As a lifelong Archie comics fan, I was excited for this series. I’ve read the excellent (and no-punches-pulled) comic series Afterlife with Archie, but I never got around to reading its spin-off, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina [why isn’t there a ‘The’?]. Luckily, this Netflix series has talent from both series onboard as series developer and writer (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa).
The premise (mid-teen must navigate the ceremonious requirements of her predestined fate as a supernatural rite of passage) has been done before in every single YA series in which everyday kids realise they’re insanely special somehow (phew, right?). And Chilling has this cliché front and centre, but instead relies on its darker elements and interestingly flawed adult characters.
Based on the pilot episode, it’s hard for me to say if the kids themselves are interesting. The struggles they face are real, and vary from being at odds with family expectations to sexual assault from an untouchable football team, but the kids themselves seem forgettable sketches of how adults think high-school sophomores talk and act.
Any magical-themed show about a kid is going to have to wow to escape the shadow of Harry Potter. But this has its own aesthetic: a wry soundtrack that often exists as an episode commentary, vintage-style clothing, and deep, earthy colour palettes.
And: a surprising level of gore and creepy creature design. We all knew this would be darker than Riverdale (which it’s apparently not crossing over into), but this is some Babadook-level shit, one notch below American Horror Story. This show isn’t afraid of blood, terrifyingly demonic scarecrows, and having its principal characters literally worship Satan.
Any pilots always has its narrative limitations, but I expect subsequent episodes to ramp things up, so I can’t wait to see more.
Score [pilot only]: 🎃🎃🎃