Sabrina Spellman and Harvey Kinkle’s Relationship Is Pure Magic
In the town of Greendale, magic exists. Witches and warlocks mingle with humans, though never knowingly. The town’s magical population cast spells, study the occult and praise Satan without batting an eyelash. They are the masters of disguise and deceit. These fantastical events take place in a highly stylized world, the aforementioned Greendale, ripped from the horror pulp world of the early to the mid 20th century. Here lies the expositional makeup of the comic and Netflix original show Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, detailing the life of its most famous resident: Sabrina Spellman.
Sabrina Spellman comes from the world of Archie Comics, most recently the Archie Horror imprint. Greendale is one town over of Riverdale (yes, this Riverdale), the home of Archie Andrews and the rest of the gang. In both comic and show, Sabrina is a sixteen-year-old “half-witch”, who has to choose between being mortal or fully committing to being a witch. As one can imagine, both have pros and cons (pro: a magical witch; cons: losing all her mortal friends, including her significant other).
(NOTE: In the original Archie comics, Sabrina Spellman was created by a potion from her two aunts Hilda and Zelda. The 1996 sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch switched her origin to being a half-witch, which is how the comic and show details her origin).
The newer Netflix iteration of Sabrina is based on this recent re-imagining of Sabrina’s story: the horror comic version of the same name. The show follows the comic’s story (though deters away from it in an important way, which I will get to shortly) and its visual cues. The show is heavily stylized and largely draws on fantasy to drive home the “reality” of magic. This stylized visual style is one of the reasons why the show works. Greendale is a beautiful place, filled with fantastic old buildings to go along with its eerie, mysterious woods. The filmmaking is smart. The magic, mostly, is done without lots of visual fanfare. When the show needs to go out all with its effects, its done so with the right amount of dazzling production.
Sometimes, and what I like the most, the show uses a visual or music cue to let the audience realize magic is being performed at all. (For instance, when Aunt Hilda is “Astro-projecting” — transporting — a quiet zip and a surprised look from Sabrina is all it takes to know something magical took place). Many of the scenes are medium or wide shots to help capture everything in this world. An added bonus are the scenes where the edges of the screen are blurred, a disorienting effect that aids the mysticism taking place.
In this world of magic, the show nails the fantasy elements. Yet, to tell a great story, one that is enriching emotionally and worthy of investing an audience’s time, a story needs strong characterization to help ground the fantastical. With Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, this relatable, grounded content comes from Sabrina Spellman, naturally, and her relationship with Harvey Kinkle.
Both as separate characters and as a couple, Sabrina and Harvey are the rocks of the show — the reason why I “tuned” in. Their positive, healthy relationship (in the scope of television) is one full of love, respect, and good intentions. Sabrina and Harvey truly care for one another and enjoy each other’s company. There are rocky moments and the ending of the season is not the beautiful endgame either wanted, but their experiences as a couple help shape the decisions they make and people they are.
This all begins with casting. Kiernan Shipka is Sabrina Spellman. From the pages of the comic to the television show, Shipka brings Sabrina to life with all the touches the audience craves. She is smart, witty and loving. Yet, she is still a teenager and battles the emotional whirlwind of being one. There is confusion, anger, and naiveness that Shipka understands and displays without missing a beat. (Also, perhaps just a matter of personal opinion, her fashion choices are always on point).
Ross Lynch plays Harvey Kinkle with the same understanding of the character. Kinkle is head-over-heels in love with Sabrina. That affection is seen and felt with Lynch’s performance without being over-the-top. The way Kinkle looks and talks with Sabrina makes their story and their background together incredibly clear. There is a naivety to how Lynch plays Kinkle, too. He wants to do everything right because of his feelings for Sabrina. He wants to be there for her; he wants to understand and provide a safe, loving environment for her, too. What teenage boy in love can’t relate?
The show, rightly, takes some creative liberty when adapting the comic. In the horror comic version, Harvey dies. He is killed by a coven of witches, only for Sabrina’s father to resurrect himself in Harvey’s body (Sabrina has no idea her father’s soul is in Harvey’s body). In the show, that never happens. Harvey’s family falls victim to the magical happenings of Greendale, but Harvey Kinkle remains alive. Their relationship is tested in other ways.
Harvey and Sabrina’s relationship is a refreshing piece of television. Maybe I am just remembering Dawson’s Creek, Everwood, The OC and other shows along the same spirit where characters in relationships fought every week about the stupidest problem. A lot of the time these shows depict relationships that are problematic, unhealthy and downright miserable. It takes a season (or the who series) to have these characters find a happy, safe place with a significant other (if a happy ending is in order).
Harvey and Sabrina in Chilling Adventures are the opposite. We are introduced to them as a couple and, right away, feel their connection. In the second episode, which takes place on Halloween and Sabrina’s birthday, Sabrina’s friends throw her a party. Of course, the life of the party is Harvey and Sabrina. The looks Harvey gives Sabrina and the way they touch and hold each other tells the audience everything. They have their moments of embrace and conversations, but the way they act around others is a telling sign of their relationship. They are comfortable with each other and around others. The little things like this are vastly important in a healthy relationship — which Harvey and Sabrina clearly have.
As the two slow dance, Harvey asks Sabrina what she wished for when she blew out the candles on her birthday cake. Sabrina looks up and softly says, “More of this”. It is a heart-warming moment that further deepens our understand of their relationship. They care for one another, show complete devotion to each other and understand/know the other.
Right after this touching moment, Sabrina follows her declaration by saying “Don’t forget me and don’t hate me”. The romantics inside us want everything to work out. We want them to end up together and deepen their love. Sadly, that is not how life works. People get tested and challenged, and how we react and respond to these challenges helps shape our lives.
Throughout most of the series, Sabrina Spellman keeps her witch identity a secret from Harvey. Her rationale is sound: she has no idea how he would react — and keeping the status quo — on top of her promises to her witch side of the family that her identity remains a secret. Her identity secret becomes a bigger, more delicate situation than, say, cheating. If Sabrina cheated on Harvey with someone else, she would have no regard for Harvey’s feelings. That is the ultimate breach of trust in a relationship. With the witch identity in Sabrina’s case, she keeps her secret because she is fearful of Harvey looking at her different and not loving her anymore. Harvey’s feelings dominate her mind. Sabrina takes the teenager approach and tables the conversation.
The show focuses in on how hiding her identity eats at Sabrina. She has to lie and trick Harvey, which makes her uncomfortable. However, pressures on herself and from family leave her no other choice. Normally, one might want to be upfront as possible, especially with a significant other. However, Sabrina holding onto her true identity seems like the right choice. Being a witch is no small secret and the conversation has to be delicate.
However, the secret is held too long (pushed out by Sabrina’s actions), and the truth finally comes out.
The second half of the season deals with personal tragedies. Harvey’s family works in a mine. Early in the season, Harvey’s father makes Harvey join the family line of work. Harvey joins reluctantly. Toward the end of the season, the mine collapses. Tommy, Harvey’s brother, dies. Harvey survives, due in part because of Sabrina’s protection spell. Harvey has no idea that is the reason he survived. Harvey also has no idea that Tommy is brought back to life by Sabrina. But, there is a problem. Tommy’s soul is in “limbo” and ultimately has to be killed, again. At this point, Sabrina confesses to Harvey: she is a witch. Harvey, lost for words, ends the relationship.
The reaction is quite mature. At first, Harvey is rightly angry. She lied to him, which is a hurtful break of the trust they built with one another. Hurt and confused, Harvey breaks up with Sabrina. However, his decision comes from an adult place of mind. He realizes that to make this relationship work he needs the space — which for a teenager to understand and admit is incredibly mature. When Harvey sat and listened to the truth from Sabrina about what she did and who she is, it is important to note that their love is not taken away by the confession; the painful memories of the mine collapse and its aftermath are too much to bear for Harvey. He ultimately tells Sabrina that every time he looks at her all he sees is Tommy — a reminder of her broken trust.
The Christmas special, which followed the season finale, shows the couple still distant. Harvey continues to need time getting over Sabrina’s news. She is respectful of his distance and tries to see where his mindset is at. Everything is done with the care and attention a couple going through something traumatic. The show handles Harvey and Sabrina’s relationship as if they are real people — which is crazy in a show about witches.
Nothing is settled in one scene; no ultimatums are set. This hiccup in the road does not feel concrete. Their break-up does not complete their story. Which is good; I want more Harvey and Sabrina. It is clear from the show’s start that Sabrina and Harvey are devoted to one another. Some would call them soulmates. Their relationship is built around compassion and devotion to one another. Sadly, Sabrina’s major secret derails their relationship, for now. In the end, getting that secret out and dealing with it head on helps sustain the relationship in the long run. A deeper sense of trust can be established.
The beautiful part about their story is that Sabrina and Harvey’s relationship is built soundly with all the right parts. The future will not be easy. Sabrina has gone full witch, which ultimately might drive Harvey away for good. Still, from what Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has told us, shown us and what the actors have given us — there is a happy ending for Sabrina Spellman and Harvey Kinkle.