'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' downplays Salem, the cat, making the once popular animal guide insignificant
Salem appeared as a forest goblin in the first episode of Part 1, but his significance continues to dwindle as Sabrina becomes a powerful witch
Dial Sabrina Spellman, the 2019 version, and old Salem can't come to the phone. Why? Because he can't talk.
Unlike the '90s sitcom 'Sabrina the Teenage Witch', the new Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is a dark character, meaning that witch spells are not confined to love spells and turning an orange into a pineapple. The dark magic we are talking about is raining hellfire, raising the dead, and battling Satan, the Dark Lord. Spells are complicated and so are relationships.
Take Sabrina and her boyfriend Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) for example. In the 90s sitcom, Sabrina's mortal boyfriend was there with her throughout and they had a happily ever after when the couple drove away on the bike in the finale. But in the new Sabrina, there's another hero, Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood), who is actually a perfect match for the half-mortal, half-witch. The powerful warlock stands beside Sabrina as she ventures on the dark path, and for the sake of love and redemption, he even lets Satan possess his body, while Harvey on the other hand, starts dating Sabrina's BFF Roz Walker.
'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' has aced the game of magic and relationships and drama, but when it comes to one particular element, it has miserably failed. The story of Salem.
The fact that all witches and warlocks have a familiar prevailed in the Netflix drama, but it greatly underplayed Sabrina's familiar — a black cat named Salem, who was an integral character in the comics as well as the '90s sitcom. Salem was first introduced in the comics in 1962 and was given his own voice in the sitcom, and that had remained the norm until the premiere of 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' last year.
The initial belief that Salem was a witch, sentenced by the Witch's Council to spend 100 years as a cat, as punishment for trying to take over the world, was replaced by the theory that Salem was turned into a cat for standing up against Enchantra, the Head Witch, at the altar. But then 'CAOS' dismissed all those beliefs and made Salem a forest goblin. When it's time for Sabrina to get a familiar on her 16th birthday, she summons one instead of choosing one. That very night, Sabrina is approached by a forest spirit who says he came after the witch summoned him, then transforms into a black cat and is never heard speaking again.
Show creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa justified that giving the cat a dialogue would make the show a comedic one by default and avoiding Salem to be a chatty animal retained the darkness of 'CAOS'.
If that is the case, then no familiars should be given a voice, but in Part 1 of the CAOS, we hear Stolas, Madam Satan's crow talk, before he gets killed by Madam Satan for suggesting that the Dark Lord is grooming Sabrina to be his queen.
In Part 2, Stolas was resurrected only to be killed again, for spying on Madam Satan.
Other familiars we meet have in some way or the other been significant, take Nick's werewolf for instance. The jealous werewolf had to be killed by Sabrina for being obsessed with Nick to the point of killing all women who got close to Nick. But Salem continues to disappoint, and not just because he does not talk. In fact, Salem not talking has been hailed as a good call since many fans like that he adds a bit of "mystery", but what makes him underwhelming is that Salem isn't part of the show all that much.
Prior to the premiere of Part 2, it was teased that Salem might get an entire episode just so we would know the backstory of the goblin. However, that did not materialize and Salem's presence has been forgettable, to say the least.
"He was such a badass character those first episodes protecting Sabrina and then the nightmare muppet shows up and he does nothing. wth," a user posted on Reddit.
In one of the interviews after Part 1, Kiernan Shipka revealed that she found out she was allergic to cats, and fans believe that could have been the reason why Salem's presence was so countable in Part 2, but some refuse to believe that Salem's presence was compromised for this reason.
"Can this 'explanation' please die already? Yeah, she’s allergic to one of the cats that play Salem however that isn’t the reason he’s not a huge part of the show. It was just written that way. She took allergy medication when needed and she was fine being around him, as long as she wasn't holding him. Not to mention, there were 4 other cats that she was perfectly fine with. Hopefully, he has a bigger role in the next season!" a Reddit user commented.