Recap: Sleepy Hollow, “Awakening” (2×17)

With the exception of last week’s squandered potential, the latter half of Sleepy Hollow’s second season has done a much better job weaving together episodic baddies – Solomon Kent, the creepy painting murderer – with the character work needed to end up where “Awakening” takes us. The episode itself contained some strange pacing decisions, and proved definitively that the writers had no idea what to do with Frank, but the possibilities going forward – or rather, backward – promise a reinvigorated energy.

“Awakening” ends back where the show began, on the road to Sleepy Hollow where a Witness narrowly avoids being hit by a vehicle while “Sympathy for the Devil” plays in the background. Except now, we’re in the past, and that vehicle is a horse-drawn carriage, violins are covering the Stones, and the Witness is Abby. Abby’s trip back to 1781 is fraught with more substantially more peril than Ichabod’s appearance in the present, and that’s a boon for the show. In 2014, Ichabod suffered through an adjustment period, but mostly he resembles a snobbishly overzealous history buff. At worst, he was an oddball with a taste for florid prose who earned some serious side-eye from confused spectators. But Abby is a black woman sent to a time when both black people and women were traded like livestock, and as is made immediately clear, she lacks both the papers and the manners to pass through colonial society without a guide. Taken to jail, she plays the only card she can conjure: she has information vital to the war effort, and the only man she’ll talk to is one Captain Ichabod Crane.

The opportunity to see Ichabod in his natural habitat is a most exciting development. Tom Mison will get the opportunity to deploy his crisp and cutting delivery as the cultural mentor rather than mentee, and Nicole Beharie will get a chance to move from bemused instruction to frustrated acclimation. The actors’ talents and chemistry moved to a new setting gives Sleepy Hollow a chance to revitalize.

Of course, determining whether or not my speculation holds true will have to wait until next week. This week, we said goodbye to another character – at least for now.

John Noble’s Henry Parrish, nee Jeremy Crane, was a fascinating if utterly crazy surprise at the end of season one; the enemy in plain sight, whose presence alongside the Witnesses made them confront the fact that they knew far less about what was going on around them then they thought. But lately, after Henry turned on Moloch to protect Katrina from the demon’s wrath, his purpose on the show became a hindrance, something the show even circumspectly acknowledged during his soul-searching stay in the motel. The bond between that mother and son gave Henry an Oedipal purpose: rekindle his connection with his mother at all costs, and bring the witches back to the world. In the process, he meets his death in the most mundane way when Abby shoots him square in the chest, leaving his mother to an inconsolable rage.

Henry also became an immovable wedge between Ichabod and Katrina, highlighting the difference between the noble soldier and the maternal witch. Like it or not, Katrina’s residual affection for Henry has been her most consistent character trait ever since she found out he was her son. Combined with the recent emphasis placed on her discomfort in the 21st century and her attraction to blood magic to fill the void inside her, opting to join Henry and resurrect her coven isn’t a stretch. What comes more out of left field is her choice to throw over Ichabod so quickly, rather than try to win him over one last time. “Be wary,” Ichabod says, “what you say now can’t be unsaid.” Katrina doesn’t hesitate; her bond with Ichabod has brought her nothing but pain for 200 years, while a new coven with her son at her side resonates as a cure for her loneliness. Failing that, she’ll go back to the past to when she was still pregnant with Jeremy so she can do it all again without prioritizing Ichabod.

While Katrina’s decision to cut Ichabod out of her life is abrupt, Ichabod’s choice to side with destiny is measured and deliberate. At the episode’s outset, Abby and Ichabod reaffirm their commitment to each other and the Witnesses’ cause. When Henry apprehends the two, and ties them together to a post in the Old Town Hall, they work together seamlessly to formulate a plan, extract tools from each other’s pockets, and then execute that plan to guarantee Henry’s death. Ichabod’s grumbling about the ephemeral nature of modern processes is usually passed off as curmudgeonly grumbling, but Abby still listens and she brings “old school” flint and steel after Ichabod’s endorsement. These two are in sync again, just in time for Ichabod to be stranded in the present alone when Abby gets sucked into Katrina’s successful Traveler spell.

Well, not entirely alone – he has Jenny and Frank to help him. Jenny spent most of the episode distracting undead and unkillable Evil!Frank, but when Henry dies, Evil!Frank vomits out some black ashes and is back to normal Frank Irving. All I can say is that I’m thankful he’s back to normal so that he can be reintegrated into the main storyline and maybe even share a scene with Ichabod, but that may be asking too much.

To sum up, Henry’s dead, Katrina is evil and the only one in the past who knows Abby, Abby’s been arrested as a potential fugitive slave and is resting all her hopes on a pre-Witness Ichabod, Ichabod is in the present and may cease to exist if Katrina doesn’t follow through on putting him into the deep sleep in the past, and finally, Jenny and Frank are firmly on the side of the angels and available to help Ichabod. Got that? Good. Let’s see where this goes.

Odds & Ends

– I am firmly, immovably, loyally on Team Ichabod, but when he attempts to soothe Katrina by telling her that Henry’s death wasn’t her fault, it was so insultingly tone-death that my hair stood on end. Henry had just called Ichabod self-righteous and self-important, and this was a rare moment where you could see where he was coming from.

– They’re coming up with a way to reverse the Gorgon’s Head stoney gaze, huh? And Abby’s ancestor is the first target? I bet that won’t be key to getting her back at all.

– Ichabod’s a fan of hardware stores: “If only we had such a wealth of tools whilst building a nation,” but not the seasonal kitsch therein: “Which holiday requires monopedal pink birds and a band of barbate pygmies?”

This week in revising American history: Actually, the Liberty Bell was fractured and recast several times before it acquired its famous crack in the 19th century. It wasn’t made by the Axminster Bell Company either, but in an episode featuring time travel, I feel like I’m nitpicking.