Read Emilia’s Take on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part Four here.
It is with a heavy heart that I write this review of the final part of Netflix series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Along with a slew of other original shows, CAOS has been cut down in its prime. After the cancellation announcement mid-2020 and the hopeful, alas, unfounded rumours of the show being picked up by HBO Max, I prepared myself for a tear-stained binge session, bidding farewell to everyone’s favourite teenage witch.
Part Four instantly picks up the unfinished stories of Part Three: Father Blackwood’s (Richard Coyle) release of the Eldritch Terrors, Lilith (the ever-dazzling Michelle Gomez) being pregnant with the Dark Lord’s (Luke Cook) son, and the existence of two Sabrina’s (Kierkan Shipka) in one timeline: what could go wrong? With Sabrina’s propensity to attract, if not conjure, trouble, it’s not long before we are faced with the first Eldritch Terror, described as prehistoric otherworldly entities. Alongside the Terrors, each having a dedicated episode in a ‘monster-of-the-week’ style, there is the interweaving of other characters and storylines, each with their own twists. As soon as you’ve released one sigh of relief, another reveal has you holding a baited breath. Without giving too much away, the series ends with Sabrina, her aunts and all her allies facing the ominous Void, the final Terror. And yes, it dies end with tears streaming down your face.
As with the previous seasons, Kierkan Shipka’s Sabrina is everything and more you’d want in a fantasy teenage heroine: compassionate, powerful, flawed and, ultimately, self-sacrificing. And Shipka acts her goddamn socks off in this season, possibly knowing it could be her last outing in Sabrina’s shoes. She is unafraid to show the weaknesses of Sabrina as well as her strengths, playing off each other to create a complex character. She delights in success with her friends, admits her wrongdoings to her aunts, loves and is loved by Nick (Gavin Leatherwood), and delivers more than one rousing heroic speech. Shipka’s heartbroken Sabrina, the one who is rejected by the spectre of her father and has to say goodbye to her other self, is the pinnacle of her acting prowess. If Sabrina is crying, then so am I.
‘Hyperbolic as it is, great shows cancelled at their zenith are cinematic reminders that life isn’t fair. The one silver lining with CAOS is the satisfying way it ended – there wasn’t an unsatisfactory cliff-hanger or a will-they-wont-they scenario.’
But Shipka is not the only acting power. Never wavering is the dazzling presence of Michelle Gomez as Lilith, the first witch and Mother of Demons. Each eye-roll, each strut, each word has a theatrical power behind it. This season, we see a different Lilith, as mother to the heir of Hell, unironically named Adam. Gomez is both a cooing and all-powerful mother, doing whatever it takes to protect her son, even going the way of Medea (only a spoiler if you know your Greek mythology). Lilith’s journey is focused on power, Gomez articulating its ebbs and flows. What finally becomes of Lilith is one story that was stopped in its tracks, and I am now officially petitioning for a Lilith-centric spin-off.
CAOS can’t be discussed without addressing the musical elephant in the room. As a musical theatre fan, the outbursts of song don’t bother me, unlike some fans. This season, some of the musical numbers actually fit better into the story. Sabrina using ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ as a sentimental touchstone during a mental exorcism is a demi tasse of innocence in a show plagued by horror. We are reminded, witchcraft and heroism aside, Sabrina is just a teenager. However, even I could’ve done without a demonic ‘battle of the bands’.
Following a teaser released before the season began, fans like myself prepared ourselves for the nostalgically anticipated return of Beth Broderick and Caroline Rhea, Aunties Zelda and Hilda from the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch. How would the writers integrate them into the CAOS universe? Would they actually be playing Zelda and Hilda? Would the whole thing flop? Thankfully, they were used wisely, playing alternate universe versions of the aunts. Like the original show, the pair brought back their mix of grounded advice and much-needed humour. For a final season, the reappearance of Broderick and Rhea sweetened the bitter pill of knowing the ending was nigh, written in to the story seamlessly, if only for one episode.
Hyperbolic as it is, great shows cancelled at their zenith are cinematic reminders that life isn’t fair. The one silver lining with CAOS is the satisfying way it ended – there wasn’t an unsatisfactory cliff-hanger or a will-they-wont-they scenario. Yes, there are aspects that I’d have loved to have seen explored more (Robin and his hobgoblin-ness, more background into the coven’s worship of Hecate), but we can’t have everything. CAOS was dark and dangerous, a narratively pleasing cocktail of teen angst, family, love, witchcraft, and horror Easter Eggs. It ticked so many boxes and it will be missed. If only we could bring back with a spell…
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 4 is available on Netflix now.
Words by James Reynolds