‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’: “A Midwinter’s Tale” Review

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was a welcome surprise when it came to Netflix in October, a show with charm and a wonderful cast bringing the dark world to light. Two months later, a holiday special arrives in “A Midwinter’s Tale”, which finds Sabrina and friends sharing the holidays with some unwelcome guests. It’s fun for the most part but feels a little similar.

The holidays are tough on Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka), as she’s missing her parents and wishing she could get their advice on the fractured relationships the first season caused, namely ex-boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch).

A seance is in order, but like everything Sabrina-related, it goes horribly wrong.

Some holiday specials and special episodes in general can, at times, feel like they are spinning their wheels as a stopgap between seasons, where side stories are more the norm than a direct continuation. “A Midwinter’s Tale” does tie back to some loose ends from the first season, including Sabrina seeing her mother trapped in limbo playing a larger role in the story and giving a status update on where characters are in terms of knowing Sabrina is a witch.

“A Midwinter’s Tale” reminded me a lot of another episode: “Dreams In A Witch House”. It’s a more successful version, taking place mostly in the Spellman home and leaving its leads to battle a force. But the bottle episode nature does leave a little to be desired in how its events are mostly effects work and feeling like already-trodden ground. It still is a better version, regardless. The episode is best when it focuses in on its characters, getting into their headspaces after the crucial choices and events the finale had presented. The pain and uncertainty where things lie are well represented, giving the actors, especially Shipka and Miranda Otto, some reflection related to where characters were left. There are jaunts into some smaller subplots, but they are given a scene or two at best, amounting to busy work for the supporting cast to stay active or involved in some way.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Donna Thorland drill down to the characters’ worries and insecurities, and this is where “A Midwinter’s Tale” has its best and most potent lasting appeal. Sabrina and Aunt Zelda (Otto) are the episode’s focal points and where it works best. The rest results to middling for the series overall, but still appealing for fans. It’s a good and quirky romp into the holiday season for the show, where a Happy Solstice is had by all, despite the home invasion and kidnapping.

 ½

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: “A Midwinter’s Tale” arrives on Netflix on December 14th.

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