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Tag Archive: Kiernan Shipka


Review by C.J. Bunce

What’s it take to outperform a surprisingly successful supernatural series like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina′s first season?  A core of fine writing in each episode of its second season and a returning cast of actors willing to immerse themselves unwaveringly into a strange world of the occult and the macabre, of witches and warlocks drawn from an expansive comic book universe.  That’s the sophomore season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which arrived on Netflix earlier this month, adapting the comic book series from the Archie Horror imprint.  Mainstream critics weren’t kind to the series in the first weekend of its release, and that may because the series is one best taken episode by episode–each chapter is its own mini-movie, weighty and twisty, dark and heavy–too heavy for one sitting–yet it’s still fun.  But it’s not recommended for binge watching.  Spread this one out over a few weeks and you may agree this is a fantastic series, steeped in mythology and lore, while also outlandish enough to not take too seriously.  And yes, it’s even better than its first season.

Two incredible actresses anchored Chilling Adventures of Sabrina again in the leading roles and two others provided gravitas in supporting roles.  Twenty-year-old actress Kiernan Shipka returned as a bolder and smarter 16-year-old Sabrina, facing off against her favorite teacher who is also the manipulative Lilith, played by Michelle Gomez, right arm of the Prince of Darkness.  It’s fair to say Gomez is fully the co-lead of the series–she is today’s master performer of villainy, following up on her performance as the villain we loved to hate, Misty the Timelord, in three seasons of Doctor Who.  If actors really love portraying villains more than any other type, then she is at the top of the league.  So it takes one heck of a performer to be able to stand firm against a performer like Gomez.  Shipka does it, never flinching no matter what the writers ask of her.  Kill (and play) her doppelganger?  Overpower everyone to save her cousin from the guillotine?  Discover and take down a trio of new demons in town?  Take on the devil himself?  Sabrina can do it all, but it’s only because Shipka never falters in every layered and surprising new script.

The stories this season pulled from past supernatural shows, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Harry Potter to Grimm, and incorporated all kinds of horror tropes (Hellraiser puzzle box?), peppered with clever pop culture references (Stepford Wives Zelda?).  It succeeded where its sister series, CW’s Riverdale, was unable this year, getting better with each episode.  Writers Donna Thorland, MJ Kaufman, Christina Ham, Oanh Ly, Ross Maxwell, Matthew Barry, Christianna Hedtke, Lindsay Bring, Joshua Conkel, and showrunner and comic book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa stretched the boundaries of fantasy into a series like nothing anyone has ever seen on TV.

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It’s time for borg‘s annual look at 2018’s Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  This year we selected 24 characters that rose to the top.  Again the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever.  We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and cheer on.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong (and, okay, sometimes evil), you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass character is about.

In 2018 these characters broke new ground, and unlike last year’s great list, this year’s selections would not have worked as well had the characters been swapped for males.  We had a former MI-5 agent, bounty hunters, assassins, doctors, defenders, advanced superhumans, superheroines, warriors, witches, and even a few cyborgs–with a roster evenly split between television and movie characters.

Better yet, here’s something we haven’t said before.  Several of our selections this year were played by women over 50.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2018:

Enfys Nest (Solo: A Star Wars Story).  For the first half of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Enfys Nest was the leader of a band of pirates, a character as cool and ruthless as anyone Han Solo ever faced.  But once she took off her mask,  it became clear how important she was, how significant her mission was–even more so than Han Solo’s own pursuit of mere wealth.  She foreshadowed what Han would later find with Leia, an early glimpse at a rogue and scoundrel who actually had some good in him.  When they joined forces, it made their characters even better.  And she became one of the best warriors in the Star Wars universe since the original trilogy.  (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Okoye (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War).  Is there any woman warrior as powerful and impressive in a fantasy movie this year as Danai Gurira’s Okoye?  We can’t think of any.  A smart commander, a brave soldier, a loyal ally.  Stalwart, devoted, steadfast, strong physically, intimidating and wise, with a keen unwavering ferocity, she represented the best of Wakanda, and fought bravely to defend the world at the last stand against Thanos.  (Disney/Marvel)

Higgins (Magnum PI).  Few television characters are as beloved as Jonathan Higgins in the original Magnum, p.i.  So it was going to be risky having any actor step into the role John Hillerman made famous.  So when the show honored the original character and late actor with such a finely tuned, updated character and actor, we took notice.  Perdita Weeks’s Juliet Higgins is everything Robin Masters was–the character we all thought Higgins was in secret.  We don’t know whether we’ll learn the truth this time around and what that truth will be, but as an ex-British secret service agent, she’s a James Bond for Thomas Magnum to partner with–literally running alongside the show’s star and fighting and shooting her way as an equal.  And the result?  Every episode of the first season was full of great action and fun.  (CBS)
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Review by C.J. Bunce

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is the rare show that tries to be many things and actually succeeds at them all.  If you are looking for the ideal way to spend this Halloween, absent a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon, you’re not going to find a better TV pursuit than this new Netflix series.  It features a captivating lead in its teenage witch Sabrina, played perfectly by Kiernan Shipka, who shows every frustrating feeling, emotion, and indecision any teenager must go through, reflected in a mythology-rich world with enormous stakes.  Sabrina is a kid–a smart kid, but still a kid–so she makes the kind of mistakes teenagers make.  Raised in the occult world by a family of witch aunts and a warlock cousin, Sabrina is a half-breed (her mother was human, her father a high priest in the dark arts), but viewers will see she shares some commonality with Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books–she’s loyal, she’s book smart, she’s street savvy, and conscientious, dabbling in the magical world.  She also is trusting and able to be manipulated by the adults around her.  She may not be the fully realized, badass, confident heroine everyone wants to see–just yet–but by the end of Season 1 she’s well on her way.

The series protagonist is actually not Sabrina, but a demon who takes over the body of Michelle Gomez‘s Ms. Wardwell, a teacher at Sabrina’s mortal-realm high school, an ever-present mentor steering her out of dilemmas when Sabrina’s aunts fail to give Sabrina the help she wants.  Gomez, who played Doctor Who’s #1 nemesis The Master, is even more engaging here, fully inhabiting a character whose motivations are hidden by a fog–a blurred reality paralleled by a clever fuzzy tweak in cinematography throughout each episode.  Sabrina’s aunts, played by Miranda Otto, The Lord of the Rings #1 heroine who saved Middle-earth (“I am no man!”) and Lucy Davis, the #2 female lead in the WWI era of the movie Wonder Woman, unite to create a classic duet in the spirit of Arsenic and Old Lace.  Otto’s Zelda is strict and a devout believer in her dark religion, Hilda a sweet and doting aunt who gets excommunicated for her support of Sabrina.  All three actresses bring their genre star power to the series, providing a jolt of heroine gravatas to support the title character.

Sabrina is approaching her 16th birthday, when she must choose between the world of mortals and the world–and protections–of the witching world.  She must decide whether she will relinquish her decision-making from then on to the devil himself or take her chances as a mortal.  She is surrounded by those she thinks she can trust and others whose motivations are hidden in a dark world of several levels of good and evil.  Making sense of the darkness and evil and placing a pantheon of 56-old comic book characters he rejuvenated in the pages of Archie Horror comics four years ago onto the screen for a new audience is Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, chief creative officer of Archie Comics, and executive producer and writer for the comics and CW’s Riverdale and Netflix’s Sabrina.  Quite shrewdly, Sacasa doesn’t comment on the dark religion of the series or any political stance his characters may reflect, instead letter the viewer bring their own value set to the show and making their own analysis.  Who do you want to cheer for, the equivalent of Darth Vader or Princess Leia in science fiction, or Sauron or Eowyn in fantasy?  Sacasa pulls from age-old classic stories, like Cain and Abel from the Bible, W.W. Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw, John Carpenter’s films including The Fog, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Robert Eggers’ The Witch, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and a classic horror film mirrored in the comics that might be a spoiler for Season 2–so we’ll hold that title back for now.

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Initially we figured the new Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina would merely fill the void left between seasons of Stranger Things, but this week’s teaser preview looks like the creators of Riverdale may touch on a look and feel from one of the all-time greatest television shows.  You, too, may also feel the vibe of horror similar to the greatest of all teen coming-of-age series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer But you might miss the details even if you don’t blink (like levitating or hanged witches, Sabrina entering a blue portal to another world, the above image of Sabrina entering the woods, and more).  Netflix has sneakily dropped in several brief scene images that look 100% Buffy the Vampire Slayer, including a Hellmouth-esque beast that could have come from the mind of Joss Whedon (and those three nasty characters seem to be from the same realm as the Gentlemen from the episode “Hush”).  How many times have we seen an image of Buffy readying to face demons on her now-classic TV show just like Sabrina in the above image?  At a minimum the new series may make up for the absence of another great horror series we miss, Grimm Ten episodes of the series will be arriving just in time for Halloween.  And along with the teaser, a new poster is out, echoing Sabrina’s 16th birthday as seen in the teaser, all pointing toward a decision to commit to the coven or not, which Sabrina will soon face.

If you peruse most of the entertainment websites over the past several hours you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone mentioning the comic book series the show is based on.  Even comic book sites are still dwelling on comparing this to the 1990s comedy version.  Sabrina was created for Archie Comics 56 years ago by writer George Gladir and artist Dan DeCarlo, and if you’ve been reading borg.com very long (like coverage here) you’re already familiar with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Robert Hack’s fantastically macabre series of the same name published under the Archie Horror imprint.  Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is based on the characters in the comic book series, detailing the compelling and, yes, chilling, re-imagining of Sabrina’s occult origins–not any of the several TV adaptations–mostly comedies–that have aired.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stars The Legend of Korra’s Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina, with some well-known genre actors: The Lord of the Rings and War of the Worlds’ Miranda Otto (Zelda), Shaun of the Dead and Wonder Woman’s Lucy Davis (Hilda), Doctor Who and Gotham’s Michelle Gomez (Mary Wardell), Beverly Hills Cop and Perfect Strangers’ Bronson Pinchot (George Hawthorne), and Prince of Persia’s Richard Coyle (Father Blackwood), with Ross Lynch (Harvey Kinkle), Chance Perdomo (Ambrose), Jaz Sinclair (Rosalind), Tati Gabrielle (Prudence), Adeline Rudolph (Agatha), Abigail Cowen (Dorcas), and Lachlan Watson (Susie).  That’s Salem the cat sneaking around at the end of the teaser, and yes, we hear series star Kiernan Shipka is allergic to cats, so we’ll have fun watching how the show films them both together this season.

Check out all of these scene images that you may have missed, followed by the full teaser:

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Stepping into the void left between seasons of Stranger Things, Netflix will be releasing a new television series from the creators of Riverdale that could be the next big thing for comic book, horror–and Stranger Things–fans.  Ten episodes of a live-action adaptation of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s fantastic macabre Archie Horror comic book series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (we’ve talked about the comic book series a lot here at borg.com) will be arriving just in time for Halloween.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stars The Legend of Korra’s Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina, with some well-known genre actors: The Lord of the Rings and War of the Worlds’ Miranda Otto (Zelda), Shaun of the Dead and Wonder Woman’s Lucy Davis (Hilda), Doctor Who and Gotham’s Michelle Gomez (Mary Wardell), Beverly Hills Cop and Perfect Strangers’ Bronson Pinchot (George Hawthorne), and Prince of Persia’s Richard Coyle (Father Blackwood), with Ross Lynch (Harvey Kinkle), Chance Perdomo (Ambrose), Jaz Sinclair (Rosalind), Tati Gabrielle (Prudence), Adeline Rudolph (Agatha), Abigail Cowen (Dorcas), and Lachlan Watson (Susie).  Netflix provided a sneak peek at the new Sabrina and Salem the cat, too.

Don’t worry, it’s not a reboot of the 1990s television series.  Initially couched as two five-episode seasons, the updated news is that Netflix viewers will get all ten first-season episodes at once, and IMDb lists 20 episodes in the works total.  Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will draw from the comic book series written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Robert Hack, detailing the compelling and shocking re-imagining of Sabrina’s occult origins.  This dark coming-of-age story deals with horror and witchcraft and will see Sabrina struggle to reconcile her dual nature of being half-witch and half-mortal while protecting her family and the world from the forces of evil.

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