What the fresh hell was that, Sleepy Hollow? From the moment I saw last week’s trailer, I was worried, but for some reason, some part of me actually believed that Sleepy Hollow would do a good job with a sexist and outdated trope. Why did I believe this? I don’t know, they certainly didn’t do a good job with the weeping lady. Last night’s “Deliverance” only delivered us straight to the open arms of reducing-women-with-uteri-to-their-biological-functions misogyny.
Spoilers after the jump.
Our episode opens on Ichabod escorting Abbie to the polls, while grousing in true Ichabod fashion about the disappointingly low voter turnout in this supposed more perfect union. Abbie effectively silences him by pointing out that she would have thrice-over been disenfranchised in the 1700s for being female, Black, and not a property owner, and Ichabod readily agrees, finally, finally saying that perhaps some things about colonial America were not, you know, the greatest. (To our U.S. readers—have you voted yet? If not, stop reading this right now and go do that. I’m serious.)
That is the only good scene in the episode.
As Ace said last week, “Deliverance” centered around the awful mystical pregnancy trope, a plot device that demonizes the bodies of people with uteri by making the natural process of pregnancy into a terrifying and gruesome thing, often punishing female sexual desires in the process. Essentially what happens is this: Henry impregnates Katrina using that Jincan spider thing and tries to take Katrina away from Abraham, but Katrina, with Abraham’s help, easily escapes, runs away, and is taken to the hospital by some helpful passersby. Ichabod and Abbie find her and sneak her out, and after some recon they figure out that the baddies Henry has teamed up with are called the Hellfire Club, and they have been trying to impregnate people with demonic offspring.
Katrina, ever the doting mother, insists that Ichabod appeal to Henry to use his sin eating powers to save her, but when Ichabod does so, Henry refuses. The birth of the creature Katrina is carrying is more important to him than any inner conflict he has about his parentage. That’s when he drops the bombshell: the demon she’s carrying is no ordinary demon—no, this is Moloch himself. If Katrina gives birth to it, she will literally be giving corporeal form to the series’s biggest bad. (The weirdly Oedipal implications of Henry impregnating Katrina are, thankfully, not gone into.)
Abbie, as our only consistently useful character, discovers the Hellfire Club’s hideaway and goes to Reyes and tells her the truth. Well, sort of. She tells the captain that there is an apocalyptic cult that’s been kidnapping people and experimenting on them—not actually a lie—and enlists a strike team to take on the whole Hellfire Club in hope of finding a cure. She and Ichabod retrieve the artifact they need during the raid and hoof it back to Katrina just in time to kill the weird demon fetus. Then Ichabod and Katrina kiss and Ichabod and Abbie fistbump and, you know, whatever.
Let’s start with the first and worst offense of this episode: the mystical pregnancy trope. This isn’t the first time that Sleepy Hollow has used a trope with Katrina: she’s been the moral compass that tempted Ichabod to the side of light, the mysterious powerful witch who is also a harbinger of doom, the headstrong woman who doesn’t need a man, the love triangle victim, and now she’s just a body made pregnant for plot purposes. Not all of those tropes even agree with each other—there’s a reason Katrina is one of the most poorly-developed characters in Sleepy Hollow. It’s almost hard to believe that the writing team that came up with Grace Abigail Mills is the same one that’s writing Katrina Crane. How could they go so wrong?
Now, any character development that “The Weeping Lady” gave Katrina has been lost; it’s very hard to believe that Katrina would still be turning evil, as “The Weeping Lady” implied, after Henry’s actions. She might still be willing to listen to Abraham, but it’s impossible to believe that she would realistically go back to Horseman Inc. to be a spy after this, which makes the whole “being a spy” plotline even more useless to begin with. Furthermore, her previous character ambiguity has now been erased in favor of her alternate role as a mother who has the utmost faith in the inner goodness of her sociopathic and totally evil child. Ichabod, too, seems more-or-less convinced that he should try and save Henry, which negates the previous, barely-developed tension between him and Katrina. In “Deliverance”, the two Cranes make up in a regrettably long scene, and by the end of the episode you wouldn’t know that anything had ever come between them.
Abbie continues to be a brilliant character who is integral to the plot, but unfortunately I can’t say the same about the other characters of color. Sheriff Reyes is now at least a little bit in on the whole apocalypse thing, even if Abbie and Ichabod framed it to her as a non-magical cult thing. Reyes is an interesting character and I’d like to see more development from her, and she won’t get that as long as she remains the grumpy badge in charge. Irving, however, got just one scene in this episode, as part of a trick to get Ichabod and Henry to meet. And Jenny? We did not see her at all—even worse than in past episodes where she only appeared on-screen to flirt with Hawley. The worst part is, Jenny is clearly the most badass character, and Sleepy Hollow is all about using some badass characters to fight some badass villains. When Abbie said “I know where we can get [an army]”, how much did I want the next scene to just be Jenny suiting up with at least five guns? So much. Jenny Mills is all the army you need.
This episode was a glaring mess of fail on all points, and next week’s doesn’t look to be much better. The preview suggested that the villain of the week is some sort of siren or succubus character, making “Deliverance” and the upcoming “Heartless” a one-two punch of really awful, misogynistic-cliché-filled writing. Why, Sleepy Hollow? I trusted you.