Fox’s Sleepy Hollow’s has been trying some interesting things of late, especially given the fact that the show has now moved beyond the threat of the demon Moloch, the Horrid King, unleashing the foretold Apocalypse, with Ichabod and Katrina’s son’s Henry/James being the instrument of this release. The show has focused much more on the character relationships now and while it has had some success in some areas, it has also been a bit weak when it comes to certain characters, especially Captain Frank Irving and Katrina herself.
The recent three episodes of the show, “Spellcaster“, “What Lies Beneath“, and “Awakening” are very much focused on bringing Henry back into the fold. He disappeared at the end of the mid-season premiere, having turned on Moloch and killing him instead of Katrina and Ichabod, but now we learn that he is very much alive and is indeed planning something, though he is no longer beholden to Moloch. Quite different times in fact, and along the way, we also get to see some really dubious characterisation of Katrina, the most troubled character on the show, and also get to see that many of the recent things happening in Sleepy Hollow aren’t as isolated as we thought they were.
Episode #15 brings in someone tied to Katrina’s past, the warlock Solomon Kent who took part in the Salem Witch Trials back when Katrina’s mother was a witch herself and also a part of Kent’s community and village before he became a villain. This episode was actually a pretty good one because aside from presenting a really cool villain, it also went to some lengths to present Katrina as more than just the magical on-call help for Team Witnesses. That’s something that the show has definitely been struggling for a good while now, so it was nice to see some… redemption on that front.
In general however, I think this was a good episode for more than just the above since it also delved into the history of witchcraft in the Colonial Era, specifically the Salem Witch Trials that we learn were instigated by Kent himself, borne out of a need for… vengeance and self-absolution. Pretty interesting story there and actor Jonathon Schaech played the part admirably, presenting Solomon Kent as a villain to be feared and respected even. That was certainly novel in some ways.
Of course, with the whole concept of how Kent is ultimately taken down, we also have the whole thing going on with Captain Frank Irving, who too returned from the dead some while later and is now back with Team Witnesses under some dubious circumstances that become clearer as the episode goes. The way his arc is developing, with hindsight, I think that some really good things are in store for him, especially if this week’s episode, “Awakening“, is anything to go by.
And that brings me to last week’s episode, “What Lies Beneath“, where Ichabod comes into contact with someone he thought long lost. We know by now that there was a witch coven allied with General Washington back in the 1770s and that the General himself, as well as several other key members of the nascent American leadership were involved in the many supernatural events of the time.
This episode sees another mentor of Ichabod’s (re)join the fight against the demons and other forces of darkness that plague Sleepy Hollow and thereby the rest of the country and the world: Thomas Jefferson. We already know that Ichabod hobnobbed with the high and mighty during the war, and this is yet another example of the same, when the Witnesses run into Thomas Jefferson while investigating the disappearance of three city workers in the tunnels beneath the city.
“What Lies Beneath” is, I think, one of the best episodes of the series precisely because of how writers Damian Kindler and Phillip Iscove planned out the encounter between Jefferson and the Witnesses. For me, the show always stands out when it connects back to Ichabod’s past and we get to see a glimpse of how things were in that time, and how everything has changed since then. The Jefferson encounter exposes some harsh truths to the Witnesses and they have to make an extreme choice between saving people and saving knowledge vital to their ongoing mission as per their duties as the Witnesses of the Apocalypse. Big, tough choice there and I think it was all executed well.
Especially when there entered another character, a reporter sniffing around the accident site where the city workers disappeared, forcing the Witnesses to accommodate the man and manage the whole media circus that would develop if the truth about Sleepy Hollow got out. Some really fantastic stuff here, that’s for sure.
The coolest thing in this episode though was how the whole thing with Katrina and Solomon Kent was picked up. Last episode he exposed her darker side to her, giving her a glimpse of the true power she could have if she only gave in to the inner temptations to go all dark side. And now we see the beginnings of all of that. It is not pretty, and Katrina is still very confused by all this, so I’d expect there to be some hope here. At least, I did until I saw this week’s episode.
But all the same, I liked this episode, and I think that it is definitely among the better ones of the second season.
And then there’s this week’s episode, “Awakening“. Everything that has happened in the last few episodes finally comes together in this one. Henry, knocked out of his stupor following the battle with Moloch is now up and around in Sleepy Hollow, up to his old tricks again but this time with a difference: he wants to restart the witch coven of Sleepy Hollow and exact fulfillment of a promise made by George Washington to his coven allies during the war, that witches would be reintegrated into the society following the end of the war. And Henry’s got some really powerful magic as his disposal now, thanks to the grimoire that Solomon Kent wanted to steal back in episode 15 and which Frank Irving eventually brought to Henry (oh yes, episode 16 reveals how Frank is now completely in service to his “master” even though he tries to resist as much as he can, though to little avail).
And of course, Henry now drags in Katrina for all of this since he’s now completely in for his mother. He’s much more of a fanatic now, obsessed completely with bringing back witches in Sleepy Hollow, and so he taps the most powerful witch around to help him. Sadly, Katrina goes along with his dark plan. This is where the episode kind of lost me. Katrina has had such a flip-flopping characterisation in this season, and this episode certainly does not help matters any since her “conversion” is rather instant. Looking for ways to develop the character, the writers just seem to have gone in for tropes without actually building up on Katrina’s arc. And this rankles since she is such a promising character despite everything.
But at the same time, we get to see some really cool things happen, and the big showdown at the end is definitely one that makes you sit up and take notice. Not to mention the fact that the stinger at the end of the episode is really, really good. I believe that it is the most ambitious thing that the show has done to date and since next week is the season 2 finale, something like this is most definitely warranted, to really shake things up, because this ending brings back into play both Moloch and his most favoured servant, the Horseman of Death, Abraham Van Brunt.
So, as you can see, the three episodes together are a really mixed bag, with both good and bad attached. I’ll admit that the show’s overall quality has dropped somewhat, ever since the end of Moloch in the mid-season finale, and the show has struggled to find a proper platform from which to continue on, since the biggest threat right from the first episode of the first season is now non-existent. Perhaps the season finale next week can restore some vitality to the show, something I’m really hoping for and something that I’m sure will happen since in the end, the writers haven’t disappointed me so far, outside of a few things like Katrina’s characterisation.
More Sleepy Hollow: Season 1.