Good morning, and welcome to this week’s round of “Dream or Not a Dream?” As per usual, last night’s episode of Sleepy Hollow kicked off with an off-kilter-feeling opening scene, placing Abbie back in purgatory but strangely (based on what’s happened before in purgatory, or any realm) encountering her cloaked mother, who hisses only, “Abigail … demons!” So, was it all a dream or not? If you guessed “just a dream,” you’re right!
I don’t mean to mock last night’s episode, which I was quite impressed with and really enjoyed watching, but it was kind of structured around these narrative crutches that the show loves using and that are hack-y by now, like the trick opening sequence and the final scene being either a Frank or Henry cliff-hanger. Of course, this week’s Frank cliff-hanger was a doozy (!!), but we’ll get to that in a sec.
For me, what made “Mama” one of the better episodes of the season was (a) the richer, deeper emotional texture that stemmed from Abbie and Jenny’s unlikely reunion with their mother, and (b) the acting. Sleepy Hollow has always been elevated by its eminently watchable cast, so when they (or, at least two of them — in this case, Nicole Beharie and Lyndie Greenwood) were given some real bittersweetness to play, I was just — well, I was moved. I bawled, people! I bawled at Sleepy Hollow!
But, again, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before the Mills family’s big emotional moment, we had the smaller but still-compelling scene between Abbie and Reyes, in which Reyes gave Abbie the Tarrytown Psychiatric suicides to investigate. “Ma’am, you know what I’m going to ask you,” Abbie stated, indicating that these former adversaries are finally developing a familiar, comfortable shorthand, which Reyes furthers by remarking, “If I had handed this to someone else, you wouldn’t have given me a moment’s peace.” Corner: turned! (Not just in Abbie’s relationship with Reyes, but in my own; this scene was the most I’ve ever liked Reyes, and it seems she’ll be onboard with our apocalypse-prevention crew now in the future.)
Next up was Abbie and Jenny’s meeting with Frank at Tarrytown Psych, a long-overdue chance for Orlando Jones to flex his chops and clue us in on what life’s been like for Frank this season. “Did I have anything to do with this?” Frank asked rhetorically about the suicides, sparing Abbie from having to state the question herself. “No, but I don’t blame you for asking.” That was another small moment that I really appreciated for illustrating how Frank’s common-sense worldview is still very much intact. “My soul belongs to the Horseman of War, but for now I am still in control of my actions,” he adds. “I even chose my own color of Jell-O for breakfast this morning.” HA!
Mama’s story line drew me in as it went along. The initial flashbacks, a combination of kid actors who aren’t as good as Beharie and Greenwood (sorry!) and sort of crazy-people clichés, didn’t do much for me. I did think the newspapers taped up in the windows of their home was a brilliant touch. I also thought that when the girls recited the rules Mama gave them — “Eyes open, head up, trust no one” — that I was going to die from snarfing beer up my nose because that had to be someone’s idea of a so-bad-it’s-hilarious Friday Night Lights reference, right?
But as we learned more about Mama, what her role is and was in the girls’ lives, and how much her circumstances were dictated by forces both mortal and supernatural, which were out of her control, the more I started to really get into it. This provided context and food for thought on an aspect of this whole show that I’d never really stopped to ponder heretofore: Why Abbie was chosen as a witness, and how much it bothers Abbie that she was and doesn’t know why.
Of course, all this stuff that I loved about “Mama” was couched within several of SH’s aforementioned, overused setups. (If you won at “Dream or Not a Dream,” why not press your luck with a round of “Will They Recite the Incantation in Time?” Spoiler alert: Yes, they always will.) We got a quick shot of this season’s pent-up passive-aggressiveness during that scene with the whole gang inside Corbin’s library, when it seemed like, within a minute of rapid-fire dialogue, shade was thrown between Abbie and Crane about Katrina, between Crane and Hawley about Abbie, between Crane and Hawley about each other, etc. I’m kinda over that stuff because those dynamics haven’t been developed much. It’s more of the same standoffs the characters were having one, two, or five episodes ago. After floating the idea of an Abbie-Hawley romance last week, little was done to advance that potential story line, save Hawley’s quite surprising and funny “Mr. Woodhouse” reference. Side note: Sometime around when Abbie, Jenny, and Hawley were trouble-deep in the abandoned wing of Tarrytown Pysch was when I finally realized that there’s hardly any Crane in this episode! Wow! Was Tom Mison actually down with a cold? A strange choice for this show but one I didn’t mind, which just goes to show that I’m enjoying Hawley’s company more and more. I know he’s not every fan’s fave, but isn’t he a lot better than Katrina?
Ugh. Katrina. Let’s get this out of the way: I could not have cared less about Katrina’s story line this week. It was boring and she was boring. I have gone to bat for that girl several times this season, believing she’d prove her worth to both us as viewers and the other members of the Scooby gang, but after last night, I’m all ... I just can’t even. The baby turning Katrina’s skin black may have been her trapped-with-a-cougar moment.
One more thing I want to get out of the way before going back to Mama’s story line: Cynthia Stevenson! What a treat! And what a perfect bit of casting. Stevenson perfectly conveyed that Nurse Ratched–like sense of placid creepiness that the role of Nurse Lambert needed. It made the realization that it was her and not Mama who was compelling people to commit suicide both a surprise (Lambert appearing in Frank’s room may have been the gasp-iest moment of the night for me) and totally believable.
What I really loved most about this episode was the roller coaster of emotions experienced by Abbie and Jenny. At any given moment, they were caught up in a roiling mix of fear, sadness, aggravation, elation, and bewilderment, and while Abbie often seemed equal parts scared and thrilled, Jenny was just as often scared and angry. (Case in point: That Abbie’s first reaction to seeing Mama was simply to ask, “Mama?” while Jenny’s first words were, “Stay away from me!”) I loved Abbie and Jenny’s moments of physical closeness (the forehead-touching, holding hands while they watched their mom’s taped interviews) and, as I admitted above, the scenes where Abbie and Jenny uncover Mama’s mural and later talk to her face to face really turned on the waterworks for me.
The last game that Sleepy Hollow usually ends with is “Frank or Henry Plot Twist?” Not only was Frank’s escape something I totally didn’t see coming, but he may have had the line of the night with, “Don’t give me that aiding-and-abetting-a-fugitive look, Mills.” I’m a little fearful that Frank’s new arc is going to mimic Katrina’s — obtain freedom, do a little piddling around, go back to having no freedom — but like Frank then said to Abbie, we gotta trust him.
At one point, Abbie (it may have been Jenny, but I’m pretty sure it was Abbie) says of Mama, “She died 15 years ago. Why come back now?” Did you feel like you got enough of an answer to that from last night’s episode? What I mean is, it’s obvious that Mama came to try to stop Nurse Lambert from drugging more patients into suicide. But was there supposed to be something more to Mama’s return than that? I guess I just wanted a small but clear piece of evidence that Mama somehow fits or will fit into the larger, season-long arc of preventing the apocalypse.
“I fought at Saratoga with dysentery. I can certainly muddle through this infection.”
[Crane trying to open his over-the-counter meds]
Crane reacting to his eucalyptus steam: “It’s torturous.”
[Crane’s face when tasting matzo-ball soup for the first time]