Sleepy celebrates Halloween by introducing a bloodthirsty Wendigo—and he's got a close connection to one of our heroes.

By Hillary Busis
Updated March 20, 2015 at 05:16 PM EDT
Fred Norris/Fox

Sleepy Hollow

S2 E6
  • TV Show

I keep starting these recaps by raving about Sleepy‘s opening moments—and this week will be no different. Seriously, though, I have to ask: Has any show currently on TV mastered the cold open quite as well as Sleepy Hollow?

Take tonight’s inaugural scene. We begin with two extreme closeups—one on Ichabod, one on Abbie. Crane is moaning to his “leftenant” that he “cannot withstand this torture”; Mills is breathily urging him to fight onward. The shots are artfully blurred; the lighting is dreamy; there’s lots of heavy panting; Ichabod and Abbie’s faces are clearly perspiring. It is, in short, the shipper bait to end all shipper bait—and as per usual, it’s as misleading as that mention of Jenny and Katrina’s “deaths.”

But even though any Sleepyhead worth her salt knows that Ichabod and Abbie are absolutely, certainly, 100 percent not going to actually hook up in this opening scene, the subterfuge is delightful all the same—mostly because our interest lies not in seeing Crane and Mills do the nasty, but in seeing how, exactly, the show has tricked us this time. (In this case? They’re doing yoga. By candlelight. At night. You know, like opposite-sex platonic soul mates often do.)

Of course, Sleepy can’t be all clever duplicity and fish-out-of-water comedy (as much as I may wish it were); there’s monsters to fight, damn it! And tonight’s is a real doozy. Crane and Mills must face a vicious, bloodthirsty Wendigo, a creature from Native American lore that may be best known today as “that thing that keeps popping up on TV.” Series including Teen Wolf, Supernatural, Hannibal, and Grimm, among others, have tackled these monsters in the not-so-distant past. They’re kind of like werewolves on steroids, normal men turned into beasts with an insatiable need to devour human flesh—or, in this case, their internal organs. Ew. Let it not be said that Sleepy decided to go soft for its last pre-Halloween episode.

The Wendigo web is tangled to begin with—but it gets even gnarlier when Ichabod and Abbie realize that the monster’s human alter ego is none other than Joe Corbin, the murdered sheriff’s estranged son. Joe has just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan after being honorably discharged; as we eventually find out, the discharge came after his entire platoon was attacked and murdered by something that consumed the contents of at least one soldier’s torso. (Joe, his mouth full of small intestine: “Who, me?!“) Now he’s running loose in Sleepy Hollow, killing two more pals before Abbie and Ichabod manage to lock him inside their handy underground Masonic prison cell. Which is always what I do to unwind after a strenuous yoga practice.

NEXT: Rise of the WendigJoe

Thanks to Jenny’s lack of scruples—add “organ thief” to her list of infractions; “we should probably donate blood or something,” she muses—the gang manages to rustle up just what the WendigJoe is craving. After downing the human offal, Joe transforms back into his true self. The good news: The Scooby Gang assures him that they’ll find a cure for his curse. The bad news: Abbie is the absolute last person whose help Joe wants, since he still resents all the attention Sheriff Corbin lavished on her when Joe was a kid. Oh, and he also thinks that Abbie is responsible for his father’s death. Which is… uncharitable, to say the least, but who ever expected a grieving monster-man to be rational?

The crew also has bigger problems to deal with. See, Joe was only afflicted with his Wendigo curse two weeks ago, when he opened a mysterious letter covered in white powder back in Afghanistan. The powder was made of human bone, hexed with black magic—i.e. the stuff we saw Henry grinding himself out of the Pied Piper’s old bone flute. Oh, and proving that his style is less than subtle, Henry also put a return address on the damn envelope.

But why would the Horseman of War go to the trouble of cursing Joe? Because all along, he’s been after one thing: the mysterious supernatural object Sheriff Corbin left his only son in his will. It’s a box that contains a bottle, which in turn contains an infinite number of additional bottles. Just kidding! It’s actually a powerful poison called Jincan (thanks, closed captioning!) that’s southern Chinese in origin. As Ichabod explains, it’s made when “the deadliest creatures are sealed in a solitary utensil and devour each other until their veins are concentrated in a single toxin.” Lovely.

The gang gets to work figuring out how to have the curse reversed. (They’ll need a certain potion first.) Abbie and Jenny stay behind with Joe; Ichabod and Nick Hawley (who was actually invited into the inner circle this time; let’s hope this means no more contrived run-ins) head off to ask some local members of the Shawnee Tribe if they know how to save a man from Wendigification. The two men squabble—guys, guys! Stop fighting! You’re both pretty!—but manage to get what they’re after when Ichabod casually drops a mention of Squire Boone, brother of Daniel and another white dude afflicted by the Wendigo curse. This means smooth sailing ahead! Right?

NEXT: Uh, did you forget what show you’re watching?

Wrong! Because when Hawley and Crane return from their little field trip, they discover that they’re too late: Henry and his Hessian goons have already stormed the tunnels. Now they’ve got both Joe and the Jincan—and what’s worse, Joe went with Henry willingly because the Horseman promised to lift his curse. The twist: “Your true curse is humanity,” Henry says matter-of-factly after slashing Joe’s wrist, activating the blood lust of the creature inside him. Within moments, Corbin the Younger is transformed once more—and this time, if he snacks on but a single pancreas or spleen, he’ll be a Wendigo forever.

Dun dun dunnnn! Good thing the Witnesses are on the case. Changing Joe back is a simple matter of reciting a Shawnee ceremonial chant engraved on a human skull over Joe’s blood procured by an obsidian knife. Easy as pie! (This pie, maybe.) Using an extremely sophisticated tracking method—read: slashing open their hands and running through the streets of Sleepy Hollow, yelling, “Joe! Joe!”—the Witnesses eventually manage to sniff out WendigJoe. The air is more than a little tense as they face down the beast, Ichabod finishes his incantation, and… nothing happens. Holy cannoli! Did Ichabod and Abbie just lose? Is Abbie going to be forced to run her old babysitting charge through with a blade made of volcanic glass?? Will she spend the rest of the season—the rest of the show, maybe—consumed by guilt over the one victim she couldn’t save?

Nope. Although that would’ve been cool, right? After Abbie declares that she is not going to let Joe go, he morphs back into a regular dude.

As exciting as the other ending would’ve been, I can understand why the show elected not to saddle Abbie with the burden of Joe’s death. Because, of course, she and Crane have a whole mess of other stuff to deal with. Item #1: Irving has confronted Henry about stealing his soul, and even though he’s determined to win it back, the ex-captain is already starting to feel some of the side effects. He’s broody; he’s this close to murdering a fellow inmate (the guy who paralyzed his daughter, but still); he’s making emo phone calls to Abbie, saying things like “Even God thought the devil was beautiful, before he fell.” Yikes. Is a poetry collection next?

And then there’s Item #2: Henry bought the Piper’s flute to curse Joe to acquire the Jincan to pour the Jincan out to make an itty bitty cursed CGI spider, which promptly crawls into Katrina’s room, scurries across her pillow, and steps inside her mouth. NO. NO. NO. Sleepy has officially gone too far! Who needs cursed cannibals when you’ve got spider nightmares?

Doughnut Holes

—Things Ichabod Is Appalled By This Week: Yoga, the term “buns” (he prefers “double jugs,” which is hilarious), Nick Hawley as always, and video games… until he starts playing a first-person shooter at the end of the episode. Please, nobody tell Ichabod about World of Warcraft; I couldn’t bear to watch him fall under its spell.

—This, by the way, is what Ichabod meant when he said that he’d been “fragged” in the game. (By a gamer who named himself after Chief Wiggum, of all people! That’s gotta hurt.)

—Crane and Katrina are still kinda on the outs, but Abbie’s faith in Joe—even when it seemed that all hope was lost—has convinced Ichabod that no matter what, he can’t give up on his son. Dude, he force-fed your wife a curse spider. Maybe it’s time to let that one go.

—”Once a hero, always a hero,” says Ichabod. Clearly he hasn’t seen The Dark Knight yet.

—Jincan: Not to be confused with Jenkem.

—The guy Irving almost killed was arrested for drunk driving. So why, exactly, is he in Tarrytown Psych? Sleepy Hollow is a land of mysteries!

—Tonight’s twistorical factoid: Daniel Boone wore his coonskin cap only to cover scars given to him by his brother Squire—a PTSD-addled soldier who resorted to cannibalism during a terrible winter at Valley Forge and was cursed to become a Wendigo soon after.

—That detour into the Shawnee mechanics’ shop was fun! Anyone else think it’d be nice to see the cast rounded out by a Native American series regular?

—This is the best tweet ever (of the day):

Follow me on Twitter: @hillibusterr

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Sleepy Hollow

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