prepare yourselves, kiernan shipka’s sabrina is only going to get darker

As the second series of ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ drops on Netflix, we speak to the teenage actor about feminism, coming-of-age and the devil.

by Roisin Lanigan
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05 April 2019, 11:18pm

There ain’t no rest for the wicked, as the saying goes. And in the upcoming series of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, not only is there no rest for the wicked, the wicked are getting even wickeder.

Let’s be honest, the first season of Netflix’s adaptation of the adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch had a lot to live up to. Audiences who had grown up with the fuzzy, after school missteps of Melissa Joan Hart, her goofy aunties and her wisecracking animatronic cat expected more of the same. Perhaps a sexier Sabrina, but a Sabrina they were familiar with nonetheless. But Netflix is not Nickelodeon, and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is not Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Instead the first season, which charted the origin of Sabrina, from half-mortal girl to bleach blonde ingenue witch, her soul signed away to the devil, was far darker and demonic. It had all of its sister show Riverdale’s sexiness and intrigue, but with more horror and chills than the Gargoyle King and the Black Hood ever managed to harness in the former. And according to actress Kiernan Shipka, Part 2 -- which drops on Netflix today -- won’t give us any light relief. In fact things are getting even darker.

“If the first season was at a five... this is a ten,” Kiernan says. “It’s funny because people always say how dark the first season was and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, you have no idea what’s coming’. Without giving too much away, Sabrina has already signed her name in the Book of the Beast by the end of season one. So clearly, it’s not getting any happier. After she does that you know all hell will break loose -- literally.”

Perhaps it makes sense that Kiernan Shipka’s Sabrina is so unrecognisable from Melissa Joan Harts’s Sabrina. In what will surely be seen as total sacrilege for 90s babies and lovers of that Twitter account which posts old school screenshots from the original show, the actress admits that she’s never actually watched it. “When I signed up for the show there was a lot of discussion on the pressure to live up to the original, and I was just like, you know what, I’m going to do my own thing, make my own independent Sabrina experience and just go from there," she says.

“And it worked for me," she continues. "But now I really do wanna go back and watch the old show, now that I feel like I have enough of a grasp on the character to not let it get in the way. I wanted to tread with caution, just while I was creating my own character, but I do want to go back because people love it. I mean, it's such an important show in a lot of people's lives... The show was humongous for people. That really added to the stakes.”

Borrowing tonally from horror classics -- Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist -- The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina looks set to continue on its way to becoming the darkest coming-of-age story on Netflix (or at least the one with the most occultism). But the show doesn’t just speak to the supernatural and the dangers of demons and monsters. As Shipka puts it, in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s adaptation, the focus is as much on the human dangers of the world for young women and girls as the magical.

Sabrina’s pivot to feminism was the main talking point when the first season of the reboot premiered. Fighting the patriarchy -- both demonic and earthly -- is after all, the core value of the show. “It’s at its heart a show about feminism and a message of empowerment to all,” says Kiernan.

“That’s what keeps Sabrina going. It’s what fuels her. She’s a fighter and she has this passion for justice, and that’s her rocket fuel. It’s what makes her do all of these good things. It’s such a huge part of the show that the patriarchy is almost a character in itself, and it’s a thing that Sabrina and all the other men, women and gender non-conforming characters in the show are trying to smash.”

With that in mind it’s especially frustrating that already, people have tried to reduce the central message of the show to a teen love triangle. Will Sabrina, a character whose agency and strong will is at the forefront of every episode, choose her high school sweetheart Harvey?! Or will she join the dark side and end up with Nick instead! Honestly, who really cares? Certainly not Kiernan Shipka anyway. “People always ask me who I think Sabrina should end up with,” she says. “And I’m always like, I think Sabrina should go out and live her life and see plenty of guys! Let’s be real, there are a lot of guys out there. Sabrina’s a cute girl, she’s nice, she’s smart, she’s funny. She’s got a lot to offer -- she needs to explore her options!”

With a third season already in the pipeline, maybe after all the darkness Sabrina could go off to find herself, Eat Pray Love style? Maybe download Bumble? Would watch.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is available to stream on Netflix now.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.