Sleepy Hollow 2.16 – What Lies Beneath

sh 201 promo image abbie ichabod branches

A group of engineers makes use of Ichabod’s old Cave Grave set to stumble upon a spooky looking seal on the floor. “Don’t you want to see what’s down there?” the most curious one asks. “Honestly? No!” another answers.

Smart dude!  But pffftt, you think a completely understandable wariness about what this next episode might bring to an already-rocky second season of Sleepy Hollow is going to stop any of us from taking the plunge?  HELLS NO!  *dives inside*

Haha, I got a little project-y there, didn’t I?  Hey, those engineers are probably going to be fine — just like us viewers!  Of course all three men are soon yanked underground by a creeptacular zombie monster.  I mean.  What did we expect, right?

Okay!  *rubs hands together*  We’ve got our eerie cold open, our bad guys of the week spotted — time for Ichabod to grumble about modern-day customs! This week’s target: “Instant Grams.” Abbie’s right that it’s kind of rich for the guy with the eidetic memory to complain about people capturing their experiences instead of living in the moment. Plus, you know, like iconic self-aggrandizing portraiture wasn’t a huge thing with Ichabod and all his historical BFFs.

On the battleship they’re visiting, Abbie muses on sacrifices soldiers make to keep their country safe, and gives us more meta-wondering about where the show their mission is headed. Sometimes she feels “like we’re fighting evil without an endgame.” ME TOO, ABBIE! Especially now that Moloch has been dispensed with; where’s your apocalypse now? Ichabod urges her to have faith and keep watch with him for what the End of Days brings next.

Soon our Witnesses get called to help in the investigation for the missing workers, partly so I can again be flummoxed at how it takes them sunlight-losing HOURS to reach a crime scene. There, Abbie intercepts Calvin Riggs, a journalist who covered Iraq and Syria; he’s pushing past the press-blocking boundary to figure out what happened to his brother, one of the missing men.

When Calvin totally spots how this investigation is a mess and mentions the town’s supernaturally-suspicious happenings, Abbie clams up. She promises Calvin he’ll be the first call when the police know what’s up, but Calvin warns he can spot her “propaganda face.” “Stop looking at my face,” Abbie complains.

Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t stop looking at either of your faces, because you are both TOO DAMN GORGEOUS TOGETHER!

Sharif Atkins -- really ridiculously good-looking.

You already know Nicole Beharie is astoundingly beautiful.  Now, if you totally missed ER and White Collar, meet Sharif Atkins — really ridiculously good-looking.

If this is Abbie’s next love interest, count me in! Seriously, SH writers, if this is your third attempt this season at giving Abbie an attainable romantic possibility — let’s stay on message, okay, instead of having him turn into a villain-zealot/fly away/leave town to find relics/randomly fall in love with Jenny.

“Kind of sick of heading down into small dark spaces,” Abbie comments when she and Ichabod go to investigate the tunnels. “I was the one buried alive,” he says indignantly. Jeez, Ichabod, everyone remembers!

“Symbols of witchcraft,” Ichabod notices on the floor seal. Oh my god, for a moment I thought they were going to summon Katrina for way too much breathy exposition and far too ineffective spell casting. But thank goodness the show goes the route of relying on Ichabod’s-old-pals instead; the mapping equipment the workers left behind tips our Witnesses off that Thomas Jefferson designed this crazy vault cave. Gee, it’s nearly like season one; get some references to the Freemasons in here and we’ll be back in business.

A trip back to Ichabod and Abbie’s Super Sekkrit Archives yields the name of the Italianate hidey-hole Jefferson designed: the Fenestella. Surprisingly, Ichabod doesn’t automatically know this impenetrable chamber’s secrets; his relationship with Jefferson was “complicated.” BECAUSE OF JEFFERSON OWNING SLAVES MAYBE? No, because Ichabod was so hurt that Jefferson “unfriended” him back in the day for an unknown reason. Ah.

Luckily Grace Dixon’s journal can supply the info that “dark damned souls will be used to protect the fenestella.” Wow, the founding fathers conjured demons to protect their sacred nonesuches? Honestly, though, where would we be this season without Abbie’s ancestor? Let’s get more of her in flashbacks next season, if indeed there is a third season. Since we’re having Thomas Jefferson week, I want to hear her thoughts on the whole Sally Hemings thing, seriously.

Despite undead demons dragging the last three visitors to their home off to certain death, Abbie and Ichabod hop right in and head on down the ladder once they pry the seal open. Abbie makes radio contact with the engineers, but “Oh god, no, they’re moving; they can hear you!” Daniel Riggs panics. Faced with screech-y growl-y nightmares of Gollum-like cannibals, Ichabod ventures, “Might I suggest a change in tactic?” They run like hell to get more firepower. At the mouth of the seal, Calvin quickly takes snapshots, scaring the encroaching demons.

Despite Ichabod and Abbie attempting to shake him, Calvin demands explanations. “When you win a Pulitzer, people take your calls,” he notes, vowing to contact his editor and contacts in the military if they don’t ante up. Well, damn, look at someone using his sharp powers of deduction and expertise to get things done in Sleepy Hollow! Though I cannot be swayed from my main thesis about Hawley (which is that he is Very Pretty), Calvin already seems like a far more useful potential ally for the Witnesses. And as I said earlier, Calvin’s crazy gorgeous himself. You can’t go wrong looks-wise with an ally in this town, apparently.

Abbie’s all for embedding a journalist into their unit of two, but Ichabod has his suspicions. “One moment,” he tells Calvin sharply (holding a finger right up in his face; kind of rude for a guy who makes sweeping bows to his mentors, Ichabod). “My gut tells me we can” trust him, Abbie argues.

Besides, the Witnesses don’t have a hell of a lot of time to debate; the demons are actually men from Washington’s secret forces whose physiology was altered to make them “amped-up sentries.” After years “alive but in hibernation” they’re apparently starving. Cue the monsters, called Reavers eating one of the engineers! Hey, Firefly & Serenity cannibalistic feral human shout-out! Uh, I hope that’s not the writers’ way of nudge-nudge-ing us that they know they’re similarly headed for cancellation.

Meanwhile, in our B Plot, Jenny and Frank Irving run into each other at the bar. She’s moved by his story that he’s missing his wedding ring and other sentimental items, all fodder for the police investigations of him. Though Lyndie Greenwood hasn’t gotten nearly the screen time she deserves this season, I have to hand it to her compelling characterization that gets called into play here: she is absolutely stand-up and fiercely loyal when it comes to protecting anyone’s family. So when Irving says he needs to hack the evidence room code lock, all in the name of repairing his marriage, Jenny readily agrees to help.

I adore how loyal Jenny is, absolutely ready to go to the wall for Irving because of the sacrifices he made. I get Abbie’s suspicions – hell, they were 1000% right! But Irving still seems Irving-like, and it’s gratifying that one of our main characters still cares about him. Still, it’s a relief to know Jenny’s not taking chances either. When she spots an unusual tattoo on his arm (the mark of the Hellfire Club, we later find), she insists she’ll come along to the station raid as “backup.”

Though I can see how for some viewers they might have seemed shoehorned in, I loved lots of things about Jenny’s interactions with Irving — the great lighting in the bar scene as they size each other up, the going on hijinks together vibe, even if Irving is secretly playing for the evil team. Even their fight over Irving’s obvious deception at the station is great, though Irving’s crazy explanation about offshore accounts temporarily threw me. It’s just hard to tell how this Jekyll & Hyde routine — a good Irving trapped inside the soul-tainted Irving Because Magic –will play out. Essentially, he’s now Any Irving, something that robs him of having core beliefs and goals, and makes him vulnerable to the vagaries of plot contingencies.

But back to Irving’s ethically-driven embezzling from the Hellfire Club (to give his wife and daughter enough to live on when he’s lost to being full-on evil) — though it was a tangled justification for his caper, and I still can’t tell if it’s complete dreck made up to distract Jenny, I found his heartfelt insistence that he’s due some reparations because of all his suffering pretty damn convincing. And in an episode that honestly SHOULD have touched on the issues of slavery far more explicitly — come on! — hearing this indirect reference in Irving’s lament over how he’s become involuntarily owned by a usurping white character? Well, it felt like something I wanted to hear a TON more about.

Back at the vault cave, Ichabod blithely ruins Calvin’s “$7,000 camera” to freak the Reavers out. Leaving Calvin aboveground to call the swat team if things go sideways, Ichabod and Abbie plunge into the crowd of Reavers gun-firing and crossbow-shooting, until they scramble into the interior vault to find who else but holographic Thomas Jefferson awaiting them?

It’s a “combination of science and witchcraft,” keeping Jefferson present, he confides in them. The Fenestella has a cube that harnesses supernatural energy, because of course it does, enabled by Katrina’s old coven (and again, absolutely no mention of Katrina here; it’s so odd and fascinating). “Franklin choked with envy when he saw it,” Jefferson says smugly.

sh 216 ichabod and abbie in their fancy schmancy informatorium

The book-loving flesh is *totally* weak; Ichabod and Abbie in the Witness-y version of Temptation.

The problem is one of priorities — Abbie and Ichabod want to save the two remaining engineers, something that has to happen pretty much pronto. On the other hand, hologram-Jefferson tries to distract Ichabod by showing him the Fenestella’s offerings of resources, all assembled in the name of helping the Witnesses achieve their ultimate goals; his main concern is for the greater good and Abbie and Ichabod’s larger mission, not the lives of two random men.

“Never trust a politician,” Abbie says grimly when she returns from finding they’re above the nest of Reavers and the hiding place of the still living engineers. Even Jefferson’s “unfriending” of Crane had a hidden purpose — there was to be “no interference until the second witness appeared.” So though they may have been kept in the dark until now, Jefferson wants them to think carefully about making this choice. He advocates they should focus on their grand undertaking, and make the necessary sacrifice of the two men.

Abbie being Abbie, this one is a no brainer. “This is the path we have to take,” she says with assurance that they must rescue the men. “The choice is clear,” Ichabod agrees, though he’s obviously pained to go against his mentor, hologram or no. When the two carefully extract the men from their hiding place and attempt to pass through the Reavers’s lair, one of the demons awakes snarling (kind of how I wake up, actually) and the rest are soon summoned into cannibalistic fury.

“We have to blow it,” Abbie insists when the four of them have made their narrow escape. “All of that knowledge lost,” Ichabod says regretfully, though he brightens and adds, “But I suppose we still have the internet.”

Listen, it’s completely ridiculous that Abbie and Ichabod have to destroy the Fenestella utterly. Couldn’t they have nabbed a pile of folios and some sacred tchotchkes before blasting the bastion of all the Witness-y knowledge ever? And besides, those Reavers seem super susceptible to (a) your joe basic strobe lights and (b) BEING SHOT. Isn’t there a way to destroy them in a manner that doesn’t touch the Fenestella archives, or contain them with magic? Even if Katrina’s still languishing away somewhere after her flirtation with evil last week, can’t they just get Abbie or Jenny to read something witchy out of a book? They’ve done it before!

Anyway, the episode pushes forward with the supposition that the Fenestella Must Be Destroyed, because — just go with it. Because Calvin’s brother is going into shock, Abbie goes with them, leaving Ichabod to say a bittersweet goodbye to his hologram-mentor. After hacking a few Reavers to death, Ichabod asks Jefferson to let him proceed in destroying the Supernatural Cube of Hologramity, reminding him of the sanctity of American lives, a single one “worth more than a thousand books.”

Seriously, Ichabod; just cram some books into your little shoulder satchel before you skedaddle.

Seriously, Ichabod; just cram some books into your little shoulder satchel before you skedaddle.

“You too are a founder of this country,” Jefferson tells Ichabod at last, deciding that “this nation could not be in better hands,” than with Ichabod protecting it. While Jefferson’s time has come and gone, “yours is still unfolding,” he tells Ichabod. Hey, let’s hope so; I’m betting we won’t hear renewal news until after our “final two episodes” that the promos keep mentioning.

“We just blew up the author of the Declaration of Independence,” Abbie says in wonder when Ichabod has scrambled out and their bomb detonates. “Truth be told, he insisted,” Ichabod clarifies. Fair enough. At the rescue scene that follows, Calvin and Abbie go over the fake cover story: “some kind of rabid animal” was down the tunnels, and a “gas main ruptured, taking out all the evidence.” Oh, and the engineers were exhausted, suffering extreme hallucinations.

Man, this show takes cues from Buffy the Vampire Slayer like no one’s business. I actually am intrigued by the idea of a growing awareness among people like Calvin that, say now, don’t you think something’s kind of odd about all those unexplained deaths in our town? “You go through creepy trapdoors; me, I push till I get to the truth,” he says when Abbie presses him not to reveal what really went down. But will he keep their secret? “Hey, check your email,” he says. “I never reveal my sources,” reads the message. Flirty banter achieved!

Wow, there was literally no mention of — oh wait, there’s Katrina, napping away as is her wont. She wakes to her creepy old-man son watching her, clutching a fistful of dead black roses. “I killed Moloch for you, mother, for our kind,” he says gleefully as the thorns draw blood from Katrina’s hands.

Katrina wakes in a start, and oh my god, WHAT THE HELL IS SHE WEARING? I really am pained to think that Katrina’s transparent capes are charged to Abbie’s Mastercard. Oh, we’re supposed to be focusing on how Katrina’s hands really do have blood on them. And look, there are the dead roses! Dun dun dun! Dark Katrina cometh!

Some of this episode was just wacky fun times: haha, hologram ex-Presidents! — whee, Witnesses doing it for themselves! — huzzah, intriguing new ally and potential love interest for Abbie! On the other hand, some of what we saw this week revealed sobering missteps: I mean, not one mention of slavery? — has Frank Irving become the Any Irving Will Do cardboard character? — And is Katrina’s descent into evil really going to be the result of a couldn’t-be-helped coercion rather than, I don’t know, a character-driven choice?

All I can say is I really would love to hear what you thought of this week’s developments in the comments. And please do plan to join me next week for our penultimate ep, “Awakening”!