Warning: spoilers ahead for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part Four and mentions of suicide.
In July last year, it was announced that TV show Chilling Adventures of Sabrina – which follows the life of half-witch, half-mortal teenager Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) – had been cancelled, despite Part Five already being in the works.
When Part Four of the series was released on Netflix on December 31, fans were unsurprisingly eager to discover how Sabrina’s story would come to an end.
But, not only does the finale of the show present a disappointing conclusion – with its protagonist dying prematurely – it also sends a reckless message regarding the romanticisation of suicide.
Sabrina died after having an evil force drained out of her body, and found herself in the afterlife, sitting on a bench in a room that resembles an art gallery.
While reading a book, Sabrina looks up at the sound of footsteps to discover her boyfriend, Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) walking towards her, despite the fact he had been alive when she died and his death was not shown on screen.
Confused, Sabrina asks what he is doing in the afterlife. He tells her that he went swimming in a body of water called the ‘Sea of Sorrows’, which had a ‘wicked undertow’, therefore resulting in his death.
As Sabrina expresses her sadness upon discovering Nick has died, he states: ‘What’s important is that we’re together here. Forever and ever.’
While it is not explicitly stated, many Chilling Adventures of Sabrina viewers have taken Nick’s statement to imply that he took his own life, as he purposely went swimming in a treacherous ocean so that he could die and remain at Sabrina’s side for eternity.
If this is in fact the case, it is a highly irresponsible.
One viewer said it was ‘so problematic’ that the show ‘romanticised suicide and made it look “sweet” and “pretty”‘ as ‘Nick and Sabrina are finally reunited and happy’.
Another fan tweeted: ‘The ending of Sabrina’s story was bad enough, but to suggest Nick killed himself to be with Sabrina bc he couldn’t live w/o her is so inappropriate, especially for a show like this.’ [sic]
Regardless of whether fans wanted Sabrina and Nick to end up together in the end, the suggestion that Nick took his own life in order to make that happen is downright dangerous.
Surely viewers of any show – let alone one that focuses on teenagers – should not be left with the message that suicide is any way romantic.
Have we not learnt from the controversy of 13 Reasons Why, another Netflix show that received a huge backlash for its portrayal of teen suicide?
First launched in March 2017, 13 Reasons Why was met with accusations of romanticising suicide, with the season one finale depicting lead character Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) taking her own life.
Ged Flynn, chief executive of charity Papyrus, an organisation which works to prevent young suicide, said in April 2017 that those who watched the series should ‘be aware that when watching this programme there is a danger that suicide is romanticised and sensationalised’.
In 2019, two years after the first series of 13 Reasons Why was released, Netflix announced that it had edited the aforementioned suicide scene.
After mental health experts expressed concern over the negative impact the show could have on ‘impressionable and vulnerable youth’, the streaming platform said it made the decision to edit the scene ‘on the advice of medical experts’.
While the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina ending does not directly mention suicide as the cause of Nick’s death, that interpretation of the scene has still been a cause of concern.
The star of show, Kiernan, recently commented on the series finale, saying that it was ‘heartbreaking’ while also noting that ‘Nick’s love was the driving factor in his decision’.
‘I do think that it’s a tragic end. It’s heartbreaking, it’s absolutely heartbreaking. I don’t think that there is a way around it,’ the 21-year-old told TheWrap.
‘It’s complicated and it’s messy and his intentions for doing it were probably mainly love motivated and also “Maybe I can figure out a way to bring her back to planet Earth”-motivated.’
Kiernan’s interpretation is never specifically said in the dialogue, but the likelihood Nick intentionally took his own life to be with the titular character is the lasting impression we will have of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
In a world filled with magic, there were so many alternative directions the writers could have gone in to conclude the show.
As Part Four features two co-existing versions of Sabrina, perhaps her soul could have been transferred from one body into the other?
She could have risen from the dead after being buried in the Spellmans’ Cain Pit, a spot of earth in their front yard with the ability to resurrect witches that are buried there.
Sabrina’s Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) could have sought the help of priestess Mambo Marie LeFleur (Skye Marshall), who in an earlier episode revealed her true identity to be Baron Samedi, the Haitian loa of death.
What’s more, Sabrina’s fate didn’t have to rest so firmly on which boy she would end up with forever.
Sure, there will have been plenty of fans happy to see her and Nick get back together midway through Part Four, after they broke up in the previous series.
But they could have stayed a couple in the land of the living, where Sabrina and Nick had their whole lives ahead of them – both together and apart.
Metro.co.uk has contacted Netflix for comment.