Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Premiere Review: October Country

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The witching hour is upon us, and if possible, it is even more enchanting than promised. 

Getting a glimpse into Sabrina Spellman's world means getting to explore a spooky, sinister, and satisfying adventure along the way.

It is unpredictable in the very best ways, raising the stakes for the show within the first ten minutes as if making it clear that you shouldn't have any expectations because there will always be another chilling twist waiting to be revealed.

During Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 1 Episode 1 Sabrina and her life is introduced to us when her sixteenth birthday forces her to really wonder whether she wants to take part in the dark baptism. Giving herself to the Dark Lord and having to leave every human in her life makes Sabrina reconsider what was set in stone for her.

Meanwhile, there is a small hint about a possible witch hunter in Greendale passed between Ambrose, Aunt Hilda, and Aunt Zelda.

Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina Spellman

"Chapter One: October Country," written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, is a thorough introduction to the town of Greendale and the journey on which Sabrina Spellman has found herself.

Watching it during the Netflix and Chills panel at New York Comic Con meant questioning how it was possible that the pilot episode explored such a variety of subjects right off the bat. 

There is groundwork laid out for the show's future mythology, yet there is also enough room to solidify main characters and the lasting bonds that they share.

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The Spellcasting Characters

The people of Greendale have already managed to really come alive in the few scenes that we got to spend with all of them.

Sabrina is the key to the story, and she is a multilayered protagonist that exudes strength and courage. While it is questionable why Sabrina is only now realizing that she is going to lose her boyfriend and her friends by choosing her witch side, that can be overlooked when you follow her further.

She might have been ignoring the inevitable, hoping it wouldn't come to this and then not having much time to prepare everyone for it when the time finally came.

You're only supposed to start missing things after you've said goodbye to them, right?

Sabrina

But even then, there is a clear need within her to put her friends first instead of dwelling on herself in this situation. 

Her priorities are relatable; the need to protect your loved ones is all too familiar. This makes it easier to trust Sabrina, and that is if we ignore that she is so lovable. Her obsession with horror movies, the way she has a solution to most problems, her stubborn approach to all things. 

Those are just a few traits that have been established in one introductory episode to the show.

Then there is Salem; it is an understatement to say that he is a popular addition to the cast.

He was iconic in the original TV series, so the pressure had to be on when it came to representing him again in a new way. 

Ambrose and Sabrina Planning - Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 1 Episode 1

As Kiernan Shipka mentioned at New York Comic Con, Sassy Salem is a meme that the entire internet knows about. Living up to that would have been a death sentence, and it wouldn't have worked in the context of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Salem as simple black cat wins the audience over when he purrs and acts all cute. It establishes a sweet exterior that makes it even more hilarious when he protects Sabrina. 

There is nothing more adorable than a cat cuddling up to Sabrina one second and then happily devouring a possessed scarecrow the next.

That was a creative take on a legendary character, and there won't be that constant pressure to on up a separate entity from another project.

Salem and Sabrina - Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 1 Episode 1

The two characters scratch the surface of the established main cast and the potential that everyone has in the grand scheme of things.

The intrigue has been created, and now it is necessary to build on that looking ahead at the full season.

Every character stands on their own because of their traits that the pilot made sure to slip in. It is easier to form a picture of who someone might be, which is where the show can come in and play around with our expectations vs. the reality of what they may have in mind. 

I have reservations about saving myself for the Dark Lord. Why does he get to decide what I do or don't do with my body?

Sabrina

Overall, the pilot worked on a few levels, but the characterization aspect was at the top of the list. It was evident that work was put into differentiating the characters from one another at the very beginning.

The dialogue assigned to the characters placed them in specific spaces, with Harvey fitting more into the relaxed observer role compared to Ambrose who takes on more action from the start.

Then there is Susie who is battling for a place to survive high school and Roz who pushes for change to happen in Sabrina's place. 

Aunt Zelda is more no-nonsense; she is intense but entertaining at the same time. Aunt Hilda is softer around the edges, and yet all she wants is to keep her niece safe. 

All this is successfully demonstrated through the way that the exposition flows seamlessly in the dialogue, building on who the characters are and adding more reference on where they fit in.

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The Spellbinding Relationships

Creating strong bonds in a pilot episode is challenging, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina steps up significantly.

Not every relationship is laid out for us, but the groundwork is there, and it is growing successfully. 

There are lingering questions about how some people fit in with one another, which adds to the addicting nature of the show.

You want to come back and see how Sabrina and Harvey continue to date when things get complicated. You want to continue to be invested in the organic back and forth that Sabrina has with Ambrose. 

Sabrina: I'm leaving my girlhood behind.
Harvey: In the woods?

Sabrina and Harvey have plenty working against them, specifically that she might have to leave and the fact that they are an established couple. There's nothing wrong with the fact that they are already dating and being super cute about it, but the odds aren't working in their favor.

Established couples are always at risk because it's easier to throw obstacles at their relationship. We didn't spend too much time with them yet, so if trouble strikes it is easier to believe. 

You can't make as many claims about something being out of character or untrue when it comes to their relationship, as the audience we are still only getting to know them, and anything goes.

Still, so far they have been adorable and angsty at the same time which looks promising. They have a lot working against them, but there is still the nostalgia factor to consider.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina isn't going to follow its predecessor, but it is putting weight in the iconic Harvey and Sabrina pairing. 

Harvey and Sabrina - Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 1 Episode 1

They have a storm headed their way, at the same time they love each other, and that has transcended multiple interpretations of this story. Plus the chemistry is there immediately because of the way they even each other out. 

Sabrina is much more of a scene stealer, and Harvey comes off quite happy just hanging out in her world. They don't overpower their moments together, and it feels true to form to watch them enjoy that young love haze that will, unfortunately, wear off when reality sets in.

Then there are Sabrina's friends, Roz and Susie, that have staked their claim on our hearts as well.

The focus hasn't been on Roz yet, and that's something that needs to change soon. Susie has more of a formed storyline already; she is all about dealing with the football team bullies.

Sabrina in the Cemetery  - Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 1 Episode 1

It is still a sharp reminder that bullying can be that brutal, and this was just a glimpse of what they go through on a daily basis. 

It should be noted that Susie has been labeled as nonbinary, just like the actor that plays them. For now, the characters in the show are still using she/her pronouns, but it is probably safe to assume that down the road there will be that transition to they/them.

It still feels more appropriate to use they/them right now since that detail about Susie's story has been made public. 

Regardless, Sabrina's relationship to Susie and the protective nature that the entire friend group has to them is already significant.

There isn't much time to discuss how long everyone has known each other or what the dynamics are, but it is clear that they all love each other. That has value because it demonstrates the reliable bonds that will continue throughout the season, even if sometimes that may be put in danger.

Sabrina is looking out for everyone because she knows she is going to leave them, whether she does fully or not is another question. The chances of her disappearing from their lives like planned are slim, if only because they wouldn't have been introduced like that.

The pilot is meant to solidify what we should be invested in, anything that is explored significantly is what will later be messed around with or challenged. 

The Weird Sisters - Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 1 Episode 1

Sabrina's relationship with her friends matters because chances are her secrets will close in on her. But it won't be forever; she will have to figure out a way to not venture too far to one side and leave someone behind.

The last significant relationship comes in the form of the Spellman family bond. Sabrina has different connections to both of her aunts, a more opposing one with Aunt Zelda and a softer one with Aunt Hilda.

That plays into who they are individually and that manifests in the pressure that they release onto Sabrina as her birthday approaches.

There is also Ambrose, her encouraging cousin who wants her to be a witch but isn't looking to stifle her. He has her feelings on his mind every time he advises her, and above all that support that he has is refreshing. 

Sabrina: There's also the Harvey of it all. We very recently took things to the next level.
Aunt Zelda: He hasn't defiled you, has he?

It is encouraging to know that Ambrose is there for Sabrina because she has enough working against her that she deserves her family to be in her corner.

That may also be necessary when you consider the fact that her parent's accident was far from that.

Aunt Zelda and Hilda know something, they know everything if those looks are anything to go by.

There's no confirmation on what Ambrose knows, although it is a safe bet that he isn't clueless to what goes on behind the scenes. 

Still, it will be chaotic when Sabrina pieces together what has been hidden from her, and those hints have already been scattered for us. 

It is possible that whatever her parents were involved in led them to their death, and that will push Sabrina to want to sign the Dark Lord's book.

For now, though all that is clear is that Aunt Hilda and Zelda can't keep hiding things from their niece forever. 

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The Spellbreaking Plot

It can't be a coincidence that the cinematography blends the Halloween aesthetic with this almost dream-like state. It always feels like you're watching a scene that could serve as a memory that isn't quite there.

A parallel to Sabrina taking Harvey's memory away, that dizzy unsure feeling that he has afterward crowded the screen in every scene. It allows the audience to have this fuzzy outline of Greendale, a technique that works in favor of the ambiance that the show is creating and making it unique from the very start. 

It could also play off the way that Sabrina is experiencing things, with her confusion about her future pushing the boundaries of the spaces in which she appears.

Ambrose: And what time will we be spellcasting?
Sabrina: Midnight-ish.
Ambrose: The witching hour? Spooky.

All in all, the plot itself is clear in the pilot, and it benefits from the clear-cut structure that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has going for it.

The show knows where it wants to go, the twists that it adds along the way come off natural because nothing is rushed or forced where it doesn't belong.

The progression is smooth without being predictable, just when you think Sabrina is working through her confusion about her future another player arrives in the game.

It is an efficient way to up the stakes and makes it clear that nothing is going to be simple. Sabrina telling Harvey about herself is a final move in any other show, here though that can be wiped away without a second thought.

There are chilling consequences, but there are also loopholes that allow Sabrina not to lose everything while still ending up in a worse off situation.

The Chilling Monster - Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 1 Episode 1

Moving forward, getting to see the magic school has to be high on the list. It plays a big role in Sabrina's reluctance, and it would make the plot more hectic. There is potential there to introduce more characters and add more dark magic in as well, there is always room for more of that.

Above all else, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has been compared to Riverdale from its conception, and this pilot offers an important distinction. 

The attention to detail gives us more faith in the process, the storylines could get muddled, but overall the show knows what is important. 

Sabrina at the center of everything, her relationships with her family and her friends, and all the spooky stuff that prevents her from just living a normal teenage life. 

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Stray Thoughts

  • It is an understatement to say that setting is significant and amazing on this show. As a huge fan of Halloween and the way that it mixes with that autumn vibe on TV, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina delivers exactly that.

    Everything from Sabrina and Harvey going pumpkin picking and corn maze exploring to Sabrina casually hanging out at the cemetery with Ambrose. The show pulls extensively from its cinematography, and it is working well for them. 
  • Madam Satan is such a well-written character, and it has only been one episode. It isn't always clear exactly what her endgame is, from helping Sabrina discover her darker side to endangering her life. But this is all part of the fun, especially with Father Blackwood entering the equation. 
  • Ambrose. That is all. Though this is a character that already made a mark on the show, he is engaging and interesting, but there is history weighing him down. He can't have fun hanging out in the mortuary embalming bodies for Aunt Zelda and Hilda.

    He is stuck on that property and getting to follow him trying to find some freedom would be an absolute pleasure. 
  • Using people's fears against them as a form of torture is never great, but that principal deserved it. It was a successful example of how dark the show can get and how layered Sabrina is too. 

    She isn't just drawn to the light or the dark, she wants to experience both. It is exciting to know that Sabrina won't be strictly struggling to follow what is right; she is willing to venture into the twisted punishments and methods which keeps us on our toes. 
  • RIP mysterious bat. You will truly be missed. 
  • Did anyone find that offhand comment that Sabrina made about the Weird Sisters, specifically Prudence, a little off? Throwing the word racist in there didn't contribute as expected. It stood out, and I'm not sure if that is good or bad. 
  • The Spellman house looks freaking amazing. Does everyone else have their fingers crossed that we will get to see more of it very soon? No? Just me?
  • It is kind of startingly to remember the other TV version of Sabrina's story. Aunt Zelda is significantly more unpredictable, Salem is more threatening, and the use of magic is somehow more standard. 
                                                                                                                             
    This version isn't about Sabrina exploring her skills (yet), she seems to have a grasp on that already. Her focus is more on the temptation that darkness presents to her, something that the original TV show tried to avoid because of the vast difference in tone. 
  • I would formally like to announce my love for Prudence. I would sell my entire soul for her, and she probably would let me do it. 

What did you think of the series premiere? Do you think Sabrina should sign her name in the Dark Lord's book, or is she right to be hesitant?

Which character do you love the most right now? Which character do you love the least? What do you hope we see more of as the show continues? What do you want to see less of throughout the first season?

How much of your soul would you sell for Salem? Is the Halloween aesthetic everything you thought it would be?

Let us know what you think below!

Chapter One: October Country Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (34 Votes)

Yana Grebenyuk is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

You're only supposed to start missing things after you've said goodbye to them, right?

Sabrina

Sabrina: I'm leaving my girlhood behind.
Harvey: In the woods?