Sleepy Hollow: Spellcaster Review

Allegiances are revealed and a villain from out of Katrina's past (and the Salem witch trials!) has come on Sleepy Hollow. Our review...

Well, it’s not like any of us failed to see this coming: Henry is still alive (and wicked!), Frank Irving is his brainwashed slave, and Katrina is still—Katrina? She begins the episode of Sleepy Hollow as actually a fairly likable character and a decent third point on the series’ seemingly eternal love triangle and ends it by being listlessly wishy-washy in her constant morality waffling. It all feels like it’s building to a season finale where her loyalties will hopefully be defined for good, but for a slow tragic descent into corruption, Macbeth, she ain’t.

Still, we were treated to an episode that I found fairly enjoyable, especially after two of the previous three installment’s noticeable thuds. For starters, bringing in the Salem witch trials is always fun no matter whose mining that historical occultist’s resource (except for of course Rob Zombie, because seriously screw Lords of Salem). Generally speaking, I wish they had gotten more in-depth about the actual historical shenanigans related to that Puritanical hysteria other than a mention of a surprisingly young Sarah Osborne (she would have been 48 or 49 and a widow when she died). Though it amuses me that Sleepy Hollow dings Arthur Miller for turning the historic narrative into a Red Scare parable when to get their plotting into it, the writers just so happen mention that Katrina’s grandmother, a member of one of the oldest families in Tarrytown, happened to also move to Salem “because of the coven.” Seriously, a Dutch descendant from the relatively denominationally liberal New York province showing up in the midst of Puritans that literally hanged supposed deviants? Now that would have been worth a whole episode.

…In any event, Katia Winter gets to go “Victoria Winters” (i.e. Dark Shadows) by playing her ancestor and bearing witness to Solomon Kent’s malevolence. Apparently, Kent was an evil warlock who instigated the Salem witch hunt madness when he murdered Sarah Osborne (accidentally) and blamed it on her having congress with the beast. Katrina’s grandmother is hanged and her peers return the favor by “banishing Kent to purgatory,” which is fancy Wiccan talk for killing the no-good bastard.

However, he has returned due to a Monster of the Week plotline following Moloch’s death, letting seemingly all evil spirits in purgatory free. Kent is stopped relatively easily, but what he conjures up from our supporting characters is of the real interest. First, I honestly wish (and I cannot believe that I’m typing this) that there was more of Katrina in this episode. First, when the writers aren’t shuffling the deck on her infuriatingly vague motivations and making us wonder if she is a good witch or a bad one, she is a decent ally to Ichabod and Abbie. Further, if this is about the man who sentenced her grandmother to the gallows, and eventually becomes about him tempting her to the dark side, then it really should have been her enemy to take out, and perhaps her moment to go too far where she almost beats him to death, causing both she and Ichabod to realize that dark magic doesn’t necessarily reside solely in blood application.

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Instead, Kent says some generic Emperor Palpatine rhetoric and she is out for the rest of the hour other than more waffling with that blue flower nonsense.

The other character whose turn is at least much more conclusive is Frank Irving. Frank convinces Abbie that he can help her, but when Ichabod knocks out the baddie, Frank sneaks in and kills the villain after stealing the pages of John Dee’s manifesto (another historic figure worth far more storytelling opportunities than showcased tonight). As it turns out in this non-surprise, he is still in league with Henry, who will for the foreseeable future be replacing Moloch as the big bad. At least they’re keeping John Noble around?

Honestly, I am pretty sad to be able to call Frank’s turn so far out. It is effectively chilling when he refers to Ichabod and Abbie as “the witnesses,” and he indeed appears to have no more love for his former friends and allies. Alas, it does seem fairly contrived that the best supporting character on the show has turned to darkness. And presumably, Katrina is on her way to joining their team, along with “Abraham,” come the season finale.

What caught my imagination this evening about Sleepy Hollow were the side streets not taken. What more could we learn about Ichabod’s family tree involvement in Salem? And if Solomon Kent can use magic to master time travel, could we be in store for a time travel episode? Heck, they already have Winter playing an ancestor, why not go the full Dark Shadows and do an entire season set in the ancient past? Abbie can meet her doomed ancestor, Ichabod can rue whether to change his fate or not in order to save wee baby Henry, and who knows, maybe it will be truly fun again? Because right now, I was also more intrigued by the prospect of Henry becoming a Richard Kimble type, going week to week from small town motel to small town motel, righting wrongs with his magic, and hulking out whenever someone makes him angry.

Instead, he’s back to being the bad guy again and now Frank is the former ally who is indentured to the side of evil. At the very least, I enjoyed the Monster of the Week and the episode found momentum. But if they insist on repeating this season’s conflict next year, just sans Moloch, please let Katrina’s last minute change of allegiance be the end of her character’s (and writers’) indecisiveness.


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3 out of 5