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Sleepy Hollow Recap: The Sin Eater


After a three-week hiatus on account of the World Series (ugh, sports), Sleepy Hollow is back in business. I knew James Frain and John Noble would be making their grand debuts in this episode, but I wasn’t expecting Craig Parker! Mae govannen, Haldir.

We’re welcomed back from our baseball-induced break with a scene about… baseball. Abbie takes Ichabod to a game and manages to get him to love it by talking about how it represents tradition, teamwork, and opportunity—aka THE SPIRIT OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. Unspoken: I’m sure your BFF George Washington would love it. Ichabod engages in some smack talk that’s made more delightful by the fact that the umpire didn’t actually make a call. Also, he appears to be yelling at the catcher (basket-face).

Oh Ichabod, you adorable dork. You adorable bowing at Abbie dork.

And then, for the drama, said adorable dork is kidnapped.

Later that night Abbie, on her way home, is summoned to a spirit world by Katrina, who really needs to be told what cars are so she maybe won’t do that to people while they’re driving. But  maybe she can’t tell what people are up to when she yanks ’em into dreamworld. There’s still no excuse for her essentially summoning Abbie to a haunted house-esque hellscape, complete with a creepy baby-doll thing, what looks like a children’s toy of George Washington being hung by the throat (????), evil-looking witches, and, oh yeah, the Headless Horseman, who comes after Abbie with an axe before disappearing.

Then Katrina shows up and says psych on the doom and gloom! This house is an echo of the home I shared with Ichabod, and the Headless Horseman is just here to serve as a warning. The real deal’s gonna return by nightfall, and only the two Witnesses can stop him.

Katrina. Could you not have summoned Abbie to that still creepy but not hellhouse-looking creepy forest? And then just said “BTW, the Headless Horseman is coming” instead of scaring Abbie half to death by having it chase her?! We know you have a flair for the dramatic, but damn.

(Also, I spy potential foreshadowing in all the baby stuff in the house.)

Katrina also says that Ichabod’s been kidnapped and the only way to sever his connection with the Horseman is to enlist the services of a sin eater.

Abbie explains the sitch to Captain Irving—the Headless Horseman’s coming back that night, and they need to find a sin eater and get Ichabod all good and sanctified before then. Irving tries to get all sassy with the skepticism, but Abbie counters that she’s not the type of person to close her eyes and let whatever craziness is going to happen happen, and she knows he isn’t either. Thoroughly gotten to, Irving grants Abbie’s request to get Jenny (she’s back, yaaaaay!) out of the psychiatric hospital for 24 hours.

Jenny, who  joshes Abbie a bit about Ichabod—the more mature equivalent of Oooooh, you like like him! Abbie and Ichabod, sittin’ in a tree—agrees to help. Back in the History Batcave she explains that a sin eater is a creature who cleanses people by literally removing and swallowing their sins. Makes sense. Jenny was tracking one a few years back, but it dropped off the grid, apparently having had satisfied its craving for delicious, salty sinning.

Meanwhile we find out who’s kidnapped Ichabod: James Frain. Or, well, a mysterious man played by James Frain. Ichabod engages in another round of Founding Father Name Dropapalooza, using his eidetic memory and observational skills to determine that the Mystery Man is actually A) a Freemason, meaning he’s ostensibly one of the good guys, and B) a descendent of Edward Rutledge, the youngest signatory of the Declaration of Independence and, in his John Adams miniseries incarnation, the subjects of one of my favorite “judging you” gifs.

I am disappoint that the following exchange didn’t take place:

Ichabod: If you’re descended from one of the Founding Fathers, why are you British?
Random Freemason: Oh my god, Ichabod, you can’t just ask people why they’re British.

Rutledge Jr.’s not quite convinced that Ichabod’s who he says he is, so he has him recount a bit of backstory for us.

Back when Ichabod was still a British soldier, his boss—Craig Parker, just as smarmy and evil and… British as he was in Spartacus—ordered him to interrogate a freed slave named Arthur Bernard, whom the Brits suspected of supporting rebellion. We also see Ichabod meet Katrina for the first time—she’s a local Quaker nurse (if by nurse you mean witch) who shows up to intercede on Arthur’s behalf.

It’s almost like there are little cartoon birds flying around her head. And the way Katrina is perfectly made up in modern-style makeup even in her Colonial-era flashbacks wins this week’s Headless Horseman With An Automatic Weapon Award for Ridiculousness. I didn’t know the Quakers had such a thing for Maybelline.

Later on Ichabod takes a break from interrogating Arthur—but he’s actually just overseeing the interrogation, with another guy doing the hitting, because you can’t have your charming British leading man beat a nice freed slave half to death on basic cable—to say that if he just tells them who wrote this eensy-weensy revolution-supporting pamphlet, he’ll be let go. Instead Arthur tells him about a war between demons and men. Ichabod interrogates him for days without results and is eventually summoned to be a guest of honor at a public execution. Ichabod tries to convince Haldir (ugh, Colonel Tarleton, fine) that maaaaybe executing people is just making the colonials hate them, but Tarleton’s having none of it. Then, for a split second, Ichabod sees that his boss’ face is actually that of a demon.

Ichabod and Katrina have a little tête-à-tête—we’re from opposite worlds but I feel like I know you, sparks flying, destiny is what you make of it, all the clichés. Then, taking the conversation in a slightly different direction, Ichabod mentions the demon-human war that Arthur told him about. Before the redcoats roll up to interrupt their romancing Katrina tells Ichabod that he’s “the One” who can “bear witness” by seeing demons.

[Insert Photoshopped fanart of Ichabod Crane as Neo from The Matrix here. I don’t have the time, but you can pretend you saw it. It’d be really, really bad.]

Meanwhile Abbie and Jenny have a bit of a sisterly bonding moment and figure out that the Sin-Eater’s name is Henry Parrish. Jenny also suggests that next time Abbie sees Katrina she ask her to be more specific with her warnings if someone’s life is hanging in the balance. You go, Jenny. Cutting through cryptic pretensions like a hot, sarcastic knife through butter.

The pair of them track Parrish down to his home in Connecticut. Just once I want the important guy whom they need to save the day at the last minute to have moved to Aruba, or California, or Wisconsin, or somewhere not in easy driving distance. Abbie lies about having a warrant to get the two of them in and explains their situation, but Parrish (John Noble) refuses to help. Eating sins messes with your digestion, he says, so I don’t do it anymore. But he does use Abbie’s connection to Ichabod (blatantly shippy moment of the episode #3) to find out where he’s being held: An underground room belonging to the Freemasons.

In that room Ichabod finishes his story time: Tarleton ordered that Ichabod take Arthur into the forest and shoot him, but instead Arthur and Katrina’s talk about justice and evil finally gets through to him and he decides to let Arthur escape. Only then Tarleton shows up and shots Arthur anyway before morphing into one of the orcs from The Lord of the Rings (fitting), except blue. Other redcoats show up, so Tarleton has to skedaddle, and Ichabod goes to Kartina and tells her the super-secret password (“Order from Chaos,” but in Latin) that lets him into their demon-fighting club. Ever since Ichabod’s felt guilty about getting Arthur killed by not letting him escape earlier. That, he says, is his sin.

Ichabod’s story has made Rutledge believe he is who he says he is, since it matches what Katrina wrote down in a book that the Freemasons have. Rutledge explains that they and the good witches used to work together ’til Katrina spirited his body away. See, the Freemasons wanted to make sure Ichabod would never come back, because if he does then the Horseman does, too. But there’s still time to correct Katrina’s mistake… if Ichabod kills himself, sacrificing his life so that the Horseman will die too.

Ichabod, his martyr cap firmly atop his flowing locks, is willing to do it. By this point Abbie and Jenny have found him; there’s a great moment where Abbie tells the Freemason armed guards “Yeah, I’m a cop, and you’re going to let me in so you won’t have to tangle with the fuzz, k?” And then they do, because they’re smart, and secret organizations have better things to fill their time with than antagonizing local law enforcement.

Abbie tries to convince Crane not to kill himself, but Ichabod’s determined, saying there’s no other way. I’m sorry, Sleepy Hollow, I’m going to stop you right there. This scene might be a bit more effective emotionally if it weren’t episode six. There’s no way in heaven, hell, or purgatory that Ichabod’s going to kill himself, I’m sorry! Either Abbie’s going to convince him not to or he’s going to drink the poison but be saved at the last minute, which is what ends up happening when the sin eater pulls a deus ex machina.

Your high stakes aren’t really high stakes when there’s no possibility of you actually following through. Just sayin’.

Him calling Abbie by her first name for the first time was cute, though.

Anyway, the sin eater says he’s happy to finally have discovered the reason he was given this terrible gift, and proceeds to… well, eat Ichabod’s sin. He stabs him in the hand and then summons forth the ghost of Arthur so he can forgive Ichabod for not saving him earlier. If things hadn’t played out the way they did, he said, you wouldn’t have found your destiny. You say it’s a sin, but it’s actually your salvation. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

This is the first post-hiatus episode, and it features the introductions of Frain, Noble, and Parker. How is it so dull?!

Ichabod’s blood puddle splits into normal, human blood and gross, black demon blood. The Sin-Eater mops up the latter and eats it, and I don’t ever want to see that again, Sleepy Hollow, do you hear me?!

The tie is severed, and Ichabod’s alive. The Sin-Eater reminds everyone that the Horseman’s still coming at sunset, and Rutledge has one line about preparing for the fight. It seems like he has it all together, but I imagine he was facepalming and cursing something fierce while the whole sin eating thing was going on. “The whole point was to kill the Horseman. Right there! That was the plan! That you ruined. I AM SURROUNDED BY INCOMPETENTS.” And Jenny’s just patting his back, saying “I feel you, bro.”

… oh no. Did I just adopt a crackship?

General thoughts:

Sleepy Hollow has made me realize how screwed up I am by shows where people die left and right and horrible things happen to everyone all the time. The other shows I’m into right now are Teen Wolf, Battlestar Galactica, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Teen Wolf was supposed to be a fun, ridiculous show—Teenage werewolves! MTV! Shirtlessness!—until people (who aren’t white males) started kicking the bucket all over the place. Battlestar Galactica is just wall-to-wall pain. And even on It’s Always Sunny—a frakking sitcom!—the characters never get anything good that lasts for more than an episode, and you don’t really want them to, because they’re all terrible people.

And then there’s Sleepy Hollow, where people mend broken relationships and forge new ones and work through their emotional baggage in a healthy fashion. I don’t even know what to do with a show where characters’ issues don’t fester and grow and have baby issues and grand-issues and great-grand-issues of their own.

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