Over here at Mic we’re about halfway through the first season of the new Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which dropped at the end of October. It’s not really a reboot of the live-action Sabrina the Teenage Witch from the 1990s. This version, as you might’ve heard, is a much darker, spookier story, based on comics by the same name, and actually features Satan.
But watching the new Chilling Adventures, which stars Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka as the titular teen witch, we keep asking ourselves — how exactly does this magical world work? All good stories about magic need a solid, satisfying chunk of exposition before they get going.
You know in the first Harry Potter book when Hagrid first meets up with Harry and tells him all about the wizarding world, and how money works and how wizards keep their magic secret and all of that? That’s exactly what Chilling Adventures is missing, and we’re left with some burning questions about the universe of the show that we’re hoping get answered before the end of the season.
How exactly does magic work in this world?
One of the main perks of being a witch seems like it should be, you know, doing magic. But, by the fifth episode of Chilling Adventures, there hasn’t been nearly enough spell-casting, in our opinion. There’s been a lot of fog, and spooky walks in the woods and creaky old houses, but not enough actual magic. At least, there hasn’t been enough for us to see how the mechanics of magic actually work in the world of the show.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, witches seem to cast spells by saying little rhymes, which is classic witch behavior. But where do they learn the spells? Is there some sort of book? Are there lots of books? Can you make up spells on the fly, as long as they rhyme? When the Weird Sisters come help Sabrina play a magical (and kind of homophobic) prank on the mean jocks at school, how are they doing the magic, because we didn’t hear any rhymes? How do spells work in other languages? And, if Sabrina hadn’t been to the Academy of Unseen Arts yet, or signed her name in the Book of the Beast, then how was she able to do spells at the start of the show?
Does Sabrina get to keep her powers even if she doesn’t sign the book?
The initiating conflict of the series is that Sabrina has to choose, on her 16th birthday, whether or not to give up her nice, boring mortal life and sign the Book of the Beast at her Dark Baptism in exchange for the powers and supernaturally long life that come with being a witch. Except — spoiler alert — Sabrina eventually decides not to sign the book, and strikes a deal with the devil that allows her to keep some perks of her mortal life and still attend the Academy of Unseen Arts, where she learns magic.
But wasn’t the whole point of the conflict that she had to sign or risk losing her powers? They never specifically addressed that, nor did they bring up the aging thing. Witches are supposed to age much, much more slowly than mortals, but since Sabrina is only half-witch, and also she didn’t go through with her Dark Baptism, is she aging at a rate somewhere in between witch and mortal? And, while we’re on the subject, does she have all the powers of a full witch, or what?
Is Greendale the witch capital of the world?
This one has really been weighing on us. Chilling Adventures sets Sabrina’s story in the fictional town of Greendale, where Sabrina, her aunts Hilda and Zelda, and her warlock cousin all run a mortuary together. But Greendale is also where all of the action seems to take place.
Like, the courthouse-type place where the entire coven gathers to watch Sabrina be tried for her crimes against the dark lord — that seems to be in Greendale. Oh, and the mines where mortals keep seeming to catch glimpses of the Dark Lord because they’re maybe a portal to hell? Also in Greendale. And the Academy of Unseen Arts, where witches from all over the world gather to learn about magic — Sabrina walks there for her first day! Which means it’s either right by her house or it has some sort of magic entrance that makes it accessible from wherever you are.
But if the small town of Greendale is the center of witch life for the entire English-speaking world, as it seems to be from the show so far, then we really need a little more explanation. Like, how do mortals not notice?
Does Harvey’s dad own the mine? What are they mining?
Sabrina’s boyfriend — the sweet, kind-of-dumb Harvey Kinkle — is a wannabe artist whose abusive dad wants him to join his brother in the family business and go work in the mines. OK, that’s normal enough, we’ll accept that. But then, in one episode, Sabrina’s friend mentions that one of her family members used to work for Harvey’s dad in the mines. Wait, what? Does Mr. Kinkle own the mines and also make his own sons work in them? Is he some sort of mine manager? Also, and this is important, what are they mining? The show hasn’t said and we’re just curious.
Does this mean magic exists on Riverdale?
This is perhaps one of the most important questions we’ve got — does the existence of witches and magic in Chilling Adventures imply that magic is also real on the CW show Riverdale? As plenty of people have already noticed, Chilling Adventures has dropped hints that it exists in the same universe as Riverdale, including one scene in which a character mentions “Riverdale High.” If they exist in the same world, does that mean that, by the transitive property of television, magic is real on Riverdale too? We demand answers.