Editor’s Note: TV moves on, but we haven’t. In our feature series It Still Stings, we relive emotional TV moments that we just can’t get over. You know the ones, where months, years, or even decades later, it still provokes a reaction? We’re here for you. We rant because we love. Or, once loved. And obviously, when discussing finales in particular, there will be spoilers:
Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina begins with the impending 16th birthday of titular Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka). By the finale of the series, Sabrina turns 17 as she dies in a pool of her own blood to save the world. That extremely depressing ending (which even a peek of her happily-ever-after with Nick in the Sweet Hereafter couldn’t fix) solidified an even more depressing series-long arc for Sabrina herself: with its cancellation, Chilling Adventures became the story of a single year in the life of a girl who just wanted to do good for the world, and died because of it. Yet, through the power of Riverdale and narrative resurrection, Sabrina is simultaneously immortal and forever deceased, existing within the veil of our current media landscape.
Of course, self-sacrifice is often the fatal flaw of the main characters of supernatural shows, but Sabrina’s ending stings much more than any that have come before it because her story was not originally meant to end that way. Ahead of the pandemic, Part 4 of the series was filmed in its entirety. But when the pandemic shut the industry down, Netflix opted to not renew the show beyond that. The original ending of Season 4, which was released by showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa through a post on his Instagram last year, involved Sabrina’s Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) invoking Baron Samedi (fka Mambo Marie) to help raise her niece from the dead. Netflix asked for that scene to be cut from the series finale, so as to not give fans false hope for a continuation to Sabrina’s story.
However, even cutting that scene didn’t help to make the ending any more final. After fighting all of the Eldritch Terrors throughout the season in an attempt to stave off the impending evil, Sabrina was forced to partake in a bloodletting ceremony to drain the final terror, The Void, from herself, since her friends were sucked into it. While Sabrina lay bleeding out, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) and Harvey (Ross Lynch) venture into the void to save Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) and Roz (Jaz Sinclair), while Nick (Gavin Leatherwood) also enters to trap the remaining Void within a box strong enough to contain it. Everything goes exactly as planned, with one caveat: it’s all too much for Sabrina, and she passes away on the slab, surrounded by her Aunties, laying in a pool of her own blood.
As any fan of the show will know, Sabrina’s Aunties have a plot of land on their property called the Cain Pit, which allows a person to rise from the dead after being buried within it, and that seemed like the obvious place to bury Sabrina. Though, despite expectations, her resurrection never comes, with the series closing out with her funeral, followed quickly by a vision of Nick joining Sabrina in the Sweet Hereafter, taking his own life to be with his lover.
After the show’s cancellation and subsequent airing of that dreaded final episode, fans took to the Internet to advocate for more Chilling Adventures. The most prominent hashtag became #HBOMaxSaveCAOS, as fans believed that CAOS’ Warner affiliation would be able to save the series from cancellation, bringing a fifth part to HBO Max. However, those hopes were crushed when a representative for WarnerMedia confirmed that Chilling Adventures would not be coming to the platform in any capacity. But, on the bright side, unlike most other canceled shows, Chilling Adventures was intrinsically connected to Riverdale, and in October of 2021, it was announced that Kiernan Shipka would be returning as the teenage witch.
Unfortunately, her first appearance on Riverdale left a lot to be desired, as she only appeared in the final minutes of the fourth episode of Season 6, and especially since it took place in the alternate universe of Rivervale. However, that would quickly be rectified at the end of Riverdale’s sixth season with “The Witches of Riverdale,” the true long-awaited Archie Comics crossover.
In the episode, Sabrina is summoned by Heather, Cheryl’s girlfriend and friend of the Greendale witches, to assist Cheryl, Betty, Veronica, Tabitha, and Heather in raising every first born in Riverdale from the dead. Though, before they actually save any of the fallen Riverdaliens, it is confirmed that Nick’s death at the end of CAOS was actually a sacrifice, as he took his own life so Sabrina could return. Sabrina’s experience with her own resurrection fostered an interest in necromancy, which she now specializes in.
She is able to then help Betty, Veronica, and Tabitha to become witches (in just three easy steps!), before they join together in a valiant attempt to rescue their loved ones from the Sweet Hereafter. Because it’s Riverdale, of course there had to be something bonkers afoot, so Jughead allows Nick to possess his body so Sabrina can have one last date with him, and also get his witchy help along the way. After the dead are resurrected and all is well again in Riverdale, Sabrina must be on her way to help other witches, but not without warning Cheryl of the dangers of cheating death.
While it certainly didn’t fully smooth over the horrible ending to her own series, the effort to rehabilitate her ending on Riverdale most certainly was not in vain. Seeing Sabrina again was a wonderful surprise, and allowing her storyline to have continued on beyond the series finale of her show doctors her ending. Rather than doubling down on Sabrina’s self-sacrificial and depressing ending, Riverdale’s continuation suggests that Sabrina was paid back in kind for her good works, with those around her recognizing just how vital she is to a peaceful and whole world.
Of course, technically, if you were simply watching Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and didn’t immediately jump over to Season 6 Episode 19 of Riverdale after the finale, then the ending still stands: Sabrina is dead, and that’s the end of the series. It’s an odd dichotomy, where different sects of people will know different endings to Sabrina’s story based solely on whether or not they keep looped in with the larger, shared Archieverse, which speaks to the never-ending nature of our current media landscape. A series that ended even 50 years ago could have its own ending recontextualized by a new reboot, or its story continued through a sequel, and some would never be the wiser.
I guess the old saying is right, no one ever really dies on TV, and even though Sabrina will forever be remembered as the girl who gave her life to save the world in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, she will also always be immortal, available for any and all appearances and crossovers, as long as the Archieverse continues to thrive. Ahead of Riverdale’s upcoming final season, we can only hope that the teenage witch will return to our screens once more, if only to further bury her utterly devastating ending.
Anna Govert is an entertainment writer based in middle-of-nowhere Indiana. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and the wonderful insanity of Riverdale, you can follow her @annagovert;.
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