Sleepy Hollow had a werewolf tonight. Forget all this “wendigo” Native American mythological skinwalking couching; Washington Irving’s Ichabod Crane just battled a straight up shape-shifting, man-eating, furball beasty with a penchant for giving a preemptive howl. That right there makes “And The Abyss Gazes Back” the kind of gonzo fun that I’ve come to expect from Sleepy Hollow, and a good time in my spell book.
While not quite Lon Chaney Jr., the accursed man who “is pure at heart and says his prayers by night” in this narrative is Zach Appleman’s Joe Corbin. A bit on the bland and underdeveloped side, Joe earns instant sympathy points because he is the son of the late great Sheriff Corbin, proving that Clancy Brown’s single day of work for the Sleepy Hollow pilot will probably pay off in dividends for years to come for the cult acting hero. In flashbacks, we learn that Sheriff Corbin possibly favored Abbie Mills over Joe, which led to Joe howling about his daddy issues all the way to the U.S. Marines and Afghanistan. Little did he know that his papa’s protégé would soon be teaming with a nigh immortal Revolutionary War hero that had a son who sold his soul to Hell to become War, the Second Horseman of the Apocalypse, made flesh—it’s a bit of a cliché really, and one that Joe really should have seen coming.
Alas he did not, so when Henry cursed Joe to be the Wendigo of Algonquian lore (i.e. a werewolf with antlers), it is up to Abbie and Ichabod to make it up to the long departed sheriff by saving his shapeshifting son faster than you can say Curt Connors.
Yes, this is another Monster of the Week episode, but I happen to be a sucker for lycanthrope narratives, and found this one went down very smooth with a side of human intestine wrapped in grisly gore (by network standards). The result is an enjoyable point A to B narrative that keeps the wheels turning while we can focus on the aspects of this series that we really love.
For example, Ichabod Crane is introduced both to yoga and video games in this episode. Quite honestly, it is a bit odd seeing Ichabod out of his revolutionary attire, but perhaps with his seamstress now swimming with the fishies, this unkempt hair will be his new look? He still carries himself like a soldier, as Afghan War veteran Joe observes of our 1770s hero—a recurring theme muddled in about being “dog soldiers” or some such in Henry’s over-genrealizing eyes. Still, the solidarity between the two vets is amusing, as is Ichabod’s insistence to not say the word “buns” or preferring “nostalgia” to “PTSD.” Abbie has a point about Ichabod’s lexicon being more appealing.
However, seeing Ichabod get into playing what I speculate is Call of Duty is the obvious highlight of the Rip Van Winkle jokes this week. It is a bit too obvious, perhaps, that Ichabod would become a video game devotee, but if it works for Frank Underwood in blowing off steam, surely one of the witnesses for Heaven deserves a little R&R from a first-person shooter?
One thing that did surprise is how lax security is at one of the two “Crane Caves.” The first such budding superhero institution is the abandoned archives that Ichabod and Abbie have not attempted to clean up once in over a year since they commandeered it to be command headquarters. And the other is the nifty interrogation cell that Fox is making the most out of building for a Headless Horseman trap last season, as it now is a regular meeting place in the series for monster detention. It is there that they keep Joe in Wendigo form while searching for a cure, and it is there that they are remarkably unprepared to defend themselves at when Henry storms in with some Hessian goons.
I have to give credit to Henry in this episode for being able to move things along. Our intrepid heroes know where the Headless Horseman is at all times, but never do anything to stop him. Meanwhile, Henry walks into the Crane Cave’s holding cells like he owns this place. It also is the area where Hawley finally felt integrated into the group. To be fair, the performance and chemistry he has as Upstate New York’s very own James Sawyer has been fine, but his counterproductive antagonism to Ichabod has made him an odd choice in ally until as of late. The fact that Jenny Mills knows him as an old flame gives him more credibility for hanging around with our biblical superheroes, and besides, he is adding too much steamy unspoken tension between Abbie and Jenny given his crush on the lieutenant. Even Ichabod is aware of it, and seems as miffed as Jenny.
However, the character who seems the most apprehensive these days is Frank Irving. Taking Henry at his word (a woeful mistake on its best day) that he can save his soul by killing another man, Frank Irving had his “Come to Batman” moment when he realizes that he cannot take the life of a man who paralyzed his daughter, no matter how strong the desire for vengeance. Yet, this has resigned him even more to Henry’s keeping as he concedes that his soul is damned to Abbie via phone. Given that Ichabod seems about one hug away from saving Henry, I’m not so sure about that. In fact, the only character whose spiritual well being I’m truly worried for at the moment is Katrina Crane. Because if she isn’t damned yet, she very well will be now that Henry has crawled under her skin.
Earlier in the episode, Ichabod told Joe that Henry is going through a rebellious phase. That may be the understatement of the apocalypse.