This week on Sleepy Hollow, the town is once again under attack by another monster, Corbin’s son shows up for the first time, Ichabod learns the difference between Spider-man and Superman before picking up online gaming, and it doesn’t look as though we will ever have a wendigo actually played by a Native American, despite it being a Native American myth. So what did I think of this episode? Meh, it was all right. And it certainly could have been better.
While Abbie and Ichabod are out drinking to help Ichabod relax after the events of last week, they witness an altercation among some guys. When Abbie goes to break up the fight, we learn that one of the guys is actually Sheriff Corbin’s son, Joe. Until this point, we had never seen Joe, or even heard about him, and the convenient excuse for that is that he was a Marine in Afghanistan. However, he was honorably discharged after everyone in his platoon but him was mauled to death by a monster. And though he and Abbie used to be close, he now blames her for his father’s death.
Later that same night, after Abbie and Joe have a bit of a spat, Abbie gets called to check out a disturbance, and once there, she and Ichabod find two dead bodies—one ripped apart and possibly eaten—and a very much alive Joe, who is once again the sole survivor of a vicious animal attack. After leaving Joe at the hospital, Abbie and Ichabod head off to figure out what’s going on, and they quickly deduce that Joe is a wendigo—he’ll transform into a cannibalistic monster at the sight of blood and only become human again once he’s fed.
Turns out Henry used the bone flute from “Go Where I Send Thee…” to curse Joe—promising to cure him once he retrieves a valuable object his father had hidden. And we also learn that time is running short, since if Joe transforms four times and feeds during the fourth, he’ll be a wendigo forever. As the episode comes to a close, Abbie and Ichabod, with the help of Jenny and Hawley, manage to save Joe. Unfortunately, they don’t succeed in stopping Henry.
Henry gets hold of the item Corbin had hidden—a vial of blood and body parts of deadly creatures—and uses it to create a spider. The spider then goes to Katrina and crawls into her mouth while she sleeps. Though the episode ends before we learn what the spider is going to do to her, the promo for next week makes it quite clear that it’s going to mystically impregnate her. Because a mystical pregnancy is just what Katrina’s character needs. It’s not as though she’s already the victim of enough awful tropes.
I have a feeling that the ending to this episode is what’s souring my opinion so much. But even then, “And the Abyss Gazes Back” is most certainly not the best thing I’ve ever watched. To start off, the monster of the week is a wendigo. And like every other wendigo I’ve ever seen in pop culture, our wendigo is white and has no ties to Native American culture. In Charmed, Piper became a wendigo. Recently in Teen Wolf, we had another white wendigo character, because apparently including Native American characters when portraying a Native American myth is asking too much. I think Supernatural is the only show I’ve ever seen with a wendigo where they straight out said that the wendigo used to be a Native American. I start to question some things when Supernatural somehow manages to have a better portrayal than other shows.
Sleepy Hollow does at least include Native American characters this episode. Ichabod and Hawley go to them to look for a cure. Unfortunately, these people, who are Shawnee, show up as the mystical Native Americans who have the magical wendigo cure, and we never see them again. They literally exist to act as a convenient cure. On top of that, though wendigos are in a lot of Native American mythology, Luce and I can’t seem to find any reference to them when it comes to Shawnee people. Regardless of whether or not we’re wrong and the Shawnee do have this legend, “And the Abyss Gazes Back” would still be problematic. This is the second time Sleepy Hollow has used Native American folklore and reduced Native Americans to nothing more than a variation of the Mystical Negro trope. If Native American culture is going to be so ingrained into the show, our Native American characters should both feature more often and do more than just providing convenient magical cures that are directly tied into their own culture. The Shawnee are a real people, not a prop to be used at Sleepy Hollow’s convenience, yet that is how Sleepy Hollow insists on treating them.
Barring the obvious race issues of this episode, I also question the logic that allowed this episode to exist. The plot is that Corbin secretly buried something called Jincan in the woods so that evil couldn’t find it. We learn that Jincan is made from blood and body parts, and it can be a very powerful object used to summon demons. If this is so dangerous, I have to wonder why he buried it in the first place in a random spot in the woods where anyone could find it. Why didn’t he just destroy it? It’s glass bottle filled with blood, skin, and other easily destroyable materials.
Though I was certainly unhappy with this episode as a whole, there are some good things to it. We once again get to watch Ichabod struggle with everyday modern lingo and it’s always a plus that he now (sort of) knows who Superman is. Also watching him lose an online game and curse about it was certainly enjoyable. Probably the best part of the episode, though, was learning more about Abbie’s past and her relationship with Corbin and Joe. Even though Joe was never mentioned before this episode, his interactions with Abbie and her reminiscing about his father gave us some good character moments. It also allowed us to learn more about what made Abbie become a police officer in the first place—her admiration for Corbin’s desire to help people.
Sadly, next episode it really does look as though Sleepy Hollow is delving straight into the mystical pregnancy trope, and I can only dread how that is going to turn out. Until then.