From the Comic to the Screen: Riverdale and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Last year, I had written an article reviewing Riverdale and criticizing the creators for sexualizing a set of fun-filled characters from the Archie Comics series. Recently, I started to watch the Netflix show “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”  with zero expectations because of how I felt after watching Riverdale. The two shows share the same producer and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is also based on another character from the Archie Comics – Sabrina Spellman. Therefore, it came as no surprise to me that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina also had a darker tone to it compared to the comic character. However, I wasn’t upset by that tone change at all. Here’s why:

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is published by Archie Horror. Credits: comics.org

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is based on the comic book series of the same name published by Archie Horror, an “imprint” of Archie Comics. Therefore, one could argue that the main source of inspiration for the show was dark to begin with, unlike with Riverdale. Perhaps this similarity in the portrayal of the main character, Sabrina Spellman, in both the comic and the TV show makes it more acceptable for me. The physical appearance of the main characters also makes the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina appear more genuine and less forced compared with “Riverdale”. Kiernan Shipka, who plays the role of Sabrina, actually looks like a teenage girl with short blond hair and a headband.

“The other big difference is Kiernan [Shipka] is an 18-year-old playing a 16-year-old [which] is a big difference than a 27-year-old playing a 16-year-old or a 28-year-old playing a 16-year-old.” – Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa

Roberto Aguirre- Sacasa, creator of both shows, said the something similar in his interview with Variety, “In some ways, Sabrina the show is more innocent than Riverdale.” He continued talking about how age also plays a factor. “The other big difference is Kiernan [Shipka] is an 18-year-old playing a 16-year-old [which] is a big difference than a 27-year-old playing a 16-year-old or a 28-year-old playing a 16-year-old. She feels younger. And you kind of feel protective of the actors and you don’t want to put them through horrible things!”

The Book of the Beast is an important object in the show. Credits: inverse.com

The basic plot of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is that Sabrina Spellman is fighting against the evil forces that threaten her family, friends, and the mortal world, while simultaneously keeping her half-witch, half-mortal dual nature a secret. It’s established right from the very beginning of the first episode that there’s a dark trope. While there are a few gory moments in the show, what’s horror without its unpleasant parts! The show’s settings, scenes, and characters did make me cover my eyes in a few scenes. Halloween is a big deal in town of Greendale, where the show is set, so through each episode, it did give off an eery vibe which blended well with the storyline of the show.

“While the show ends on a slightly confusing, perhaps even questionable note, Sabrina’s character remains the heroic, brave and caring person she is.”

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s more focused on Sabrina than other characters. Credits: deadentertainment.com

But what is really inspiring about the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is that it consistently maintains the message that the show begins with. The show starts with Sabrina refusing to sign her name in the book of the beast so as not give away her free will to the Dark Lord Satan. While the show ends on a slightly confusing, perhaps even questionable note, Sabrina’s character remains the heroic, brave and caring person she is. The strong-willed character of Sabrina develops at a gradual pace, gaining more confidence by the end of the season. This is not to say that “Riverdale” doesn’t depict character development, just that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has it a little easier as “Riverdale” is an ensemble drama while Sabrina is the main character in this show.

A significant difference between the shows would be the pace as mentioned before. Riverdale moves much quicker than the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. As a Netflix show, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has the advantage of stretching from forty to sixty minutes or more, therefore being able to flesh out storylines more carefully.

In my honest opinion, Riverdale isn’t a bad show, but I still find it hard to believe the same creator who created Riverdale created Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I believe the latter show outshines the former in terms of characters who I also feel are more likable, its character development, how gripping it is, and the horror elements. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina doesn’t fail to stay true to its name with a few scares here and there, centering around the main character of Sabrina Spellman and her family.

Author: Aditi Balasubramanian

Aditi Balasubramanian is a senior at SAS and one of the Chief Copy Editors for The Eye. This is her fourth year at SAS but she has lived in Singapore her whole life. In her free time, she enjoys writing, reading and watching "Gilmore Girls"--which may have fuelled her interest in being a journalist. She loves anything with chocolate in it and Indian food. She can be contacted at balasubram47401@sas.edu.sg.

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