Sleepy Hollow 2.09 – Mama

sh 201 promo image abbie ichabod branchesLast week, sexy succubus sucking!  But now, we open with Abbie approaching a spooky hooded figure in a fog-filled landscape while “You Are My Sunshine” plays in discordant accompaniment. No joke, that song is one that has always creeped me out even when played straight, so I’m already terrified.

Heads up, though, seriously — this episode pressed pretty hard at a number of upsetting issues that left me fairly compromised, so here’s a laundry list if you need warnings before diving in further: mental health issues, abuses of psychiatric patients, suicide, questionable parenting, children raised in a paranoid environment, and THERE’S MORE, BUT THAT’S THE BONES OF IT!  Still want in?  Let’s go then! 

N’aww, Ichabod Hab a Code! While Abbie explains she’s been dreaming of her mother in Purgatory all week, Ichabod grumps about how she’s making him rest.

Why didn't Abbie catch this cold?  Because cold germs see how badass Abbie Mills is and they scram, son.

Why didn’t Abbie catch this cold? Because cold germs see how badass Abbie Mills is and they scram, son.

“It’s quiet time now,” Abbie says firmly, bundling him up in a blanket, because Abbie has weirdly been relegated to mothering both Ichabod and Katrina lately. “When I’m rested, there shall be hell to pay,” Ichabod mutters. Hey, that’s what I say at bedtime every night!

Turns out there are an unusual number of suicides over at Tarrytown Psych, and Reyes sends over Abbie with carte blanche to do whatever it takes to investigate. So the whole feud with Reyes has been de-fanged by Abbie bringing down a Satanic cult. Take note: Surefire Ways to Impress Your Boss.

Abbie having control of the inquiry means she can haul Jenny along with her to TP. “Home sweet home,” says Jenny stiffly as they side-step a lurching patient named Walter. Gee, do either of you super smart and street savvy ladies think there’s anything odd about that all-smiles Nurse Ratched type who is dressed like she stepped out of the 1950s? Just me?

Abbie and Jenny drop in on Frank Irving, who thinks the last suicide stinks of sulfur! But he anticipates Abbie’s question whether he had anything to do with the situation: “No, but I don’t blame you for asking,” Irving says heavily, lost soul and all. Hey, is there going to be no buzz between him and Jenny? I miss the days when we were all excited about Mr. and Mrs. BAMF!

As Jenny and Abbie examine surveillance footage, Jenny confesses she went to visit their mom before her suicide. Okay, UN-BREAK MY HEART at little baby Jenny standing there with FLOWERS for her mother and crying out while her struggling mother is carted off by orderlies.

Her mother’s madness and suicide has “tainted everything I’ve done since,” Abbie says when Jenny asks what they’re looking for. Abbie has always feared she would lose her mind, something exacerbated when Jenny was committed to JP. While I make furtive gestures to pull Abbie in for all the hugs, Abbie uses night vision overlay to spot the ghost of their mother, seemingly talking the patient into committing suicide.

Could we talk a little more about how HELLA hard it must have been for Jenny to return to TP?

Could we talk a little more about how HELLA hard it must have been for Jenny to return to TP?

Back at the Super Sekkrit Archive Hideaway, Abbie remembers the environment of fear their mother raised them in. “Eyes open, heads up, trust no one,” dutifully repeat baby Abbie and Jenny in a flashback. AS their mother rails about how demons are out to get them, scared Little Jenny leans on brave Little Abbie, and those poor sweet babies!

Ichabod and Abbie conclude Lori Mills has been forced by Moloch to kill other people, forcing them “into the same death she chose.” How about obviously no? Did anyone get the number of that nurse? Truly, though, rehearsing the idea that Mama Mills is responsible for the deaths felt like stalling that could have been better filled with more details that would have upped the ante for this episode.

Hawley arrives to fulfill his destiny of acting as sweet sweet eye-candy, and to bring Ichabod drugged Matzoh Ball soup to make him rest. Come on, now; he stopped by the cabin for Ichabod’s books and maps and didn’t steal a single priceless artefact he could sell on the supernaturally-obsessed market?

Ichabod gets instantly defensive when Abbie brings up Katrina. “He’ll be fine after he sleeps,” says Abbie, because huge mistrust issues are cured by napping. Turns out both Abbie and Hawley are Jane Austen fans. I guess Hawley has to read something when he’s lounging around waiting to find whatever demonic object our heroes need in seconds flat.

The Katrina and the Demon Baby Moloch storyline just took up space in an episode that could have used about a zillion more instances of the Mills sisters working out their issues. So I’m not going to spend a hell of a lot of time on it.

Almost entirely pointless: Katrina's scenes got most of their oomph from flashbacks from last week, so yeah.

Almost entirely pointless: Katrina’s scenes got most of their oomph from flashbacks from last week, so yeah.

Yes, yes, the “Mama” of the title also refers to Katrina, and you could say it’s a complementary B-plot as she cares for the creepy baby while Henry acts like a huffy jealous toddler at seeing her maternal instinct. But really, seeing flashbacks and watching Katrina get rotten skin from holding the baby didn’t do much to advance the plot. And it honestly kind of freaked me out more than a teensy bit that the Bad Baby has evil-coded dark skin while the Good Baby that Katrina sees with the locket’s aid is lily white.

Hawley acts as mediator as Jenny and Abbie take diametrically opposed stands: Jenny wants to kill the monster their mother became, while Abbie searches for a way to grant the mother she remembers some peace. Okay, WHO GAVE WALTER ANYTHING MADE OF GLASS? That hospital is crap.

The gang spots the almost-suicide and runs to the rescue, Hawley holding down Walter because apparently the orderlies were all out playing Mah-Jongg. “Mama!” shouts Abbie, seeing Lori. Poof! goes Abbie! Bzuh? say Hawley and Jenny (and, presumably, Walter).

“It’s not safe for you here,” Lori Mills says, all ghost-like while Abbie dodges sparks and falling light fixtures in the Creepy Abandoned Wing at TP. Oh hey, look, it’s that chaperone for the sock hop, I mean, Demonic Nurse Ratched! “This wing hasn’t been used in years!” she exclaims, which of course drives home the point she’s a baddie, because otherwise what’s she doing there?

Eh, of course we all called the Evil Nurse straight off, but anyone else tired of the Evil Nurse trope?  Show of hands!

Eh, of course we all called the Evil Nurse straight off, but anyone else tired of the Evil Nurse trope? Show of hands!

Meanwhile, Jenny has her own vision of her mother, ending with the code TPRJLM12 etched into the glass on a door. Abbie shows up and immediately realizes it’s a code “to designate patient video sessions.” It just so happens Abbie has that very session back at the Archives! Just Go With It, I repeat to myself as Jenny and Abbie trot off to view their Insta-Solution.

“This is just for you and me to see,” Abbie explains to Jenny back at the Archives.

The Mills sisters prepare to confront their childhood issues all over again.

The Mills sisters prepare to confront their childhood issues all over again.

And on that note, I did not mind this Ichabod-lite episode one bit. I mean, I love my erudite and sexy Colonial Witness, but I could do with more emphasis on Abbie; your thoughts on that?

Yeah, I got nothing.

Yeah, I got nothing.

Though Jenny wants to back out, “we do this together,” Abbie says gently, and they lean their foreheads together. MY HEART!  The two of them hold hands as they watch, as they did when they were little kids.

Lori Mills, prisoner of Tarrytown Psychiatric.

Okay, so the episode doesn’t do it explicitly, but did anyone else make the connections between the abuses and trauma of slavery and Lori’s imprisonment at Tarrytown Psychiatric? Because there were multiple parallels, and now this photograph makes me feel even more nauseated.

As Lori talks about protecting her babies and a woman who keeps telling her she’s not a good mother — and honestly, why on earth is she wearing a straightjacket for her therapy session? There has been zero indication that Lori is an actual threat to herself or others. She has delusions (or you know, actual visions of demons), okay, but. *hands* — we FINALLY get confirmation that it’s Nurse Ratched Lambert who is behind all this.

During this we flash to Nurse Lambert getting her clutches into Frank Irving, giving him pills to make him more amenable to suggestions he should totally just kill himself already.

Irving in despair -- but wouldn't it have been riveting to hear what the hell Lambert actually said to him?  What doubts lurk in the heart of Frank Irving?  I WANT TO KNOW!

Irving in despair — but wouldn’t it have been riveting to hear what the hell Lambert actually said to him? What doubts lurk in the heart of Frank Irving? I WANT TO KNOW!

He walks to a fantastic-creeptastic bathing room and gets ready to drown himself. Luckily Hawley, Abbie, and Jenny appear to save him, as Lori Mills again flashes in the doorway and disappears.

Weirdly, I wanted to see way more and WAY LESS of Nurse Lambert. I wanted more, because if we’re going to focus on everyone trying to kill themselves, why not get some cool character development to go with? For instance, does a teensy part of Irving think it would be better for his wife, child, and the world if he was gone (instead of becoming Apocalyptic Soldier of Evil, as his visions suggest he will)? A convo with Lambert could have drawn out those doubts and layers to his character.

But yeah, I wanted much less of Lambert, because quite frankly, after having Ichabod’s family drama take the dominant position for our seasonal arc, I think we could have spent far more time on the Mills sisters and their mom. Lori Mills becomes not much more than a red herring in figuring out who is behind the suicides, and then Nurse Lambert takes the focus away, making it a Monster of the Week episode. Instead this should have been the start of a multi-ep arc, a series of revelations about Abbie and Jenny’s childhood instead of a compartmentalization of Abbie and Jenny’s different approaches to dealing with having had a really scary mom instead of a parent who took care of them the way they deserved.

Back to what’s actually in the ep — um, were Henry and Moloch not slightly miffed that Nurse Lambert was a little too self-starter, trying to kill a guy who is supposed to be their Evil Soldier? Who knows? All we get is Abbie taking Irving’s unspoken thank you and telling him, “We got this.” Abbie, I love you tons and tons. But forgive him for thinking you don’t totally have everything well in hand; after all, there’s been no real movement to research how to save Irving’s soul (why on earth does everyone take Henry’s word on this as law?) or break him out of crazy town banana pants land.

Lambert, it turns out, is a ghost herself, of a nurse with twenty-one “mercy kills” to her name who used Sodium Pentothal to persuade her victims to kill themselves. The Mills sisters realize what we’ve cottoned on to since the ep’s start: their mother is trying to save patients, not kill them.

Time to go see Lori’s old “cell,” in the wing where Abbie was ghost-poofed. Abbie and Jenny soon realize there’s something behind the walls where their mother did up to seven months straight of solitary. They tear off the plaster, uncovering a huge mural of their childhood faces with “You Are My Sunshine” inscribed underneath.

The mural, which is very touching, and also creepy, but hey.

The mural, which is very touching, and also creepy, but hey.

The image reminds Jenny of a terrible day with her mother — flashback to baby Jenny showering her mom a “My Family” crayon pic of herself, Abbie, and Lori, and I honestly want to go back in time, and yes, transport to a fictional universe, to save baby Jenny from ever being sad for a single second. The memory continues, as carbon monoxide pours into the car. “Even when she was protecting us, we weren’t safe,” Jenny points out, and ow, Jenny, ow ow ow, this episode is HARD for me to recap.

“I’ll be damned” says Hawley at seeing Lori pretty much manifested and not so ghostly (stay tuned, Hawley, and we’ll see!). Lori explains an ancient hex exists to fight evil spirits, in the journal from their ancestors (originating with Grace Dixon, a freed black woman who helped many and at some point delivered Jeremy Crane AKA Henry Parrish).

Soon Nurse Lambert shows to spoil our family reunion, slamming Jenny, Abbie, and Hawley against the walls with a wave of her hand. Guys, I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but Nurse Lambert is kind of an asshole. Abbie disappears, and Lori promises to go get her while Jenny and Hawley retrieve the journal.

“Like mother, like daughter,” Lambert clucks sympathetically as she restrains Abbie to a wheel chair. Saying she’s a “broken spirit needing to be freed from this hellish life,” she transports a mad-as-hell Abbie off.

As you might have predicted, Hawley and Jenny search for all of three seconds before they find Lori’s/Grace’s journal (Jenny finds her adorable crayon drawing included in the box, and Jenny! *holds her close*). “Did she put anything in there about a hex that kills a demonic nurse?” Hawley asks as Jenny flips the pages (Hawley, like, what are you even doing here this week? Besides that line I mean, because that was hilarious. You sure are pretty, but what was accomplished by having your silky smooth hair on the scene?).

Can I say how refreshing it was, just for once, not to have the save-the-day spell be in freaking Romani Greek? Instead, while Lambert taunts Abbie, and then she and Lori fight for Abbie’s life, Jenny reads out the African-language hex (I apologize; my CC didn’t say which it was). A wind blows through the hospital as Lori tells Lambert she’s not scared of her anymore. “No, no, you can’t,” shrieks Lambert, who is vanquished fairly quickly — but not quickly enough to give me more spotlight time on the Mills sisters and their mom, okay?

“She fought for me,” Abbie says in a shaky voice when Hawley and Jenny run to free her (echoing Lori’s suicide note: “I fought.”). But she never got to thank her. “There might be a way,” Jenny says.

Ichabod and Hawley join Abbie and Jenny Mills in Lori’s former cell, where they summon her. “My girls, look what you grew up to be,” Lori exclaims, marveling at them. We learn Lori always knew Abbie was a witness, and even the terrible flashback of Lori trying to kill herself and little Jenny gets revised (we watch as Lori defies a demon luring her to the murder/suicide, and instead breaks out of the garage, smashing it open with her car).

“This was your purgatory,” Abbie realizes (Tarrytown Psych seems more like one of those circles of Hell we hear told about to me, but what do I know?). Lori urges them to read the journal’s secrets, for “there is a weapon hidden in its pages.” While Jenny and Abbie plead for her not to leave them, Lori fades away. SHOT THROUGH THE HEART, KIDS! Ichabod and Hawley stand their awkwardly, because basically they have no purpose to be there other than the show needing to re-insert the male characters. ABBIE AND JENNY!!!!! *draws hearts around the Mills sisters*

Listen, this ep is by no means perfect. I wish, as I said before, that this story arc had emerged over a few episodes rather than one, and I would have liked to see even more complex positioning from the Mills sisters on the terribly vexed and terrible issue of the woman who raised them. It’s real life horror, when the person on whom you most depend is the person who steals from you any sense of safety. And the episode’s ascribing Lori’s actions to demonic influence works within the context of the SH universe, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Mills sisters were brought up to be scared, paranoid, and feel as though they were alone in the world. It’s not just that Lori fought that’s a “fitting legacy,” as Ichabod says; there’s a darker legacy the Mills sisters have to bear.

However, I was absolutely thrilled to see more of Lyndie Greenwood, to learn more about Abbie and Jenny’s childhood, and hopeful that we’ll get to find out additional issues from the Mills sister’s past. Plus hey, who doesn’t love that Frank Irving escaped Tarrytown Psych at the end? “Don’t give me that aiding and abetting fugitive look, Mills,” he scolds Abbie before he hops into the back of her SUV. Whee, I’m so glad he gets to move out of that go-nowhere plot line institution!

Oh yeah, and Katrina — who keeps on wearing her corset and skinny jeans, because I guess Abraham doesn’t have another period dress to foist upon her? — makes a tincture to get rid of Baby Moloch, only to find he’s turned into Uncanny Almost School-Aged Moloch. “I’m hungry, mother,” the little boy says, staring at her. Man, this did NOT turn out to be a good baby-sitting gig at all. There weren’t even any ice cream sandwiches in the fridge like they said there would be.

Man, this episode! Tell me what you thought of it! And join me next week when I recap and get ready to discuss “Magnum Opus”!

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  • Sparky

    It is always the smiling ’50s housewife! This season has so much mother/oedipal stuff going on, which has mostly been interesting, but this episode tried to fit too much of it in and it felt unsatisfying. I wanted more actual mothering from Lori at the end, or something. I don’t know.
    If I were Katrina, I would have had an easier time killing that “I’m hungry, mother” Moloch than the baby. I don’t understand why the plan changed (I mean, I understand why the writers couldn’t make it that easy, but, like, for Katrina in the moment).
    I like the Abby taking care of Ichabod dynamic. And Hawley reads Jane Austen?! He’s the new Ryan Gosling saying feminist stuff meme!

    • Ah, I would have loved more of Lori’s other types of motherly moments, you know? Because I thought returning home to find scary!paranoid!Mama was so well done, but the reason those types of parents are so formidable as terrors are that sometimes they can be utterly loving and sweet as well. And yes, it was a demon all along, but since the sisters were so far apart on the spectrum of regard for Lori, it would have made sense to show us the radically different behavior they mentioned.

      Haha, I KNOW! Especially with the whole “I’m hungry, Mother.” You hungry, demonic blond child staring with those dead eyes? HAVE SOME OF THIS POISONOUS TINCTURE!