So much of “Dreams in a Witch House,” the fifth chapter of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, happened while the Spellmans were asleep. As I wrote about yesterday, you can file this episode away as a standalone feature — inconsequential to the show’s overall storyline but for Ms. Wardwell’s role.
In the least, however, it told us a lot about each person in the Spellman family — Ambrose, Hilda, Zelda and, duh, Sabrina — specifically insight into what drives them and what terrifies them. I’m not talking about type of transportation or a fear of spiders. I’m getting psychological. What can we learn from seeing inside their dreams, the dreams manipulated by the demon loose inside their house to test them by exposing their fears? Let’s investigate.*
(*Sabrina’s going last, guys. Stay with me.)
WHAT: His is the second dream the demon invades, after Sabrina. Batibat — that’s the demon’s name — works her way from youngest to oldest dreamer, as if that’s the most opportunistic escalation from easiest-to-trick to hardest.*
(*You could argue it was the exact opposite.)
Ambrose’s is the most surreal dream, which would make you think it’s the simplest one in which to realize you’re sleeping — and that something’s screwing with you. It starts with him heading to the cellar to carve up another corpse, led down by his aunt Hilda. The thing is, the corpse is his own body. Hilda does not recognized the resemblance, but of course he does. This spooks him, but he goes for it — tears out and takes a bite of out his own heart.
Then, Hilda comes to fetch him. Father Blackwood is upstairs with some good news: The spell that’s bound him to the house has been lifted. He’s free to go out into the world. But when he’s cheerfully on his way out the door, the demon jumps on him and stabs him a bunch of times.
WHY: One part is obvious: Ambrose’s greatest desire in life is his freedom. Lately, he’d like to be able to go out and visit Luke without the threat of death catching him. The rest is a little less clear, but I think his distaste of his own heart speaks pretty loudly. He may fear that he is either emotionally unable to give love or can never be loved by someone.
WHAT: Hilda’s dream is certainly the most dynamic. There’s a lot going on in so little time. While attending Sabrina’s Parent Teacher Conference alone*, a meeting with Principal Hawthorne, she’s admired by Hawthorne for how she’s raised her niece. Hawthorne invites her to his place to cook her dinner. At dinner, she’s wooed, for sure, and drinking. She’s letting loose.
(*She’s there alone. Hold on to that.)
The strange thing is that Hawthorne is telling Hilda about his twin brother, whom he consumed while in their mother’s womb. But the brother is still very much there, on his stomach with eyes and everything. This spooks her and seemingly rattles back into Hilda’s head memories of her sister, Zelda.
The demon’s spin on it literally ties Hilda and Zelda together at the waste, siamese twin style. They wrestle to get away from each other but can’t because, well, they’re attached. Forever.
WHY: Hilda wants a life beyond the mortuary. It comes up later, in Zelda’s dream, that Hilda, apparently, was hesitant ever to sign the devil’s book in the first place, all those years ago — and it makes sense why. She wants her own life. She wants to find love and wants to be an individual, to be Hilda, not just known as her sister’s sister. That’s her greatest fear; simply put, that she’ll always been in her sister’s shadow or never be able to get out from under her sister’s command.
WHAT: Here’s the least surprising dream of all. Zelda’s teaching the devil’s bible to a bunch of witch kids when the weird sisters arrive to tell her that she’ll have the opportunity to dine with the devil on this evening. This excites her, more than maybe anything ever. She’ll make him his favorite meal. It’ll be a great night. But it isn’t. It all goes horribly wrong. The devil doesn’t like the Zelda had to kill the warlock little boy to prepare the meal (numbers are down lately) and, worse, he takes quickly to Hilda instead.
So frustrated with the way the evening went and that her sister was such a hit, Zelda does her usual thing: She hits Hilda over the head with a shovel, knocking her dead to the ground, buries her outside and gets some peace and quiet time to reflect. Only this time, Hilda’s not going to come back to life, as the devil tells Zelda when he returns looking for her sister. So now, she’s murdered her sister. For real.
The demon doesn’t have a specific spin on this one; merely, Batibat tries to take advantage of Zelda’s general unhappiness and emotional fragility.
WHY: If you hadn’t already known, Zelda desires recognition and commendation, from one person in particular. She’s fiercely loyal to the dark lord and would just like get some damn credit for it. But her greatest fear is that she won’t be, or, worse, that the dark lord doesn’t really care anyway.
Maybe fearing that you’d screw up the meal plan for dinner with the devil is a small, quirky part of it, too. But killing her sister also brings a certain sadness she maybe wasn’t expecting. It’s pretty evident, the morning after this particular night, Zelda’s rattled by the things she felt in her dream. She’s worried, too, that Sabrina’s seen them.
WHAT: Sabrina’s is her own little teenaged fantasy. The thing that should set her off, early on, is being at Baxter High with everyone — Ros, Susie and Harvey, but also Nick and the weird sisters, too. But how could this set her off when five seconds later, (gasp!) Harvey’s proposing to her.*
(*She initially gets the impression he’s attempting to break up with her, which is a brief spin from greatest fear to greatest dream, within her dream — well before it gets really weird.)
She’s marrying Harvey, and all that’s left to do before saying her vows is to tell him she’s a witch. She works up the courage to drop the hammer, but he’s totally accepting of it.*
(*Whew! That was close.)
Small oddities are all around her. Her dad walks her down the aisle. Father Blackwood is there to officiate the wedding. Nick is there, offering Sabrina one last chance to fly away (on a broom!*) with him forever.** Saucy is Sabrina’s dream. Spicy!
(*Do you think he plays quidditch?)
(**This is the naughty side of Sabrina’s brain operating in full capacity, just like she’s teasing herself for fun. It’s so entertaining.)
But then (catch the trend), it all goes wrong. Harvey’s dad and brother show up and start chanting to kill the witch. Off with her head! Harvey starts to choke Sabrina to the ground and blames her, telling her it would’ve been easier had she never told him she was a witch. Then, she’s shoved into an iron maiden and, well … you know what happens inside one of those.
WHY: All the little things going right in her dream are all dreams we’ve known of Sabrina’s. Altogether, it’s a future that sees Sabrina freely and successfully living both of her lives. Does the school crowd insinuate a dream of the witch and human worlds coexisting far beyond her? Sure, maybe. Does the proposal suggest she’s still devoted to Harvey over Nick?? Of course. Does it mean she’s a daddy’s girl that her mom is nowhere to be found? Probably. Does the fact that Salem’s not the ring bearer mean HE WON’T BE THE RING BEARER AT HER WEDDING?!?!?!?! God, I hope not!
What about where tiny things go wrong? What does that say about Sabrina’s fears, specifically what she doubts about the dream of her perfect life?
Rejection, that’s the big one. Not only is she rejected by Harvey’s family, but Harvey himself attempts to choke her to death, and, worse, he blames her for being honest with him, which is still the biggest hangup she has about telling him the truth. She doesn’t want to be hated by him. She also fears what could happen to her as an openly-witching witch in the human universe is something similarly as bad as what happened to John Doe. She doesn’t want to see the pitchforks come out.
Subtly, something else happens. No one in her family does anything to try to help her as she’s being shoved into the iron maiden. That’s a nugget to think on, if you catch it.
What I take from it is this: All this time, she’s gone against the wishes and advice of everyone in her family and those in the witching world. Would they still protect her, if she were to get into trouble in the mortal world? Would they have her back? Or, at this point, are they trying to tell her: You’re on your own, kid. You think you’re so smart. Figure it out yourself. Has she outsmarted even herself? Has she played with fire, and won, too many times?
Overall, I take this little nuance back to rejection. But rejection from those she’s supposed to have in her corner, by blood.
That she’s trapped in an iron maiden? That’s too specific a device not to stem from a deep-rooted fear of chests lined with spikes on the inside.