Don’t you love it when shows fall apart? Well, Netflix’s live action “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” has officially reached that point.
It was good while it lasted, but like so many other franchises (I’m looking at you, Star Wars), the show’s mythos has grown so large that it is choking itself to death. We’re now in the territory of where the show’s writers have to rely on what can only be described as bull**t to write themselves out of obvious, show-breaking holes that any sensible storyteller knows to avoid (light spoilers: You don’t have a show if all of your characters are dead).
Before I proceed any further, I’m going to stamp a hard **Spoilers** tag here. Needless to say, there will also be necessary spoilers for Parts 1 and 2, so go watch them if you haven’t. They’re pretty good, full of twists and turns, and have an identity all their own. If you’re used to the animated Sabrina show, or the 90s sitcom, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” greatly surpasses them, even at its worst, as while it’s not always the most clever show on the market, it certainly is interesting and captivating.
So, what’s the deal with Part 3? Well, let’s dive into this insanity.
Part 3 begins with Lilith (Michelle Gomez) as Queen of Hell; Lucifer (Luke Cook) trapped in hell and contained in the body of Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood), the warlock boyfriend of the titular teenaged witch and daughter of Satan, Sabrina Spellman/Morningstar (Kiernan Shipka); and everything being overall fine with the rest of the cast, who are enjoying some peace and a time of rebuilding after the tumultuous events of Part 2.
That is, until Sabrina has to ruin it all by breaking her boyfriend — and by extension, her father, Lucifer — out of hell. To be fair, the plot demands that she does so, as no major conflict would have ensued unless she deliberately throws a wrench into the equilibrium earned in the previous season.
Meanwhile, Satanic witches all over the world are losing their power, which is linked to the Dark Lord, which serves as a poor plot device invented by lazy writers who couldn’t think of anything creative to do with Queen Lilith, so they made her useless. And so Part 2 baddie Lucifer “Rise of Skywalker” style becomes a major villain once again, albeit he is imprisoned for much of the show, relegated to acting through people he influences, the most consistent of which are a band of pagans that come to Greendale via a traveling carnival, and who seek to resurrect their god, the Green Man, by sacrificing the inhabitants of the town.
Long story short, the pagans arrive to take advantage of the relative power vacuum Lucifer left in his imprisonment. It’s alluded to that when the Satanic witches came to be, they pushed the pagans to near extinction, which is a convenient and boring way to make them the show’s villain this time around without giving them any real character development or solid motivations. We don’t know their philosophies or why they choose to worship the Green Man, they just do. Their characters are one-dimensional cultists, save for one deserter named Robin Goodfellow (Jonathan Whitesell), who falls in love with the transitioning Theo Putnam (Lachlan Watson), whose gender identity was a central plot point in the previous parts, but is just treated like a normal cast member this time around, although he is given less to do in this part.
Drama ensues in Hell, as the Kings of Hell reject Lilith as Queen, with a clay prince named Caliban (Sam Corlett) leading the charge to unseat her. Sabrina ends up claiming the throne in a sequence the writers probably thought was clever, and while indeed does get us to an interesting place, is actually pretty nonsensical and convoluted. And it is at this point that you need to turn your brain off to enjoy the show, or you’re going to have a bad time.
Sabrina conveniently appoints Lilith as her regent, to handle the day to day duties of hell, while she tries to lead a normal life as a high school student at Baxter High School in Greendale. But not all is fine, as Caliban simply challenges Sabrina in a sacred trial that everyone in Hell conveniently respects, even Lucifer, who powers Hell, in which they must find three sacred items lost to time that are found pretty easily by the end of Part 3. Meanwhile Lucifer is transferred to the disgraced Father Faustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle), the villain of the previous two parts. Blackwood can’t be killed because he has plot armor — I mean, the mark of Cain — which, yeah, again allows the writers to have a big bad without being clever.
Credit where credit is due. All of the actors and actresses do the best with what they’re given. Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis are great as Sabrina’s aunts, Zelda and Hilda Spellman. Zelda has the most to do this season, as she is charged with rebuilding the witches’ coven, the Church of Night, after the events of Part 2, and she is convincing in her role, though it is disappointing that, from a storytelling perspective, she has not earned more trust from her niece, which sends the show repeating tired elements from Parts 1 and 2 in which Sabrina goes behind her aunts’ backs, which leads to painfully obvious consequences. For someone everyone in the show reveres as clever, Sabrina isn’t very bright, is easily taken advantage of, and is so prone to falling into past bad behaviors that she almost isn’t likable in Part 3.
Chance Perdomo and Tati Gabrielle kill it as Sabrina’s cousin, Ambrose Spellman and his sort-of girlfriend, Prudence Night. In the beginning of the show, they embark on a quest to track down the then-fugitive Father Blackwood, who is Prudence’s adopted father, which brings them on a globe-trotting adventure far too expensive to show on Netflix, that arguably could have been more interesting to see than the entirety of Part 3. Although they suffer from the character regression that all characters suffer from in Part 3, as they seem to forget about the character development they so earnestly gained through parts 1 and 2, and are often relegated to acting out their basic personality traits.
The dialogue in this show becomes incredibly predictable, as are its twists. It really feels like the creative team decided to dumb down elements of this show to make it more accessible to new viewers, in the process slashing its unpredictable and interesting characters into caricatures.
In no way is this more obvious than in Sabrina’s mortal teenage friends, who just don’t have enough to do in this part. Sabrina’s ex-boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle (Rose Lynch) who serves as Sabrina’s main point of conflict in the previous seasons, as her love for him tears her in between the mortal and magical realms, is basically background decoration. His sorta-psychic girlfriend, Rosalind (Jaz Sinclair) is also given nothing to do. Other than be in danger, that is.
Part 3 has a bad case of too many characters, feeling obligated to both dedicate time to new ones, even if they add very little to making the show interesting, while also shoehorning in characters from Parts 1 and 2 because they are fan favorites.
The pagans overstay their welcome, and they lose their intrigue around episode 5, when they should have been easily killed off. They’re also not particularly clever villains, only ever getting the upper hand when the plot demands they do, mostly through Father Blackwood/Lucifer’s interference. Almost no episode fully dedicated itself to Sabrina’s mortal friends, which were the best episodes of the previous two seasons, as they grounded the series through real human drama, stakes and consequences. and because of that, Part 3 fails to have any sort of emotional resonance other than surprise when the writers defy your expectations, sometimes in moronic ways.
There’s also a time jump in this part, and it is nonsensical, doesn’t belong, and only exists because the writers wrote themselves into a hole. So they had to result to time travel mechanics they made up, and they can’t even fully commit to that, as the show introduces a time loop to resolve its climax, of which Sabrina refuses to close in order for her to have two versions of herself exist at the same time. It’s a classic case of when writers work so hard to lift themselves out of a show-destroying hole that they risk trashing audience investment when, in fact, a much easier solution would have been to avoid the hole altogether. The time paradox ending essentially makes said show-breaking holes redundant anyways, so it begs the question of why take the show in that direction at all?
“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 3” is a big mess that has some good elements to it and is something you can have fun with, but tries to do too many things at once.
After watching Parts 1 and 2, I was excited for what the future of the show held. Now, after seeing Part 3, I can’t wait for it to end.
“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 3” gets a 6.66/10