Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 lands on Netflix today, and it is packed to the gills with horror homages, witch lore, Shakespearean references, musical performances, and more witches than you can shake a broom at.
As the season opens, it has been a month since Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) became a living prison for the Dark Lord (Luke Cook) and was taken to Hell by Madam Satan aka Lilith (Michelle Gomez) who is doing her best to govern Hell despite constant opposition. Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) has been working constantly to try to find a way into the underworld to retrieve him with the help of her friends Harvey (Ross Lynch), Roz (Jaz Sinclair), and Theo (Lachlan Watson).
Meanwhile, Aunts Zelda and Hilda (Miranda Otto, Lucy Davis)–okay mostly Zelda–are doing their best to plan for the future of the Church of Night now that the disgraced Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) has fled justice with Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) and Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) in hot pursuit.
The series has always been very dense with a twisting, turning plot and if you need more recap than that, take a few minutes and watch this video from the show’s stars!
Needless to say there’s a lot going on as the new season gets underway.
**There are light spoilers beyond this point.**
The writers on the show have proven time and again that they’re capable of handling the variously intersecting plotlines of the series with alacrity and that talent is on full display here despite a somewhat bumpy beginning to the season.
Those bumps mostly lie in the space where the magical meets the mundane..
Sabrina is wholly focused on her mission, but of course, she has time to try out for cheerleader to be supportive of Roz. Harvey, Roz, and Theo are doing their best to navigate life with the full knowledge that life is much more complicated than most of their mortal friends, so they start a rock band to help blow off some steam.
For me, it was the latter that chafed the most as I settled in for season three. As a musician, I’m always down for a good musical interlude and anyone who has watched an episode or two of Riverdale knows that showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa loves them, but in the first couple of episodes it feels forced.
How many times can Sabrina interrupt band practice after all?
Once they find their rhythm, however, things begin to feel a bit more natural. This is, of course, just in time, for things to go to hell…literally.
You see, not only is Sabrina confronted by the trials and tribulations of Hell, but a new threat has moved into Greendale in the form of a carnival populated by folks who are far more than they seem.
This, of course, opens up the floodgates on a host of new characters that viewers are sure to love, and some that they will no doubt love to hate. There are far too many to name, but it would be remiss not to cover a few of the standouts.
Broadway veteran Will Swenson (Sons of Provo) is brilliant as the carnival’s barker and leader. He practically oozes villain with his menacing smile and eyes that seem to see through anything and everything.
Then there’s the handsome Sam Corlett as Caliban, a Prince of Hell with perfect hair who is made of clay and has his eye set on the Infernal Throne. For those who are thinking that character name sounds familiar, go back to your high school literature courses and re-read Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Skye P. Marshall, meanwhile, is electric as voodoo witch Mambo Marie. There is real power in Marshall’s layered performance to the point that it is nearly impossible to take your eyes off her when she appears on screen.
And finally, Jonathan Whitesell turns in a sweet and endearing performance as Robin, who, among other things serves as a love interest for Theo this season. He seems so very comfortable in his role that there are moments where you just want to reach through the screen and hug him.
Despite these new additions, however, Sabrina works best when the family is front and center. In fact, that’s what ultimately sells the series.
Despite the rages of Hell, the constantly battling magical forces, and romantic intrigue, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a show about family, and Sabrina’s extended family is large, varied, and thankfully in the foreground as the season progresses.
On that note, Lucy Davis does not get nearly enough credit in the role of Aunt Hilda. She is pure joy to watch on screen and while we have certainly seen her embrace her dark side, she is the undefeated emotional heart of this show. She turns in one incredible performance after another during this season.
It has also been incredible to watch how the writers have carefully crafted Theo’s character arc. There is a realism to his journey that we rarely see when dealing with non-binary and trans characters and Lachlan Watson is amazing in the role.
Ultimately, every member of Sabrina’s family has come a long way since chapter one, and the journey continues to be a fascinating, complex examination of what it means to be human in an incredibly magical world.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is available today on Netflix. Check out the season’s official trailer below and get ready to travel to Hell!