Column: Recap and Review: Sleepy Hollow 1:03: For the Triumph of Evil

By P.S. Griffin

Summary: Wherein Abbie is threatened by a dream demon and faces her personal demons. There are scorpions, a powerful potion, blood spatter, more prophetic dreams, dysfunctional siblings, shirtless Ichabod, all-knowing Ichabod, and heroic Ichabod – oh, my!

Recap: The episode opens with Abbie arriving at the station to find Ichabod conducting an interrogation whilst Captain Irving and a psychiatrist observe. Cue the opening refrain from the Twilight Zone theme song because this is too weird to be believable, even on Irving’s watch. Abbie sees the suspect and it is her teenaged self.

Ichabod’s eyes go Alastair demon white (Supernatural) and he begins yelling at her to tell the truth. Clearly, Abbie cannot handle that; she bursts into the interrogation room as everything begins to spin and confusion sets in. Ah … she awakens with relief that it was just a bad dream. Hmmmm … sadly, I think that she just had a prophetic dream of the nasty kind.

She heads off to the latest crime scene where an imminent suicide has requested her presence. Dr. Maura Vega is a psychiatrist who is distraught about her handling of a former patient. She is also recognizable as the woman with Irving in Abbie’s dream and is sporting white demon peepers. Yep, definitely a prophetic dream. Vega tells Abbie that everything that her sister Jenny said she saw was true; furthermore, she had believed Jenny, but never admitted it. Her final words before jumping: “I’ve had this coming a long time; we all have.”

Abbie exits the building and tells Ichabod and Irving about the victim’s strange eyes. They examine the corpse and watch in horror as the eyes explode to reveal loose sand. This is freaky enough for Irving to ask for special handling protocols for the body.

Abbie shares her creepy dream with Ichabod, who immediately realizes that it is prophetic. Abbie isn’t down with the whole “Witness” thang yet – nor with the Apocalyptic visions, I suspect. She is still running away from her past, and we do not need the gift of prophecy to see where this episode is taking her and character’s personal story arc.

They go to the Archives/heroic lair for research. There, they review Vega’s case files on Jenny Mills, who was her patient after the incident in the forest. Surely, this isn’t a coincidence.

Ichabod misuses the remote (his small comeuppance this episode) as he reviews a tape of Jenny’s interrogations. Abbie reviews Dr. Vega’s notes, which reveal no evidence of mental illness. Abbie surmises that Dr. Vega committed suicide over guilt about her treatment of Jenny; however, Ichabod is sure that there is more to this story, considering Abbie’s prophetic dream and the creepy sand eyes. It is clear that despite all that she has witnessed, Abbie has not made the full paradigm shift to accepting the supernatural and her integral role in the coming Apocalyptic battle. Abbie cannot handle the truth … yet … which I find to be truly odd, considering she’s knowingly partnered with an 18th-century gentleman in a moldy frock coat, as well as having witnessed the Headless Horseman, undead Andy, the demon charging her in the mirror, ghost Corbin, and a resurrected witch! Perhaps I am an easy sell because I would be a true believer after seeing the Headless Horseman.

They go to the mental hospital because Ichabod wants to speak to Jenny. This will be awkward for Abbie, since they have had no contact for five years. The last time she saw her sister was at her arraignment for the theft of thousands of dollars worth of survival gear in order to prepare for the End of Days. This crazy survivalist Apocalyptic life wish is what comes from paying attention to prophetic visions, dammit! All it has gotten her sister is a series of foster homes and long-term incarceration in a mental hospital. Denial of the Apocalyptic harbinger vision has served Abbie well. She doesn’t want to become like her sister. Except that she is exactly like her sister besides the denial part.

Abbie hears the nurse call room 49; cue opening refrains from the Twilight Zone theme song again. In last week’s prophetic dream/vision, Corbin told Abbie not to be afraid of number 49; that is where she will find that she is not alone. Poor Abbie! Being a witness is clearly detrimental to her long-held desire to remain in denial about things that go bump, crawl and shimmy in Sleepy Hollow.

The awkward Mills family reunion is temporarily postponed because Jenny refuses to see her sister. Of course Ichabod is able to charm his way in to question her in Abbie’s stead. Their banter shows us that her hard edges are sharper than those of her sister, probably the result of her especially hard-knock life. After some small talk, he tells her that he also has seen the demon. She visibly hardens and sarcastically warns him to follow her sister’s lead about what to say – or rather what not to say – indicating that telling the truth about what they saw is why she’s the sister who is locked up. Still bitter, she tells Ichabod to ask Abbie for the whole story.

This she said/she didn’t say backstory is providing us with some Winchester-level angst (Supernatural again). A younger sibling with a chip on their shoulder the size of Gibraltar is all too familiar. Let’s hope that they do not milk it for too long, per the Winchesters. After all, two women realistically should be able to communicate and have a well-deserved “chick flick” moment, unlike those infamously dysfunctional brothers.

Ichabod tries to distract her from her anger, alerting her to the urgency of their situation by sharing recent supernatural events in Sleepy Hollow. These include Dr. Vega’s strange, guilty suicide; the awakening of the Headless Horseman; and Sheriff Corbin’s untimely death. She visibly reacts to that news.

Ichabod says that neither he or Abbie believes that Jenny is crazy. Unfortunately, Jenny seems to believe that it’s too late to fight the Horseman and his army. Still angry and bitter, she says that her conscience is clear, and wonders (doubts?) if Abbie can say that about herself.

Ever the nosy one, Ichabod wastes no time asking Abbie for more information about what happened to and between the sisters. Abbie decides to share. She woke up in the woods before their rescue, feeling as if she had momentarily dozed off. Instead, she and Jenny had been missing for four days and the entire town was looking for them. She saw the rancher that found them and knows that he saw the demon, too. After their rescue, she told Jenny to keep quiet. Abbie is mad that Jenny didn’t listen to her and Jenny is mad because Abbie didn’t tell the truth. The decisions each made on that fateful day are the crux of their damaged relationship and the reason that their lives diverged so dramatically.

Nosy, opinionated Ichabod believes that Abbie was in the wrong because she eschewed the truth. To fix things, she needs to admit what she saw, admit that she withheld the truth, and face her twin “demons”: the fear of the supernatural and the betrayal of her sister. Sadly, this is also all she needs to do to stop this episode’s demon – however, I am getting ahead of the story.

I am sure Abbie is so glad to have the always-correct and always-verbose Ichabod by her side. I am also sure that there will be plenty of real demons in their lives. S, yeah, bring on the healing, bring on the truth, and cast out those pesky personal demons that will interfere with the dispatching of real ones. I wish Ichabod would hop over to Supernatural and give a sternly-delivered message to the perpetually-obtuse Sam Winchester.

Ichabod has the good idea of visiting the rancher for a chat. We cut to the rancher, who is dozing, awakens, accidentally cuts himself, and wipes the blood with a hankie. This causes a glyph to appear. Uh-oh … this bodes poorly for him, methinks. It is no surprise that the demon from Abbie’s dream appears behind him.

Back at the squad room, we have a moment of humor. Abbie’s jealous ex, Detective Morales, snuck the damaged Equestrian crossing sign, now a Headless Horseman sign, into the Captain’s office. This is a bold move from the man who disapproves of Ichabod’s involvement with the case and Abbie. The Captain pretends to be angry then pretends that it is funny. Honestly, I am not sure what to make of this scene except that it is tense. Mercifully, they get the call that there is trouble at the Gillespie ranch.

The squad arrives before Ichabod and Abbie, and our heroes arrive before they were called, surprising Irving. He is also nonplussed because Gillespie Is holding his wife at gunpoint and demanding to speak to Abbie.

She enters and makes her way down the hall to the kitchen, passing a mirror with the same spiral cracking we have seen before when the horned demon head butted the mirror from the World between Worlds. This suggests that this new supernatural entity was called into service by our favorite phase-shifting, neck-snapping, mirror-charging demon.

Mrs. Gillespie warns Abbie that her husband has lost his mind. He exhibits the same glazed, white-demon eyes as Vega. Gillepsie fires wildly when he sees the demon appear behind Abbie and tells her that the “Sandman” will come for her, too. The next time she falls asleep, she’s dead. He punctuates this dire warning by blowing open his head with his gun, a move nicely documented by bloodspray – the first for the season.

At their posttraumatic tête-à-tête, Abbie tells Ichabod about Gillespie’s last words, which indicate that her fate is sealed, and fills him in on our notion of the Sandman, the kindly fellow who throws sand in children’s eyes to give children dreams. Ichabod is horrified by the barbarism of the folktale. He also quickly susses out that Gillespie’s Sandman is the faceless monster from her nightmare. It’s nice that his quick wit works in all manner of situations, especially since it appears that she doesn’t have time to spare.

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At the Archives/lair, Ichabod discovers that Abbie prefers Redbull to a proper cup of morning cheer and Abbie finds a reference to a sleep demon that is associated with the symbol on the bloody hankerchief. Thank God for demons that leave a calling card! Of course Ichabod of the quick wit and photographic memory recognizes that the symbol is for a Native American demon that he learned about from the friendly, tobacco-sharing, powwow-throwing Mohawks – you know, the fun tribe next door that fought on the side of the Colonies.

Historical Aside: Let us share a tale of two tribes of yore: The Mohicans were Algonquins and were allies of the Patriots; the Mohawks were Iroquois and allies of the British. Writers, ye better start watching ye olde Daniel Boone episodes to learn of these things or read Wikipedia. My theory is that they meant to type “Mohicans,” who did fight against the British and who were settled along the Hudson River in the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow. And boy, do they do seem to delight in their shallow riff on the title of The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, a contemporary of Washington Irving. Alas! Instead, someone typed “Mohawks,” who lived upstate along the Mohawk River and who fought with the Brits. Oh, well, let’s just blame the Dutch, who left us the sound-alike Anglocized nomenclature.

According to our favorite walking infodump (Ichabod), the dream spirit Ro’kenhronteys would come for those who wronged their fellow tribesman; essentially, it was a tale to tell the wee ones to scare them into behaving with honor. Ergo, their friendly neighborhood shaman should have the solution! Off they go to Geronimotors, which makes little sense every which way, especially because a Native American from a tribe native to New York apparently named his business after an Apache chief usually found in history books and movies that feature the Wild West.
Poor Ichabod meets the last of the Mohicans/Mohawks, who, in this pastiche-of-a-tale-gone-wrong, is a used car salesman. Cue droll rant about the fate of the Native Americans, who once spread from sea to shining sea; also disappointment and lamentations that the heyday of the superfun powwows is no more. Ichabod speaks to the said last Mohican/Mohawk, who thinks they are joking (or crazy) when Ichabod pleads for help in defeating the dread Ro’kenhronteys. Happily, our sincere and well-spoken heroes earn the Mohawk’s belief and shamanistic aid with a little help from the English political philosopher Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” This sentiment is emphasized in the episode title and, of course, through Abbie’s backstory.

At some facility outside of town, this lonely used car salesman keeps his Native American heritage alive by beginning the preparations for Abbie’s dreamwalk. This sacred rite will allow her to actively interact with the dread dream demon and defeat it, should her strength prevail. The drawback to this plan is that she will die in the real world if she dies in her dream. She is game to try it, nonetheless, after what she has seen, and what she knows will happen once she falls asleep.

To induce the dreamwalk state, she must consume a potion – a mighty tasty potion, according to Ichabod, who is eager to wet his lips and whet his appetite, since he appears to be a home brew aficionado. Then she must remove her shirt, lie down on a table in restraints, and allow agitated scorpions to sting her naked flesh. Somehow, the venom of this non-indigenous species is useful in a Mohican/Mohawk dreamwalk because it will give the dreamer the power to control the dream. Hmmm ….

Sadly, I just cannot get behind the shirtless stinging scorpion orgy as an integral part of a sacred Algonquin/Iroquois ritual for reasons that go beyond the fact that scorpions were not part of the natural world in New York. Why scorpions? Their sting is painful, numbing and can temporarily affect motor functions. The venom is not sleep-inducing. Apparently, being bitten or stung is one way a spirit animal can identity itself. However, in Native American tradition, the spirit animals choose you and are not forced to participate in a ritual as part of its ingredients. The writers have added insult to injury to heresy by showing Native Americans forcing non-indigenous animals to serve as a totem or spirit animal for this funky dreamwalk.

Soooo, the sting of a western creepy-crawly and a sip of tasty brew allow Abbie and Ichabod the chance to sleep, perchance to dream and confront the demon with pathetic ease, one of the many rubs in this episode. Okey-dokey!

Yes, of course, the always-heroic Ichabod grabs the potion from Abbie and guzzles it because there is no way this gentleman will suffer a lady to battle her demons alone! Especially not if she could die. Not on his watch, the gallant! Bring on the forced shirtless scorpion stinging orgy! The look Abbie gives Ichabod at this moment conveys volumes. She is both deeply touched and extremely annoyed at his reckless and valiant heroism, as well as very scared that either or both of them could die.

Somehow, despite suffering through the shirtless stinging scorpion orgy, they fall asleep and wake up separated from each other in familiar woods. The Sandman finds Abbie and tosses sand in her eyes, telling her that she has been weighed on the scales of justice and found wanting. She fires her gun, to no avail. Frankly, the dreamscape is rather meh, considering that the demon is a walking nightmare! Per the episode’s opening sequence, Abbie ends up with her sister in the squad room where she was interrogated after her ordeal in the woods.

Meanwhile, Ichabod moseys along until he sees a shiny red Colonial door and opens it to enter Abbie’s dreamworld. He’s at the station, which is festooned with three hangman’s nooses and only two bodies; Vega and Gillespie hang quietly, awaiting Abbie Mills to join them.

Poor Abbie is reliving the interrogation and her lie. She saw nothing, nothing! She is frozen in fear as the Sandman extends his long, talon-like nail towards her; a moment of true horror occurs as the nail slowly passes through the glass window of the interrogation room, coming perilously close to her face.

Ichabod bursts in, intent on stopping the demon with sharp words. The Sandman isn’t one to fall for heroic, manly ways, nor is he interested in Ichabod. “Your sins aren’t mine to punish, Ichabod Crane.” He chops off Ichabod’s right hand, turning it to sand.

The attack on Ichabod prompts Abbie to react. She confesses what she saw in the woods that day. She professes to the demon that she is no longer afraid and that she won’t abandon her sister again. Abbie taking responsibility for her past actions and promising to do right from now on is all it takes to defeat this gruesome entity because her personal demons and the dream demon are essentially the same! The Sandman slowly splinters into a glass sculpture, which Abbie shatters with a chair.

Back at the archives, our heroes engage in their now-standard end-of-the-day, we-survived-the-End-of-Days banter. Abbie is grousing about the foretold seven years of tribulations. Seriously, who can blame her? Since seeing the Horseman and meeting Ichabod, every day has been a version of Hell on earth for her. Abbie tells Ichabod that she’s leaving to take care of unfinished business. Abbie tries to thank Ichabod for everything. The right words aren’t spoken but ever-correct, nearly-always-right Ichabod says, “You are welcome,” followed by, “Godspeed.”

Captain Irving pops by to confirm that their case is closed. He doesn’t need any pesky details regarding the case, but he would like to know how they got into the locked Archives. Ichabod proudly tells the tale of the secret munitions tunnels and the errant wall that he tore asunder just last week. Irving says that he can get them keys. He’s helpful and he possesses a delightfully dry wit. Perhaps he’s not the Devil incarnate.

Of course Abbie is off to Tarrytown to see her sister. Abbie has been carrying a heavy burden of guilt about her sister for too long to wait another day to mend the relationship. Unfortunately the apology, recriminations and reconciliation will have to wait for another episode because Jenny Mills has disappeared. The nurse is confused, but Abbie quickly susses out that Jenny escaped through a hatch cut into the ceiling. Abbie’s cryptic comment, “She’s good,” tells us that she’s happy to see that her sister is alive and escaped by her own volition rather than becoming a victim of the Sandman or another horror story.

Vital Statistics: “For the Triumph of Evil …” was written by Jose Molina (Teleplay) and Phillip Iscove (Story); it was directed by John F. Showalter.

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Review: I still love me some Sleepy Hollow, but I really disliked this episode. Therefore, this was a hard review for me to write. I appear to be alone in my sentiment, based on the small sampling of reviews that I read. It’s possible that I am thinking too much. I will say that despite my dislike, our leads carried the hour once again.

A quick shout-out to Orlando Jones, who continues to play Captain Irving as a very important player, no matter how throwaway the scene. Kudos!

Tom Mison excels in his role. Unfortunately, by this, the third episode, the problems with the writing are starting to overtake his performance. The show has developed his heroic nature, his progressive nature for an educated 18th-century Colonial, his quick and facile mind, and (of course) the fabulous friendship and bond between our heroes and titular Witnesses. Now they need to develop Ichabod as a realistic character. He needs motivations beyond Hero and he needs some true flaws aside from his charming smarty-pants personality. I love the idea of him and Mison’s performance is flawless. However, dear Ichabod is in danger of becoming a joke.

Nicole Beharie did a stellar job in portraying Abbie’s emotions, especially through facial expressions. She was a bright point for the episode and its anchor. This episode touched on her supernatural backstory and the resulting estrangement with her sister, which are the only two things that Abbie has been afraid to face. The complex emotional issues were compounded by a nosy Ichabod and a judgmental demon. People were dying. Ichabod kept risking his life for her. She came close to dying and the only way out was to face her worst nightmare and her worst actions. This was no mean feat, considering that this important and rich character arc was crammed into an episode with the many Ichabod tropes, a new demon, two suicides, a moment of police station humor, two trips to two different hospitals, and three heroic tête-à-têtes at the Lair.

For me, a big issue was whether it was necessary to force this denouement in a single episode. Absolutely not, in my opinion. The dream demon served as a virtual metaphor for Abbie’s well-articulated personal demons. Not only did Abbie (or the viewer) not learn anything new, but she was not forced to grow personally or act differently by the demon.

Furthermore, as soon as the Horseman and Ichabod came into her life, Abbie was well along the way to resolving these issues. As it stands, the demon plot was a meaningless and weak pastiche of better vehicles cobbled together with even weaker historical details and the lamest resolution.

I know that this series has become known for being fast and furious with its world-building and mytharc, and these elements work in that regard because we and our heroes have been flung face-deep into some heavy supernatural shenanigans. Personal character development, especially long-held psychological issues, work better and are more believable in slower reveals, moreso when the character arc and the story were taking us there, anyway. These issues might have provided meat for many future episodes, and added believable personal drama to the unbelievable supernatural plotlines. I will venture to say that they will find Jenny in the following episode and the sisters will dutifully hack away at their angst with Ichabod’s help. If so, please give us a better supernatural backdrop for the emotional verbiage.

In addition to the problems with the Native American plot elements that were previously discussed, I personally found that the Native American details added nothing to the horror factor. The moniker, “Sandman,” was much scarier than the made-up gibberish name. Ichabod was right about the inherent barbarism of the Sandman mythology. A dark twist to the traditional lore would have been fresh and frightening in its concept.

The best parts of the story were borrowed. Despite the loincloth, the demon baddie was clearly modeled on the vengeful Freddie Krueger of A Nightmare on Elm Street, from his distinctive body language and love of deploying his sharpened fingers, to the facts that he attacks by controlling dreams and the victims know that the next time they fall asleep, they die. Frankly, I found this homage to be very successful. The changes the show made kept him fresh, and Freddie’s typical garb and gadgets actually are less scary than the Sandman’s presentation. Good job, show!

The concept of a dreamwalk potion was clearly based on the dreamroot canon from two episodes of Supernatural: “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and “Pac-Man Fever.” They took this simple concept and added far too many details to make it their own; it’s as if the show doth protest too much. In Supernatural, the dreamroot is African in origin and they learn about it from research. One brews it, drinks it, and falls asleep naturally, or via a blow to the head if in a rush.

In Sleepy Hollow, they learn about the dream demon from a book because it left its sigil, Ichabod knows about the demon from native Americans, and off to the shaman they go. The shaman happens to be the only Native American in the area and happens to have a shamanic facility nearby with all of the fixings for a funky cool ritual, and … ummm … naked scorpion stinging orgy!

Then mix in historical and logic errors galore to create a poorly cobbled mess of a story that detracted from the important story elements. The bad research and nonsensical rite added nothing except to explain the Sandman’s loincloth, provide a weak literary riff, and give Ichabod yet another chance to kvetch and show his superior humanity.

Finally, to dispatch the demon, Abbie merely had to admit truths that she and the audience already knew, truths that most likely would have come out, anyway. After all, Abbie is a strong, ethical and committed person who faced the Headless Horseman and lived. She gave up her career aspirations to stay in Sleepy Hollow and fight evil with Ichabod. We hardly need an episode that forces Abbie to accept the supernatural and her role.

As for her backstory and the Mills sisters’ fractured relationship, Abbie confronting the supernatural in the present would allow her to accept the supernatural in her past, and admitting what she saw would lead her to her sister.

Bah humbug!

You can watch Sleepy Hollow on the FOX website or buy it in standard or HD on Amazon Instant Video.

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IFPColumn: Recap and Review: Sleepy Hollow 1:03: For the Triumph of Evil