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The Path of Light vs. The Path of Night: OUT Debates Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Path of Light vs. The Path of Night: OUT Debates Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Path of Light vs. The Path of Night: OUT Debates 'Sabrina'

Two Out editors talk ritual cannibalism, the Spellman sweater budget and finding the balance between horror and teen drama.

Spoilers ahead.

Rose Dommu, Out culture editor: Welcome to the Great Gay Sabrina Debate of 2018.

Ian Martella, Out social editor: I'll take the path of the light.

Rose: I'll take the path of night, sweetie.

Ian: SWEETIE. The debate has begun.

Rose: Sis if it'd been me, I'd have signed the Book of the Beast before the credits rolled.

Ian: We're ten minutes in and Satan's rawing you.

Rose: You know he's hung!

Ian: It's a bit intimidating. What app would Satan use?

Rose: Farmer's Only. Or Raya.

Ian: I have no idea what Raya is but that makes me think of this, which is real and something I don't want to think about.

Rose: Raya is Tinder for people who are verified.

Ian: Oh Satan is for sure verified.

Rose: Oh honey.

Related | Catching Up With Chance Perdomo, Sabrina's Sexy Pansexual Warlock

Ian: To open, I'll just say that I enjoyed the show. Straight out. The writing was pedantic and campy but not overly so, I was satisfied by the gore and jump scares (which is not hard! I must admit! I get scared very easily) and my only note is that I'm old. More on that later.

Rose: As someone who was obsessed with Sabrina the Teenage Witch and as someone who spent a large portion of her teen years in the occult section of a Barnes and Noble, I really wanted to love this show. I was expecting it to be more The VVitch and less The Vampire Diaries. It started off strong, but the tone was inconsistent and didn't lean into the things I hoped it would. But I liked that the witches literally walk around going "Hail Satan!" There was no ambiguity, the devil is a literal recurring character -- and he's kinda hot. It's all very spooky and there's a few nice gory moments, but I was expecting more actual horror. Sabrina does, however, wear a lot of gorgeous sweaters.

Ian: The High Priest's press ons? I could think of nothing else when he spoke.

Rose: I took a screenshot and showed it to my nail technician! But what was up with his wife's horrible fake British accent?

Ian: I think it was transatlantic.

Rose: Honey, I'm trans-atlantic. They were all doing that Madonna thing it was...very annoying. Even Prudence -- who I STAN -- was doing it and...I have to laugh.

Ian: I totally get wanting more gore and scare. And I'll come back to that, but first: yes, Hail Satan. The show's treatment of Satanism reads to me as playful and theatrical, but it never really feels like a patronizing depiction or Satanism as a theatrical prop. Not that I'm an expert in the occult--but I actually grew up around people, mostly womyn, who identified as witches, and the ones who like television will be into it. Especially given the overt feminism. Woke witches vote in the midterms.

Rose: There's definitely a woke element of the show -- although sometimes it's a bit shoehorned in and eye-rolly -- and it's underscored by the fact that the witches are fully enslaved to Satan, the ultimate evil patriarchal force. Sabrina's journey the entire season is about deciding if she can give up her autonomy in exchange for power...but then that struggle gets sidetracked for some Wizards of Waverly Place shenanigans and and I space out and just stare at Ross Lynch.


Ian: You would go for the boy who played Jeffrey Dahmer! For me it's all about Ambrose (Chance Perdomo). It is 2018 and we get pansexual warlocks--finally, something is right in the universe. What about the show was too Waverly for you?

Rose:Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was originally developed at the CW before Netflix snatched it up, and it's produced by the people behind Riverdale and is clearly meant to be a supernatural version of Riverdale, but the teen drama is soooo much less interesting than the witchy stuff. I can also feel the writers reaching climax every time they throw in a *wink wink* Riverdale reference.

Ian: Does that play into intentional strategy, though? I can imagine a lot of the writers wanting to go ham with the witchiness and gore. But if Riverdale was successful as a series, and Greendale is supposed to be universally adjacent, I could also see why those interested in attracting a wider (and somewhat similar) audience would want to continue in the teen drama vein.

Rose: The pilot did a really good job of balancing those two aspects of the show, and then as it progressed the tone got more and more wobbly. All the stuff at the Academy of the Unseen Arts was soboring. But hey, there's an entire episode that revolves around ritual cannibalism and I am very here for that. What did you think of the performances? I found supporting characters like Hilda and Zelda very strong, and Madam Satan is the show's true MVP. But Kiernan Shipka...snooze.

Ian: HILDA AND ZELDA! They could be an entire conversation in and of themselves. For the record, my Batbit (Bitbat? Batibat. I had to Google this) nightmare would be Are You My Mother but it's just me asking both of them, receiving solid "no"s and then re-entering the heteronormative world. Madam Satan I liked less initially, but she really grew on me throughout the season.

I've read/heard a lot of anti-Shipka talk, so you're for sure not alone in that sentiment. I know a lot of people didn't like her in Mad Men, there are takes that she's too young looking, doesn't have enough personality, isn't "bad" enough to be an interesting character in this universe. But I think she really latched onto a well translated middle ground between Melissa Joan Hart's Sabrina the Teenage Witch and a Type A, young, feminist witch who would seriously weigh the decision of the Path of the Night (immortality and infinite power, but submission to a patriarchal overlord) with the Path of Light (autonomy and the ability to tend to her mortal connections, to which she feels a strong sense obligation). But that just gets at my larger point: I think at least part one Sabrina is not entirely your, and if I'm being completely honest an older demographic's, ideal Sabrina.

Rose: Oh so you're calling me old? Well, tea. My biggest question: WHY WEREN'T HILDA AND ZELDA LESBIANS?????? I get that in every incarnation of Sabrina they're sisters, but they could have easily been adapted into a couple for Netflix and it would have made so much more sense. They share a bedroom for Satan's sake! I loved that there was so much queer representation on this show, although at times it felt shoehorned in, so why not take the most obvious logical step and make Hilda and Zelda a gay couple raising their neice?


Ian: In my sweetest dreams Hilda and Zelda are lovers in a Boston marriage. I would've screamed had they written them that way, but with a pansexual warlock and all the Good Poly Talk I feel like that's a bone I can't pick. In short, make them all gay.

Rose: Hail Satan! There also wasn't, like, a whole lot of magic? I get that this Sabrina isn't zapping herself into new outfits in this incarnation, but there was never a sense of how her powers impacted her everyday life. And all the spells were stupid. The Charmed writers were NOT shaking. And Salem should have talked. Period.

Ian: I totally agree with you on the Salem note. When he came in spectral form and was all whispery/spooky, I did lose my shit. And when he went all demonic jaguar on the scarecrow? Some would call it love! But it doesn't really feel like his character was utilized as much. He fell in line with most of the other familiars and didn't entirely stand out. A voice could've helped with that, and I did really enjoy the spooky voice he had in spectral form.

I did like the normalized magical aspect of the show, though. Something about it's Molly Weasley, just-because-you're-allowed-to-use-magic-now-does-not-mean-you-have-to-whip-your-wands-out-for-everything--esque, and I find that more believable than a more fantastic, albeit visually satisfying, use of magic might be.

Rose: The season was really uneven, but I thought the last few episodes were pretty good. That episode about ritual cannibalism where they eat someone alive? And if we're being honest I was pretty gagged by the last episode. Madam Satan's reveal, Sabrina turning to the dark side. The last act of the finale was my favorite part of the season since the pilot, it's when the show finally came together for me. I absolutely love the scene where Sabrina appears in Harvey's room to and tells him they can't be together and then disappears as she's kissing him goodbye. That's what I wanted from the show, Sabrina as the powerful, spooky witch who is also a teenage girl. It makes me hopeful for season two. And the final shot of newly-wicked Sabrina with the white hair was everything.

Ian: This is the second time in this review that you've shouted out the Feast of Feasts! That was a really interesting episode to me. I thought the commentary on the lengths a community will go to preserve a sense of normality around tradition was scarily poignant--and at the cost of their own lives, as well. And that last kiss scene, yes! It takes a lot for me to care about straight couples in media these days, and I did feel a murmur of compassion for their relationship when she whooshed away. I'm also hoping for more Rosalind/Susie time in part two. I thought the discussion of gender started off strong and tapered off, but that could also be more of a part two thing, and what we did see discussed in part one was well articulated: the negative depiction of sexual violence toward gender non-conforming people, positive reinforcement of respecting gender expression, etc.

For part two, I think you might be getting a lot of what you're hoping for. Madam Satan's familiar does talk at the end of part one, the poor thing. And if Stolas can talk...why not Salem?

Rose: There were also so many plot points that were brought up only to never be heard from again? What really happened to Sabrina's parents? How about the witch hunter who killed that one gay warlock? I guess we'll have to wait for season two...

My biggest issue of the season is with the scene in episode two where Sabrina and the Weird Sisters team up and trick those football players into making out with each other. One a show that otherwise handles queerness so well, did we really need a bit about shaming straight boys by threatening to make them look gay?

Ian: Yeah, that was a jarring scene for me. I know a majority of the straight audiences watching will have/already had a laugh at that. It rubbed me in the wrong way, even though I know there's a subversion of toxic masculinity in there. Gay is still the punchline, and that rarely sits well without a lot of work done to contextualize.

The witch hunter plot line definitely reads as a part two item, to me. Harvey finding out about his own family, Sabrina, and the loose end of, um, witches ultimately being responsible for not one but two murders of the Kinkle hunk--that can't just lie down and stay dead.

Rose: I would just like to reiterate that Ross Lynch should absolutely slide into my DMs.

Ian: I won't catch you at the witchy sex party?

Rose: Oh honey that's just a Friday night. Hail Satan!

Images courtesy of Netflix.

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Rose Dommu & Ian Martella