“Dreams in a Witch House” is a 90 percent standalone episode in the middle of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s first season. For that much of the 54-minute episode, the action — a demon wreaking havoc on the dreams of everyone inside the Spellman Mortuary — has little consequence over the greater storylines of the series. We learn a bit more about the aspirations and fears of the main characters, certainly, but little else is progressing or suspending the direction the overall story is moving.
The episode takes place almost entirely inside the walls of the Spellman house, after all.
The part that does advance the plot is the other 10 percent, that involving Ms. Wardwell.
For some time now, I’ve quietly been a bit confused by, very generally, what Ms. Wardwell is doing and why — more specifically, what separates her intentions from Father Blackwood, for instance. And why those two, Wardwell and Blackwood, seem so at odds with one another.
In “Witch Academy,” the motivations of Blackwood and the weird sisters’ actions became much clearer. You know, they’re just not big fans of Sabina’s.
On one hand, Blackwood feels emasculated by Sabrina. She has come out on top every time they’ve butted heads. How her baptism played out, he feels embarrassed and insulted. Because of her trial’s result, he feels less in control.
The weird sisters are jealous of Sabrina. Not only does it seem like this half-witch gets to do whatever she wants (see results above), but, god damn, she’s got pipes! She can sing!
It’s been less clear, to me, about what Wardwell is doing, creating a portal to see into Sabrina’s room, keeping a close eye on her at school by the demon inside her occupying the body of one of her teachers. Aren’t both Blackwood and Wardwell trying to deliver her to the dark lord all the same?
This episode now, “Dreams in a Witch House,” makes me think differently, at least a little bit.
Blackwood ordered hazing upon Sabrina, at the hands of the weird sisters. He’d like to see her tortured. But in this episode, Wardwell comes to Sabrina’s rescue. It’s crystal clear: She intends to keep her protected, first by pleading with the demon, Batibat, to leave the Spellman’s alone, and then by entering the dreams which the demon is manipulating.
Crucial to surviving this night is knowing you’re asleep when the bad things happening to you in your dreams are starting to happen, that way you don’t forfeit the key to the demon escaping the house. This important piece of information goes on forgotten by each character inside their dream — Zelda thinks she’s in fact killed Hilda; Hilda thinks she’s in fact tied to Zelda. Ms. Wardwell interferes in Sabrina’s dream, just when Sabrina’s seemingly bleeding to death, to tell her it’s a dream, and then to wake her up. Waking up is your one chance to escape — Wardwell pleads to Sabrina to wake up, then run. Save yourself. Get out of the house. Leave the others behind. You need to survive.
Sabrina, being a loyal Spellman and heroine of a main character, wakes up but does not leave. She puts her own ideas* and powers to the test to trick the demon into a trap. Trapping Batibat, eliminating it as a threat, ends the dreams (now nightmares) of all the others — saves the day.
(*What I love is when fictional TV and movies, like this one, play with our culture’s ideas and tropes of witches and wizards to accomplish something in their stories. Here, Sabrina weaves a dreamcatcher with yarn around her fingers. It’s that “Hand Trap” and “Cat’s Cradle” game we all played with our friends as kids. It makes what Sabrina’s doing here, although already awesome, all the more fun because it directly attaches it to, likely, a happy memory from your very own childhood.)
Sabrina is safe, as are the others, and Wardwell has played her hand. She’s entered a world of Sabrina’s that she’s not supposed to be able to — not, if she’s, as she presents to be, a human person.
It’s one thing that confuses Sabrina most during her dream. Ms. Wardwell enters the room and she’s explaining the situation to calm Sabrina down, while Sabrina’s thinking, What are you doing here? How do you know that? Why do you know that? How are you here?
Once awake, as is often the case, you forget details about your dreams — like that your teacher showed up to save you and had a perplexingly significant amount of information about what was going on and how to escape it. What Sabrina remembers is that Harvey, who she’s marrying in the dream, tried to choke her to death. So, lying in bed awake, Sabrina calls to ask him for some assurances that he’d never hurt her. It’s Harvey who brings up Wardwell’s name, that he’s looking forward to seeing Sabrina in Wardwell’s class the next day, and then it’s this that resurrects that part of her dream.
Wardwell was there. Why? How?
Like Sabrina, we’re trying to put the pieces together, too. Wardwell’s intentions are clearer than ever now, but we’d still like her to explain it herself.
Sabrina shows up at her door well past midnight.
This an explanation we’re about to get.