Well, that’s one way to flip the script.
Almost all season long, a vocal percentage of Sleepy fans have been grumbling that the show’s sophomore year has seemed off—there’s been too much Katrina, too little Abbie time, too many detours into repetitive Monster-of-the-Weeking. In this recapper’s opinion, though, the main issue has been that up until this point, the series seemed to have lost a crucial aspect—the breakneck, go-for-broke, throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks batshit insanity that characterized season 1, hooking all of us on the rickety roller coaster that was Sleepy Hollow in the first place.
But evidently, the Sleepy gods have heard us—and are responding by getting back to basics. And by that, I mean waaaaay back.
It’s tough to talk about “The Awakening” without beginning with its ending: a mirror image of Sleepy Hollow‘s pilot that’s focused on Abbie rather than Ichabod. Now our intrepid heroine is the one who’s found herself stranded in a strange, unfamiliar time, thanks to the machinations of a witch named Katrina; now she’s the one being frightened off the road by a foreign vehicle; now she’s the one being questioned by local law enforcement and thrown into jail, hopeless until she meets her predestined partner.
This bizarre twist of fate is, by many metrics (read: all of them), completely and utterly ridiculous. But I ask you: Isn’t sheer balls-to-the-wall ridiculosity, the type that can only be described via multiple hyphenated compounds, what this TV series—nay, this great nation—was founded upon?
Sure, seeing Abbie being treated like a fugitive slave is already getting real old real fast—and you’ve got to feel for poor Nicole Beharie for having to go through that business in the first place. But as much as I can see why some people might have an issue with her sudden trip through time, I’m all in. Why? Because the big ending of “The Awakening” did something that few episodes this season have done: It made me feel the same sort of frisson I felt during the highs of season 1, when Sleepy legitimately earned its stripes as one of the least predictable series on television, network or cable alike. (Also: That all-strings version of “Sympathy for the Devil” was to die for.)
One could, perhaps, argue that the show is playing this card way too early in its run—Sleepy has only existed for a whopping 30 episodes; it took Lost five whole seasons to mine the Time Travel vein. But I vehemently disagree with that argument. If Sleepy‘s going to be more than “Grimm, but different,” these are the sorts of out-there risks it needs to be taking. I’m not saying they should leave Abbie stranded in 1781 for more than a few episodes or, God forbid, an entire season—we all remember what happened when Hiro took that extended trip to feudal Japan, right?—but a brief sojourn could be just what Sleepy needs to get the burst of energy it needs to sustain itself for another year. Plus, it’s vital to note that the time-travel occurred in season 2’s penultimate episode rather than its finale; by next week, Sleepy‘s visit to colonial Williamsburg may have already run its course.
Something that nobody’s going to argue against? That’d be the emergence of Evil Katrina. Mrs. Crane finally, finally, finally broke bad tonight—and while yes, it was a little strange to see her transform from the dull Worst Witch we’ve come to know to a full-blown magical eugenicist in, what, the span of three short episodes, I’m not complaining. And that’s for a simple reason: Evil Katrina is fun. Her powers actually exist, her line readings sound more convincing, and given the episode’s big death, we won’t ever have to worry about her old We Need to Talk About Henry hand-wringing ever again. That’s a win/win/win, for those keeping score at home.
First, though, we should probably cover the actual plot of the episode. Our story tonight revolved around a very familiar-looking bell (yes, it was cast by the same mold that cast this ringer; yes, Ichabod recognizes this fact immediately) with a very sinister purpose: to activate all of the potential witches in the greater Sleepy Hollow area, giving them wicked powers and joining them as a coven to be led by Norman and Norma Bates—er, that is, Henry and his suddenly beloved mum. Why does Henry want to start a mega-coven, staffed by the descendants of Sleepy Hollow’s original witches? Because he thinks his breed of magical folk have been marginalized and mistreated for too long by mugglekind. It’s their turn to take control, to be extraordinary instead of hiding themselves away. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that a good deal of the magic Henry ends up performing in this episode has to do with controlling the path of metal bullets.
It’s Katrina’s love for Henry—and, who knows, maybe some sort of evil seed planted in her by Solomon Kent the Blood Mage—that gets her on his side initially… but it’s her own apparently inherent belief in witch supremacy that keeps her there. See, it turns out that George Washington promised Katrina and her kind that if they helped win the Revolutionary War, “witches would finally be allowed to reintegrate into society.” Okay, sure, fine. Washington of course did not abide by his pledge to give the witches 40 acres and a mule—and evidently, that’s been sticking in Katrina’s craw for the past 200 years. Again: Okay, sure, fine! Who really cares about the explanation; let’s see this witch finally effing blow someting up already.
Ask and ye shall receive, my little Sleepyheads.
But we’ll get to that! For now: Abbie and Ichabod are on the case. They quickly determine that if they can crack the bell, the same way Ichabod cracked the Liberty Bell (don’t ask), the Witch Awakening spell won’t work. So they head to the hardware store for bomb supplies—ahh, America!—before stealing the bell, which they intend to blow up in the tunnels so that no innocent bystanders get hurt in the process. Simple, right?
NEXT: It’s not that simple.