’s “best” character, so it’s hard to separate the three.
In terms of trios, the newly formed Weird Sisters made up of Prudence, Roz (Jaz Sinclair) and Mambo Marie (Skye Marshall) is a powerful combo that doesn’t get anywhere near enough screen time. When it comes to Mambo Marie, her relationship with Zelda is never fully explored, meaning Chilling Adventures of Sabrina feels like it was just teasing us with its LGBTQ+ pairing in Part 3. Still, Mambo’s big twist is like something pulled from American Horror Story and a great nod for those up on their voodoo – spin-off series anyone?
One of the few gripes is the show’s continued portrayal of the Infernal Realm. For many, there’s always been a criticism that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina hasn’t leaned into the true horror of what hell would be like. For a more imaginative way of picturing hell for teenagers, check out Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, Doomed, where hell is populated by mountains of toenail clippings, deserts of dandruff, and lakes made of faeces. Even if it’s difficult in a show that’s aimed at a teen audience, this was less fire and brimstone, and more like someone dialled up the thermostat while offering you a cocktail.
In this underworld of mediocrity, Shipka’s Sabrina Morningstar and Gomez’s Lilith are rare jewels in the hellscape as the rest of its residents blend into the background. Sam Corlett’s hammy Caliban serves as little more than long-haired eye candy, whereas Luke Cook’s OTT portrayal of Lucifer Morningstar channels some serious Chris Barrie/Arnold Rimmer vibes from Red Dwarf. It’s a far cry from Tom Ellis’ lauded portrayal of the character on Lucifer. Sadly, Cook’s version of the Devil just misses the mark and is easily outshone by a much stronger rogues gallery.
Moving onto the Eldritch Terrors themselves, it’s a who’s who of masked miners, unwanted wedding guests, imps, and squid. Only in a show like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina could so many out-there enemies be thrown together and still work. However, there is one Terror that really stole the show – The Endless. Even though Part 4 started out strong, nothing could prepare viewers for the penultimate episode. “Chapter Thirty-Five: The Endless” is easily the best episode that’s ever graced the show’s run. This is mainly thanks to the return of some familiar faces that cast a spell on us all over again, some 17 years after we last saw them.
Anyone worth their weight in witches would’ve let out a squeal of excitement when the final furlong brought back Beth Broderick and Caroline Rhea as the original Aunt Zelda and Aunt Hilda from Sabrina the Teenage Witch. “Chapter Thirty-Five” was sometimes hard to follow as we dived into Salem’s meta mirrorverse of sitcoms, but on the whole, it was a treat for the eyes. There’s some mild disappointment that Nick Bakay wasn’t back to voice the animatronic Salem, but still, it was a devilish dose of fan service for those who’ve continuously compared the two very different eras of Sabrina. There’s a poignant sense of familiarity seeing the OG aunts back in action, and hats off to Rhea for her stirring speech as Hilda brought a lump to our throats.
This brings us neatly onto the finale itself. Terrors largely banished, and with Father Blackwood’s plan coming into vision, the all-consuming entity known as The Void threatened to wipe Sabrina’s reality out of existence. Quite apt considering Netflix is about to do the same with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Admittedly, the finale’s first half borders on mundane before things kick it up a notch in extra time. While we won’t ruin who does and doesn’t make it out alive here, few will expect “Chapter Thirty-Six: At the Mountains of Madness” to pack such a punch. Gavin Leatherwood’s dishy Nick Scratch promised Sabrina “we’re endgame,” and there’s no escaping the Avengers: Endgame-esque scenes of heartbreak and sacrifice coming your way. Be warned, the writers really went all out on the idea of this being Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s last supper.
With this in mind, it’s a shame not everything is tied off in such a neat bow. Ambrose is a little left out in the cold, Father Blackwood’s children are just there as additional scenery, and we never quite hear enough about Riverdale. With both of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s shows residing on different networks, it could’ve been a rights issue, however, there are a few mentions of the rival school.
Elsewhere, are we to assume Sabrina’s classmate and thirty-second love interest called Lucas Hunt is going to pop up in the next season of Riverdale? For another missed opportunity, are you seriously trying to tell us that Melissa Joan Hart wasn’t available for filming? Unless she’s hiding in the background as a Black Mirror-style Easter egg, it’s a major blow that the Sabrina many of us grew up with is resigned to a throwaway line about being tossed in a meat grinder.
In terms of visuals, acting, and story, Part 4 is Chilling at its best. Although there will always be those who compare the reimagining to the Hart era (this reviewer is one of them), it’s important to remember the two shows were completely different beasts. Thankfully, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina ends on the high it deserves and rounds off with a gut-wrenching finale that will stick with you long after its conclusion. For now, it’s time to close the doors to the Spellman Mortuary and put the series in the ground. However, if this show has taught us anything, it’s that the dead tend to be restless spirits that don’t stay buried for long.