Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina TV Poster Image
Popular with kids
Thrilling update of spooky comic ramps up teen empowerment.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 71 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 92 reviews

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Positive themes are woven strongly through the drama: female power and empowerment, obligations friends owe to each other, value of standing up for friends and ideals. Class issues play a role too: Witch society is both patriarchal and hierarchical, something Sabrina, her adherents try to change. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sabrina is a tough but kind teen. She stands up to adults who are corrupt, protects her friends, is courageous even when beset by enemies, like a trio of creepy fellow teen witches to whom she says "I'm not going to be baited or bullied by you." Sabrina's close friends are diverse, supportive; Susie in particular is nonbinary and bravely stands up to a bullying school environment. In one episode, homophobia is exhibited when boys are tricked into kissing each other and then mocked for appearing gay. LGBTQ characters are given somewhat short shrift in general, with an undercooked romance between two boys, and a trans character who transitions abruptly and unrealistically. 

Violence

Violence starts out as gothic, becomes more and more intense and gory as episodes and seasons continue. Gothic trappings like foggy nights, lonesome cemeteries, spiders, bats add spook factor to on-screen deaths and dead bodies. Characters are killed suddenly, with pooling, spurting, dripping cinematic blood. Blood plays a part, too, in witchcraft; it's collected, used in ceremonies. Dead bodies of witches hang from trees in an unearthly red light; a scarecrow comes to life and attacks Sabrina; Zelda makes a joke about having "long pig" (human flesh) for dinner while standing over a recently murdered teen. A man performs a gruesome autopsy on himself, makes reference to eating his own heart. Cannibalism in later episodes; a witch dies by slicing her own throat, is then consumed by fellow witches. Demons, hell, Satan play a major part, particularly in later seasons. Expect bloody deaths, rituals involving human flesh and sacrifices, demonic rituals, spells, characters who have died appearing later as revenants, many more boundary-pushing images and plot devices. 

Sex

Sexual content starts out light (sweet kisses and declarations of love between Sabrina and Harvey) and gets heavier in later episodes. Some talk is mature: Witch initiation requires virginity, which Sabrina questions; a character is teased and physically assaulted for nontraditional gender presentation. A witch orgy happens at Sabrina's home; she's not involved. Male characters are tricked by a spell into kissing each other, then mocked for appearing gay. A teen asks another to examine her naked body for a demonic mark; we see her breast briefly from the side. Two teen boys have a relationship; we see them kissing and removing their clothing before camera cuts away and they presumably have sex. An adult character begins having an extramarital sexual relationship with another adult that renders one part of the couple powerless in a spiritual sense: We see them kissing passionately, but the camera cuts away before sex occurs. 

Language

Language includes "bastard," "freaking," "a--hole," "hell," "bulls--t," and made-up slang with a vulgar edge, like when Sabrina calls fellow witches "succubitches." A character teased for their gender presentation is called "freak."  

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult character smokes frequently and theatrically; the camera lingers on smoke in the air, and the character doesn't suffer any visible consequences for smoking. Teens drink and it's seen as no big deal. In one scene, an adult discovers a teen has been drinking absinthe and seems unfazed. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a dark drama about a teen girl (Kiernan Shipka) with magical powers. Existing in the same world as Riverdale and classic Archie comic characters, it's an edgy retelling of the young witch's story. Violence includes deaths, stabbings with spurting blood, images of witches hanging from a tree, a character making a joke about having human flesh for dinner while standing over the body of a recently murdered teen, and more. Gothic imagery -- bats, fog, cemeteries -- may spook younger viewers. A teen is bullied for having an androgynous gender presentation. Sexual content consists of loving kisses between Sabrina and her boyfriend, talk about virginity (and why it's a requirement for a new witch), and an orgy that takes place at Sabrina's home (she's not involved). Language is infrequent but includes "bastard," "a--hole," "hell," "bulls--t," and made-up slang with a vulgar edge, like when Sabrina calls fellow witches "succubitches." A character is called "freak." An adult character smokes theatrically and frequently with no visible consequences, and teens sometimes drink, which adults seem not to mind. Women and people of color have strong roles with agency; a main character is nonbinary. Sabrina in particular is tough but kind; she stands up for herself and for others against intense opposition, and she's a good role model for teens in many ways. That said, this magical world is darker, bloodier, and sexier than Harry Potter; think Buffy the Vampire Slayer with even more focus on the occult and evil. As Sabrina's seasons move on, the action is even edgier and darker, with sudden bloody murders, disturbing imagery (like a scene in which two characters suddenly find they are sewn together to be conjoined twins), rituals that involve cannibalism, demonic possession, evil spells, and the resurrection of the dead. Characters are suddenly dispatched, like when a woman's throat is suddenly and bloodily slit, or a boy is killed when a mine collapses. Many scenes feature characters visiting hell and communing with demons and/or Satan. Visuals are dark and spooky and can be shocking -- for example, a scene where adult characters are telling a sort of fairytale that involves a child being cooked alive to be fed to Satan; we see the hapless child in the oven. 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bynaro108 November 3, 2018

Show is basically a lesson in Satanism for kids

Before I begin... I would like to mention that I am not a Christian.. nor am I particularly religious... so please don't discount my review on this basis.... Continue reading
Adult Written byOkayMom December 1, 2018

Blatant agenda

What the hell, Netflix. Seriously, what are we trying to do to our kids? I guess if you want your kids to think Satanism is cool, underage orgies are great, m... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byshikastars September 18, 2019
Looking at the other reviews, I feel some people are a bit overreacting, so I wanted to elaborate on my opinion of this show and what certain people with certai... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byPenny wise July 4, 2019

Great if you are more mature like me

I'm 13 and I love the show but the people in it (the witches) are satanist I believe if you are sensitive to that subject then don't watch it there is... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on a 2014 reimagining of the Archie comic Sabrina the Teenage Witch called CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA, this TV version picks up in modern times, with Sabrina (Shipka) on the verge of her 16th birthday, the time when she has to accept either the "Path of Light" (living as a mortal woman with no magical powers) or the "Path of Night" (living as a full witch under traditional rules). Since Sabrina's dad was a warlock and her mom a mortal, it's complicated for her -- and she doesn't like giving up control of her life to anyone or anything. So with the help of her Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto), Aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis), boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch), and faithful cat Salem, Sabrina's looking to carve a new path in the witching world, no matter what unearthly forces oppose her. 

Is it any good?

Witchcraft becomes a meta-metaphor for female power in this smart, witty, and positively thrilling update of the cheesy teen-witch story that, like Riverdale, originated in Archie comics. This Sabrina is both darker and deeper, with more on its mind than the sitcom-with-magic antics of 1990s cult fave Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Compellingly, the new Sabrina grapples not only with the whiplash that comes from having one foot in the magical world and one in the mortal one, but also with the limitations that the world puts on her as a teenage girl. 

There's a moment that crystallizes Sabrina's relatable dilemma in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina's second episode, when Sabrina debates with another young witch over Sabrina's witch-age-of-majority choice: Should she sign her name in the Dark Lord's book and accept her full powers, along with restrictive rules? Or should she remain mortal, free to make her own choices? As Sabrina explains to her colleague, she wants it all: power and freedom. The other witch scoffs. The Dark Lord would never allow such a thing. Why? "He's a man, isn't he?" Is witchcraft a means of magical empowerment for Sabrina? Or is it just another trap? With such a sophisticated, sharp idea anchoring the drama, this thrill ride gives viewers something to chew on. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how witchcraft has traditionally been portrayed on television and in movies. Think about how witches figure in some of the things you've watched. Are the witches depicted as heroic? Monstrous? Why does it vary, and what does this say about what witches represent to us?

  • Why is it important that Sabrina is young? How would this story change if she were an older character? What's interesting or special about youth, and why is it so often the center of drama? What types of stories make sense for young characters and not older ones? 

  • How does Sabrina demonstrate courage and self-control in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

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