Netflix's adaptation of the Archie Comics title Sabrina the Teenage Witch has a limitation built right into its title: it focuses on a teenager. This past summer, Netflix revealed that it wouldn't be renewing the series for a fifth season, understandably resulting in fans expressing their disappointment regarding its "cancellation." Despite this presumption, the final episodes of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina brings the adventures of Sabrina Spellman to an organic conclusion, capping off the character a canonical year after audiences met her, delighting viewers with a sendoff that prevents the series from an impending staleness. This ending for the series might not be the one fans were hoping for, as the back half of this arc faces some narrative stumbles, but it pulled out all the stops to deliver the series its biggest threats, all while embracing the concept's signature charm that has rightfully earned it such a passionate following.
As teased at the end of the last season, this final storyline sees Lord Blackwood (Richard Coyle) unleashing the Eldritch Terrors, eight entities who are both so ancient and so massive that they defy traditional description. Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) puts all of her skills to the test to tackle the Terrors, whether they be The Weird, The Darkness, or The Void, to not only overpower them, but also outwit them, thanks in large part to her aunts and best friends.
The biggest strength that this take on Sabrina has had since its inception is the ways in which it blends the campy concept of a teen-aged witch navigating not only powerful and mystical entities, but also struggling with the dramatics of her high school. This season is no different, with Shipka wholly embodying Sabrina and demonstrating her confidence with the character. While series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has made a number of contributions to the world of Archie Comics adaptations throughout various programs, arguably his biggest gift has been Shipka as Sabrina, who many audiences would likely have followed across countless adventures. Thankfully, this final season has embraced Shipka to make sure she is front and center in every episode, whereas previous seasons have seen episodes take substantial deviations from the title character to help give layers to its supporting stars. While we do see developments between Harvey (Ross Lynch) and Roz (Jaz Sinclair), Theo (Lachlan Watson) and Robin (Jonathan Whitesell), and Sabrina's aunts, they mostly exist to bring those storylines to their organic conclusions, though they never distract us from Sabrina. The series has leaned so much into Shipka's strengths that we see her pulling double duty, not only as the mortal version of herself, but also as the Sabrina who rules over Hell, even allowing the actress to demonstrate how she can conjure chemistry with herself.
Despite how much audiences have loved spending time with Sabrina, one of the series' biggest setbacks has been its narrative momentum. The length of each episode (often clocking in close to a full hour), as well as the structure of each overall arc, comes with unavoidable lulls not only within the episodes themselves but also in the larger story it tells. In this regard, the narrative of Part Four is hands-down the strongest yet.
By establishing in the first episode that there are eight Eldritch Terrors, it cements the concept that each episode will tackle a different Terror. Each episode feels reminiscent of The X-Files' "Monster of the Week" concept, with audiences being well aware of the dynamics between all the characters as these isolated adventures introduce, battle with, and resolve the threat. The variety of these Terrors (ranging from a grotesque vagrant to a tentacled beast) ensures there is something for all types of audiences. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft will surely appreciate the embrace of the author's works, with the series itself even drawing reference to him, as Sabrina incorporates his unique sense of cosmic and otherworldly dread seamlessly into this narrative. This format also means that, if one specific episode doesn't entirely appeal to you, you only have to sit through the concept for one episode, knowing a new Terror will rear its head in the next chapter.
Utilizing threats as large as the Eldritch Terrors largely works to this season's favors, but the scope of the mythology leads the final episodes to grow overly complex and exhausting. It's clear that Aguirre-Sacasa knew this would be the series' swan song, as he used virtually everything from his bag of tricks to pull off an endeavor that honored not only Sabrina's whimsical roots, but also its intrinsic horror. The density of the world-ending threats means the series finale is also dense with lore, making it quite easy to be lost and overwhelmed by the events as they unfold. Sabrina's coda, however, isn't at all ambiguous, though its climax will surely leave even the most devout of fans even somewhat bewildered.
The final season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina pulls off the difficult task of leaving audiences wanting more, while also offering them an organic and fulfilling conclusion. We're given the biggest strength of the series with plenty of Shipka, peppering in the storylines of the supporting characters only to offer brief respites from Sabrina and her many struggles. The ambitious nature of the concept has never been stronger and, while this often achieves its intentions, sometimes bogs itself down with its complex lore. While it might be hard to live up to the popularity of the '90s sitcom inspired by the character, both Shipka and Aguirre-Sacasa put a significant stamp on the property, with its sendoff finding the perfect blend of delightful teen-aged charm and otherworldly horrors to become the defining Sabrina for a new generation.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Part Four of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina debuts on Netflix on December 31st.