WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, streaming now on Netflix.
Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina deviates significantly from its television predecessor, the beloved 1990s comedy Sabrina the Teenage Witch. For one, Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) and her aunts, Hilda and Zelda (Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto), live in a mortuary and serve the Dark Lord. Indeed, the new drama is much darker, but it’s still a lot of fun to watch. With its takedowns of the patriarchy and Sabrina’s struggle juggling the two halves of her life -- mortal and witch -- it's an entertaining show with great rewatch potential.
That isn’t to say Chilling Adventures of Sabrina doesn’t have its flaws, however. Its inspiration is a 2014 Archie Comics series, written by executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated Robert Hack, that differs noticeably from what we see onscreen. For instance, the horrors of the comic are more graphic, the emotional weight is heavier, and Sabrina’s actions are more understandable because of how the situation directly affects her.
Harvey Should Have Died
At the end of the seventh episode, the Weird Sisters Agatha and Dorcas perform a spell to kill the Kinkle brothers, Harvey and Tommy, in a mining “accident," in retribution for their family's killing of a familiar that assumed the form of a stag. Every viewer’s gut reaction was to jump to the next episode to discover whether our OP couple would be torn apart by Harvey’s demise. We find out Sabrina cast a protection spell on Harvey because she suspected the Weird Sisters were up to no good, and as a result, Harvey survives, but his brother doesn’t.
In the comics, Harvey’s fate is sealed on Sabrina’s 16th birthday. He sees Sabrina covered in blood with her coven at her Dark Baptism, and, as a result, the witches kills him. That sends Sabrina into a tailspin of guilt, exacerbated when Harvey’s mother shows her the engagement Harvey bought for her. Instead of getting engaged on her 16th birthday, Sabrina loses the love of her life and is put on trial for colluding with Harvey against the Church of Night.
But because she’s a witch, Sabrina isn't about to let her boyfriend stay dead. Aided by Madam Satan masquerading as a drama teacher, and Riverdale’s Betty and Veronica, Sabrina performs a resurrection spell, considered dangerous because it requires a price be paid. As on the Netflix series, the comics make it clear that if someone comes back from the dead, another must take his place.
The TV show shies away from the personal horrors Sabrina experiences in the comics. Her decision on the show to resurrect Tommy doesn't carry the same emotional weight it would have with Harvey. We’ve all done stupid things for love, but probably not so much for our love’s older brother.
As a result of her actions, Sabrina’s likeability is lessened in the eyes of the viewer. She seems foolish to think she can fix everything, and for someone she’s met only a handful of times. Harvey dying on the show would have made Sabrina’s motivations more clear. Considering the young-adult audience that Sabrina is likely attracting, though, we do understand why Harvey is safe. The show needs a couple to root for, and a potential love triangle is clearly being set up for payoff later between Sabrina, Harvey and Nicholas Scratch.
In both the show and comics, Sabrina inevitably has to learn that magic and life comes with a price. Luckily, she doesn’t know her comic book counterpart is experiencing something far worse than her boyfriend’s brother being dead for good.
Edward Spellman Is a Creep
Sabrina’s parents on the Netflix series are still a mystery. Her aunts tell her they died in an accident, but the Weird Sisters taunt her that that’s not the truth. In the comics, we learn a lot more about Edward and Diana, and it's disturbing.
This whole time, Sabrina thinks her mother, Diana, is dead. However, she's actually in an insane asylum, and it’s Edward Spellman, Sabrina’s father, who put her there. That’s strike one. Then, we find out that Edward led on Iola, another witch, and left her once the Weird Sisters prophecised that he needs to marry a mortal to ensure the Spellman legacy. Iola doesn’t take the break-up well and jumps into a pen of lions, and there’s our Madam Satan origin story.
All right, so Edward ghosted on a witch and made his mortal wife go mad, but that only makes him a jerk, not a creep. Things get truly creepy when Sabrina’s resurrection spell for Harvey doesn’t go the way she planned. Instead, Edward Spellman’s spirit gets housed in Harvey’s body, but Sabrina is unaware that happened.
Sabrina is psyched because her boyfriend is back, and she wants to get into trouble. With her baptism behind her, Sabrina is ready for some defilement. She dresses up nicely for her newly resurrected boyfriend and tightly embraces him. Meanwhile, Edward, in Harvey’s body, knows she’s his daughter Sabrina. He considers kissing her and taking her to a motel at Jughead’s suggestion (Riverdale characters are featured more in the comics as well). It’s super-dark, and perhaps the most horrifying part of this entire series: a father briefly considering sleeping with his own daughter.
We’d be perfectly OK if this plot point doesn't find its way into Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 2. Whatever revelations that come about Sabrina’s parents, it will probably not be as horrific as the title character nearly making out with her dad.
Edward’s backstory in the comics shows how cunning he is. On the show, we learn that Edward was high priest of the Church of Night, but we don’t know how he obtained that role. In the comic, it's because he staged a coup against the then-current high priest. We’re not entirely sure if Satan would be pleased with that, but on the show, Sabrina looks up to her father whose writings she’s begun to study.
An interesting plot point about Edward that we hope makes it into Chilling Adventures of Sabrina's second season is that it’s Aunt Hilda and Zelda who are responsible for his disappearance. Imagine the disillusion Sabrina would feel if she found out her aunts turned her father into a tree. Imagine Lucy Davis’ sweet face trying to tell Kiernan Shipka that without crying. It would break Sabrina, but it would make for very good television.
Both versions of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are great entertainment, but there’s no denying that the comics are much darker, and more horrifying, than the Netflix drama. For now, at least.
Available now on Netflix, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stars Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina Spellman, Ross Lynch as Harvey Kinkle, Michelle Gomez as Mary Wardwell/Madam Satan, Jaz Sinclair as Rosalind Walker, Chance Perdomo as Ambrose Spellman, Lucy Davis as Hilda Spellman, Miranda Otto as Zelda Spellman and Richard Coyle as Father Blackwood.