Chilling adventures from Sabrina Season 4 is messy, wandering, and inconsistent. alternately exciting and disappointing, charming and confusing, dazzling and dizzying – the final season of Netflix’s addicting witch-teen soap is just as chaotic as its title character. It’s a fitting, if not particularly satisfying, ending to a series in which the greatest consequence was being wildly unpredictable at all times. again a trait shared with Kiernan Shipka’s moody teenage witch.
Oddly enough, in the show’s most inconsistent season, in which Shipka plays two versions of Sabrina – one to live her “normal” teenage life and one to reign as Queen of Hell – Sabrina would be the one Sabrina finally settles in feeling begins coherently. Sabrina has always been a somewhat confusing character, and as I pointed out in my review of season three, it was often because she was always out to make the worst decisions at every opportunity. That’s how we got to two damn Sabrinas in the first place! If there was something that obviously wasn’t supposed to be done, you could bet Sabrina would do it and do it in a hurry.
Image via Netflix
In a refreshing surprise, however, Season 4 delivers a Sabrina who is finally ready to take responsibility for her actions and their consequences. By giving Sabrina a doppelganger, the series enables the warring sides of herself to thrive, literally giving her the opportunity to hold herself accountable and, most delightfully of all, to truly love herself. Season 4 is full of flaws that we’re about to get into, but there are also elements embedded in the madness that shine as some of the best work on the show. One of them is the decision to let Sabrina love Sabrina; No cattiness or competitiveness, no evil partnerships that Sabrinas love and sincerely trust each other. Seriously, it’s one of the more low-key displays of confidence and self-love I’ve seen on TV in a long time, which makes it all the more regrettable that these character advances are true … until suddenly they are no longer true.
Because somewhere halfway through the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina season 4 gets out of control, dropping almost every interesting thread into a tangle and positively hurling itself into what is by far one of the most bizarre, confused, and ultimately confusing series finals of all time. It’s a bloody shame, though somewhat understandable, considering the creative team didn’t plan for season 4 to be the last, already had plans for season 5, and had to take some fancy steps to wrap it all up after the surprise was canceled bring to. That said, we have one final season weighed down by pace issues (get ready for a finale, which has been more obviously catching up than anything since Dollhouse) and incomplete character arcs.
Again, the circumstances are just a shame because it is clear that the authors initially had a good structure in mind that followed a Buffy-like “Monster of the Week” format about the so-called Eldritch Terror. As a result of all of the nasty Lovecraftian deal Faustus did up to last season, Sabrina and the gang face a new terror in each episode, each with ominous names like “The Uninvited” and “The Perverse”. As with most Monster-of-the-Week stuff, it’s a hit and miss, but some of them are really scary and they open the door to exciting new areas that could have pushed the series to an even more epic scale for Season 5 . But that’s not what we’re left with. Instead, Season 4 does a Looney Tunes Roadrunner straight off a cliff.
Image via Netflix
Conflicts are only introduced to be resolved immediately. Bows that had such a promise will be dropped faster than a fallen angel. Characters who seem ready to finally come due (they’re looking at you, Nick, Roz, and Theo) fall into the background noise while supporting characters get a spotlight that you have to imagine the writers would have shown elsewhere if they knew this would be the end. Season 3 was a high point for Chilling Adventures’ signature aesthetic and camp mayhem, which makes Season 4 just a more noticeable downturn – especially when you realize how much the main storyline and character beats of last season seem completely irrelevant. And that’s before you get to the finale, which is making really outrageous, annoying decisions on its final draws.
In the end, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a crazy tapestry full of promise and potential that only pays off occasionally. The Frankenstein stitching it takes to make this a final season is blatant, but like I said, some of these patchwork pieces are some of my favorite moments in the entire series. Most of them have to do with Lilith, who remains intact as the infinitely most fascinating and most evolved character in the series. Michelle Gomez, of course, remains a queen who steals series, and she is free to use all of her might as her eternal rivalry with Lucifer escalates on some shockingly dark developments. There is also an air of beauty in the way her dynamic is handled with the now Hecate-worshiping circle, as well as a particularly inspired use of the pain of childbirth. Then there is the joy of the occasional music number, which is always a boon with this diverse line-up.
Image via Netflix
Elsewhere, the Eldritch Terrors pay off in some of the series’ most fearless moments of horror. Some of them are very stupid too (a so called “terror” is basically just a really bitchy ball of light), but when done right, they produce a whole lot of effective and scary images. The penultimate episode, a meta-bottle episode that’s hilarious and scary in equal parts, is for sure one of the best and most inventive episodes in the entire series. But structurally, a bottle episode just before your break-neck finale makes for a confusing, harrowing viewing experience.
Fans will find a lot to love in Sabrina’s last eight episodes, but unfortunately it’s a farewell where the whole is never greater than – hell, not even equal – the sum of its parts.
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About the author
(3185 articles published)
Haleigh Foutch is a writer, editor, presenter, actor and cat lover and lives in Los Angeles. She is currently Senior Editor for Content Strategy and Analytics at Collider, where she has been yelling about the unsung genius of Grosse Pointe Blank for nearly a decade. She is also responsible for the horror content of Collider and co-created the podcast The Witching Hour, which was previously a regular panelist on Movie Talk and for Rotten Tomatoes, Complex, Birth.Movies.Death. And wrote more. She usually shares Buffy the Vampire Slayer memes on Instagram, rehearses The OA’s Five Moves, and asks people about their pets.
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