The winter holidays tend to usher out autumn’s dark scenes of haunted houses and creepy creatures until the next spooky season. On New Year’s Eve, however, part four of Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” resurrected the ghouls and the hexxing gals from hibernation to celebrate our favorite teenage witch, Greendale’s own Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka), one last time.
Confirmed as the final “Sabrina” episode series, part four brings viewers back to Spellman Mortuary for another eight-episode lesson in “What Not to do if You Happen to be a Witch.” The story picks up from Faustus Blackwood’s (Richard Coyle) devilish doings at the end of part three, where he brewed a series of world-stopping demons called the Eldritch Terrors to drive Sabrina and company to the infernal realm — metaphorically and not — and back again.
In nearly every new episode, a different Eldritch Terror wreaks havoc on the mortal realm — targeting Greendale, of course — to carry the plot toward some unknown final destination. While the consistent appearance of a new demon grows cyclical, the show manages to weave in heartfelt B-plots to keep energy flowing through an otherwise predictable series rhythm.
Realms collide and tears are shed, but the show’s first episode revisits the budding romances left to bloom following part three, particularly the not-so-clandestine but oh-so-swoon-worthy relationship between power couple Zelda Spellman (Miranda Otto) and Mambo Marie (Skye Marshall). All characters seem to be initially paired up — except, that is, our leading lady and her dashing cousin, Ambrose Spellman (Chance Perdomo).
Throughout the episodes, viewers witness the pitfalls of Sabrina’s attempts to “Build-a-Boyfriend” and find love in new casanovas. It’s not often that young female characters are written to be as decisive as Sabrina, and watching the character navigate young romance while standing firm in her beliefs and expectations is refreshing. The show champions women finding support systems in one another, but what else could you anticipate from a show about empowered witches?
And call it heresy, but the show often ingeniously juxtaposes the coven’s traditions and beliefs with that of the Roman Catholic Church, pulling imagery, phrases and even some characters straight from Christian doctrine. In the Spellmans’ coven, matriarchy rules following a turn from the Dark Lord’s proceedings in favor of Hecate, a more suitable goddess. The show uplifts its female characters as leaders and deciders — a definite contrast from the religious tradition that the show satirizes.
The series’ most praise-worthy parody, however, occurs within its closing episodes, sending Sabrina Morningstar to a parallel universe where she runs into “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” actors Beth Broderick and Caroline Rhea — the original Zelda and Hilda. To many longtime “Sabrina” universe fans’ delight, Salem Saberhagen, the talking cat puppet (voiced by Luke Cook, who also plays Lucifer Morningstar), is back with a shrewd vengeance.
This dip into a different reality pokes fun at the original sitcom’s atmosphere, with Sabrina and Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) expectedly staying canon and Rosalind Walker (Jaz Sinclair) discussing how she doesn’t have a boyfriend because the producers would never write one for her. The show misses no mark, as even Caliban (Sam Corlett), who here works as a set builder, comments on the perk of being behind the scenes: not having to take his shirt off and constantly be objectified. Well played, writers.
All in all, part four doesn’t quite live up to its precedents, however. To put it simply, the show’s ending just does not feel right. After two seasons (split into four parts) of harrowing antagonists and truly chilling adventures, closing with a villain as stodgy and pretentious-modern-art-looking as the Void is anticlimactic. Being threatened by an undead metal band called Satanic Panic in episode six is low enough for “Sabrina,” but with the clever spread of Eldritch Terrors at the season’s beginning, this final boss feels rushed in design but certainly not in execution.
The rival flaws, reiterative episodes and questionable ending for Sabrina and her on-again, off-again love interest Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) are just light stains on the otherwise enticing development of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” To watch Sabrina consistently avoid clear instructions and literally raise her own hell is youth-restoring, mischievously dark excellence.