Bumpy plot contrivances in “The Vessel” threatened to derail the Sleepy Hollow train, but consistent characters and the delightfully eerie atmosphere that is its trademark made up for stretching the story conveniences to make this episode a hard fought win.
Last episode, before the winter hiatus, viewers were introduced to a Boston Brand-like demon that can jump from living body to living body. This demon has it in for Captain Irving and has threated his wheelchair-bound daughter in order to retrieve George Washington’s Bible, a sacred book that seemingly possesses the key to defeat the demon Moloch. The body-hopping demon, like most of the demons and beasties presented in Sleepy Hollow, is pretty damn scary and the show plays up the threat of the creature very well. Like most episodes, Sleepy Hollow really makes Abbie and Ichabod very likable through banter and Ichabod’s wide eyed man-out-of-time-persona, so when there are threats to their person, the audience feels it.
The Deadman-inspired demon also has ties to Abbie’s sister, Jenny, who the demon possessed years ago in order to find and destroy Abbie. A woman destined to stand in the demon’s master’s way. The plot serves to further the bond between Abbie and Jenny, as Abbie learns that Jenny’s dark past was driven by the need to protect Abbie. Whenever Jenny felt the demon worming its way inside her, Jenny would get herself arrested to insure Abbie’s safety. This adds a nice dynamic to the siblings in the present as they both learn of the protective bond they have for one another without fully knowing it.
This is all good storytelling and character work, until we arrive at some scattershot plot conveniences. So there just happens to be a magic lantern, that Jenny happens to know the location of, which happens to have the ability to destroy the possessing demon. So, to defeat a demon seeking one McGuffin, the Washington bible, the heroic trio must seek out the other McGuffin, the lantern, in order to win the day. C’mon Sleepy Hollow, you already took a thin premise and crafted a hit. You can do better than that.
Anyway, once the action got going, one could forgive some of the weaker writing. The demon possesses Captain Irving’s daughter and a struggle for the little girl’s soul ensues. Lots of spinning plates are handled well during this sequence, with Irving fighting to protect the daughter he once failed and Abbie and Jenny getting past their past issues in order to save an innocent. Crane wins the day with the lantern of convenience, but it is forgiven because of the gripping fight sequence and the way the show really does make the viewer care about the little girl’s fate. By the way, props go out to Amanda Stenberg who really rocked the creepy demon make up to create a very convincing threat. Fans already knew the little lady had acting chops from her role in The Hunger Games, but she really brought the scares this week.
As Sleepy Hollow wraps for the season next week, Fox should be commended for delivering a smart, atmospheric, and fun horror episodic horror show. The writing sometimes borders on the contrived but the sleek performances and balls out action usually can overcome any writing hiccups.
Den of Geek Rating: 3 Out of 5 Stars