After four seasons and 36 episodes, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina killed off its main character -- twice. For decades, Strong Female Protagonists have been put through the wringer, usually by male showrunners who confuse trauma porn with strength and growth. Although Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) has proven time and again that shes super powerful and also super flawed, her ultimate act is to sacrifice herself to save the world -- which would be noble, if it werent so anti-revolutionary.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 4 follows the teenage witch and her allies as they attempt to fight off a series of Eldritch Terrors summoned by the villainous Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle). The final Eldritch Terror, the Void, aims to consume not just Sabrinas universe, but parallel ones as well. To stop that from happening, Sabrina sacrifices herself, and its perhaps the least satisfying ending this series could have offered its viewers.
How Sabrina Dies
After Sabrina Morningstar is sent to a parallel universe to stop the Cosmic from forcing worlds into a devastating collision, she discovers that the Void is coming for everyone -- including her loved ones and her twin, Sabrina Spellman, in her home world. Morningstar manages to escape the Void and warn Spellman about whats coming, but then she dies in her twins arms. Given that Sabrina duplicated herself and created a time paradox in CAOS Part 3, this scene is devastating, but it also feels inevitable.
Unfortunately, Spellman dies too, which means both iterations of the series protagonist are killed off in the finale. It should be noted that Netflix canceled Chilling Adventures of Sabrina after Part 4 had finished filming and Part 5 was already underway. There was -- and maybe still is -- more story in the works.
Still, killing female protagonists at any stage in the storytelling is lazy, uninspired writing that perpetuates a toxic ethic of care. Women dont exist purely to care for others, and dying for the sake of their loved ones may be heroic, but it also purports the false idea that martyrdom is necessary for the sanctity of life -- just not the dead womans, obviously.
After she hears Morningstars warning, Spellman purchases Pandoras Box from the Trinket Man and attempts to trap the Void from inside of it. Just as shes about to finish the task, shes summoned back to the mortal realm, to Morningstars body. Setting aside the issues of autonomy this scene presents, bringing her back actually makes things worse. Because Sabrina wasnt able to trap the entire Void in Pandoras Box, a piece of it is inside her -- so to get rid of it, she still has to die, and this time its a much bloodier, more painful process that isnt even remotely on her own terms.
To remove the Void from Sabrina Spellman, her aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) cuts her open to drain the Void from her veins. Simultaneously, they open a portal to bring back all the people Sabrina accidentally sent into the Void when it was inside her, and the process takes too long. She bleeds out just as her boyfriend, Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood), finishes trapping the Void in Pandoras Box and saves the universe.
Its a gruesome, dramatic end for a beloved character, with seemingly no plot relevance other than to make Sabrina and her loved ones suffer. Even if she hadnt been summoned back to the mortal realm, she would have died getting rid of the Void -- but at least she wouldnt have been further traumatized and brutalized in the process. Bringing her back only to kill her more violently is a bold choice that reflects very poorly on showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina writers. Again, trauma porn is not character growth.
Why Sabrina Dying Is a Problem
Plenty of people will make bad-faith arguments for why its fair for female protagonists to be killed off during a series. While its true that sometimes characters must die in order to further a story, or so an actor can move onto a new project, its rare that women are killed off for any good reason. The one point in Aguirre-Sacasas favor with Sabrinas death is that she isnt fridged for the sake of a male characters growth. However, thats not worth a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.
Chilling Adventures is far from the first series to kill off a female protagonist because it feels epic. Joss Whedon killed Buffy Summers not once, but twice when it seemed like Buffy the Vampire Slayer wouldnt continue as a series. Both times, she was resurrected, and both times, she was forced to endure even more pain on Earth. The Walking Dead has killed a deluge of female protagonists. Gamora and Black Widow both die for the same reason in the Avengers films.
Sabrina Spellman and Sabrina Morningstar are two names on a long list of women who have been killed because writers seemingly didnt know how to give them another ending, which reflects both the disposable women problem in pop culture and the fact that most writers dont know how to write character growth -- particularly for women -- that isnt dependent on trauma or grief. For further examples of the latter, see Veronica Mars, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games and even The 100.
How Chilling Adventures Further Cheapens Sabrinas Death
In the final moments of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina series finale, Sabrina is seen sitting in what looks like a large, quiet room in a museum. The wall in front of her reads, The Sweet Hereafter. Shes reading, but shes interrupted by Nick walking up behind her. The implication is that hes killed himself to spend eternity with her, which is problematic for several reasons.
Primarily, it romanticizes suicide, which is wildly dangerous. Furthermore, it cheapens Sabrinas death by suggesting that her happy ending can be achieved simply through being with a boy in the afterlife, when the entire crux of her character has been that she loves all of her friends and family too much to let any of them come to harm.
Throughout CAOS, Sabrina has made mistake after mistake in her attempts to hold onto both sides of her life, as a half mortal/half witch. In the afterlife, she seems to have accepted that shell be alone for eternity, or at least a good chunk of it. Thats devastating, considering how immersed she is in the lives of her loved ones.
On one hand, its nice to see her have at least some company. However, Nicks appearance and the implication of his suicide further illustrate how codependent he and Sabrina have become. It takes the borderline toxicity of their entire romance to a new level of concerning, and suggests that Sabrina can be contented with an active sex life after sacrificing herself to save the world. Its messy at best, but decidedly demeaning -- and it leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of fans who have been rooting for Sabrina to find a true life balance and a true happy ending since Chilling Adventures began.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 4 stars Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina Spellman, Ross Lynch as Harvey Kinkle, Michelle Gomez as Mary Wardwell/Madam Satan, Jaz Sinclair as Rosalind Walker, Lachlan Watson as Theo Putnam, Gavin Leatherwood as Nicholas Scratch, Tati Gabrielle as Prudence Blackwood, Chance Perdomo as Ambrose Spellman, Lucy Davis as Hilda Spellman, Richard Coyle as Faustus Blackwood and Miranda Otto as Zelda Spellman. The entire season is streaming now on Netflix.
For more information on the warning signs and prevention of suicide, click here. If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you live outside the U.S., click here for a list of international hotlines.
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Samantha Puc (292 Articles Published)
Samantha Puc is a culture critic and essayist whose work focuses on LGBTQ and fat representation in pop culture. She is the Gaming Lead at CBR, as well as the co-creator and editor-in-chief at Fatventure Mag. Find her on Twitter @theverbalthing.