Sleepy Hollow: “The Sin Eater” Review

I won’t lie, I’ve been looking forward to this episode ever since I saw the eight-minute sneak preview at New York Comic Con back in mid-October. Ichabbie-filled baseball banter, more screentime for Katrina, and maybe a better glimpse into what the plot of the show actually is? I loved it. Now that I’ve seen the full episode, however, follow me past the jump to see if it lived up to the preview footage.

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After the adorable baseball scene, Abbie and Ichabod split up, which we know from Scooby Doo and also every horror movie ever is a recipe for disaster. Ichabod wanders back from the game past Katrina’s grave, where he is drugged and black-bagged by some guy in a suit.

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Ichabod’s captain also played Haldir, so I guess he and Jason Isaacs have snooty aristocratic men with long blond wigs in common, too.

His kidnappers turn out to be Freemasons, and they want Ichabod to prove his identity so they can force him to kill himself. They’re too nice or honor-bound or whatever to kill him themselves, but by dint of Ichabod’s link to the Horseman, Ichabod’s death will also kill the Horseman, and the Freemasons are all about that. Ichabod shares a sad sad tale via flashback, in which we see Redcoat Ichabod gradually losing faith in the British cause and also discovering his captain (a man very reminiscent of Jason Isaacs’s character in The Patriot both in face and action) is a demon. Oh, and he meets Katrina for the first time. And all this happens while Ichabod and his fellows are beating the crap out of a free black guy named Arthur for maybe being a treasonous pamphlet writer.

Abbie, meanwhile, has a vision of Katrina, who tells her she needs to find the Sin Eater and have him sanctify Ichabod in order to break the connection between Ichabod and the Horseman. Abbie wakes up, narrowly missing an accident on the road (never commune with the dead while driving, kids!) and heads straight to… Irving of all people? Irving lets her spring Jenny, and Jenny and Abbie track down the Sin Eater after some research in Corbin’s cabin. Only problem is, he’s a grumpy recluse and doesn’t want any of this spooky business any more. He does tell the women where to find Ichabod, though.

Sleepy-Hollow-Abbies-Vision-590x331In flashback, Ichabod is finally sent into the woods with orders to kill Arthur and be done with it, but he pulls a Valjean, firing away from the guy so he can escape. As he runs off, Arthur tells Ichabod a Latin phrase meaning “Order from Chaos”, which is apparently some sort of passphrase for the members of the Revolution. Unfortunately, however, the demon captain chooses that moment to appear and shoot Arthur dead before demon-Hulking out and trying to kill Ichabod. Ichabod escapes, barely, and flees to Katrina, where he speaks the Latin passcode, symbolizing his break with the Redcoat cause.

Anyway, it turns out that the reason Ichabod’s connection to the Horseman is so strong is that Ichabod has internalized a ton of guilt over Arthur’s death. The Freemasons offer him a black box with a poison cocktail inside and suggest strongly that he drink it.

Jenny and Abbie arrive in time to offer the alternative solution, but time is running short—it’s almost sunset, when the Horseman is going to rise—and so Ichabod takes the Freemasons’ poison. There is a tragic and Ichabbie-feels laden scene where Abbie and Ichabod hold hands and he calls her by her name rather than “Leftenant” for the first time, but, like, he’s clearly not going to die. As if on cue, the Sin Eater, having had a change of heart, appears on scene and, via some fancy blood magic, sanctifies Ichabod.

Ichabod has a vision of Arthur, who forgives Ichabod for not being able to save him. His death, he says, saved Ichabod’s soul, and that’s what really matters. Now, I was surprised that the Redcoats earlier in the episode never made a huge issue of Arthur’s race while they were interrogating him, but whether or not Ichabod thought about it through a racial lens, as the viewer I thought the message of “black guy is happy to have been fridged for the plot forwarding of white guy’s story” was more than a little skeevy. Sleepy Hollow has a much more diverse cast than most media that play that card, so it wasn’t like they were pulling a Supernatural and killing off their only character of color… but I still dunno. Either way, his character seemed very generic-plot-device to me, and making Arthur’s character black added an extra unsavory element to his telling Ichabod that he should be guilt-free about anything that had befallen him.

The Sin Eater, who reminds me of grumpy Frank the hacker from Supernatural S7...

The Sin Eater, who reminds me of grumpy Frank the hacker from Supernatural S7…

Anyway, Ichabod is saved, and his connection to the Horseman is dramatically cut; there are further Ichabbie feels packed into an emotional hug, and then a menacing shot of the Horseman out in the woods by the place where Ichabod woke up in the pilot.

Aside from the unpleasant race stuff, my first complaint is about Katrina. The writers confirmed at New York Comic Con that they have no real plans to pursue an Ichabod/Abbie romance as of right now, but the interactions between Katrina and Ichabod remain so very wooden and staid to me. Katrina’s character has a lot of potential, but from what we’ve seen, she just seems to swoop in occasionally to say something mysterious and suspenseful. The writers constantly ignore the grade school Lit/Comp rule “Show, don’t tell” by bombarding us with Ichabod talking about his love for Katrina and staring at her grave but never actually doing much in the present or flashbacks to show he cares. If you’ve accidentally built more romantic tension between your supposedly-platonic leads in six episodes than between the dimensionally separated couple who are supposed to be in epic love, you might have a problem.

In fact, this may be more of a problem for character interactions on a whole. Abbie and Ichabod’s relationship is growing realistically and comfortably, but the other relationships between characters seem to be floundering a bit. Ichabod and Katrina are still boring, which may be a side effect of Katrina being more of a spooky warning distributor than a person; Abbie and Jenny should still have a lot of tension, I think, and we see a little of that in the hospital when Abbie goes to get her, but they’re happy to throw that aside to help Ichabod. (Also, despite plenty of woman-to-woman conversations in this episode, it still didn’t pass the Bechdel test because all of them were about Ichabod.)

Be still, my heart.

Be still, my heart.

Second, I still cannot get a handle on Irving’s part in this whole wacky charade. Captain Irving calmly listens to Abbie explain her spooky dream witch vision, and not only does he not chastise her for being totally off her rocker, he allows her to pull Jenny out of the mental hospital for twenty-four hours to help her figure out the problem and get Ichabod back. Although Abbie prefaces her diatribe with a big old “I know this sounds crazy,” I’m still sort of suspicious about Irving’s hand in all this. I want to know what game he’s playing.

The Freemasons also were kind of strange to me—they’re willing to kidnap and force suicide on someone, but even if it means the end of the world they won’t just kill him themselves. Is it because Ichabod’s also a Mason, or are the Masons just avowed pacifists? When Abbie and Jenny show up, they pull guns and it looks like there’s going to be a firefight, but instead the Freemasons just… let them in to convince their captive to not commit suicide, undermining the whole reason they kidnapped him in the first place.

Finally, the schtick of this episode is “Order from Chaos”, and that is something the writers need to take to heart at this point. This is a thirteen-episode season, and this was the sixth episode. They need to take the chaos of their mythology, which now includes Hessians, Native American beliefs, Christian apocalypse elements, two battling witch covens, and a bevy of demons, and give it some goddamn order. Despite my complaints, this was an enjoyable episode—but I need some sort of sign that the worldbuilding is going to level itself out into the realm of comprehensibility sometime soon. I can only drown my sorrows in Orlando Jones’s social media accounts for so long.

Next week sees the beginning of the Revolutionary War, and more importantly, the return of John Cho as the shifty Andy Brooks! Till then, Sleepyheads!