In offline conversations I’ve had about Sleepy Hollow, there's been a general consensus: When the show rolls out a subpar episode, what you usually get is 35 or so minutes of monster-thwarting/world-saving busy work, and about six minutes of narrative through-line. Oftentimes, these episodes are front-loaded with the busy-work stuff (by which I mean, the hocus-pocus particulars that won’t ever matter in subsequent installments) with the through-line stuff appearing in a twist ending, like a few weeks ago, when a seemingly undead Captain Frank Irving turned up at a Sleepy Hollow convenience mart.
Last night’s Sleepy Hollow stretched that framework to its extremes: The busy work was suuuper boring, but the episode’s twist endings — there were so many of them, right?? — delivered more juicy story than we’ve had for weeks. As Ichabod would say: Huzzah!
Let's discuss foe-of-the-week Solomon Kent and then we’ll get to the good stuff. I like that “Spellcaster” finds a way to weave the Salem witch trials into its wack-a-doo historio-fantastical tapestry, because a) why not? (I really do love when SH plays fast and loose with Americana), and b) it makes perfect sense, given Katrina’s witchy-woman bloodline. This also gives us the chance to see Katia Winter portray Katrina’s grandmother while rocking some unexpectedly blonde tresses. If that sounds like a silly, tangential thing to mention, let it serve to demonstrate how underwhelmed I was by this week’s stand-alone plot. I just could not get into this Kent dude and his magic book and his oops-I-killed-a-woman guilt. (Speaking of, did anyone else feel a little icky by how he basically commits lethal sexual assault, but knows how it will look so he pretends it was an accident? This guy is supposed to be some kind of religious leader, right?) Anyway, the only thing I found compelling about Kent was trying to recall the name of the actor playing him. My brain went through a few embarrassing guesses — Olivier Martinez? Costas Mandylor? Peter Gallagher 20 years ago? — before it hit on “Aha, Christina Applegate’s ex-husband!” (Meanwhile, my husband would like it known that hearing the name “Kent” over and over made him think of Real Genius: “Stop playing with yourself.”)
In the middle of all that, of course, there were other scenes that grabbed my attention. Seeing Katrina’s powers return to what was once their alleged full strength was surprising; even the way she makes a flower levitate is cause for celebration, as far as I'm concerned. And then comes — yay! — the return of Henry, at long last. He’s hiding out (and/or just killing time) watching infomercials in a dingy motel room, which one could argue is its own kind of hell, or at least purgatory. But things really start to get good toward the end of Kent’s arc, when Katrina confronts him in the warehouse and — hey, whaddaya know! — manages to conjure up enough magical might to throw a few lightning bolts his way. Then her eyes go evil-white and Kent smiles devilishly. “I sense seeds of darkness within,” he tells her. “You are a formidable witch, but you resist your full potential."
The first time Katrina’s eyes went evil-white, I was like, “Wait, did Kent do that to Katrina? Like force her eyes to go evil-white? Or is that a force within her that’s now revealing itself?” For the sake of argument, let’s call that Plot Twist No. 1. Here's what I saw as the rest of the twist endings as they unfolded:
Plot Twist No. 2: The Frank and Abbie conversation at the bar. I found this scene highly enjoyable, but also rather curious. At the start of it, Frank seems remarkably laid-back and self-accepting (which is very un-Frank-like), tossing out wry one-liners like, “I shoulda stayed dead.” That is, until he offers Abbie the following super-earnest advice: “You keep fighting. You don’t back down. You don’t make excuses.” Abbie’s impressed by this newfound confidence and tells Frank, “The afterlife suits you.” Frank calls himself “jacked up.” It seems like something’s afoot with Frank. (Again, not a huge twist ending and not the ending proper, but something that nevertheless feels like it's meant to float a question mark.)
Plot Twist No. 3: Henry witnesses some ne’er-do-wells roughing up the motel-keeper’s son. He looks like he’s going to do something to stop it right then and there — again, very un-Henry-like. Instead, he just walks back into his room. Nothing happens, but there are definitely changes afoot in the hearts and minds of some of our more troubled characters.
Plot Twist No. 4: OH MY GOD, FRANK TAKES KENT’S BOOK! Then he lies about taking it to Abbie and Crane! We officially have a double-crossing evil-doer on our hands. I can’t believe it! I mean, I can believe it, because there was that flash of suspicion at the end of last week’s episode when Katrina read Frank’s conscience, but still: Whoa!!!!!
Plot Twist No. 5: Katrina reprises her evil-white eyes on purpose, right after she waits out Abbie and Crane’s exit from Corbin’s cabin. Afterward, she looks exhilarated and a little surprised. Now we have two main characters suddenly flirting with and/or reporting for duty on the dark side?!!?!
Plot Twist No. 6: Henry decides to supernaturally beat the crap out of the motel hooligans after all. Does this mean that he's turning toward the light just as Katrina and Frank are headed into the dark? I found Henry’s statements before issuing his telepathic beatdown a little contradictory. He starts: “You see, I killed my father. All I could feel was crushing regret … I admit I was drawn to what Mary [the motel keeper] and Ronnie [her son] represented. Simple lives, simple needs … humanity.” But then he ends with, “There will always be sheep and wolves. I am a wolf.” I loved the look on Henry’s face as he turns back to his room, but I’m still parsing what exactly he meant — or rather, which parts he meant. Either he’s laughing at the idea that he’d ever be tempted back toward humanity by the “simple lives” of Mary and Ronnie, or he’s insisting he’s a wolf because acknowledging his humanity is giving him a case of mental agita.
Plot Twist No. 7: We’re still not done! Now Henry and Frank meet up in the woods. Cue one of my audibles: “OH, NO.” But what exactly are they in cahoots to accomplish? “Moloch is dead and so are his plans,” Henry informs Frank (and us). “No longer am I the Horseman of War. [Good to know!] From now on, destiny bends to my will.”
And that, my friends, is a cliffhanger.
But there’s one more thing I want to discuss. I’ve long held my suspicions that the Sleepy Hollow writers occasionally drop little clues into the scripts that can almost be interpreted as their way of feedbacking with the audience. Not Easter eggs à la LOST, per se, but dialogue that can nevertheless be interpreted as meta, and my meta-meter was zinging off the scale last night. “We’re doing this the old-fashioned way, before Katrina arrived,” Crane says at one point (I think, or maybe it was Abbie?), and later: “Before Katrina was here, we took down all kinds of supernatural threats.” After attempting to position Katrina as an equal protagonist alongside Abbie and Crane for the bulk of season two, it seems that the show might be about to try a different tactic. (Another example: “You are walking the wrong path,” Kent tells Katrina. “Have you never wondered why your powers betray you when you need them the most?” Freaking yes! Yes, we have!)
So will things go back to the way things used to be? Maybe. Crane: “Leftenant, do you have a vision of the life in store for us?” Abbie: “No.”
I’ll say it again: That, my friends, is a cliffhanger.
Was anyone else thinking or hoping that the dude who works at the auction house at the top of the episode would reappear, perhaps as Henry’s surprise book-procuring accomplice? He struck me as one of those enticing bit characters you want to see again. Actually, I felt the same about the motel-keeper’s son; he was such a breath of fresh, sunny air in the midst of all the double-crossing and the motorcycle toughs and whatnot.
Is it just me, or did this episode have the coolest special effects we’ve seen in a while?
Crane: [honks squeaking banana] One cannot even buy a home without being bombarded by modern-day hucksterism.
Crane: Curb thy foul stench, unholy minion!
Abbie: You really need to work on your trash talk.