Sleepy Hollow: “Sanctuary” Review

Sleepy-Hollow-LogoThis week’s episode features a missing billionaire, a haunted house, and a cameo by Amandla Stenberg. Spoilers after the jump!

Abbie and Ichabod are called in to investigate the case of a billionaire and her bodyguard, who have gone missing after visiting a local estate. They head out there to find that the (now very haunted) house was the former residence of a friend of Ichabod’s. This friend960was a kind warlock whose house and grounds were spelled against evil and who employed freed slaves so we know he was a totally cool nice guy who who held no truck with period-accurate racist practices. Come on, writers. Old-timey abolitionists were not as ubiquitous as Ichabod makes it sound, and they also wanted to send slaves back to Africa, not free and pay them. Also, slave ownership in an era when everyone owned slaves does not have a direct correlation with personal moral fortitude, as much as you want to avoid that issue. I want to punch myself daily for wishing this show had more racism but like, come on. America has some ugly spots in history and erasing them does no one any favors. Anyway, that’s an aside.

SLEEPY-HOLLOW_320x240The house used to be a haven for good back in Ichabod’s day, but it is definitely not anymore. Some evil force in the house traps Abbie and Ichabod inside, and Abbie reveals that she has a phobia of haunted houses, so she’s really not into this. They eventually find and free the lost woman, but they’re still stuck inside and the personification of the bad spirit, a briar creature reporting to Moloch, is after them.

7116241f76154798c74d08e3bde468fdThroughout the ordeal in the house Abbie has been having visions of a woman who turns out to have been the matron of the household (which I guess means the head servant) back in olden times. The woman helps them to escape, and eventually shows Abbie a series of scenes about Katrina that occurred after Ichabod’s death. The big reveal of the episode comes when Abbie discovers that Katrina gave birth to a son in the house, but his birth was beset with trouble from the same spirit that’s chasing them now. The matron’s spirit helps them escape the house, but after Ichabod discovers that briar-thing had threatened not only his wife but also the son he didn’t know he had, he goes back in with an axe and lays almighty waste to the creature.

On the sidelines of this, we’re treated to some more backstory for Irving: his estranged wife and daughter come to visit him in the precinct, interrupting a rather flirtatious back and forth between him and Jenny. Here’s where Amandla’s cameo comes in—she plays Irving’s daughter, who is in a wheelchair after an alluded-to but never explained accident. Irving has apparently been canceling his weekends with his daughter left and right because of work—rude, man, when your daughter is Amandla “Rue” Stenberg you make time for custody visits so the viewing audience gets as much of her onscreen as possible—and his wife is threatening to file for full custody if Frank doesn’t get his crap together. This conflict is left open, so I assume we’re going to get more of Stenberg’s character Macey in later episodes.

At the end of the episode, Abbie shows up to their research cave to invite Ichabod to Thanksgiving dinner, but he doesn’t want to be around people, rather choosing to dwell on his lost son. A tipoff from the billionaire—who also happens to be the long-lost descendant of the guy who used to own the house—clues Abbie into the genealogy of the matron of the estate: it turns out that Abbie is descended from her, meaning that Abbie and Ichabod’s fates have been tied together for centuries. Roll credits.

Okay, that’s the recap done. So what did I think of the episode as a whole? Well, first and foremost I need to bitch a little about the cinematography. A lot of the scenes in the haunted house were shot in a shaky-cam, their-flashlights-are-the-only-illumination style, and it was kind of tedious and hard to keep up with. The villain’s design was also pretty corny-looking this time – after the truly scary designs of the other demons, I was expecting a little bit more.

The son-he-couldn’t-know plot is an interesting twist, but I’m not sure what will come of it besides more Ichabod manpain. Unless the son was also frozen in time later on, Ichabod will never meet him, so what is his relevance to the storyline? Maybe he will meet a descendant of his son in a later episode? For right now it seems like an unnecessary plot device intended to inspire angst.

Sleepy-Hollow-Amandla-StenbergI was interested to see how they dealt with the Irving’s daughter being a person with disabilities, but it wasn’t given much screentime in this episode. From what I can tell, she seems less upset by her disability than her parents do, but I’m worried that it’ll be revealed in later episodes that Irving has something to do with the accident that caused it, making her disability about Irving’s manpain and not about Macey herself.

All in all this episode was okay, but… it’s starting to grate that every episode recently has been about Ichabod. This is a show with two leads, both of which have spotty, interesting, mysterious pasts filled with spiritual nonsense. It’s sort of sketchy that the one consistently getting all the screentime is the white dude, while the leading lady of color gets to tag along and sit in the car while he beats up the villain. Dare I mention that drawing a direct line between Abbie and the matron just emphasizes all the ways that Abbie, as a woman of color, is still just there to serve the white dude’s needs, the same way the matron was? Sleepy Hollow is a remarkable show in that it has only two recurring white characters (three, if you count the Sin Eater coming back next episode), and I was amazed in particular this episode at the number of the cast that was of color. But casting all the people of color in the world won’t help fix racist writing.

This review comes off sounding pretty negative, and I guess it is. It’s just that we’re over halfway done with the season now, and I want this show to be good so badly. I’m annoyed because I know that it can be better than it has been lately. Till next week.