Season 3 // Netflix
Y’all. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina just dropped Season Three on Netflix this past Friday and it does get better every season. Credit must be given, as the show somehow balances its very low-stakes teen drama with the very high stakes of its supernatural plot arcs pretty well. If I might be so bold, Netflix is giving us an edgy hybrid of the CW’s Riverdale and Supernatural and I am here for it. I am giving the show props for highlighting some of the more obscure spiritual practices in a way that is respectful to practitioners of those faiths while remaining super digestible by younger viewers. Speaking of ‘supernatural’, whoever the dramaturgs were on this show…Went. In. There was a deliberate focus on ethnic spirituality in Chilling Adventures and with it a welcomed influx of intentional diversity and representation. Now, let me be clear: there is a focus on diverse sources for spirituality. Not ACCURACY in said diverse representation. Things are all over the place with the Satanism and Witchcraft mashup, so yeah, there’s that to “balance it out”.
Season One offered up the streamlined version of the trademark macabre retro-future aesthetic that Riverdale brought to TV. It was cool, a little dark and definitely edgy for the genre. They portrayed witchcraft as a dignified, full-on religious practice, albeit as a subservient sect of Satanism. The hot button topic that year was bullying and it was used as the vehicle to humanize situational witchcraft. Mind you Wicca, a real-life spiritual practice of witchcraft was relegated to an acronym for Baxter High’s young women’s group: Women’s Intersectional Cultural and Creative Association; a kind of hollow stand in for intersectional feminism. They tried though, hopefully, that counts for something.
The Devil’s In The Details
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina doubles down on the devil in Season Two. Satanism is on deck, in the building, front and center. Through clever use of the desecrated church and the unholy court system (think Law and Order but with warmer lighting) the show offers up one of the more self-respecting representations of Satanism. Accuracy aside, I thought the use of inverse phrasing was pretty funny. The use of culture to humanize that faith was surprisingly effective. Every time someone said “For Hell’s sake!” or “Go to Heaven!” I giggled a little. Much like the whole damn show, it’s all tongue-in-cheek. Season Two used duality to ground Sabrina’s exploration of EVERYTHING (Harvey v. Nick; Witchcraft v. Satanism) and introducing a non-binary character in the throes of gender dysphoria.
There Goes The Fictional Neighborhood
Season Three introduces the Pagans, a group of ethnically ambiguous nomad carnies (heaven)bent on the apocalypse. Important for representation is the example of spiritual practices older than the Abrahamic ones we are most familiar with. The Pagans essentially emigrate to Greendale without notice, which causes a xenophobic standoff that pits the Christian adjacent/opposing religions against Paganism. After two other seasons, a pattern develops with the shows’ use of our present political climate to excavate the plot. Hats off to the creative team on Chilling Adventures for the depth of this allegory and for developing a way for more people of color (women, in particular) to show up onscreen. When Voudou priestess Marie LaFleur came through with the “I am…priestess of Haiti. Daughter of the Tiano people. Faithful to Guinee.” I lived! As a Haitian, seeing that part of my people’s history stirred me in a good way. I can only imagine what it was like for young Black femmes the world over to see themselves in her.
Pantheons on Pantheons
By the end of Season Three, the name Hecate is getting thrown around and I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Damn, didn’t Justice League Dark just throw hands with the same entity?” Yeah, they were fighting the old gods. Seems like The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is taking representation to the fullest extent they can. Gorgons, Fauns, OG elementals, new gods, old gods, whatever. As long as it amplifies a diverse reality onscreen without tokenizing, I couldn’t be more for it. Again, if you came to Netflix and the ‘Archieverse’ looking for accuracy in spiritualism, you were looking to be disappointed from jump. Otherwise, binge the season and enjoy!