Sleepy Hollow: “Root of All Evil” Review

sleepy hollow season 2 bannerSleepy Hollow is finally hitting its stride. After an underwhelming premiere and a so-so follow-up, this is the first episode I’ve really, truly enjoyed. It had the perfect mixture of laughs (at Ichabod’s expense) and feels (the Mills family feels!). We even got the introduction of a sassy new character, the amoral Hawley, who I hope sticks around for a few more episodes, at least. Hit the jump for my thoughts. Trigger warning for discussion of suicide and mental illnesses below.

This episode revolves around Henry’s new weapon: what the gang calls a “Tyrian shekel”. It’s a coin that turns someone against whatever they’re most loyal to, although Henry claims that it doesn’t change anything, it just reveals the darkness that’s already there. (But of course that’s what he’d say.) After finding out that this shekel was instrumental in Benedict Arnold’s betrayal of the Americans in the Revolution and in Judas’s betrayal of Jesus (yes, really), Abbie and Ichabod track the coin as it turns a loyal bank employee into a robber, and again as it convinces a son who works for his father to put a bomb into the shop and blow everything up. Finally, Henry leaves the coin for Jenny to find. When Jenny disappears, Abbie is worried that her sister is going to kill her, but instead, Jenny is aiming for Sheriff Reyes, believing that Reyes is responsible for taking their mother away from them.

abbie and jenny millsThis is the thing I loved most about this episode: Abbie and Jenny’s relationship, and what we learn about Lori Mills, their mother. Jenny’s a little infodump-y at first, throwing their mother’s suicide in Abbie’s face, like that’s something Abbie would actually have forgotten about. But throughout the episode, the small revelations we get about the Mills’ mother start to grow organically from the conversation. The episode was clearly an Abbie episode—she is at the emotional heart of everything in this episode, from her relationship to her sister, to her mother, to her sheriff, even to the new character, Hawley. Sleepy Hollow framed the episode’s primary conflict around Abbie and Jenny—as opposed to last season, when Ichabod insisted on going to the spirit world with Abbie in order to confront the Sandman (Abbie’s problem). Instead, in this episode, he lets Abbie talk Jenny down from killing Reyes. He even tells Hawley, “Let her handle it,” and holds him back from interfering. Ichabod’s been great at diffusing tension between the two sisters, but now we finally have evidence that the writers knows the difference between “Ichabod diffusing tension” and “Ichabod taking over problems that are not his to take over”.

Speaking of Ichabod, his character was both good and bad for the episode. I love that he was basically the comic relief—seethingly jealous over Hawley’s few lines of dialogue with Abbie, despairing of his inability to drink or to pay for that drink, and generally playing the fish out of water. However, in doing so, he exposes Sleepy Hollow‘s long-running weakness: namely, “what is worldbuilding”? When Reyes tells him there’s no proof that he even exists, Ichabod goes complaining to Abbie—but what about the person in Season 1 at Oxford, who covered for Ichabod when Morales went investigating? Does that person no longer exist, either? And as for the Tyrian shekel that fronted the episode; I’m not a history expert by any means, but I am kind of a history nerd, so the whole episode I was thinking “didn’t they issue (largely valueless) paper money during the American Revolution?” while Ichabod was thinking “General Washington sent me on a secret mission to get rid of false currency!!1!”

tyrian shekelBut, while important, those are both things that don’t make a significant difference in today’s world. What should have made a difference was Ichabod’s seeing two men holding hands in a restaurant. Abbie tells him that homosexuality is largely permitted, even though there are still some homophobic holdouts, an apropos thing to see on your TV any day but especially apropos today, in light of the Supreme Court’s recent actions. Yet Ichabod says that he already knows about and is okay with homosexuality because of his past work with Baron von Steuben and because he’s watched “the Glee finale”. While I am glad, sort of, that Ichabod’s TV watching is branching out, I’m annoyed that the Sleepy Hollow writers pretty much chose to brush the whole of the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement away as a sign of how modern-minded their 200-year-old character is. Ichabod’s dismissal doesn’t take into account or respect the long, long struggle and history of the gay civil rights movement in the U.S. It would have made much more of an impact if Ichabod had actually had trouble with the concept at first, before coming to gradually accept, understand, and respect the LGBTQ+ community. Seeing, confronting, and changing a homophobic attitude on screen would have been much more effective than an offhand reference to another Fox show.

Ichabod, Katrina, and Henry also had some family bonding, or at least encounters, in this episode, but again, this wasn’t necessarily a good thing for the episode. For one, Abbie tells Ichabod that she’s concerned about Katrina staying in the Horsemen Inc. hideout, but not because said Horsemen might hurt Katrina—because Katrina is Jeremy’s Henry’s mother, and of course she’d want to be a good mother to her only child. Ichabod, at least, gets some lines with Henry to offset this: he apologizes for not being there for Henry (because he was sort of dead at the time), but also says that he’s prepared to fight against Henry to save Sleepy Hollow. And if Ichabod is the father figure, choosing to dole out punishment to a misbehaving son, Katrina is the motherly stereotype, content to stay at home to convince her son to love her. Almost all of her lines were related to Henry and Henry’s connection to her. I’m not even sure how she’s going to be a mole—we don’t see her doing any magic to contact Abbie and Ichabod, and she can’t exactly pick up a phone. While the Crane family troubles are a unique spin on the relationship between hero and villain, I want Katrina, at least, to have more to her character than “mother” and “underused witch”.

abbie reyesFinally, because the role of Lori Mills has already been cast, it shouldn’t be long until we get to see the Mills mother on our screen, whether it’s in a flashback (if she is indeed dead) or if it’s in the real-time plot (if she’s not dead, which is the option I’m hoping for). When that happens, I hope the Sleepy Hollow writers go into Tarrytown Psychiatric and Lori Mills’s possible suicide in greater depth. Abbie’s words this episode, while insensitive, are certainly feelings that survivors of suicide often have. However, in order to paint a fuller, more accurate representation of the realities behind suicide, we need to hear more from Abbie and from Jenny and from Lori and maybe even from Sheriff Reyes. There are more stages to a reaction than just “anger”. But considering Sleepy Hollow’s past and present representations of mental illness (Tarrytown wasn’t the greatest to Jenny during her stay there, and the patient featured in this episode served only as a plot device to get Ichabod into the waiting room), I don’t have high hopes for this particular plotline.

What did you all think of this episode? I definitely enjoyed it—I only nag out of love, Sleepy Hollow. Let me know in the comments, and see you all next week!

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3 thoughts on “Sleepy Hollow: “Root of All Evil” Review

  1. I am not certain how I feel about their mother possibly still being alive. I am the child of someone who committed suicide myself, and to express in rather simple terms, it is a big thing. And part of the bigness of it is that it isn’t something that people come back from. I realize this show is wonderfully magical is all sorts of ways, but sort of like when wheelchair users are given ‘magic legs,’ I’m not certain it feels right for people who commit suicide to be magically alive again. It feels like a cop out on the gravity of suicide. It even looks like the show might make her suicide not entirely her doing, or possibly not even a suicide, it sounds like she might have been killed by some demonic forces or in some way it was taken out of her hands. And while I would love for Abbie and Jenny to learn that their mother’s death wasn’t a suicide, or learn it wasn’t really her choice, or to have her back again… well that’s a dream a lot of children of parents who commit suicide have. Rarely, if ever, does it actually happen.

    I understand why they might do it storywise, I even acknowledge it is something entirely in character with the show, but I don’t know… The part of me that doesn’t use logic isn’t keen on the idea of their mother showing up alive in the present.

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