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Friday, October 31, 2014

Sleepy Hollow: The Weeping Lady and The Abyss Gazes Back

So, Sleepy Hollow. I'm trying to remain positive. I'm still enjoying you. There's a lot of good stuff going on. But let's face it, you've lost some of your mojo. Despite a few little plot threads that have been tenuously stitched across this season, these most recent episodes have felt like inconsequential filler.

Clearly things have been put in a "holding pen" of sorts in order to prep for the season's grand finale, but that leaves us with Henry simply shifting the pieces around the board, coming up with a lot of convoluted plans, and generally waiting around for whatever orders Moloch expects him to follow.

Even more frustrating is the fact that it's one step forward, twenty steps back when it comes to Katrina's characterization, and that despite becoming a regular featured in the opening credits, Jenny is continually shafted in favour of Hawley, a Han Solo Expy in possession of no skills or knowledge that she couldn't contribute just as easily.

In The Weeping Lady we get another retcon into Ichabod's past, learning that he was once betrothed to a woman named Mary Wells. This new information coincides with the fact that a terrible spectre is attacking women all over Sleepy Hollow (namely Caroline, the re-enactment nurse from last season), and it doesn't take much effort to put two-and-two together. Mary is a Green Eyed Monster who kills any perceived threat to her relationship with Ichabod (so despite the Ship Teasing with Abbie when Caroline identifies her as Ichabod's wife, the writers have covered their asses by making the mistake an actual plot point).

Oh yeah. You can spot the cray cray a mile away.

Thanks to a letter Katrina sends Ichabod which conveys absolutely NOTHING but that she's sending him a letter, Mary twigs to the fact that Katrina is the #1 obstacle between herself and Ichabod. The Witnesses head to the Horseman's digs, who thankfully choses that exact moment to gallop away into the night. Why? He could be going to pick up takeaways for all we know. It doesn't matter.

"I want piiiizzzzaaaaa....."

Ichabod and Abbie head inside, and we're treated to some of the worst exposition that this show has ever delivered:

Ichabod: It's the letter Katrina sent me. The very one I lost at the library.

Abbie: Then we're right. It's the Weeping Lady.

Ichabod: Mary. Mary's come for her.

This tells us nothing we could not have inferred entirely on our own just by seeing Ichabod pick up the letter from the puddle on the floor, but almost as an apology for treating us like idiots, the next scene gives us something that's never happened before.

Get this – Katrina rescues herself from the river with her magic. By herself! With magic that actually worked! It's amazing. And the amazingness continues when Katrina and Abbie work together quite efficiently to release Mary from the curse by using a spell that – again – actually works! Then in more unexpected subtlety, Mary silently points at Katrina as she dies in Ichabod's arms.

Oh shit....

Proving that the writers have been reading fan message boards, we get our long-awaited confrontation between husband and wife. Turns out that Mary arranged a meeting with Katrina so that she could accuse her of seducing Ichabod, an argument that quickly escalates. Mary then "tripped on a root and fell off a cliff." So says the woman who does this every week in the opening credits:


Tripped. Sure.

But this minor (and rather shoehorned) revelation is really just a catalyst for the dozen or so other secrets that Katrina has been hoarding. As we've seen already, Ichabod was oblivious of Katrina's role as a witch and her pregnancy with Jeremy for the duration of their marriage, and her justification in keeping Mary's death a secret is all wrapped up in his importance as a Witness. This reading of her relationship with Ichabod has been touched on before – she knew about his destiny well before he did, and it's intriguing to consider that perhaps a significant part of her love for him is rooted in a desire to make sure he fulfils his role as Witness.

In any case, this is the most interesting she's ever been. If Henry inherited his Chessmaster proclivity from anyone, it was quite obviously his mother. Unlike last week's Pied Piper malarky, all this is connected (however vaguely) to the overarching plot, due to Henry's involvement in Mary's resurrection. Why does he raise her from the dead? Just to mess with his parents of course!

Abraham turns up and Katrina uses her magic to prevent him from killing Ichabod (competency!!!) before turning on the charm and returning back to the estate. So Ichabod's rose-coloured glasses have been dislodged when it comes to his mental image of Katrina, and the writers' newfound self-awareness when it comes to depicting her means that when she says "thank you" to Abraham for bringing her home, we're left to wonder whether she's truly sincere or not.

And an angry Moloch has learned the hard way that emotional infants are easy pickings when it comes to enlisting them in your army of darkness, but it's an ongoing struggle to get them to operate efficiently as generals. Abraham is obsessed by the idea of Katrina and the chance to win her over; Henry hates the idea of his mother and only wants to make her suffer. They're both children really, which grants us the full impact of this rather wonderful closing shot:


And according to Moloch, she's one of the "Hellfire Shards" which will no doubt end up being as horribly contrived and stupid as it sounds. Oh Katrina. No doubt agency was nice while it lasted.

And the Abyss Gazes Back

Hey, remember Joe Corbin? Sheriff Corbin's son that's been in Afghanistan and is bitter about the fact that Abbie took up so much of his dad's time? No? That's because he's never been mentioned before, but he's here now and you're going to love his backstory.

Remember how Henry acquisitioned the fragments of the Pied Piper's bone flute and crushed it into dust? Well it turns out that it was part of a spell that he was going to put in an envelope and mail to Joe so that when he opened it he would become a Wendigo and forced to return to Sleepy Hollow where his only chance of reversing his condition would be to follow his father's directions to a remote spot in the woods where he's hidden a dangerous artefact that Henry wants to get his hands on to use to magically impregnate his mother with hellspawn. Yeah.


As it happens, Zach Appelman is a startlingly good match for the offspring of Clancy Brown, and he's a far more appealing guest star than Hawley, who continues his running streak of stealing scenes and tasks that could have easily gone to Jenny. It also allows us to get another look at Abbie's youth in flashback, and Nicole plays her teen self to perfection – not so obnoxious that it's annoying, but enough that we can see how far she's come.

Believe it or not, I did not see it coming that Joe would be the Wendigo. Obviously my brain totally shuts down when I watch this show, as I was assumed he was being hunted down by it, but was somehow being spared for reasons that were yet to be revealed. I should have known better considering he was the only survivor of both groups of victims (though why did he have his clothes on when Abbie/Ichabod found him the first time in the woods, but transformed back naked all the other times?)

Over in a subplot that is being woefully ignored, Captain Irving confronts Henry with the fact that his soul has been signed away in blood, and Henry gives him a way out: he has to take a life. Not even an innocent life, but the life of the man who put Macey in a wheelchair after drunk driving.  

I love Orlando Jones's face here. Henry is telling him that he signed away
his soul, but this could just as easily be the reaction to learning you left your
chair for too long and now someone else has sat in it.

None of this makes ANY ideological sense. You can't be tricked into signing away your soul. You can't get it back by murdering someone else. And yes, I know this is all fiction, but the rules just feel messy. This subplot would have worked much better as a long slow spiral into a mental space where Irving would have been willing to knowingly sign away his soul, but in lieu of that, let's stick with what works here: temptation.

On being shown the man who maimed his daughter, Irving confronts him. This guy is pretty much what you'd expect: full of self-pity, crawling with discomfort, remorseful only because his life was screwed up as well as Macey's. It's not long before Irving snaps, though he makes one last phone call to Abbie before he's taken into a higher security wing. I'd like to think they deal with this next week, but the preview doesn't bode well.

Over in the A-plot, we're reminded of just what the writers are squandering when Abbie and Jenny are ambushed by Henry. Abbie tries to talk it out, Jenny pulls out her gun. It's awesome, but instead the show seems determined to push a Love Triangle between the sisters and Hawley.


Oh, but at least I loved this bit...


Joe groggily comes to, looks up, and sees Jenny watching him through the window. "Jenny?" There's an entire history in a name and a little wave.

After meeting more characters that are infinitely more interesting than Hawley but are used merely as Native American gurus who can provide the white folks with all the help and information they need, Ichabod and Abbie do that stupid thing that protagonists do whenever they need blood and cut their hands to attract the Wendigo – painful, slow to heal, and impeding their ability to handle weapons. Of course, it does lead to this:

They're not hailing a space-cab, they're fighting the forces of darkness!

Shaman ritual, ritual knife, Native American chanting, fake-out failure when Joe doesn't instantly transform back, and the situation is resolved (no thanks to Hawley who honestly doesn't even need to be there). There's a sweet reconciliation between Abbie and Joe, but whatever warm-fuzzies this may have created is soon obliterated by Henry's latest pet project.

He uses the MacGuffin (something to do blood and Japan and leeches?) to create a small spider that crawls across Katrina's bed and into her mouth. She wakes up, cries out in pain, and clutches her stomach. Yup, it's a Mystical Pregnancy.

Oh show. Remember how everyone loved you for subverting, avoiding or just plain mocking these awful tropes? Can't we go back to that? Or when the secondary focus of the show was the rich and fascinating dynamic between the Mills sisters who are presumably living together now although we've seen nothing of that? And where's Sheriff Reyes popped off to?

Miscellaneous Observations:

It was nice to see Caroline again, even if it was just to immediately kill her off. Though I recall her being not too impressed with Ichabod's commitment to historical accuracy. I even looked it up. Her exact words her: "Wow dude. It's a re-enactment. Just relax and go with it."

Nice bit of continuity with Katrina's copy of Gulliver's Travels.

I'm always a sucker for supernatural communication. Mirrors, ravens, they're all fun.

The special effects of the Weeping Lady were fantastic. I especially liked the ink stains her shawl made in the water.

Those have got to be the only teenagers to ever hear a creepy noise and get out of there with their lives intact. I'm deeply impressed. See show, you're good when you're subversive.

"She's drowned!" Wow, it's like Tom Mison is determined to turn every shitty line into something extraordinary. He nailed the despair and horror at thinking Abbie had died – don't trust the GIF sets, just listen to his voice in this moment.

I'm pretty sure Wendigos have already been featured on Charmed and Supernatural, and probably ever other supernaturally-themed show out there.

I'm getting a little tired of these cold openings that suggest danger when it's really just Ichabod complaining about modernity.

Jenny, though relegated to the off-screen stealing of cadavers, gets the best line of both episodes: "We should probably donate blood or something."

Judging from Joe's words (and his hapless projection onto the situation) it would appear that a redemption arc is in store for Henry. I await to be amazed.

3 comments:

  1. It really has lots its mojo hasn't it?
    At least this episode answered the question as to why Katrina couldn't use her magic in the house as Henry has placed "wards" around it so she can't (if that's come up before I can't remember)

    Jenny continues to be awesome, despite being sidelined, and Katrina continues to be...whatever the writers keep doing to her.

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  2. I have very little desire to re-live this sad second season of Sleepy Hollow (which I am still making my way through very slowly), but just had to echo how right you are: the actress playing Jenny almost redeemed the entire episode with her line reading for "We should probably donate blood or something."

    Way to spin gold out of chaff, Lyndie Greenwood!

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    1. Hey, long time no see! (I'm not sure if you remember, but we used to chat in your Merlin reviews).

      And yeah, something went very wrong with Sleepy Hollow. I'm glad for the sake of the actors that it's been renewed for a third season, but (like Once Upon a Time) I'll probably put it in my "maybe catch up eventually" pile.

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