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Sleepy Hollow Recap: Vessel


Sleepyheads, I have a confession to make. In the weeks since Sleepy Hollow last brightened my life I’d begun to doubt. Was it really as delightfully cheesy as I remembered it? With a diverse cast of characters who work through issues and communicate with each other instead of being all angsty and secretive for the sake of artificially manufactured drama? And a solid balance of humor, action, character development, and a headless, automatic weapon-wielding harbinger of death? Was it all just a dream?

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If it’s a dream I haven’t woken up yet, because last night’s episode was everything I’ve come to expect from my new favorite show, plus Ichabod Crane in skinny jeans.

The Sleepy Hollow writers have heard our good-natured whining about Ichabod wearing the same clothes every episode, and they have some fanservice for us: Ichabod, at Abbie’s insistence, trying on some modern clothes. Skinny jeans and a button-down, to be precise. He changes right back into his old clothes but is admonished by Abbie that he’d better accept the glorious modern technology known as dry cleaning.

That wonderful (and wonderfully weird) image out of the way, we get to the main plot: The demon from last episode threatening Macey. Irving’s dragged its vessel in for questioning, which doesn’t so much good considering the demon’s already jumped to another one. It plays musical chairs and ends up possessing some random policeman, who then calls Irving and tells him if he doesn’t hand over Washington’s Bible—the one Ichabod was buried with—by midnight Macey will be killed. Irving, realizing that THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT, keeps his cool and locates the person making the call. He then promptly loses it and holds a gun on him, but by that point the demon’s hopped away again.

Now, if you’re in the middle of a supernatural war, and a demon’s threatening your family so he can get this item that’s very important to his survival, and you know several people who have experience fighting forces of supernatural evil, you’d think that the rational thing to do would be to go to your pals, update them on the situation, and say “Help me kill this evil frakker ASAP.” Except nobody ever does that, because their panic overwhelms them and they don’t consider that if they help the bad guy win short-term, things probably won’t end well for their family long-term.

Except Irving does realize that, because he—unlike the Horseman—has an actual head on his shoulders. So instead of trying to steal the Bible from Irving and Abbie he asks for their help in figuring out who the demon is and how they can defeat it before time runs out.

Turns out Sheriff Corbin defeated the very same demon some years before, and he even recorded a video of him dealing with it. This means two things.

One: Clancy Brown!

Two: We find out that the demon’s ex-meat possessee was Jenny. Immediately upon realizing this Abbie and Ichabod shut the video off and ask Jenny if it’s OK to watch the rest of it, because they’re respectful and don’t want to violate her privacy.  Jenny’s uncomfortable with the situation—being possessed off-and-on for years isn’t exactly the sort of thing one wants to remember—but upon finding out that the demon’s back and threatening Macey she agrees to help them out.

In the video Demon Jenny tells Corbin that he’ll be killed by the Horseman of Death, and the demon itself will kill Abbie. It then jumps at Corbin but is stopped by a ring of salt. The good guys don’t make the “salt stops demons!” connection until a few scenes later, because apparently there’s no Supernatural in this universe. Abbie gives Jenny some crap for not telling her about the possession, and Jenny responds that she wouldn’t have believed her.

As usual, Ichabod slices through layers of sisterly kvetching and finds out from Jenny that the demon planted some really awful things in her head about killing her sister that stayed there even in those times she wasn’t possessed. That’s why Jenny turned to a life of crime: If she was locked up, she wouldn’t be able to hurt Abbie. Ichabod, the emotionally sensitive one in a sea of competent badass ladies (God, I love this show) convinces Jenny to help save Macey.

Meanwhile Irving’s spirited Macey and Cynthia away to a safehouse, where they’re being guarded by Random Blonde Deputy and Luke. Except Luke’s the demon now, and he tricks RBD into wiping away the line of salt that Irving’s priest put in front of the door.

Back in the history Batcave Ichabod, using the power of figuring out how to use the DVD player remote, finally figures out that salt traps demons. By playing the mumbo-jumbo the demon’s speaking backwards they figure out his name: Ancitif. Specifically, the demon is saying—backwards and in ancient Aramaic—”ANCITIF CANNOT BE DEFEATED.”

So this demon, who refers to himself in the third person, talks about how GREAT and WONDERFUL and BADASS he is to people whom he knows won’t be able to understand him, JUST BECAUSE HE CAN. And when he was talking to Irving earlier he wrote “THE BIBLE” in disappearing blood-ink on the ceiling mere seconds before straight-out telling him his demands. This week’s Headless Horseman with an Automatic Weapon Award for Ultimate Ridiculousness goes to Ancitif, the most dramatic demon on the block. The runner-up is Irving’s priest, who upon being told there’s a demon possessing people was immediately like “But of course! Let me get my salt!” At first I thought he was working for Moloch, because he rolled with “demons actually do possess people IRL” awfully easily. But no. He was just that chill.

Now that Abbie, Jenny, and Ichabod know the demon’s name they do some research and figure out how to defeat him: By using a very special kind of lantern that the French gifted to Benjamin Franklin, because there have to be at least two Founding Father namedrops per episode. Jenny knows some people who own them: The Weavers, a group of end-of-the-world fanatics/Second Amendment enthusiasts whom she used to procure guns for. If Jenny gets caught stealing it she’ll go back to jail, so Abbie offers to play the role of burglar instead.

Meanwhile, back in the safehouse Irving and Cynthia have a conversation about how Irving’s been treating both her and Macey like they’re made of glass ever since the car accident that left Macey wheelchair-bound. We’re stronger than you think, she tells him. You don’t need to fix us. Their bonding moment is interrupted by a call from Abbie, who tells Irving they’re bringing the lantern that can kill the demon. And that’s when Demon Luke calls Irving and tells him time’s up. Which is complete BS. The deadline was midnight, and the sun’s not even down yet. Ancitif, you impatient turd.

Irving slow-mo runs back to the cabin (Irving should do slow-mo everything. Running. Ducking. The Macarena.) to find that instead of killing Macey, Ancitif has possessed her. The priest tries an exorcism, but Demon Macey snaps his head straight around. He and Pez Dispenser John Cho can start a club.

RIP, world’s most competent priest. You will be missed.

Irving agrees to hand over the Bible and calls Abbie to tell her that he’s on his way to the archives to get it. It doesn’t twig for Ancitif that Irving could just go get the Bible instead of warning Abbie that they’re coming, because he’s a dumbo.

Abbie and Ichabod sneak into the Weavers’ shed and, after a small bit of height-related humor, get the lantern. Oh, and Ichabod also tells Abbie about how Jenny used get herself locked up to protect her, which was maybe a bit of an overstep? Ask Jenny if that’s an OK thing to share next time, Ichabod. But it all works out, because his superpower is family counseling.

While Abbie was breaking into the shed, Jenny was breaking into Abbie’s gun box, because you don’t tell Jenny to stay in the car. It’s perfect, because when the Weavers show up and hold Abbie and Ichabod at gunpoint Jenny can swoop in and rescue them. Though “swoop in and rescue them” in this case means reminding a small, heavily-armed militia that she’s a better shot than all of them put together, so just let us borrow the lantern, dammit. She didn’t have to fire a single shot. Mr. Weaver curtsied at her.

That’s right. You respesct Jenny Mills.

Back to the history Batcave, where Washington’s Bible has disappeared—we find out later that Irving relocated it to Corbin’s cabin so Irving wouldn’t be able to give it to Ancitif. Still wearing Macey’s body, Ancitif taunts Irving that he always ends up hurting the people he loves. Everything looks really dire, but Irving flashes back to his conversation with Cynthia and realizes, hey, my daughter is a really strong person. He appeals to Macey, trapped within the consciousness of the demon, to use her strength and fight. IS MACEY GOING TO SAVE HERSELF?!

No, as it happens. She tries, but it’s not quite enough, and the demon retakes control. That’s when Jenny, Abbie, and Ichabod BAMF in. Demon Macey taunts Jenny about whether she still wants to have her sister, but Jenny’s having none of it. Neither is Abbie. She is so nonplussed through this whole scene. They have the salt. They have the lantern. Ancitif doesn’t stand a chance.

“We’re the Mills sisters. Who the f*** are you?”

Abbie taunts the demon, giving Ichabod the chance to sneak up behind it and trap it in salt. He then lights the lantern and performs a DRAMATIC READING about THE DEMON’S TRUE FACE and SENDING YOU BACK TO HELL, while Ancitif’s all THE WITNESSES CAN’T STOP OUR PLAN and DEATHHHHHHHHH.

Abbie and Jenny are probably rolling their eyes and  running through their to-do lists for the evening. Weapon cleaning. Get Ichabod some new clothes. Introduce him to cable TV. The usual.

Everything’s OK with Macey now; she and her parents have a group hug, as do Jenny and Abbie. SISTERSSSSSSS. And then there’s Ichabod, with no one to snuggle.

At first I was a little irritated by how this episode ended: Teasing that Macey would be able to save herself, and then not following through. But I’ve come around. Macey defeating the demon from the inside wouldn’t have worked in the larger scope of the episode, and it might even have been a little too cheesy (I can’t believe this is something I’m saying with this show). The Mills sisters and Ichabod had to get the lantern and defeat the demon. Jenny had to work through some of her issues, and that involved dealing with Ancitif. But the writers didn’t even need to bring up the issue of how Irving underestimates his daughter’s strength. They could’ve had Abbie, Jenny, and Irving exorcise the demon without any of the Irving-family character development. But instead we get a dead demon and Irving realizing that Macey’s disability doesn’t mean she’s weak. The fact that Macey wasn’t the one to take down Ancitif doesn’t negate that.

Macey’s still strong. She’s top of her class in science and is applying for advanced classes. She likes all the ice cream. She’s stubborn and cheerful and wishes she had a sister sometimes and won over Jenny “Hardass” Mills within 60 seconds of meeting her. She calls her dad “Popsicle.” She’s rad as hell. And she’s a disabled character who’s not defined by her disability. She’s only been in a few episodes, and already she feels more real than major characters in certain shows where everything’s about what people can do for the hero instead of individual journeys and character development (*cough*DoctorWho*cough*).

The episode ends with Ichabod concocting an invisible ink-revealing solution so he can find out what secret Moloch-defeating info is hidden in Washington’s Bible. The first thing he sees is a date written Washington’s handwriting, which of course Ichabod recognizes. But the date is December 18, 1799, and Washington died four days earlier.

“How could he have written that,” asks Abbie, “after he died?”

Check back next week for my recap of the two-part season finale. What happened with Washington? Is he still around? Is he in Purgatory? Is he a zombie? WILL WE GET TO SEE WASHINGTON?!

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