The run-up to the Solstice isn’t a smooth one in the Spellman household in “A Midwinter’s Tale”, this Christmas special of the Netflix Original Series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. There’s a cauldron stuffed full of spirits, demons and gothic-fun to be had.
This recap of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Chapter 11, “A Midwinter’s Tale”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the rest of the season by clicking these words.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was one of the highlights of the year so far and so I was pleased to see Netflix announce a Christmas special. There’s something reassuring and comforting about a Christmas special, even if it is about Satan-worshipping witches. If you like the sound of a Christmas story about child abduction, alcoholism, and demons that prey on children then you might have come to the right place in “A Midwinter’s Tale”.
The story picks up just after the events of the first season of the show, with Sabrina having broken up with Harvey and come out to her friends as a witch. It’s perhaps no surprise that all of them don’t really know what to make of being friends with a real-life witch. Desperate for advice about a relationship between a mortal and a witch, she turns to her mother in thanks to a seance and the help of the Weird Sisters. Demonic hijinx ensue.
It might not sound like the most Christmassy thing in the world, and I suppose it’s not what you would consider a traditional Christmas tale. That said, despite the otherworldly spookiness of everything, there is still a feeling of the Christmas (or solstice) spirit seeping into the show.
I really enjoyed The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and so I was delighted that this special essentially offered more of the same, which I think is one of its biggest strengths and its biggest weaknesses. This festive episode does manage to maintain the wonderful mood and atmosphere of the series and the cast still deliver solid, likable performances. The problem is that it’s not really that Christmassy; it feels rather like a normal episode that has just had a few Santa hats edited in here and there.
I did like the alternative look at Christmas as the show gives us a look at the Solstice traditions of the Spellman family. That was something that I really appreciated about the main series – the world of witches and warlocks felt well-constructed. I think that the Christmas special doesn’t go quite far enough with leaning into the Yuletide spirit. I felt that “A Midwinter’s Tale” was trying to balance the normal gothic, witchy setting with a smattering of Christmas where I would have preferred it to lean slightly more into the festive season.
The episode itself is quite busy; there’s a lot going on and it felt like trying to cram too much stuff into your Christmas stocking. Things start to rip and then inevitably you end up dropping your tangerines all over the floor. There’s too much to balance and it ends up with some storylines that feel like they were tacked on at the last minute. Suzie ends up with a strange side plot that seems to come from nowhere and wraps up with a whimper. It’s something that could have been jettisoned in favor of focusing more on our main present of Sabrina and the Spellmans.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s first Christmas outing is quite good fun but it felt like just another episode, really. It’s not something that will stand on its own as a great Christmas special because it’s so rooted in the series. You couldn’t watch this in isolation and necessarily get a lot from it. More Sabrina is never a bad thing in my book, but I just wish they had committed to the Christmas theme a little more.
Oli has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. He has a PhD in Computer Science and he writes articles about TV, film and, very occasionally, science.