Sleepy Hollow 2.13 – Pittura Infamante

sh 201 promo image abbie ichabod branches

A restorer works meticulously on a canvas, but its red paint seemingly becomes liquid. Yup, that’s blood (“Blood!” the actor cries unnecessarily). At first I thought it was dripping from the ceiling, because there’s nothing quite like a little still-bleeding corpse hidden in the rafters, am I right? But nope, it’s coming from the painting itself. Frantically, he smears it all over (way to ruin your work, guy), yet moments later the blood is gone.

Remember how last week I said I wanted more focus on Ichabod and Abbie together, instead of Abbie merely acting the supporting role to the Crane marriage woes? Our next scene initially screams pay dirt: two snarky Witnesses spending time together, this round bickering over modern dress (“how can one be both business and casual?” Ichabod grumps over yet another confusing contemporary code). 

The easy banter and oodles of chemistry between Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie is lovely, playful, and happy-making. At least, it is until I realize I’ll have to back-burner those hopes of an Ichabod and Abbie focused storyline once again. Because instead of a scene that develops into further exploration of Abbie and Ichabod’s partnership, we get Abbie helping Ichabod prepare for a date with Katrina.

Okay, no. After watching Abbie act the role of Katrina’s midwife and time and again seeing Abbie’s plotlines take the backseat to Ichabod’s stagnant domestic drama, it’s getting just a little wearying seeing the show constantly place Abbie in service to Ichabod + Katrina. I mean. She’s literally helping him get dressed for the main event, which is time with his wife. Can I just say it? Ugh, I dread actually typing this out. But here Abbie is more like the servant to the Cranes than one of the two Witnesses or a freaking lead character on the show.

Even if you don’t agree with my last point, think about Abbie’s quiet remonstration to Ichabod that Katrina has done serious damage to their team. “But tonight is not about our team,” Ichabod muses; rather, to him it’s about saving his marriage. Dude. That line could actually function as season two’s motto: Not About The Team. Not about the Witnesses. And that, my friends, has got to be a huge reason this show is floundering.

Hey, you might be a Katrina fan, and you might dig the focus on the Cranes’ marriage. You might even like this shift to stand-alone episodes divorced from the larger apocalypse-averting purpose the Witnesses so clearly had in last season’s tightly-written thirteen-ep run. But keep in mind that FOX very gently side-stepped renewing Sleepy Hollow recently (when they readily renewed newcomers like Gotham and Empire), and have embarked on a quest to “fix” the show (that honestly sounds like more of the same of what’s making our story suffer, if they want to tone down the show’s serialization even more). Also helpful to keep in mind — last night’s ratings for this Katrina-and-Ichabod colonial-couple-who-fight-crime episode marked a series low. So hey, cutting Nicole Beharie’s part down and shifting her character to helm the B-plots? Kind of thinking it’s not helping to grow the show, guys.

All righty. Let me get back to the recap, but be forewarned, I’m keeping my ranty pants on.

It’s off to the Historical Society event for the Cranes, where Katrina can get up close and personal with objects used by her colonial-era BFF, Abigail Adams.

Abigail Adams in her most important historical moment yet: being besties with Katrina.

Abigail Adams in her most important historical moment yet: being besties with Katrina.

Anyone else wonder where the hell the docents were every time Katrina ran her hand over this or that artefact? Key to the exhibit is the spooky painting from our cold open, painted by one James Colby. Abigail apparently cherished it even though Katrina can’t remember the item hanging at Chez Adams.

Enter poor Grant, our intrepid restorer, who can’t get that supernatural blood off his hands. Oh heyyyy, it turns out Grant and Ichabod are friends! YOU’RE GOING TO DIE, GRANT! For real, though, it’s a bit silly to keep shoving random side characters marked for death at us with the assurance that Ichabod pursued these lovely friendships offscreen.

“Maybe it’s the paint thinner talking,” Grant says nervously, but he thinks the painting is haunted. Katrina also “felt a dark presence” when she slapped her hands all over Michele Trachtenberg’s Abigail Adams’s desk. Ding ding, the dinner bell! It’s as though we’re at a Murder Mystery Weekend, I swear. WHODUNIT?

“Ichabod is going to be the happiest man alive,” coos Abigail Adams over Katrina’s flashbacked-news that she’s pregnant. “That is, until he meets the little monster.” Haha, it’s funny because their son is now the Horseman of War! Back in the present-day dining room, Ichabod reassures Katrina it’s okay to grieve for their lost friends in their prior era. But over by the Colby painting, Grant the restorer has a classic, “no, it can’t be!” moment. Someone screams. Katrina and Ichabod rush to discover Grant hanged upside down, his blood dripping to the floor.

At the police station, Abbie pages through her family journal, only to be distracted when she hears a commotion of “on your knees!” out in the hallway. It’s Frank Irving, returned from the dead. When Ichabod calls to check in about his adventures with Katrina, Abbie reveals Irving is back. They both immediately take the cautionary approach. Was Irving resurrected the same way Dead Officer Andy Dunn was, to insinuate “his way back into the fold to take us down”?

WOW. Hey, I get that it’s dangerous, Irving’s return; Henry still owns his soul. But can there be a moment of the teensiest tiniest relief that Irving is alive? A second of thinking that perhaps, if we’re lucky, Frank Irving might find redemption? Abbie ends the call with Ichabod and watches Irving on live feed in the interrogation room. For the very, very little that Orlando Jones gets to do in this episode, he’s absolutely heartbreaking as the confused and abandoned Frank Irving.

Sherriff Reyes shows up at the Historical Society to friendly-chat Katrina about how Ichabod is “an odd but valuable asset to my department.” She asks Ichabod and Katrina to stick around, because apparently Reyes finds a civilian husband-and-wife detective team useful and charming at an active crime scene.

Wait, says Katrina Crane, Colonial Girl Detective — this hanged-up death reminds her of a string of murders that Abigail Adams was obsessed with back in 1781! Oh, was Abigail one of Katrina’s witchy friends, Ichabod asks? No, just “highly opinionated,” and protective of all those orphans and vagrants who became victims of an apparent serial killer.

Gee, she sounds swell. It’s almost as if Abigail Adams was even cooler than her nascent feminist letter-writing evidences; she was also pals with Katrina, okay? It proves Katrina can totally get along with chicks who speak their minds, right? She’s not just all about the guys fighting over her like we’ve seen so far!

So Mr. and Mrs. Crane decide to tackle this crime scene all on their own! Pfftt, who needs Abbie? They’ve got a killer to find and a marriage to save!

Murder, or a chance to bond for the Cranes?  WHY NOT BOTH?

Murder, or a chance to bond for the Cranes? WHY NOT BOTH?

Guys, the scene with Frank Irving and Abbie hurt me so bad! “I’m guessing I lost?” Irving ventures when it turns out he can’t remember how the fight went down. Oh no, they totally won, Abbie explains; it’s just that Irving died, and now Abbie doesn’t get a second to experience any curiosity if just maybe he can be trusted.

Though I’m already over Katrina turning her super-spy skills on this week’s eerie crime (“the smallest details fill in the largest canvas,” she intones, like she’s schooling Ichabod on puzzle solving), I did quite like shifting the suspicion of who the serial killer might be. Turns out it wasn’t the surgeon Katrina and Abigail expected, but the painting’s artist, Colby, who was the killer. As Ichabod and Katrina realize this, the painting shifts to show the artist depicted on its canvas now looking at them menacingly. It’s a fun little use of special effects, of which we get a nicely showcased handful this week.

Seems ol’ James Colby was supposed to be the first great American painter, but “drinks and lechery” got him cast out of the revolutionary inner circle. If Grant somehow “activated the energy” in the painting accidentally by restoring it, it would seem Colby is trying to kill and drain his victim’s blood to release himself from his painting. An if anyone touches the painting’s blood, well, that makes up Colby a to-do list for him — Miller, one of the historical society guys, is up next in the line of victims if that’s the case, and then Ichabod himself will be in danger.

“We mustn’t let anyone else get near this painting,” Ichabod declares, mainly so that Katrina can grab him for a Fake Out Make Out when one of the docents starts to wander back into the room. Eh, the chemistry game is not strong with those two.

Bless Jenny Mills, my friends. “Frank Irving is alive?” she asks excitedly at the station, and gah, her loyalty, it is tangible! She grudgingly promises she’s game if Abbie is forced to take Irving out, but she vows only to turn against Irving as a last resort. And since Hawley is out of town doing Hawley things, Jenny has to go fetch the Weapon o’ the Week. Note to the writers: Lyndie Greenwood is a fantastic actress. She deserves way meatier storylines than acting as a Hawley helper when he’s off gallivanting elsewhere.

In another decision that makes me want to clutch my heart, Abbie invites Irving’s wife to visit basically to show her the feed of her husband looking utterly abandoned, and to tell her that he’s such a big risk, Cynthia can’t actually see him. Man, there could have been SO MUCH MORE done with this entire business with Irving’s return — his reappearance at the end of last week’s ep was show stopping, but this episode drops the ball big-time. How about getting strong reactions from not just Cynthia, but the incredibly adroit Amandla Stenberg as Irving’s young daughter Macey? Remember how wrenching it was when Irving made Jenny promise to take care of his family if he was killed? Why would you not put some of that emotional stuff on camera (Jenny breaking the news to Macey, Cynthia dealing with the horrific loss of her husband) instead of noodling around with another of Ichabod’s soon-to-be-dead friends?

Okay, so Grant the restorer and Miller the historical society dude both heard the painting say it wanted blood. You know, I am flummoxed as to why no one has set fire to this thing yet. Katrina settles in for a little more desk-fondling, and gets a vision that leads her to find a cache of presumably revealing letters. Hey, there’s Colby, covered in blood and out for Miller’s plasma, staggering down the hall!

Gosh, I wonder what Abraham/ Headless is up to this week? Maybe scowling and waiting for another cult to come give him extra special powers? Or perhaps putting on a little Jiffy Pop to pass the time until Katrina gets right on making him human again?

You know, Jenny and Abbie get one of the best moments of chemistry in this entire episode, and they’re not even on the scene together. Abbie makes ew-faces on the other line of their phone call while Jenny has to pry zombie killing bullets out of a dead dude. “Hawley said the bullets were buried with the guy, not in him,” she understandably complains as she digs out the shells with squishy sounds. She hangs up with Abbie when she’s got only one to go, but “Thanks for telling me to leave one in the body, Hawley,” Jenny shrieks indignantly when her corpse-y bullet-holder briefly returns to life.

Before Ichabod can get Miller off the scene, Colby pulls him inside the painting. Both Cranes uneasily view Colby clutching his next victim on the canvas. Oh wait, those scratches on the frame are runes, “an entrapment hex to keep the killer locked inside the painting.” Katrina recognizes the handiwork of her fellow coven member, Reverend Knapp. Abigail Adams employed Knapp and used herself as bait to Colby’s urges so she could let fly “Your murderous rampage is over, Mr. Colby!” before trapping him in his own painting.

Ichabod decides to go into the painting to meet Colby on his own ground and possibly save Miller; he and Katrina drag the painting elsewhere in the house. Katrina slaps her palm against the red-cross blood leak (just as she’s been pawing at everything in the exhibit). “No more separating,” she declares. “We do this together.” “For Abigail,” they echo each other as they enter the painting. It’s a bitter moment hearing them intone that name, no sweet in it, as our own Abigail Mills fades away from the main storylines and the Cranes take over the series foreground.

I’m honestly hanging my entire emotional attachment hat (and what a hat that would make) on Jenny’s tiny interaction with Irving in the hallway. “You’re a sight for sore eyes,” she exclaims when she passes him at the station, and cripes, you can see how thirsty he is for any kindliness! “Hang in there, friend,” she calls after him as the police move him to a holding cell. Hey, you know what? I just saw better emotional connection between those two actors in that brief moment than I saw between Ichabod and Katrina during their entire A-plot interactions together.

Jenny hands over her zombie-piercing bullets to Abbie, saying, “I saw a monster tonight, and Frank Irving, he’s not one.” Abbie reiterates (as she’s done multiple times already this ep) that no, they can’t for a second let their guard down with Irving. Well, why not find out for sure, Jenny argues: get Katrina to do a supernatural exam (what a great idea, Jenny). Both the Mills sisters roll their eyes at the thought of having to ask for Katrina’s help at this point.

It’s pretty hilarious to see how very much not in Katrina’s corner the Mills sisters are. Seriously, who can blame them, given how many hindrances Katrina has created, and taking into account her sentimental, ill-advised setting free of Headless? But ultimately it strikes me more as fan service for viewers who are anti-Katrina to feel a moment of camaraderie with Jenny and Abbie than any real seed hinting an active stance against Katrina down the line. And honestly, I’d way rather have the latter. At various points we’ve gotten hints Katrina might be susceptible to darkness; that would be a cool, genre-appropriate avenue to explore, would justify Abbie’s continued mistrust of her, and would make some of Katrina’s decisions seem far more explainable than they have been thus far.

Meanwhile, Katrina and Ichabod explore Colby’s murder-mind-house. They take a moment to realize, aww, “Colby must have been dissuaded from his talents” as a youth (seriously? We’re doing that excuse to flash-explain his vicious killings?). Oh look, Miller’s still alive; our duo focuses on freeing him. Hey guys, keep your eye on that blood puddle; Colby rises up to nab them.

Katrina, though easily distracted by Colby’s advancing (so much that Ichabod reminds her twice to keep on chanting so they can get the hell back to their reality), finally magically transports the Cranes back. Ichabod rushes to destroy the painting with thinner (and again, no one did this already why?), but Colby’s hand grabs him from inside the canvas (a fun effect, and another gasp-aloud moment).

Luckily for the hapless Cranes, Abbie takes this moment to show up with her zombie-piercing bullets. At Ichabod’s frantic direction, she shoots the painting, and Colby at last dies. “You better text me the next time you decide to go jumping into a painting,” Abbie says (after Reyes huffs at her for disobeying various orders).

Shhh, let me just enjoy this now weirdly rare moment of the two Witnesses occupying the same space.

Shhh, let me just enjoy this now weirdly rare moment of the two Witnesses occupying the same space.

Ichabod pauses a moment to stop Katrina from mauling the historical desk some more so that he can opine how he and Katrina have also “been in a state of suspension” just like Colby’s upside-down hanged victims. “We will find a new state of being.” I’m so glad all those murdered vagrants and orphans provided an appropriate metaphor for the Cranes’s stagnant union. Honestly, I’d like to believe that will happen — I like sometimes seeing the Cranes together when we get hints that their relationship could evolve in this new-to-them modern setting, as when we briefly saw them become goofily engrossed while they bonded over watching The Bachelor — but after watching the stasis that is the Crane marriage over these last few eps, well. *hands*

Reyes reams out Abbie one more time at the station for disobeying her orders not to have contact with Frank Irving. But hey, maybe Abbie’s loyalty makes sense in the end, Reyes reveals. “The DA just called; they’ve received evidence they say will vindicate Frank Irving. So after all this, he could go free.” Abbie looks suitably concerned, given that she’s spent the entire episode telling all and sundry Irving just might be super-duper dangerous and evil.

After this week, I would love a palate-cleansing episode heavy on the Abbie and Ichabod reaction, but I’m beginning to think we’re going to see less and less of that (aside from random platitudes scattered around about how essential they are to one another bookending eps where they don’t interact very much). At least could I have some focus on the Mills sisters and Frank Irving?

I’ll go ahead and dash my own hopes now; next week looks to be focused on Hawley and his supernatural origin story. I’m sure there will be shirtless-ness and floppy blond hair and sexy life-threatening predicaments. Just, I need some substantial moments with our two mains at some point (and let’s be clear, I mean Abbie and Ichabod) if I’m going to keep visiting Sleepy Hollow.