WARNING: The below contains spoilers for season 1 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
I know I’m late to the party, but I don’t care. I watched the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and it was boooooooooooooring. The show has since been canceled, and if later seasons are anything like the first, I can see why.
Here’s the problem: I can’t tell after 10 episodes just who this show is for. If it’s for teen girls, I get it. Teen girls love romantic side-plots and deep characterization. This show delivers on that front. Every character has an arc. Every relationship is a tangled mass of love, truth, lies, and frustration. All the ingredients for successful YA fiction are there.
But that is not the show I signed up for.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
Did you watch that? Can you believe how awesome that intro looks? Zombies and Satan and holy-crap spookiness. It’s like October just walked up and punched me in the face. I’d be more explicit with how awesome that intro is, but I’m a YA author, and I only get one or two swears a year.
The show does not deliver on that intro. It just doesn’t. Oh, we get one or two spooky scenes. Maybe a couple genuine scares. But for the most part, the show is pretty much another entry in the paranormal drama genre, alongside Charmed, Buffy, and Angel.
Don’t get me wrong. I love those shows too, but I’m not seventeen anymore, and those aren’t the shows I want to watch.
Now, I’m not saying horror can’t have solid, character-driven plots or focus on relationships. Just give me something to chew on during the slow times.
And my goodness, does season 1 drag. Is the wait worth it? Not really. The finale to season 1 features Sabrina burning a bunch of witches to death. That’s kind of cool. But we never really dwell on it. It takes about four seconds. Madame Satan eats a guy, but it’s only a jump scare. One episode claims to feature a zombie, but we never see him do zombie things. Would it be too much to see the one walking dead on this show actually walk?
American Horror Story, for all its flaws, gets it right. At least once an episode, they have The Scene. They show one guy with a bull’s head. They show one corpse stuffed in a crawlspace. They show one clown with the bottom half of his face shot to hell. They have deep characterization and social justice stuff too, but they give me something to chew on while all that character stuff is happening.
Look, the absolute best individual issues of any superhero comic are the ones that have at least one meaningful fight scene. One scene that epitomizes the character and reminds the reader why they spent however much for that issue.
The worst individual issues are written for the trade. They’re slow. They feature a lot of sitting, standing around, and talking. Not exposition, either. Just good, old-fashioned character drama.
Look, character drama has its place. But when you’re creating genre fiction, you need to actually engage with those tropes. For horror, that means balancing character drama with scenes where dudes get ate.
Now, maybe I’m outta line. Maybe season 1 was supposed to be a slow burn, and seasons 2 and 3 will deliver on that metal-as-hell intro. Maybe season 4 will feature eight solid episodes where Sabrina challenges Lucifer himself for control of hell and we get to see Zelda and Hilda unleash all the dark powers at their disposal to end the world in blood and thunder.
Or maybe the show isn’t what I thought it was. Maybe it’s not for me. Maybe it really is just for teenage girls.* If so, that’s ok. Teen girls need stuff to watch too.
Anyway, that’s all I got for now. Check out Sabrina if you feel like it, just check your expectations. And happy Halloween!
*Y’all, don’t get it twisted. I know plenty of teenage girls are aching for some of the old ultra-violence to break out on this show. I’m speaking in generalities. Also, I’m probably wrong, so please don’t hate.