Sleepy Hollow S2E9: “Mama”

You Are My Sunshine

Mama in strait jacketNo longer the plight of black women on Sleepy Hollow?

Is this the episode so many of us have been waiting for this season, where Abbie is front and center like she was in Season 1? Will Katrina, Henry, Abraham and Hawley overshadow Jenny and Abbie?  Or will the the Mills sisters get their full due in a family-devoted episode where we get to learn more about their mother?  I’m happy to report that we can worry less…at least for most of this episode.  Abbie is back, and so is Jenny.  And welcome home, Mama.

But before I dive into the episode, there’s something I need to get off my chest.  It’s no secret amongst fans that the straight jacketing of Abbie, and the perception that she’s been sidelined as a character has been an issue. The Crane family has been getting  A LOT of attention, while the Mills have fallen by the wayside.  It’s taken nine episodes to get to the heart of what matters just as much: Abbie’s past and family history.  This delay in dealing with the black side of the equation has been problematic. This is not supposed to be the Crane show.  It’s the Abbie and Ichabod show.  By putting white characters either first or foremost, the show slips into the same pitfalls of so many other shows written by a roomful of white writers. Even when there are key black characters,  the white characters’ point of view takes priority. The writers probably won’t appreciate the critique, as I understand they have gotten offended by the Twitter Sleepy Hollow fan hashtag #AbbieDeservesBetter.  It would be helpful for the writers to consider their approach to the season, the episodes and characters in the the context of a world that continues to sideline, ignore, neutralize, minimize, trivialize,  infantilize, criminalize, sexualize black people.

The fact that the executive producers’ and writing team’s hearts and minds have created such a diverse and potentially powerful cast is great. How that wonderful idea is executed and realized makes all the difference. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, the Asian and Latino characters have also faded away from the show. It’s begun to feel a bit like a bait and switch, where we get some great diverse characters dangled in front of us, and then the seasons settle into a show about the Cranes, Hawley and Abraham, with Mills and all other ethnic characters filling in here and there in an increasingly ancillary way. (i.e. Abbie offering to make tea for the Cranes last episode…really?)  The light at the end of the tunnel is that at least one of the writers seems to be listening, or the team is finally getting around to what was planned all along. In “Mama,” they get things (mostly) right.

Sisters

In episode 9 we’re treated to a prelude of Abbie’s dream of her mom. Shortly thereafter, Ichabod is conveniently kept out of the way with a bad cold. Wait. Does the white man have to be sick to give Abbie focus? That might not be a good sign, because it’s temporary and offers us that horrible sense that a black character can only have power when the white man is weak.   Sorry, perhaps I’m taking the Mills Mom’s advice too literally:  “Eyes open, Head up, Trust no one.”

Abbie meets up with her sister at Tarrytown Hospital. They go to visit Captain Irving, thereby creating a rare trifecta of an intelligent scene between three black characters. Another good sign is the casting of Aunjanue Ellis, a fine actress, as Abbie and Jenny’s mother.

Back to sick Ichabod, and enter Hawley. What? Why?  Because if one white man is sick, there’s gotta be another one in the picture? And then, do we stick with Abbie? Oh, no. Cut to Henry Parrish, little baby Moloch and Katrina. Eww, that nasty ass thing at Katrina’s shoulder…

Back to Abbie and Jenny. And yes, Hawley (aka Ichabod Substitute), is joining the journey, because the black women need a white man on the scene. (Please make it stop.)  If  Hawley had to be involved, I would have liked to have seen him sidelined and utilized for research and relegated to remotely feeding Abbie and Jenny the info they needed to make discoveries at the mental hospital, while the women stayed on the case, alone. Hawley does not need to be in the hospital scenes. It throws off the dynamic.

The hospital takes on an American Horror-ish life of its own with funky lighting and abandoned wards (I don’t trust that nurse, do you?), and it starts to get interesting. I want the story to get nightmarish, build the tension, and to stay here. Alas no, we jump back to Katrina. Then we jump back to the sisters. This is not working for me. It would have been stronger to just give Abbie and Jenny the episode. Believe me, we would not forget about Katrina or Henry or Hawley or baby Moloch.

Back to more creepy hospital scenes with Captain Irving trying to off himself, under the influence of what is truly haunting the mental ward.  I think the show would benefit from more showing and doing, and less telling. “Oh look, this is the box with mama’s stuff. Oh look this is her journal. This is a West African incantation” etc etc. Let’s just SEE IT.  Let the story build some real tension and scares. The audience for this show is bright enough to follow the story and to connect the dots.

Mama tears

And please, can we take a break from incantations for a while? That nurse was defeated way too easily. There are other ways to defeat Evil. How about the powerful strength of the Mills women united in love? And why Why WHY do we need both Hawley and Ichabod when Abbie and Jenny are trying to help their mama?  They don’t need no white witness to take care of their mama. Let the ladies have that very lovely, emotional moment. (Yes, it made me cry.) And thank you for making Mama smart, strong, powerful and NOT just crazy.

Anyway, Captain Irving is outta there (Thank God). Let’s hope we get the Trifecta in action again.

Coda?  Back to Katrina, looking a little worse for wear (but still wearing those jeans and that corset).

My Favorite Things

Focus on Abbie (and Jenny).

The Trifecta

More than two black people in a scene.

Two women in conversation in a scene more than once. (We’ve gotten this before. Nice to see again).

An African incantation.

I cried.

My Pet Peeves

It’s okay to leave the white male characters in the intro and give the rest of the episode to the ladies. Really.

Most of what I mentioned above in the  review.

Another incantation.(Yes, I know Abbie and Jenny are probably witches, but still.)

Coming attractions seem to throw us back to the Cranes Center Stage With Abbie as Sidekick mode. Pray it isn’t so. Hopefully, the good faith and continued loyalty of the staunchest fans will be rewarded by more episodes like tonight’s.

Sleepy Hollow S2E7: “Deliverance”

It’s What You Expected

Ichabod I Voted

Nice that they aired this episode on the eve of November 4th with Abbie voting (and reminding viewers that women and blacks did not always have the right to vote: SO VOTE TODAY!) Your Sleepy Hollow public announcement is now completed.

Moloch wants in this world in a bad bad way. And Henry Parrish does his bidding. Not a good combination.  He’s put something nasty into Katrina via a a venomous essence in  spider form. When Henry’s henchmen come to take Katrina away, The Headless Horseman (aka Abraham) fights to keep her with him in a brave act of valor, only stopped by the dreaded sunlight that Henry inflicts on him.

Katrina escapes and ends up in the hospital with a high fever. Henry’s henchmen are after her and she gets to leave the hospital in tight pants and corset in lieu of her colonial clothes. (We did start with a shirtless Ichabod in bed, so…)

The race to stop what’s growing inside Katrina by sundown, and to escape Henry and his tenacious henchmen, creates nice tension, juxtaposed with Abbie and Ichabod’s marital passion.  Abbie takes a bit of a resigned backseat to witness all of this (and doesn’t seem all that happy about it).

Ichabod and Katrina

Ichabod tries to convince his son/Henry to put his mother, Katrina, first. He even has a vision of his son as a boy, running through a forest calling for help. But Henry is too enthralled with Moloch, and Ichabod returns to his very pregnant-by-demon wife, and shares the episode’s prerequisite wacky idea: that an aurora borealis can get rid of demons.  All they need is a stone tablet, a prism, sunlight, and a tactical team!

Wait…where did Ichabod learn CPR to save his wife?  From The Weeping Lady episode, I assume.

And once again (and a bit formulaically), Henry Parrish has another trick up his sleeve at the very end of the show to propel us into the next evil turn in episode 8, which looks seductively enticing…

My Favorite Moments

Katrina taking control of her own fate by kneeing one of her kidnappers and escaping

“Democracy in action”

The look on Ichabod’s face when he tells Henry “It is time we talked.”

Quoting “King Lear”

Abbie telling her police captain partial truths about a supposed cult so she can to gather a tactical team

When Ichabod and Katrina kiss and Abbie says “I belong somewhere else.”

My Pet Peeves

Henry’s henchman so easily stopped by a rolling cart and a tray

 

Vote

The final word, as inspired by “Deliverance:”  VOTE!

Sleepy Hollow S2E4 review: “Go Where I Send Thee”

 

Ichabod drives

I Will Follow You

Follow me, if you will, down the winding road of the plot of episode four…

We start out with Ichabod taking the piss out of Abbie during a driving lesson that becomes a TV car commercial road test. Love it.

Then, while searching in the woods for a missing girl, Ichabod picks up a bone flute (yes, and we knew what was coming next). It sounds like a Carnegie Hall performance when he purses and blows, literally entrancing Abbie. And yet again our Ichabod takes the mundane to a heightened level.

Bone pipe

Blonde treasure hunter hunk, Nick Hawley , from this season’s second episode, is back. (No surprise there.) He joins Abbie and Ichabod in trying to find an Evil Piper.

Meanwhile, our fearless Captain Frank Irving gets a little Bible bonfire going with a not so happy End of Days vision of swords, fire, mayhem.

The Mod Squad (Ichabod, Hawley, Abbie) enters a cave home to find the little girl, and encounter a very cagey, zippy and demony Evil Pied Piper who practices parkour and can create some seriously annoying tones. Somehow, Hawley is well equipped with timed explosives.

 

Mod Squad

Sidebar: Don’t Abbie and Ichabod wonder why mercenary Hawley is seeking the particular artifacts that he hunts, and that he pops up wherever they are? Don’t they wonder who hires him?

They go after the Evil Piper to end the curse that’s killing a family. And end up facing off against a distraught mom who thinks sacrifice of her own child is maybe a good idea to end the curse. If I was that kid, after Mom dropped the gun and said “I’m sorry” and wanted a hug…after she had tried to make sure I was taken by the Evil Piper that I had JUST escaped from, to save my siblings who are just bunch of kids who I’m not even blood related to? Oh hell no.

Ichabod needs a little helping hand after lopping off the Evil Piper’s. Abbie to the rescue and channeling a wee bit of Michonne.

Henry Parrish makes a visit to Capt. Franklin, who, with a straight face says, “You are the biblical Horseman of War. You didn’t think that was relevant?”

Hawley hands over his work-for-hire acquired broken treasure to some guy.

Final moment:  Didn’t I TELL you we need to ask who people work for???

My Favorite Moments:

When Ichabod intones Abbie’s full name “Now hear me Grace Abigail Mills…” and her face is like, hot damn, did you just seriously say my full name?

The Evil Piper’s coat, speedy rotar blades and blonde samurai ‘do.

My Pet Peeve:

Signing over your soul by signing in blood should really be an act of volition, not a trick!

Next week, we creep closer to the 31st, when the veil thins between this world and the next, and we’ll see what SH Halloween week has in store for us!

 

 

 

 

Sleepy Hollow S2E3 review: “Root of All Evil”

coin

 

To Coin a Phrase…

This episode gives us a coin that brings out the worst in people as Henry grins his way through his latest machinations. There are some historical references, the usual flashback. Katrina and Parrish’s connection is advanced and explored a bit. We get more wit, and historical playfulness around Benedict Arnold, Samuel Adams. But this episode felt like the show was vamping (jazz definition, not horror). I would have liked to have seen Abbie go to the darkside instead of her sister.  I know that’s probably being saved for some future episode when she gets all demony just when Ichabod starts to get too close for comfort. I felt there was little or no tension when Jenny went hunting. You knew what was going to happen and how (even when).  Now, if she’d  had deeper sister issues and pulled the trigger and shot Abbie (to wound of course), THAT would’ve caught my attention. But really though, a little temporary rough and mean from Noble Abbie would have been welcome and refreshing.

Looking forward to seeing where they go with the Mother thing. And if the Blonde Hunk will be recurring. Ultimately, this was a setting-things-in-motion episode, and every show has them. As Ichabod said, it is important “now more than ever that you and I stay true. Trust is the only currency with any value.” Truer words were rarely said. It is necessary for the true fan to stay the course, and stay true to this show, for small treasures lead to greater rewards.

My Favorite Moments:

“I know about homosexuals, thank you.”

Ichabod in black. He works that shirt…no No NO, he’s putting that damned coat back on!

Uhm, blonde hunk.

All those close beards.

Nicole’s fresh phrasing and reactions. She’s not slouching.

The constant play on traditional history.

The model town (I love miniatures)

My Pet Peeves:

Ichabod’s jacket.  It has a life of its own.  As long as he keeps wearing it; I’ll keep complaining. Costume might be a way to establish character, but it’s not necessary to maintain it. WE’RE IN SEASON TWO. He has a British accent and speaks archaically. We won’t forget where he’s from or who he is. Let’s have some fun with modern versions of what he’s used to wearing.  And will he be wearing those tall boots in summer? (Note to writers: across that Tappan Zee bridge we keep seeing in the show, there is a big mall. Abbie could take Ichabod shopping, introduce him to the true new America and get him some NEW CLOTHES.)

Hey, folks, it’ll be Halloween before we know it. I drove through the actual Sleepy Hollow this past weekend and will be attending the annual Halloween event there, which pre-dates the show. And yes, there is a very cool and impressively scary Headless Horseman on an actual horse.  I wish I could figure out how to laser carve one of the creepier faces from the show onto a pumpkin:  A grinning Henry Parrish.

grinning henry

 

Sleepy Hollow S2E2 review: “The Kindred”

the-kindred-sleepy-hollow copy

A New Sheriff And Monster Are In Town (and don’t mess with her/him)

While Sleepy Hollow settles into its procedural formula of consulting old texts for clues, flash backs and Abbie telling Ichabod something witty/funny about this wacky modern world, the show also surprises us with nice tidbits like prophetic nightmares, a new monster and the introduction of a woman as the new sheriff in town.  Sheriff Leena Reyes. Latina, thank you very much, and played by Sakina Jaffrey (from House of Cards). Here is one of the many ways Sleepy Hollow excels: it gives you one of the most diverse casts on television and allows them to be complex, vulnerable, tough, smart, faulty and funny. While the writers don’t shy away from dealing with race, they don’t let it define the characters. After my own heart.

This episode draws us deeper into Moloch’s plot to scorch the world. He’s got a plan that even Ichabod’s turned son doesn’t fully understand yet. As we descend deeper into more evil characters, The Kindred’s creature of parts, and War’s golem-like incarnation, we start to get some humanity on the part of the Headless Horseman.  He’s head over heels in love, and the writers wisely (and conveniently) allow him to transform into a deceptive human form as handsome Abraham, so that he can woo his true obsession, Katrina Crane.  You can see her resistance beginning to flag in tiny increments. It should be interesting to see where that goes.

Two black people are in jail in this episode. Hmmm.  But not for long and both went willingly, with ulterior motives to help others (Jenny aids Abbie, and Captain Frank Irving went behind bars for his daughter).

Raising The Kindred is a nice addition to the chess board. And I need to start keeping a running list of all the things that Ben Franklin(stein) is capable of!

A key recurring element on the show is Truth vs. Lies, often embodied as Good People vs. Evil Monsters.  We see it throughout this episode: Jenny fully admits she got caught with a gun. Capt. Franklin takes a lie detector test and tells the whole truth. Abraham lays it on the table. Uncovering The Truth Underneath It All is ostensibly what the show has been about, from the first moments of the unearthed truth of Ichabod Crane himself. But what happens when the people lie (What Katrina says to trick Abraham) and the Monsters are honest (Abraham letting Katrina come to him of her own free will)? When the lines begin to blur, things can become very interesting indeed. Also, we’re never quite sure what is true on this show.   Sheriff Leena Reyes might have known Abbie’s crazy mother. But is that all to the story? What part of the truth have we not learned yet?

My Favorite Moments:

Ichabod’s attack on U.S. Banks’ creation of a Credit Nation aka “An Insolvent Flock of Debtors” (could he lead another revolution?)

Abbie: “Shouldn’t we light candles or something?”   Ichabod:  “Only if you want to set a mood.”  The hallmark use of sharp humor during tense scenes.

Monster vs. Monster vs. Monster

The fact that Abbie and Ichabod both plan AND improvise.

One white man cogently arguing with two strong, sensible black women over an important plot point.

That fire in the eyes and snout of War’s horse

Katrina’s self sacrifice (so much is getting set up for some surprises there)

The mention of Dobbs Ferry. I happen to live in the Rivertowns and when towns like neighboring Dobbs Ferry get mentioned, I do a little happy dance.

My Pet Peeves:

How blase and jokey Ichabod was at the end after that last scene with Katrina. He only conveyed mini sorrow. I know the show is doing a balancing act between his obvious affection and attraction to Abbie, but it makes it SO much more compelling if his agony over his wife and his connection to her stays deep, and his leaving her is a lot more torturous. It reveals the depth of his honor and the level of his commitment, which is a true and sexy thing.

I’ll reserve full judgement until I see how it pans out, but usually you have to voluntarily sign things  away to Evil Forces (like your soul), usually because you want something bad enough and don’t fully realize the true consequences. Being tricked into it? Hmmmm.

Sleepy Hollow continues to take us on a merry ride, and with 16 more episodes to go, there’s lots of ground to cover and truths to reveal.