Sleepy Hollow 2.15 – Spellcaster

sh 201 promo image abbie ichabod branches

It’s so hard to decide who gets the best opening to this episode — our villain of the week with his colonial-duds meets Mind Freak-y appearance, immediately launching into scary magical book stealing, blood-sizzling, Darth Vader-strangling ways? Ichabod, scowling at squeaky fake bananas but won over by a realtor’s marketing-blitz mini-muffins as he optimistically starts house-hunting for himself and Katrina? (Oh my god, WITH WHAT MONEY; isn’t Abbie still supporting the Cranes 1000%?) How about Henry Parrish, who apparently killed the guardian of Purgatory just so he could mope around at a motel, eating take-out and whittling? Or is it Katrina, dangling a daisy and doing petal tricks while she fibs about mourning her wayward Horseman son Henry instead of revealing she suspects he’s back in town?

Oh, how I wish I had a fun little match up graphic quiz for whatever answer you chose, telling you what patriotic cupcake you’re most like! Sshhh, we both know you’re Revolutionary Raspberry, filled with cunning supernaturally-focused rewrites of American History and topped with a decadent chocolate ganache that tastes like ~freedom~.

But really, though the episode reveals Sleepy Hollow still has a ways to go before it gets back on the entertaining and exciting track of season one, all the components of this week’s story actually felt like we’re opening up into the possibilities for the remainder of this season, rather than stalling for time or endlessly reiterating the stagnant conflicts the characters have with each other.

Moving on up?  Ichabod checks the listings.

Moving on up? Ichabod checks the listings.

Like Ichabod, who looks forward to the day when he can have granite counter tops all his own even though he doesn’t have any discernible means of income, I’m very cautiously anticipating season three possibilities based on this episode.  That’s even if I don’t have lots of evidence to back up the odds the writers will see them through. And hey, that’s not even taking into account whether it’s already too late for the showrunners to convince FOX to let fly their own Magical Energy of Renewing Powers.

Unsurprisingly for an episode titled “Spellcaster,” Katrina features prominently, whether it’s her fa-la-la-la Snow White antics with birdies and petals, or relating how this week’s bad guy not only knew her ancestor (also played by Katia Winters in flashbacks), but single-handedly started the Salem Witch Hysteria.

Of course there are careful nuanced differences between Katrina and her ancestor.  Nah, haha, one of them is *blond*, that's the difference!

Of course there are carefully nuanced differences between Katrina and her ancestor. Nah, haha, one of them is *blond*, that’s the difference!

But we also get plenty of Henry, who has a temporary crisis of faith — in that will he be true to his bad self, or be tempted to the side of good by the kind disabled proprietor of his motel and her cheerful handyman son? Though Henry insists he just wants his privacy, the motel owner gets him to reveal he has regrets, and notes, that everyone has things “we’re trying to get past. We’re only human right?” Well, whether Henry is Human, Horseman or Moloch Mach 2 remains to be seen.

While Abbie pushes the plot forward with modern-day innovation (lab reports reveal a form of “doping in the magic world” our villain’s hepped up on, and some pal at Quantico shares an app that miraculously puts the killer’s face together based on a smattering of pixels), Katrina brings the insta-knowledge and frontloading of historical exposition avec flashbacks.

Apparently our evil sorcerer is one Solomon Kent, a practitioner of the super duper dangerous Blood Magic (as opposed to Katrina’s earth-mother Nature Magic). When Kent juggles the roles of minister and coven-member in Salem of the 1690s, he falls for a young woman and totally assums she likes him back just because she’s polite. In what Katrina considers a no-fault “terrible accident,” but I call a direct result of Kent stalking and assaulting his obsession, Kent attempts to force himself on his crush and mistakenly stabs her with a sharp tool.

Panicking, Kent immediately casts a spell to give his murder victim Sarah Osborne a demon’s face, and accuses her of witchcraft to cover his own culpability. What a stand-up guy. Before long he’s also bewitching Katrina’s ancestor to accuse her of conjuring, so she can’t reveal his secrets.

That basket won't protect you now!  Blond!Katrina becomes a target.

That basket won’t protect you now! Blond!Katrina becomes a target.

Basically, the Salem Witch Hysteria = completely caused by a Nice Guy who couldn’t handle being Friend-zoned. So we’re just blowing right past the real estate battles that divided the town and theories about tainted rye, am I right?

Luckily, before Abbie and Ichabod can get too far in extolling the virtues of The Crucible and the integrity of Edward R. Murrow, Katrina interrupts to explain her ancestor’s coven banded together to banish Kent to Purgatory. Those covens! What can’t they do? Ever since Moloch broke out, though, apparently awful dudes like Kent are slithering into the world of the living.

Katrina guesses Kent seems to be after John Dee’s Grimoire (the artefact of the first act) so he can gain back his power. Good thing Katrina’s touchy-reveal-y spell actually works for once to help locate our weekly McGuffin. She soon declares Kent’s been thwarted by Dee’s safeguard; as long as the Grimoire isn’t whole, he can’t tap it’s power. “We need to find the second half of that book before Kent,” Abbie declares, and they all hustle off in a detecting three-way.

Frank Irving catches up with/stalks Abbie to let her know he’s willing to let bygones be bygones. Hey, how is Abbie not reacting more strongly to the news that Katrina’s spell supposedly revealed Frank is free and clear of evil influence? Whatever — I’m just glad to have Irving and Abbie together again, even if he’s probably all sinister.

When Abbie and Irving figure out there’s another shipment with the rest of Dee’s Grimoire on the way, they talk about letting go of the past, and figure out, hey, Kent’s actually after resurrecting his old crush Sarah Osborne. Because he totally is still in love with her and definitely didn’t mean to kill her (like seriously, give him two minutes before he’s trying to murder her again).

But then, uh oh, as Kent breaches the boundaries of Purgatory to save his one true murder victim, zombies will invade! Uh, didn’t Kent himself and those rando demonic minion groupies do that already? Not to mention Irving coming back from yond afterlife way, perhaps leaving the door to the regular world open a smidge? Nope, apparently this is a totally new threat! What to do?

Ichabod lectures Abbie on the importance of having a real life instead of just Witnessing. Yeah, you have the luxury of focusing on “what’s important” because Abbie takes care of basically everything for you, Crane. Abbie compares him to Kent (both of them out of time, after a woman they love), and he gets miffed, probably because it’s a craptacular comparison (like, when did Ichabod try to assault and/or nearly kill Katrina? Never. Exactly never times).

Talk about communication from the last episode -- let's discuss Ichabod benefiting from Abbie's hyper-focus on Witnessing.

Talk about communication from the last episode — let’s discuss Ichabod benefiting from Abbie’s hyper-focus on Witnessing.

As soon as Kent arrives on the scene in his cloak and wizard hat pilgrim hat, he and Katrina start battling over the Dark Force (Kent keeps Darth-Vader-ing people, slamming Ichabod and Abbie away with is slammy air-moves). “You are walking the wrong path,” he declares, inviting Luke Katrina to come to the dark side and flashing creeper-seduction glowers her way.

And of course Katrina is totally shocked that she might have the seeds of darkness within her, when seriously, we’ve all been WAITING for the show to do something with the whole Dark Witch thing this entire season. Still, it’s hard to buy the sudden “your powers betray you” because you’re not embracing your inner Dark Willow thing — sure, we can fanwank the reasons why Katrina might be dark, with moments throughout this season. But the show itself has done very little connective work on this matter.

So sure, am I glad to see Dark Katrina explored? Yes, absolutely. Do I want the show to actually pick up its hellacious amount of slack it’s been ignoring and connect that turn-to-evil back to her ties to Abraham/her investment in Henry/her straight out lies to Irving? YES, ABSOLUTELY.

Meanwhile, of course Katrina is COMPLETELY POWERLESS when Kent so much as tries to distract her, and Ichabod and Abbie have to struggle out of dark-bewitching to get rid of Kent’s blood-covered minions. Best part of this scene was the Parkour-ing minion. Go minion, go minion! Second best: “You really need to work on your trash talk,” Abbie notes when Ichabod roars, “Curb thy foul stench, unholy minion!” before crossbow-ing one of the evil toadies.

Kent’s Grimoire powers totally take down Katrina’s magic hand balls; he’s over-flattering her when he calls her a “formidable witch.” Ah, so white glowy eye-orbs means evil here (see, totally different from Dark Willow who had BLACK glowy eye-orbs; get with the program).

Still, it’s encouraging to see Katrina kind of get a story of her own? Maybe? Perhaps having darkness inside her not just because of the men in her life, but because of her own innate struggle? It’s hard to say if it’s too little, too late; it doesn’t feel like an enriched understanding of Katrina’s character, because Katrina literally has no character; she does whatever the plot needs her to do.  If this turn to darkness can supply her with some defining conflict that brings her into focus and cements her place in the narrative, however, I’m all for it.

“I am no match for the power of his magic,” Katrina says, now that Kent has the Grimoire. Oh kiddo, I’ve got news for you; you weren’t exactly a match before that, either. Anyway, you had ONE JOB, KATRINA. *hands*

Hey, why did Abbie and Ichabod not overhear all of this, “You might be evil, ho ho!” stuff? Was it because Kent trapped them behind a rippling magical wall? Or does sound just carry really poorly in that warehouse?  Just go with it, right?

Anyway, Katrina’s tapped out. Magic “simply cannot be reloaded like a musket,” she says defensively. So Abbie sneaks out to the bar to meet Irving. Since Jenny’s out of town for no good reason, (come on now; I find it disheartening that the budget-shuffling revolving door trick always means the characters of color are the ones shunted aside), Abbie regards Irving as a necessary ally.

Though Irving isn’t much help in the area Abbie really wanted info about (he claims he doesn’t remember returning from the dead), I really did love all of the Irving and Abbie interactions throughout this ep. It absolutely reminded me of the Captain Irving days, with Frank giving Abbie the pep talks and the two of them wryly fond of one another.

While Henry gets disturbed watching some mean motel guests threaten his disabled landlord and her son, Abbie heads back to the cabin. “We took down all kinds of supernatural threats without magic,” Abbie points out when Ichabod says Katrina’s still out of commission. Plus, hey, doesn’t Grace Dixon’s journal randomly contain information about that one key spell Kent keeps utilizing? IT DOES!

Kent isn’t trying to resurrect his victim, as it turns out; he’s trying to travel back in time to her. Of course that could rewrite history, so it ranks pretty damn high up on the scale of Bad Things. But even without Katrina — and seriously, can’t she contribute info? Is she just taking a nap during all of this? — Ichabod and Abbie figure out Kent will be attempting to channel Sleepy Hollow’s Ley Lines during a peak in “astral synergy,” — the Perigean Tide, at midnight.

Though Ichabod is suspicious, Abbie brings along Irving since “we’re shorthanded.” And truly, is no one going to ask about how Katrina failed to mention to either Ichabod or Abbie that Irving is supposed to be evil-free? This seems a key issue to me; either it clears Irving in the Witnesses’ minds, or it puts suspicion on Katrina for covering up/lying.

Though Kent tries to boast “I have defeated your spellcaster,” Ichabod and Abbie work a little magic of their own with a generator, a fire-hose, and giving Kent an overdose on his drug while making “our own lightning.” Yeaaahhh, kind of looks to me like they don’t need a witch on their side at all? I’m honestly not like, boo, no more Katrina — yet if she’s supposed to be essential, show us how she’s absolutely necessary, instead of making it seem like her services can be easily dispensed with on any given day.

For no good reason I can discern, Ichabod pulls a “this time, it’s personal!” rage fit, and punches Kent for ever thinking he could mess with Katrina’s family. Okay, it’s fun to see Ichabod act tough, but where the hell did that come from? Save that colonial-era fury for something that counts, kids.

“It’s done,” Abbie insists, pulling Ichabod away so they can go find Irving, who disappeared. But aha, there’s Irving, turned up just in time to take the Grimoire from Kent and snap his neck to finish him for good. “This was a good win,” Irving says jovially, claiming the evil book went poof with their villain. “Damn right it was,” Abbie agrees, though she and Ichabod still look to have their suspicions in the former Captain.

Damn, Irving. That was cold, the way you offed that sorcerer sonofabitch. So it’s not a huge shock to find out Irving is, actually, soul-free and evil; we knew something like this was coming ever since he signed Henry’s contract. What I do NOT get, however, is the show trying to turn Irving into more of a shell of a human being than even Katrina Crane.

Because after Henry kills the rude guests at the motel (just because he can), he meets a compliant and helpful Irving in the woods for a collegial strategy session.

Hey buddy!  I mean, the HELL?

Hey buddy! I mean, the HELL?

Seriously, come on now! Is there no conflict in Frank Irving? Is there zero trace of the man he once was? Even totally willing Moloch groupie Dead Officer Andy got to be more multi-layered than the show’s playing Irving at the moment!

Back at the cabin, we get some fun Witness-y banter before Abbie and Ichabod head out to celebrate what seemed to them a victory. Katrina comes out as soon as they’re gone so she can play with her turned-red daisy again, this time freezing and shattering it as her eyes go milky-white with evil. True to Dark Willow form, she gets a nosebleed. Seriously, from flower-freezing? I’m still waiting to see how Katrina’s powers are supposed to be all kinds of immense.

I’m glad to have Henry back, even if his existential “but should I leave the bosom of badness?” crisis seems kind of pointless now that we know he was mostly waiting on Irving to get hold of the Grimoire. And though I’m frustrated with how Irving’s being handled, at least finding he’s in cahoots with Henry suggests there will be more meaty scenes for Orlando Jones up ahead.

The question is, if, as Henry says, the episode’s fresh start (no more Moloch, and perhaps no more Horsemen) is”where it all begins” — are we set up for a good “beginning” for the rest of the show, be it the remaining three episodes of this season, or the slim chance of a third season? Time will tell — and so will you in the comments, amirite? Come and talk to me about this episode, kids!

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  • Sparky

    I don’t know about the turn Sleepy Hollow has taken in the last 1/2 of this season. At least we can always count on Henry to be consistently conflicted and interesting. Obviously the Katrina thing has been coming for awhile, but I couldn’t get past the Star Wars-y “come to the dark side” aspects this week. Key take-away: if some slightly creepy guy tries to hand you a knife as a “gift,” back away immediately before he can make any advances to be rejected.

  • Good point! I think any courtship that involves the romantic presentation of sharp objects should be treated with due wariness. Unless everyone involved is into that sort of thing, of course.