Hail Satan – Sabrina the teenage witch is finally back and ready for a trip to hell in eight brand new episodes, premiering on Netflix this Friday (24). The third outing continues to expand on the darker, magical mythology with intriguing new characters from history and literature, as the Dark Lord’s dethroning sends the realms into disarray, threatening the mortal kingdom.
Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) and the Fright Club head to hell to save Nick (Gavin Leatherwood) following his sacrifice to stop the apocalypse, as the young warlock imprisoned the Dark Lord in his own vessel. Meanwhile, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) and Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) embark on a global quest to hunt down Father Blackwood and find her twin siblings, and Zelda (Miranda Otto) and Hilda (Lucy Davis) try to rebuild the Academy of Unseen Arts. But the arrival of a certain band of mysterious carnival travellers might spell a threat to the coven and Greendale….
Following the brilliant conclusion of the second part, I was so excited to see Sabrina’s epic quest to rescue Nick from eternal damnation in hell – so I’m glad to say that this narrative thread didn’t disappoint! Sabrina and the Fright Club’s journey through the nine circles of hell was definitely one of the highlights of the series, proving an inspired horror take on The Wizard of Oz. Newcomer and challenger to the throne of Hell, Prince Caliban (Sam Corlett) also brings an intriguing angle to the series, with Sabrina having to compete a number of gripping trials to defend the throne (and realm), from him.
However the arrival of a tribe of pagans in the mid point of the season, along with more Riverdale-esque teen melodrama, unfortunately lessens the impact of the main narrative. Sabrina’s mortal friends and their relationships take more of a precedence this season, as they grapple with losing their virginity, band practice and trying out for cheerleading. But when the show pivots to their storylines, it detracts from the far more interesting magical realm, in turn halting the pacing of the hell narrative. Once the pagans are introduced, the latter episodes descend into a bit of a chaotic spiral as the writers juggle multiple threads, seemingly favouring a barmy rivalry that wouldn’t seem too dissimilar from an episode of American Gods, over the fight for the throne.
Kiernan Shipka once again proves a fierce yet caring lead, as she struggles to juggle her magical and mortal life, now with the added addition of working with Lillith to protect the throne and realm! Lucy Davis remains the heart of the show, with her utterly likeable and eccentric portrayal of aunt Hilda, particularly when interacting with Zelda and Dr. Cerberus (Alessandro Juliani). Michelle Gomez gets to flex her acting muscles with not one but two roles this time round, once again proving a standout as Lillith. The Fright Club however remain the weakest elements of the show with uninteresting drama and dynamics, but I know I’m probably the wrong demographic for the more teen elements!
The show continues to excel at creating a deliciously dark and magical World full of visually rich gothic imagery, which production designer Lisa Soper revels in exploring further with brand new realms, demons, creatures and settings. The makeup department, with a notable mention to key makeup artist Kari Anderson, excels with practical prosthetics and makeup, bringing to life the hellish monsters, witches and gods which have the feel of Whedon’s Buffy. There’s just so much thought to each frame and character, with retro aesthetics such as the key vignette blurring and weapons unique to characters such as Prudence’s blade-swords and Ambrose’s magical nuclear wand.
Overall, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina part three is a bigger, bolder but unfortunately messier outing, as the writers struggle to balance multiple plot threads, resulting in a bonkers and slightly unsatisfying conclusion. There’s no denying the impressive production and acting quality, but I really hope that in the teased next part there’s a much more condensed narrative.