Column: Recap and Review: Sleepy Hollow 1:06: The Sin Eater


By P.S. Griffin


Summary: Wherein we learn the skeletons in Ichabod’s past and the holes in the Masons’ plan. Yep. Those guys finally showed up well after Ichabod fanboyed the Masonic symbols on the dollar bill in the pilot.


Recap: Sweet Abbie takes the previous episode’s life lesson to heart immediately and begins to try and make Ichabod feel that he belongs in this century by introducing him to America’s favorite pastime. The episode opens with the two in the stands at a local baseball game, Abbie trying to explain the American democratic spirit of the game and also that yelling is part of the fun.

Ichabod appears to be game: “You, basketface! I thought only horses slept standing up!” Abbie is amused, but recommends saving the insults for when the umpire makes a bad call.

They part, seemingly in good spirits. However, our fish out of water declines Abbie’s offer of a ride so that he can go to the cemetary to brood over his dead wife’s grave. Almost immediately, he is tranquilized, hooded and kidnapped by an elegant, well-dressed man (shades of the X-Files’ Well Manicured Man!).

Alas, poor Abbie knows naught until she is hit whilst night driving with a most inopportune vision of a creepy old house and even creepier baby carriage housing the creepiest poppet ever. That’s ‘doll’ to you folks not well-versed with archaic parlence. Yep. Everything in this vision screams antiquarian evil mojo, so it’s no surprise when the Headless Horseman pops up to conveniently chase her into a room, where the creep factor skyrockets due to four hooded figures in black chanting amidst candles, as disfigured crones are wont to do. Double, double toil and trouble; candles burn and crones’ lips babble! Of course this jumbled and entirely terrifying vision is courtesy of the “good” witch Katrina. Yeah. Right.

According to Katrina, that convenient font of arcane knowledge, this house is an echo of the home that she shared with Ichabod; thus, she can use it is a doorway from the world between worlds to communicate with the two Witnesses. So then, why hasn’t Ichabod seen this crazy house? Ichabod’s visions have all occurred in the woods with shuffling figures that Katrina must avoid like a damsel in distress. Hmmmm. Methinks that Ichabod’s witchy woman is sleeping in the devil’s bed! I know … I say this every time the lady deigns to show up and impart her duplicitous advice.

Anyhow, Katrina knows that Ichabod was abducted. This vision and all of its ridiculous trappings (big clues if you’ve watched ahead) were to give Abbie this urgent news. Oh, also, the Horseman will return by nightfall and both Witnesses are needed to stop him. How does she know this stuff?!! It’s as if the Horseman or the brains behind the operation, Moloch, is telling her.

It gets more unbelievable. She can’t find Ichabod because he’s being blocked from her witchy dowsing ways and Abbie has to find a sin eater before nightfall to sanctify Ichabod by separating the evil Horseman’s blood from his own. Remember that their entwined blood, the blood that the “good” witch Katrina magically enjoined after it mingled on the battlefield, means that their fates are shared. I predicted that this would be a major plot point in my review of the pilot. I am not surprised that I was correct, because it was an obvious plot anchor to Ichabod’s tragic hero status. Nontheless, consider me gobsmacked that they’re tackling this in episode six rather than using it as a season cliffhanger.

Abbie, where are your Spidey senses? Why do you trust this sinister vision, and its beautiful and entirely-too-well-informed sender? She lied to her husband and linked him to the Horseman. The man is so besotted that he blindly follows her every word. What’s your excuse? Oh, yes. You are desperate to save dear Ichabod.

Happily, this vision stops just in time for Abbie to narrowly avoid an accident. Her next move is to bother poor Captain Irving with this latest bit of hoodoo nonsense. Of course Irving gives her carte blanche to solve things whilst trying to feign professional detachment and skepticism. Et tu, Irving? A little skepticism from both would be healthy and welcome. Next, Abbie visits and springs Jenny for the day to see whether her supernatural expertise includes the knowledge of how to find a sin eater.

sleepyhollow106a-w622-h350

We finally cut to Ichabod and therein, we jump headfirst into the show’s alternate history, in which it truly excels. My speculation after the pilot was on the money. Freemasons were our Founding Fathers and solid members of the Army of Good led by Washington. Of course Ichabod was one, too.

Ichabod’s hood is removed and he rouses to find himself in a subterranean chamber lit by candles. Another well-dressed man, played by the fabulous James Frain, speaks; this fellow has the historical account of one Ichabod Crane and needs to verify that Ichabod is indeed him. After all, in this battle, they are dealing with spellcasters and shapeshifters (and demons) — oh, my!

Ichabod notices the white mark left by a recently removed Freemason ring and initialed cufflinks. He thereby deduces correctly that the man is James Rutledge, direct descendant of Declaration of Independence signer Edward Rutledge. We then get that little smile Ichabod throws out whenever he knows that he is a true smartypants. Methinks it is looking more and more like bloody olde England and the Crown itself might be a veritable hell on earth. Why else employ evil Hessian spellcasters and attack the colonial Army of Good under the guise of quashing a rebellion for Independence? Could it be that King George was really EVIL?

Rutledge is testing Ichabod’s recollection of events leading up to his conversion to the cause, which is tied to the Latin phrase, Ordo ab Chao, which translates to “order from chaos” and is a phrase associated with high-level Free Masons.

This prompts a flashback to Ichabod’s Redcoat days immediately before turning his coat (Folks literally turned their coats inside out when changing sides, providing the historical origin for the word, ‘turncoat’). He is interrogating a prisoner who was found with a treasonous treatise written by “Cicero.” It is also the first time that he meets Katrina, who is playing the part of a Quaker nurse. It’s not a meet-cute situation, since she is clearly there to meet and manipulate Ichabod. Yep. I don’t think anything will make me trust the lady in black with the hair of fire. The more the show tries to tell me she’s GOOD, the more I emphatically distrust her. She will be Ichabod’s undoing; he will do something very bad for her because of his blinding love. Anyhow, both the prisoner and Katrina claim to see good in Ichabod.

The viewer leaves Ichabod in his flashback reverie to return to modern Sleepy Hollow. Abbie has found Jenny, who knows exactly what a sin eater does. The sin eater reaches into the soul of a dying man and literally swallows his sins to remove them. This dovetails well with folklore references and previous genre iterations in The Order and an episode of The Night Gallery entitled “The Sin Eater.” She knows about sin eaters because she once tried to find one who sanctified death row inmates.

We cut back to memory Ichabod as he listens to the prisoner tell him that there are demons amongst them. Ichabod is sent to guard an execution. Katrina is there watching; color me suspicious yet again of her motives. Crane speaks to his commanding officer, trying to stop the execution because it is not the way to earn the Colonists’ loyalty. For the first time, his commander appears to him with the face of a demon. Oh, my! I cannot help but think that the demon is helping to turn Ichabod’s coat to the good side.

Ichabod finds Katrina afterwards because he feels as if they’ve known each other for ages. Ichabod would have game if he were a player. Unfortunately, he’s sincere and trusting and believes in true love. Since Katrina is a witch and clearly a player, this viewer believes in magic and a conjured love of convenience.

Ichabod tells her about seeing his officer with a horrible visage and Katrina exults. Ichabod is The One! Ichabod is Gifted! Ichabod has the power to bear witness! Girl definitely has game and she is playing Ichabod’s song. The man is hooked.

Katrina tells him that he cannot stand by and do nothing in the face of evil. Her words echo Ichabod’s now personal mantra, which he voiced in “The Triumph of Evil” and reiterated with Jenny in the “The Lesser Key of Solomon.” So, the seeds of his unwavering heroism were inspired by Katrina. This will make her eventual treachery all the more painful. Ichabod is still our tragic hero because he was called to the fray by an emissary of the enemy in a long con. Thus thinks this reviewer!

In the present day, the Mills sisters are still yakking. Abbie admits that Ichabod’s presence makes her feel like she has a purpose. Ah … so now we learn that Ichabod is Abbie’s Katrina! By this, I mean that he inspires her to do the right thing; meeting him has changed her life and given her purpose. She sees this all as extremely positive, despite the apocalyptic circumstances. She is desperate not to lose him. It is clear that she trusts him the way Ichabod trusts Katrina and this is the rub. She will follow him blindly onto the wrong path. Mark my words.

Jenny suggests that Katrina could have been more on point in her vision, since her husband’s life is at stake. Agreed. Katrina’s visions lack meat unless she has a task for Ichabod to do. Hey, Ichabod, why don’t you dig up the Horseman’s head for him? Otherwise, he won’t know where it is.

Abbie has used her natural smarts and police know-how to determine the name of the death row visitor who absolved the condemned. They go to his last known address, which is happily on the east coast in Connecticut and a very driveable distance, considering their time constraints. Jenny and Abbie find Henry Parrish and Abbie pleads for his aid. He declines because all of the soul cleansing and seeing the true faces of his sinful clients have depleted him to his core. In desperation, Abbie plays the Witness/Revelation/Apocalypse card and it works, in a manner of sorts. Abbie has called Henry into the fray; however, it is her desperation that forces his hand and not his conscience. She grabs him, which creates a connection to Ichabod and his surroundings. Henry divines that Ichabod is underground, behind a door with a Masonic symbol.

The Mills sisters race to those busy underground tunnels, whilst in his mind’s eye, Ichabod returns to guard his prisoner Alfred. His demonic officer instructs Ichabod to take Alfred to the woods to execute him. As they walk, Alfred says that Ichabod is valuable to the cause of Good and killing him will stain Ichabod’s heart with sin forever.

Ichabod fires, intentionally missing. Alfred tells him to find Katrina, repeat the phrase, “Ordo ab Chao,” and she will take him to General Washington. As Alfred takes his leave, Ichabod’s demonic officer shoots him dead and attacks Ichabod, calling him a traitor. Ichabod draws his sword to defend himself and sees the demon inside again. His commander runs off as other soldiers ride up. A wounded Ichabod finds Katrina. The coat is completely turned.

My mind is stuck on the fact that the big, scary demon ran away. Weird, that, unless of course his job was already done. There is no doubt in my mind that the demon and Katrina were working towards the same goal, probably in cahoots. They engineered Ichabod’s turn of the coat and change of heart. I am more convinced than ever that Ichabod is Katrina’s patsy.

Since Alfred died nobly after saving Ichabod’s soul, I am inclined to think that he was not in on the con.

sleepyhollow106b-w622-h350

It’s back to reality for Ichabod, who admits that his greatest sin was not making the decision to spare Alfred sooner. The details of Ichabod’s reminiscence are enough to prove his identity to Rutledge.

Apparently, Katrina wrote the Masonic account of Ichabod. She was their ally until she magically healed Ichabod and hid his resting place from them. I know Katrina told us that she magically strengthened the blood linkage, but I do not buy it. Ichabod should have died on the battlefield from that death stroke. Therefore, I think the blood linkage was created by the bloods mingling. I think she healed Ichabod, put him into suspended animation, and hid his body so that both he and the Headless Horseman would live. Otherwise, the Horseman would have died with Ichabod. In fact this is what the Masons wanted then and what they want now. The Masons are both smart enough and motivated enough to kill Ichabod to slay Death and avert the Apocalypse.

Rutledge regretfully admits that Ichabod must die. Ichabod believes, of course, that Katrina’s actions against the Masons were done to save his life. Rutledge gives Ichabod a box and says it’s the only way to defeat the Horseman forever. He means for Ichabod to do the noble thing and kill himself.

Meanwhile, Abbie and Jenny have been looking for the Masonic symbol that marks the door to Ichabod. Two armed Freemasons find them. Abbie pulls out her law enforcement persona and they take her to see Ichabod. We are treated to an emotional scene where we see how much they truly care for each other. Ichabod tells her that he must die in order to permanently defeat the Horseman. Abbie is not okay with Ichabod shuffling off his mortal coil, even if it is the heroic act. She tells him that through Katrina, she knows how to save him. Of course she has no idea how to defeat the Horseman; however, this most important fact is thrown out, along with the Masons’ raison d’ĂȘtre for the past 250 years.

Ichabod remains dubious about Abbie’s save because he knows that he has been living on borrowed time since the Horseman’s death stroke on the battlefield. He proceeds to make his final adieu to his fellow Witness. He takes Abbie’s hand and drinks.

Luckily, the poison is slow. Both Abbie and Katrina are begging him to stay. The Sin Eater is there (When/How/Why?) and apparently very excited because he now believes helping Ichabod is the purpose for his gift. So, Ichabod has given another good person their true purpose. The Sin Eater can remove both his sin and the poison before it stops that most perfect and heroic heart. Oh, thank ye, lucky stars!

The Sin Eater stabs Ichabod’ hand, tastes his blood, and experiences his memories.
Henry tells Ichabod that the sin in his heart ties him to the Horseman. Ichabod must think about Arthur and call him. Ichabod sees Arthur sitting there instead of Henry.

Ichabod tells Arthur that he feels remorse that Arthur died. Arthur believes that his death served the purpose of motivating Ichabod and, in actuality, saved his soul. So, Ichabod also gave Arthur’s life purpose in death; my head is spinning from all the personal revelations surrounding Ichabod in this episode. Ichabod is a fine man with many good qualities; however, I haven’t seen any reason to dedicate my life to him and his cause. Frankly, the facts that the world needed saving and I could make a difference would be enough to inspire me to action.

Speaking of Ichabod, he must stop seeing this as a sin, and forgive himself to break the blood tie to the Horseman. Arthur, clearly a glamored Henry, gives him an incantaction to recite to banish the Horseman from his blood. This is big mojo magic, y’all, far outside the job description of a sin eater (and a really big clue if you’ve seen the season finale). This viewer chalks it all up to artistic license (for now). After all, Henry explained it with a verbal handwave: Death is sin personified. Ah, well!

The blood on the table separates into two puddles, and the Sin Eater mops up Death’s blood with bread and eats it. Cue impressive earth shaking, after which, Ichabod exclaims that he no longer feels the Horseman. Yeah, Team Ichabod! Yet, ever the cynic, I cannot help but think that this is exactly what the Horseman needs, as well. Now, he cannot be killed.

Abbie shows Ichabod how much she cares by fussing at him not to take heart-stopping poison again. It is night, now, and the Sin Eater can feel the Horseman who will be coming. Ichabod says that they will be ready. In the dark of the forest, the Horseman has found the cave where Ichabod was buried. I ask myself why.


Vital Statistics: “The Sin Eater” story was written by Aaron Rahsaan Thomas and the teleplay by Alex Kurtzman and Mark Goffman. Of course genre royalty John Noble (Lord of the Rings and Fringe) played Henry Parish the Sin Eater in a strangely subdued performance. Did anyone else catch stalwalt genre actor Craig Parker (Lord of the Rings and Legend of the Seeker) as Ichabod’s demonic officer? The fabulous James Frain (True Blood and Grimm) played Rutledge. Tongayi Chirisa was excellent as Arthur Bernard.


sleephollow6-w622-h350

Review: Again, I added a considerable amount of commentary and snark in the Recap portion of this Recap and Review.

First, I have to give props to the four fantastic guest stars who gave outstanding performances. Both Noble and Frain were wonderfully subdued. Parker personified malice hiding behind a civilized facade. Chirisa embodied the beatitude of the righteous matyr who is sure in his convictions. All four of the actors were powerful in their scenes. Howevern none shone as brightly as our two beloved Witnesses. The scenes between Abbie and Ichabod stole the show. In only six episodes, they have created very real characters that inhabit a very unreal world with a relationship that reaches beyond the television screen to touch the heart of this jaded viewer. My heart aches at the thought of the impending tragedy.

The Sin Eater mumbo jumbo was a very convenient get-out-of-jail-free card. As such, it was a bit unbelievable. Sin eaters were a real phenomenon. They performed an apotropaic ritual that falls under religious magic. Henry Parish’s skill set is far broader. We saw him separate the Horseman’s blood from Ichabod’s, share Ichabod’s memories, and perform an illusion. Still, this viewer was so hung up on “evil” Katrina that she swallowed it whole, despite the obvious, spoilery tells.

Speaking of Katrina, I am still dubious as to her true intentions. She clearly engineering her meeting with Ichabod and appeared to be pretending to be a Quaker nurse. Colonial Quakers were typically of English origin and founded settlements in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, not New York. It is worth noting that in Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Katrina Van Tassel is a wealthy landowner’s daughter of Dutch descent and not favorably disposed towards Ichabod. In fact, she prefers her other suitor, who assumes the guise of the Headless Horseman to trick Ichabod. Thar be spoilers again, me maties! Let’s also remember that she lied to Ichabod throughout their relationship and marriage about being a witch in a coven with some scary-looking ladies (the vision ladies, as we shall see in a future episode). So, suffice it to say I am well-justified in my suspicions regarding this witch of a lady.

It is unlikely that executions by hanging would be carried out at a drop gallows constructed for that purpose. The use of a gallows tree with the condemned on a horse or cart was commonly used in America during this period. I imagine that the historical error allowed for a more cinematic vista in a public square.

The colonial wordsmith and terrorist collective referred to as “Cicero” jumps out at classicist and history buffs alike. Cicero was a noted Roman statesman, thinker, writer and staunch advocate for the Republic. He was a contemporary of Caesar and Anthony, and executed under Marc Anthony’s authority. His work is reputed to have influenced the humanistic flowering of the Renaissance and the fights for independence in 18th century America and France, as well as our Founding Fathers as they formulated the historic documents that America still holds dear.

All in all, there was a lot of meat in this episode. It contained tantalizing hints of things to come, a fantastic heromance moment between our beloved Witnesses, stellar performances from guest stars, and important backstory for Ichabod Crane, turncoat and hero.

Despite all of these pluses, this episode did not sing. It jumped around from Ichabod to Abbie and from the past to the present. The flashbacks themselves lacked flow. Am I the only one who thinks Ichabod and Katrina have zero chemistry?

Next time, I will tackle a very busy two-part episode with more flashbacks, Paul Revere (Yep I called this from the get-go) and lots of lovely beheadings! It doesn’t get better than this, fellow Sleepyheads!


IFP

About IFP

Keep Innsmouth going! Purchase our anthologies and books.

IFPColumn: Recap and Review: Sleepy Hollow 1:06: The Sin Eater