'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.
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
Anywho: Turns out the Grimoire Kent stole is incomplete; its second half is arriving in a separate shipment the next day. The Witnesses have to get ahold of it before the warlock can. Luckily, they’ve got Katrina on their side—and for once, I’m not saying that sarcastically. Why? Because Katrina does a “magical radar thing” to locate the other half of the book—and wonder of wonders, the spell actually works. Seems Katrina’s powers are finally getting charged to pre-Purgatory levels—a more than welcome development for anyone who’s been wondering why she doesn’t just do some freakin’ magic already.
Those people (us; I’m talking about all of us) should also be extremely intrigued by what happens next: Kent appears in the warehouse, and after he easily magicks aside Ichabod and Abbie, Katrina actually manages to blast the big bad warlock with magic of her own. Well well well! Kent, too, is pleasantly surprised: “You are witch breed,” he says. Then he turns Full Vader: There are seeds of darkness within Katrina, he says, a darkness that she’s been resisting: “Have you ever wondered why your powers betray you when you need them the most?” All together now: “I sure have!” Kent continues: “You are walking the wrong path,” he tells Katrina. She can’t defeat him because she isn’t one with her true self—deep down, he thinks she’s more of a Witch of the West than a Glinda.
Iiiiinteresting! Sure, this could be a pure Evil Fakeout. It certainly sounds like the sort of thing villains say all the damn time—”Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son!” That said: Either revealing that Katrina’s been bad all along or watching her descent into the Dark Side would go a long way toward excusing, like, everything she’s ever done on the show up until that point, and it’d also immediately make her 100 percent more interesting as a character. Add in fan backlash and the intel that someone in the cast is going to die this season—and not come back—and I’m starting to think that Evil Katrina might be a foregone conclusion. Even if it’s not, it seems like a smart direction for the show to take.
Back to the action. Kent distracts the Witnesses with icky blood demons (who look remarkably like the Killer Painter from a few episodes ago); Katrina says she’ll stop the warlock while Ichabod and Abbie keep them at bay. Three guesses as to how this is going to turn out, and the first two don’t count.
So yeah: Kent escapes. Before he goes, though, he urges Katrina to give into the darkness one more time—and does some sort of unexplained voodoo to her that turns her eyes all white. Did he somehow plant a further evil seed within her? Either way, she’s suspiciously silent and withdrawn once the team heads back to Corbin’s cabin to regroup. It’s the second-to-last time we see her all night. The last time, she picks up a flower she’d been practicing magic on earlier in the episode; this time, when she touches it, it turns black and disintegrates. Yeah, that doesn’t bode well.
In any case, Katrina’s out; with Jenny and Hawley out of commission as well, Abbie decides to turn to the only series regular left—Irving. (There is a practical reason behind her request; she and Ichabod believe Kent is trying to open a portal to the afterlife, and Irving’s the most undead guy they know.) Even after they realize they’ve got the evil plan all wrong—Kent is trying to travel back in time, not revive his dead love—Irving still comes on board for the takedown. In the end, it’s almost too simple; a puddle of water here, a portable generator there, and Kent is good and electrocuted. Before long, the witch-hunting witch disappears into a cloud of smoke… but not before Irving, on the sly, plucks the completed grimoire from his cold, dead hands. That doesn’t bode well either.
— Things Ichabod Is Appalled By This Week: The flagrant dishonesty of modern marketing, though he’s pretty into the mini muffins that come along with it.
— Note also that Ichabod seems to have caught a few episodes of House Hunters: “Sooner or later I must find a place of my own. Preferably with granite countertops.”
— He’s also catching up with contemporary history and has a total friend crush on Edward R. Murrow. Get in line behind Clooney, buddy.
— Hey, the Jimson Weed Kent ingested to augment his powers is the same thing as Devil’s Snare! (Which, wait, am I the only person who thought that was a thing that only appeared in Harry Potter?)
— The fist of fire that emerges from the Grimoire—and the whole book plot, really—was giving me serious Care Bears Movie flashbacks. (P.S. The Care Bears Movie is absolutely, blood-curdlingly terrifying, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.)
— Fun game for Irving scenes: Take a drink every time someone mentions how he died that one time.
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