Sleepy Hollow is a show that is built around a deep, deep bond between Abbie Mills and Ichabod Crane—the no-nonsense lieutenant and the nonsense-espousing time traveler she partners with/babysits. But perhaps season two has come to rely on that bond too strongly? Tonight’s episode, “Mama,” focused only on one half of the pairing (Abbie), plus the rest of the supporting characters combined, and it still wasn’t quite up to snuff with many of this season’s better episodes, much less the best of season one.
To be sure, I am only too happy that this installment brought back Jenny Mills and the season-long underserviced Frank Irving. But in addition to revealing that the Tarrytown mental hospital has the most incompetent security department this side of a Bond villain’s lair, it also showcased how much the show has lacked a careful eye for these two important supporting characters from season one. Indeed, it felt monumental that they “returned” to Sleepy Hollow at all, leaving me to wonder where was the Ichabbie fanfare.
Due to some disturbing suicides at the aforementioned Tarrytown asylum, Abbie is sent to investigate, leading to the convenient revelation that her barely mentioned mother’s mental issues from season one were actually the result of spooky demons trying to get her daughters. It appears that Mama Mills was as much into the occult as both her daughters, and that she even has a big new book of spells of West African origin that they can use to thwart off the forces of Moloch. These new revelations are just peachy too since Benjamin Franklin’s text is likely near exhausted.
Honestly, it feels like Sleepy Hollow is looking too much at the mythology with “Mama” and not enough toward what really does work about the series. For example, Orlando Jones is a terrific presence on Sleepy Hollow, and his ability to subvert generic “angry police captain” cliché jargon in season one was a highlight. However, nine episodes into season two makes this the halfway point of the year, and Frank has done little more than sit in a chair at Tarrytown hospital. And he is there again until the writers’ idea of giving the character new agency is for him to fall under the spell of the demon of the week, causing him to almost commit suicide.
What really works about season two has been Ichabod and Abbie. To a lesser extent the introduction of Hawley has finally seemed to pay off as he more or less joined the Scooby gang this week. Yet, season one luminaries like Irving and Jenny have had almost nothing to do in season two, and their first big episode in “Mama” instead feels focused primarily on a long-deceased mother of little import before tonight, and very well may be of equally little effectiveness in all the weeks afterwards. In many respects, the discovery that she was committed because she was protecting her daughters from demons until they drove her to suicide is a grimmer replay of Abbie’s initial assumptions of Jenny’s craziness in season one—until Jenny is vindicated, and Abbie recognizes her witness super powers.
In “Mama,” instead of relearning why Jenny is so integral to the Ichabod/Abbie duo, we are again required to focus on story threads that may not have residual effects. It leaves the hour wanting, and I mean for more than the return of Ichabod Crane.
The only narrative strand that did move, in millimeters, was that of Katrina. We learn that Moloch is going to be a fast growing boy until he is too big and dangerous for her to easily kill (probably next week), and that she can be corrupted by the mere touch of him. This is pulled off with a clever (if predictable) trick by substituting the baby in Katrina’s arms for the dark demon that Henry sees. It is an unnerving visual cue to shudder, however it is also a retread of the ending from last week when Katrina went the full Mia Farrow upon the sight of the demon spawn babe. Chances are we are going to be repeating this thread again when she gets to know childhood Moloch next week.
I know at this point that I risk sounding like a listless complainer, but the revelation that Katrina is going back to repeating the story beats from earlier this season (where she’s “spying” on the bad guys) makes me suspicious of any supposed developments like Frank Irving being able to hitch a ride with Abbie. There is something off in Sleepy Hollow this week, and it’s possible that by running in place, even Henry’s reliable magic isn’t working on the show.