Mild SPOILERS for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina ahead.
Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a new take on Sabrina the Teenage Witch - but does her trusty black cat Salem talk in this TV show? Kids who grew up in the 90s will no doubt remember the Melissa Joan Hart-starring family-friendly sitcom about a teenage witch coming into her powers. The ABC TV show was based on the Archie Comics character of the same name, who was introduced to the publisher's books in the '60s. On the show, Hart's Sabrina Spellman was raised by her Aunts Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick), and they had a black cat named Salem (voiced by Nick Bakay) who was a witch turned into a cat as punishment.
Salem was one of the most beloved and remembered aspects of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and fans of the original show will no doubt be wondering how the black cat will factor into Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. However, Netflix's new witchy horror-drama isn't based on the '90s TV show, nor the comics from which that series drew inspiration. Instead, it's based on the same-named run of comics launched in 2014 on the Archie Horror imprint for Archie Comics. As such, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is very different from Sabrina the Teenage Witch in many ways - and that includes Salem.
Early in the debut episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) and her family - Aunts Zelda (Miranda Otto) and Hilda (Lucy Davis) and cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) - are discussing her dark baptism, when she becomes a full-fledged witch by signing her name in the devil's book. It's during this conversation that Zelda explains what familiars are in this world: "Familiars are goblins who have taken on the shape of animals to better serve their witch masters, there’s nothing human about them." Instead of picking one out of a registry, Sabrina decides to cast a spell and see if any goblins would willingly serve her.
Later in the episode, Sabrina is caught off guard when entering her bedroom to find her window has been opened and claw marks left on the windowsill. She turns to find a goblin hiding behind her door, and the goblin speaks, saying, "Sabrina, I heard you calling in the woods, and I came." Then the goblin transforms into the black cat - and it later chooses the name Salem, as explained by Sabrina to her family. So while Salem technically talks at one point in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, it never talks while in cat form, only when it's still in goblin form. That's a big divergence from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which included a puppet black cat and the voice of Bakay to provide comedy on the sitcom.
Of course, Chilling Adventures is a much, much different story than Sabrina the Teenage Witch, one that leans into the horror and drama of witchcraft more than comedic coming-of-age elements. Plus, the mythology surrounding Salem is very different, with Chilling Adventures' cat being a goblin in animal form, as opposed to a human transformed into a cat. The new Aunt Zelda says it best when she says there's "nothing human about" Salem, so it makes sense the cat doesn't talk throughout Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Still, it's completely understandable if fans of the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch are just a little bit disappointed not to have a talking cat in Netflix's new show.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina season 1 is now available to stream on Netflix.