Sleepy Hollow: Mid-Season 2 Review.

AND THE ABYSS GAZES BACK/DELIVERANCE

In their efforts to enlarge the scale of the narrative, Sleepy Hollow has unwittingly sidelined two characters over the course of the autumn run of Season 2. Katrina has been relegated to Bram’s cottage and Captain Irving to the loony bin, respectively, getting about five lines per script. And then, in Deliverance, Katrina is made a vessel for a demon, going the ‘evil impregnation’ trope route. She only just escapes Bram in the chaos.

Ichabod, meanwhile, struggles with distrust and, not least, a little jealousy. Too many revelations have come to light, things that Katrina kept from him to protect him — the fact that she’s a witch, that they have a son, the Weeping Lady’s death, that she’s capable of talking to Abraham. And, of course, when they realise that Katrina is pregnant, Ichabod jumps to the conclusion that she slept with Bram. As viewers, I think we are not being led to doubts of Katrina’s feelings, or change thereof, for Bram; but I had desperately hoped that we would be spared the love triangle moments.

Katrina in the archives

Also, frankly, Henry’s vicious and vindictive brand of evilness is getting old. Yes, we get it, he hates his parents, yes, we get it, he wants to bring about the Apocalypse. But by now, every single Monster of the Week is of Henry’s making, and it’s overkill, pardon the pun. Although, really, I’d have hated Henry’s redemption by parental love even more.

“He does not want us dead out of apathy. Have you really lost all faith in our son?”

Katrina still believes that there is a way of reaching Henry’s humanity and bringing him over to their side — it’s that old story of the power of family, of familial love conquering all. But why do they feel this way? Any other person, they’d spare no thought for. But Henry is apparently worth fighting for because they are his parents. And Katrina making Ichabod promise that he will not give up on Henry should she die… Call me prematurely cynic, but I think they will learn that family is no guarantee for love. Not to mention that I’m not a big fan of the ‘mother’s eternal love’ trope, either.

In a twist that is the most bizarre I have ever seen, the… thing growing inside Katrina’s womb is Moloch himself, intent on birthing himself out of Purgatory into the world. Which is averted in the most nonsensical Light of God prism deus ex machina that I’ve ever seen. Just after they’ve saved her, Ichabod says that it will only be a matter of time until Bram comes looking for Katrina, so they must hide her away because he will “stop at nothing to get her back.” You know, can Katrina just… live her life? Help avert the Apocalypse? Instead of being constantly on the run from men wanting her body or wanting her dead; without being reduced to her reproductive organs as a plot device?

Oh goodie, and now they’re telling Reyes some cock-and-bull story about a Doomsday cult, to get her to dispatch a tactical team to raid the warehouse… which actually leads to Reyes offering Abbie and Ichabod to stay in touch so the “walking historical society” can actually help solve some cases.

The bond between Ichabod and Abbie is as cute as ever, even though their banter has been reduced throughout the season simply because shit is hitting the fan like never before; but even Jenny has hardly gotten any screen time with her sister, and the Indiana Jones copycat is still running around making puppy eyes at Abbie whenever he gets the chance, which makes both Jenny and Ichabod highly suspicious of him. Seriously: let blondie grow a backbone or boot him off the show, he’s not that desperately needed in the fights.

HEARTLESS

And now, they’re watching The Bachelor. But boy, am I glad that the Cranes are together and talking honestly to each other about their relationship and the trust lost between them. They have to come to grips with the fact that they, as people, changed when they were apart, and that their relationship must change with them. I only hope they can find back to each other.

But oh look, now that Katrina is with them, she can be of help, use her vast knowledge to help win the fight. Except, again, Ichabod’s jealousy of Abraham ruins the moment and the Cranes execute a tactical retreat, leaving Abbie to pursue some of those leads on her own.

The thing of it is, now that the Cranes are reunited, the dynamic is changing, it has to. Abbie and Ichabod are an experienced team, forged in fire. Now that Katrina is living with them, there is a new set of convictions, a new personality added to the mix. Add to that Abbie and Katrina’s very different experiences with family and friction is bound to occur, tempers bound to rise.

“We’re seeing different things.”

The spell on the vase is a great way of visualising what’s at the core of the conflict between Abbie and Katrina — they know and have lived through different things, they have different fears, but they want the same things. They want to protect Ichabod above all else, and for Abbie that also means guarding him from heartbreak. And most importantly, Abbie doesn’t see a son in Henry, she sees an enemy, an obstacle to saving the world; and she’s sticking to her guns, even telling Ichabod to kill Henry right in front of Katrina.

the succubus

In this installment of the saga, we have a succubus on our hands — another way to portray the evil feminine, making a woman into a monster by way of her sexual appeal. A dark, sensual femme fatale, no less, using her “exotic” appeal to suck the souls out of horny dudes — and girls. And when she transforms, her skin turns blood red and glistening? This is bizarre and tacky and ridiculous.

And then, Ichabod’s so very, very awkwardly trying to tell Abbie that he is not as disgusted with Hawley as he once was, carefully hinting at a potential relationship between Abbie and the vagabond. But she rejects the idea, and I’m glad. As Scarlett Johansson once said, “We don’t have time for romance, we have shit to avenge.”

Also, you know… Abigail Mills is the last person I ever wanted to hear say, “Guys will be guys.” Because guys will be held accountable held for their shit just like everybody else.

In the end, Katrina is back with Abraham, but it’s on her terms this time. Ichabod acknowledges that Katrina is as much as a spy as he ever was, and a very skilled one at that. He likes to think that he’s the soldier, the only one who knows the true meaning of fighting in a war, but he’s come to terms with the fact that his wife fought this war alongside him even though she kept it a secret. The bitter irony is that, within Bram and Henry’s reach, she is suddenly nearly helpless again, confronted with a little child, and unable to be of much use in the war effort.

… and we have not seen Irving at all in Heartless.

MAMA

Following on with the family theme, Abigail and Jenny come face to face with a very peculiar ghost — their mother. In Mama, Sleepy Hollow returns to what it does so well: telling the Mills’ sisters’ story. In this case, from the very beginning. We learnt at the beginning of the season that Lori Mills, descendant of Grace Dixon, the benefactor and friend who took Katrina in when she was pregnant, had been beset by demons all her life, and that she likely knew what was in store for her children, specifically for Abbie. The two sisters have struggled all their lives with their love for and fear of their mother, Abbie herself admits that her fear of ending up crazy has informed the decisions she’s made all her life. Abbie and Jenny’s family’s history is that of women fighting in a war spanning centuries, protecting their families and the people of Sleepy Hollow — it is also a story of women “being cut down in their prime.” The army may have been men-only when Ichabod enlisted, but women have fought this war right along-side them.

The episode is heartrending and at least this time features an Evil of the Week that has a little more history than merely “I’m the thing Henry deigned to cook up this time.”

Knowing her mother better may also give Abbie some more insight into Katrina’s insistence that Henry can be saved — Lori Mills never once stopped fighting for her children. Katrina made the choice to leave Jeremy behind to protect him whereas Lori stayed with her girls for as long as she could, although that also meant exposing Abbie and Jenny to her troubled state of mind. You can fault neither woman for the choice they made, and it’s a credit to the writers that the comparison is not explicitly made or used as leverage.

I found the episode’s ending to be a huge indulgence and more than a bit corny, but ok. It’s good to see Abbie and Jenny at peace with their memories of Lori.

P.S.: Note this, however:

MAGNUM OPUS/THE AKEDA

“It is through your eyes that I see myself most clearly.”

In the whole mess that is Ichabod and Abraham’s relationship, what we get is each of them confusing their sense of identity with the choices made by each of them, and how their friendship, rivalry, and loathing have influenced these choices. Ichabod believes that Abraham made him who he is, and Abraham believes the same of Ichabod — one knows that he would have never come to America if Bram hadn’t persuaded him, and Abraham blames Ichabod for his demonic transformation.

In Magnum Opus, we see that Abraham told Ichabod to be his own man — and that’s precisely what Ichabod grapples with, because how much his own man did he really become if it was Abraham who convinced him to do it in the first place and thus shaped his life in ways his father previously had.

Sleepy Hollow fall finale 2014

Sure, Ichabod, you’ll get your motorbike.

Putting Katrina into that infernal ritual to make her into the Headless Horseman’s bride, making her the damsel in distress… letting her go back to spy on Bram could have turned out so beautifully, but as soon as the writers had deposited her back in that house, they forgot about her and she conveniently became the fifth wheel again, left behind in her captors’ clutches. Now she’s there to provide fodder for Ichabod’s jealousy again. Of course Ichabod returns the moment that Katrina uses Abraham’s feelings for her to break down his defenses. That is pretty damn lazy. For the past two seasons, Katrina’s narrative has not been self-propelled, it’s been made of reactions to the narrative changing around her. Sure, she was the impetus behind Ichabod surviving and she provided him with his first visions, but hers is a story of captivity, being brought out whenever convenient and then shoved back in.

Ichabod and Irving

And Captain Irving, after having such a great run in Season 1, spent most of Season 2 in captivity as well, being the unwitting victim of Henry’s schemes in a completely harebrained move; only to be sacrificed because that stupid sword requires the sacrifice of its wielder in order to kill demons in The Akeda? And in the end, it’s not even that that kills him, it’s a stray blow from a sword. Yeah, right… We lost him, and for what? Sure, his death makes the other four face the music and form a pact, a pact to end this once and for all, each taking up the sword after the others fall. In that, his death propels the narrative, but in light of how pathetically he’s been treated this season, his sacrifice pales to nothing but a plot device.

Note this, too:

Katrina and the Witnesses head into battle

While Katrina is trying to dredge up the last of her powers, Ichabod draws her into an argument that may well end their marriage — really, Ichabod, you’re doing this now?? The strain on their marriage proves too much, and it’s just so… it’s so contrived. It’s the narrative that cripples Katrina at every turn, for every step forward she takes two back because her agency gets taken away from her again every time she gets it back. I really don’t understand what the writers want with her. They wanted this marriage to fail, and they took great pains to ensure that it would; and putting it all on Katrina’s shoulders. It’s suddenly all her fault. Why?

And then… what? Henry, who viewed Moloch as his surrogate father, who spoke of the four white trees of his true birth place, is disappointed in his chosen father figure who is willing to break his bargain with Abraham for his failure. It’s a skewed set of morals, this. He was more than happy to pawn off Katrina to the Horseman, but to have that Horseman denied his “treasure,” that’s too much, and that’s what Henry ultimately kills Moloch for, sacrificing his own soul.

You know, I’m glad. We’re temporarily rid of Moloch, we’re rid of Henry, and maybe the narrative can rouse itself from this mess it ended up in by painting itself into every possible corner at every possible turn.

PARADISE LOST

Six weeks after the events of the averted Apocalypse #1, Ichabod and Katrina must cope with the loss of their son. Furthermore, they have to wonder what their purpose is in this world. On top of that, they’re both still reeling from their de facto temporary separation.

sleepy-hollow-season-2-scarfaceWhat’s Ichabod going to do now? Now that battling demons isn’t his day-to-day anymore?

All wickedness must be culled from the flock!

Except… what if it is, still? And in swoops a winged avenger, fresh out of Purgatory. Orion’s the name, slaying’s the game. Once a door is opened, things can pass through from either side — and the quake that shook Purgatory upon Moloch’s demise was enough for some of the inhabitants of Hell’s antechamber to slip through the cracks. And not all of them are friendly. Turns out, neither is the Angel.

(Here the writers combine Creation and Evolution — Abbie asks, “Did Creation really take seven days?” and, “Ever seen a dinosaurs?” Orion replies, “Before my time.”)

Ichabod and Abbie meet Orion, Angel of the Lord

And of all things, Katrina feels guilt? Abraham is right, after all that he has done to her, after the way he’s treated her, she feels responsible for him becoming the Horseman of Death? So now she wants to separate Horseman and man and cure him with love? Eurgh… Katrina is bent on saving the villains in this piece, insisting that it wasn’t their own choice that made them into monsters, but circumstance and other people’s cruelty. You know, at some point, the ‘reformation through love’ trope is just… ridiculous. Sure, the juxtaposition is clear: it’s all good and well when the evil of the week is just a random succubus but it’s very different when the one standing in your way is, in fact, someone who used to be your closest friend. But it’s been the bone of contention between the Witnesses and Katrina for the whole of Season 2 now, and it’s getting old.

Why exactly is Hawley trying to persuade Jenny that Mike isn’t the right guy for her? I thought he was carrying a torch for Abbie? Who is he to tell her who to hook up with? Stop wannabe Han Solos acting as girls’ gatekeepers 2k15.

So… to save the world from Orion’s very own Judgement Day, Abbie and Ichabod team up with the Horseman, and grant Katrina the chance to return him to the man he once was. Which, by the way, is still going to be an asshole. I’m not going to be here for Abraham’s redemption arc.

And then, from somewhere, Captain Irving crawls back out of his grave. Might the writers give him back that agency he’s been missing now?

IN CONCLUSION

All in all, I’m not thrilled with how this is going. We’ve been moving in circles for the first part of the season, and the way the supporting characters have been treated is not on par with Season 1 — even worsened in Katrina’s case. I wasn’t happy with what little they’ve given her to do from the beginning, but this story arc adds insult to injury. She’s moving her own narrative, going against the Witnesses in the returning episode, but it’s still bound to one of either men in her life, and still on that same old track, save the bad guy with love. Season 2 started off great and fun, but… maybe it’s because the novelty has worn off, but the show has been relying too much on the repetition of a handful of tropes and character themes that are starting to wear really, really thin.

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3 thoughts on “Sleepy Hollow: Mid-Season 2 Review.

  1. Just like S2 this article is full of the failure of SH–KATRINA! SH’s premise and promise was not about her but Witnesses ABBIE and Ichabod and that’s why the focus on Crane Family Drama of Long Ago Love is a massive fail and pulled ratings down in S2! Even Abbie was sidelined for this muck and when she was onscreen, her dialogue consisted of the mantra “Katrina, Henry, Katrina”! Removing Irving from the lineup was excruciatingly painful as well. As for Hawley, I’d rather see him in Story with Abbie than the continuing saga of a 1700 marriage gone wrong and their senior warlock kid.

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    1. What you’re doing here though is pitting two of the central female characters against each other, by suggesting that one should remain sidelined in favour of the other. What the writers need to be capable of, however, is to accommodate several main and supporting characters at the same time, i.e. BOTH Abbie and Katrina. Something that worked well, for instance, with Abbie and Jenny in Season 1. That they’re clearly not capable of doing so with Katrina and Abbie resulted in this season’s questionable storyline, and resulted FROM the premise of Abbie and Ichabod being the central duo with hardly any room for anybody else. I agree that the Crane family arc overshadowed everything else and should have been wrapped up sooner. However, Katrina is a witch, she could have been a powerful asset and the witness duo could have been made stronger by her coming out of Purgatory, and they squandered that EVEN WHILE giving her more screentime. How can I not draw attention to and talk about that when that is clearly what they tried to do, and failed?
      Other shows seem to be a lot better at balancing their leads’ respective familes and friends (Gilmore Girls, for example, did this exceedingly well), so my reaction isnt, ‘eh, this show was never supposed to be about Katrina, anyway,’ but it’s, ‘why is this show incapable of subplots?’
      The show may be about the Witnesses at its heart, but I think it’s a crime to leave their families and related storylines completely underdeveloped; precisely because Abbie and Katrina’s only link is Ichabod. When a show focuses this much on its central pairing and only ever lets Ichabod interact with Katrina prior to Purgatory and never Abbie, then it’s no wonder the audience doesn’t know what to do with them occupying the same space any more than the writers do, apparently.
      And I’d really rather they’d never pitched the Hawley character in the first place.

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  2. The problem is that the actress who plays Katrina cannot deliver. She has no chem. with the other characters. Her and Ich should sizzle and they really don’t even come close. It doesn’t matter what they write because it will fail if the actress can’t be compelling.

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