Sleepy Hollow: ‘Spellcaster’ Review

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Oh Sleepy Hollow, you get my hopes up one week, and then you dash them to pieces the next. Where to begin with this hot mess of an episode. Our antagonist is Solomon Kent, a time-traveling warlock from the days of the Salem witch trials. ‘Friendzoned’ by a woman he desired, she soon dies accidentally by his hand, and he decides to frame her retroactively as a witch to avoid his own prosecution. This apparently perpetuated the famous Salem witch hunt, which Solomon led until he was sent to Purgatory by the local Coven. The recent defeat of Moloch enabled his release and he crops up in modern day Sleepy Hollow in pursuit of a powerful spell-book.

This episode, of course, has the obligatory Ichabod/Abbie character moments, which have become basically the only thing about the show worth watching at this point. Ichabod is house hunting…with what money remains a distinct mystery. Abbie is called upon to aid him in this enterprise and she helps by ‘decoding’ modern property market talk. However, this exercise in optimism – which, for what it’s worth, involved Ichabod squeezing a squeaky banana with a comically sardonic look on his face at one point – is cut short by Abbie’s proffering of their case, the stolen spell-book and the deaths attached to its disappearance.

Banana

The Witnesses soon return to the Crane’s current home-base to find Katrina practicing her magic. The show practically breaks the fourth wall at this point to inform us that time in Purgatory = sapped powers; hence her recent and rather notorious lack of mojo. On the one hand, I appreciate any attempt to address this very well-founded criticism of Katrina characterization. On the other hand, it felt quite, um, heavy-handed. Writing that reads like blatant damage control really does not make for enjoyable TV. If you are going to egregiously retcon a problem, at least try for a bit more subtlety

This episode does substantially advance Katrina’s larger plot-line, but in a deeply unsatisfying way. In her encounter with Solomon Kent, he goads her into succumbing to darker magic to increase her powers. Shocker – she succumbs. I do not yet know whether they are planning have her go full-on bad and be the primary antagonist, whether they are just going to use this as a excuse to immanently kill her off, or whether this is the start of a long-term darkside-to-redemption arc. Not sure which one I’m rooting for, either, at this point.

What I do know is I really wish they had not made her turn to the darkside so half-hearted and wishy-washy. If you are going to go in that direction, make it her idea! Make it her secret, sinister plan all along. I want to watch her revel in her own hyperbolic wickedness and spin an evil web of truly menacing proportions. Don’t make it seem like the poor naïve thing just tripped and accidentally fell into the forces of darkness. Give her villainy at least a modicum of dignity, please. Otherwise it’s not even enjoyable, it’s just pathetic.

Anyway, speaking of evil, Henry crops back up this week and actor John Noble has an opportunity to remind us all just how engaging he can be, even while hiding out in a dingy motel watching bad TV. This, apparently, has been Henry’s fate in the wake of Moloch’s death. While at first it seems he might have genuinely given up his wicked ways, by the episode’s close we find him meeting with the newly risen Frank Irving. He has been playing everyone for fools, it seems. His soul still belongs to Henry and now he does not even betray any ambivalence about serving our elderly prince of darkness. He is truly on the side of evil now.

Let’s be honest, if anyone in the general vicinity of Sleepy Hollow deserves a redemption arc, it’s the Captain, and I truly hope he gets one. But for the moment, I’d settle simply for a promise not to kill him off. Call it a gut feeling, but I think Irving may be headed for a permanent grave sooner rather than later and disappointing as that would be, it would only be in keeping with the show’s continual downhill slide. Le sigh.

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