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'Sleepy Hollow' recap: 'Spellcaster'

A ho-hum Witch of the Week ep is boosted by hints of Dark Katrina—not to mention Henry’s big(ish) return.

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Brownie Harris/Fox

Sleepy Hollow

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, John Cho, Katia Winter
Mystery and Thriller, Crime, Sci-fi and Fantasy

He’s baaaack.

True, none of us really thought that Henry Parrish had left Sleepy Hollow for good when he “disappeared” during season 2’s midseason premiere. (Whether you wished he’d stay away forever—well, that’s another story entirely.) So it was less than surprising to see the Sin Eater pop up again tonight, three episodes later. The circumstances of that return, though, were surprisingly low-key. Since murdering Moloch, his surrogate Demon Daddy, Henry’s apparently been holed up in a cheap motel room, channel surfing and whittlin’ the days away. Suddenly, he’s no longer an evil mastermind beset with mommy issues, or even the tense martyr he appeared to be when John Noble first appeared on Sleepy—the New Henry is a sad, directionless old man, pathetic rather than fearsome (or sympathetic).

Questions remain: Does he still have magical Horseman powers, now that his hellish mentor is dead? Is Irving truly free of his grasp, or is Frank secretly working for the man who stole his soul? And most importantly, does Henry still have some sort of wicked master plan in play, even though his last one didn’t exactly work out as he’d intended it to?

Another show might tease out those threads for a few episodes, gradually shedding light on Parrish’s current abilities and intentions. But Sleepy Hollow doesn’t have any episodes to spare; season 2 will wrap up just three weeks from now, meaning it’s time to get the ball rolling if we’re to expect any kind of explosive endgame. (And Sleepy certainly isn’t the type of show to cool its heels when barreling ahead is an option. At least, it wasn’t in season 1.)

Thus the episode’s closing moment—a scene which decisively reveals that Henry is, in fact, still the year’s ultimate Big Bad, and that he has, in fact, drafted Captain Irving into his evil secret service. That disclosure isn’t exactly the bombshell Sleepy‘s writers were probably going for; you’d have to be blind as [insert name of sightless colonial hero with whom Ichabod had an improbably close relationship] not to know that the resurrected Captain wasn’t exactly on the up-and-up, and without Henry as antagonist, season 2’s second half might peter out without any serialized thread to hold it together.

Given the episodic structure we saw over and over earlier this year—Evil Guy attacks Sleepy Hollow; Abbie and Ichabod defeat him; Evil Guy turns out to be means for Henry to acquire Evil Thing, which he does at the very end of the hour—the whole sequence carried with it more than a whiff of deja vu. This isn’t an unwelcome development, by any means, but it was a disappointingly predictable one—at least in terms of Sleepy Hollow, a show that made its name by throwing all sorts of random insanity at the wall and seeing what stuck.

Could a return to the series’ original, absurd energy still happen before the season ends—particularly in its finale? Who knows! For now, though, there’s this: An episode focused on Elphaba’s magic book and Katrina’s family history.

The Evil Guy of the Week: Colonial Criss Angel, a minister-turned-wicked-warlock who, in Sleepy‘s universe, is single-handedly responsible for catalyzing the Salem Witch Trials—and murdering Katrina’s grandmother. (He must’ve been an Ichabbie shipper.) Evidently, the sorcerer—whose real name is Soloman Kent—is another one of the souls who’s just escaped from Arkham Asylum—er, Purgatory. Now he’s after the Magical Doodad of the Week: the Grand Grimoire compiled by one John Dee, an occult scholar who doubled as Elizabeth I’s most trusted adviser. (Nerd note: Unlike Kent, Dee’s a real guy.)

After Kent steals the book from an upcoming auction’s inventory—and kills the poor schmucks who happen to be nearby by boiling their own blood in their veins, which, regardless of what else you think about this episode, is pretty effing cool—the Witnesses and Katrina are on the case. Well, the Witnesses are on the case; Katrina’s back to being an expository machine, explaining in an extended flashback who Kent is and how, back in the day, he accidentally murdered a woman who didn’t return his love. He covered his tracks by giving the dead girl Vamp Face and calling her a witch; stake-burning and hangings ensued. Honestly, this seismic event isn’t really given as much attention as I’d expect Sleepy to lavish upon it, especially given the importance of witches to the show’s narrative—you’d think Tituba might show up at some point, at least. Maybe she’ll get her own episode down the line? A girl can hope, right?

NEXT: Katrina does a spell—and actually gets it right