It’s fun when horror content chooses to add comedy. In most cases, the very best horror films contain lots of laughter and fun. After all, the dichotomy between fear and laughter create complete emotional journeys. Anything can make you laugh primes you to open up, and in doing so, makes the moments of terror resonate. However, its very easy to lose this tightrope balance. For Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the first season walked the path to perfection. However, the first part of season 2 (Part 3), misses the mark because Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) just cannot take anything seriously.
Hot off the apocalypse, Sabrina wants to rush back into Hell. While her boy toy Nick (Gavin Leatherwood) volunteered his body to house Satan, she wants to bring him back to Greendale. WIth her friends (Ross Lynch, Jaz Sinclair & Laclan Watson), she embarks on her new quest. Meanwhile, her Aunts Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto) attempt to reform the Church of Night. When a new group of strangers comes to town, the Church faces unprecedented threats. With the church under siege and Hell open for the taking, everyone gets pushed to their limits.
While the idea of introducing the apocalypse to Chilling Adventures was a given, dropping at the end of the first season instantly dilutes the stakes. Sabrina instantly commits to saving her boyfriend, but with her Dark Lord/father stuck inside her boyfriend, the arrangement is less than ideal. It also means the show opens up for another apocalyptic event. To return to the “save the world” tropes so quickly after we just got time to breathe, Chilling Adventures undercuts itself. While shows like Buffy often flirted with the Apocalypse, the relationships between characters often came first. In Chilling Adventures the flipping the formula leaves the threats empty and boring.
Shipka gets less to do this season, but most of that comes from the writing. Rather than facing the emotional stakes of her choices, the writers lean into the valley girl persona. Shipka nails that element, but its less exciting to see her work in this mode. She gives off a care nothing attitude that makes you question her ability and worthiness. Why should we root for a character whose selfishness knows no bounds? Shipka’s charming but the boring writing leaves us without much of a reason to care.
The story further suffers because it relies too much on telling us how the characters are screwed. Instead of allowing us to see consequences, Chilling Adventures handholds us through the season. Making matters worse, every time they tell us how powerless Sabrina and the coven have become, it conveniently finds a way out of that issue. It plays both sides, and because of this, it once again lowers the stakes.
Overall, Chilling Adventures remains a fun show. However, it’s clear that the wheels have come off. Embracing the soapiness and melodrama of Riverdale changes the attitude and tone of the series substantially. It’s a shame because the show’s original darkness made it stand out in the crowd. Now, it feels like standard teen fare with invincible characters.