Recap: Sleepy Hollow, “Kali Yuga” (2×14)

“Kali Yuga” shall henceforth be known as the one in which the characters all discuss the exact problems ailing the second season of Sleepy Hollow. (And the recap where I talk more about these problems than the actual episode.)

Visually, the episode was stunning. Frequently series director Doug Aarniokoski included lots of fragmented frames and disorienting angle shifts reflective of the character’s predicaments. Carmilla Pines (guest star Jaime Murray, Defiance), Hawley’s childhood guardian turned Vetala demon, perfectly blends the character’s demonic and human elements to be one of the scariest-looking demons to ever be on the show. Too bad the writers invoke the Hindu goddess Kali in a way that is borderline Orientalist and offensive.

(Not to say that Hindu mythology and history should be off limits. Thuggee death cults are a fascinating phenomenon, but when a culture’s complicated god is over-essentialized as pure evil, it’s not a good thing.)

Part of the problem is that Hawley remains too much of an enigma to base an episode around his painful past. If we had some idea of his upbringing before now, or if he had demonstrated more affection for our gang than lust for the Mills sisters (or even picked a Mills sister) it would help. The writers often mistook cryptic references to the past as fleshing out a background, and it isn’t the same thing. At one point, Ichabod tells Hawley that he used to think of him as a faithless privateer, but now he sees him as a man of courage and compassion. I’m glad someone does, because we certainly didn’t see that evolution.

Neither Matt Barr as Hawley or Katia Winter as Katrina are the issues – both are charismatic actors doing the best they can with what they have. One of the major flaws was the show’s failure to define the limits of magic at the beginning. When that doesn’t happen, magic becomes a plot hole Band-aid, a catch-all fix-all that resembles narrative cheating. Hawley shows up in season two with an unlimited supply of magical doo-dads, and he somehow has the right one for every occasion. Need anything done that defies the laws of physics? Ask Katrina. Other than serving as magical toolboxes, these two characters have been given little consistency or depth.

Over and over, different pairings of characters discussed how Abbie and Ichabod haven’t been spending much time together. How there’s a rift growing between Abbie and Ichabod. How Abbie and Ichabod aren’t on the same page and struggle to communicate. During all these conversations, I wanted to scream YES THAT’S EXACTLY THE PROBLEM NOW FIX IT. Tension between the leads is good, but Abbie’s secrets would be more poignant if they hovered between them even as the witnesses continued to interact with the same intensity. Each of the past three episodes has ended with Ichabod and Abbie swearing to be better to each other. There’s a point where I just don’t believe you anymore, show.

Oh, and yeah, Katrina does the supernatural physical on Frank at his wife’s urging, lies about Frank being free of Henry’s influence, and then Frank sees he has no reflection. Frank is apparently a vampire. Or something. And for God’s sake, MAKE KATRINA OUTRIGHT EVIL ALREADY.

Peculiarly and unusually, the actors on the show have “broken ranks” to discuss the fact that they too have not been enamored with the storylines. In an interview with Blogcritics, Tom Mison called the mounds of exposition he’s been forced to deliver this season the most difficult thing he’s faced in his 12 year acting career. And last night, prior to the episode, Katia Winter posted this Tweet:

The good news in all of this is that the show’s smothering, melancholy mythology is a open secret, and thus easier to be dealt with than if everyone involved was still treading the party line. In the same interview, Mison suggests that Sleepy Hollow is the best when it reads as a horror movie, but one that’s in on the joke. He’s absolutely right. Let’s get back to that.

Odds & Ends

– The levers and chains that served as the vault combination lock were pretty cool.

– If there isn’t a digital extra of Tom Mison singing Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” fans should rise up and demand one.

– What “evidence” came to light that exonerated Frank? I found that part maddeningly vague.

This week in revising American history: Dear Sleepy Hollow, Boston is not New York. Please stop relocating all revolutionary war personalities’ estates there. Henry Knox lived in Boston. Hugs, a Massachusetts kid who walked the Freedom Trail yearly in elementary school. (Also, Knox’s passion was artillery and armaments, not alchemy and black magic and security. They sort of smushed the historical Knox together with Fort Knox.)

– Near the end of the episode, I have the following notes:

H goes to J’s, gets a knife to the throat. H says he’s leaving – he can’t stay, a hired gun. Kisses J. I’M NOT INVESTED IN THIS AT ALL.
IC & A at bar – must tend to bond. Discuss over the beer. Sing karaoke together. Proud Mary. I AM INVESTED IN THIS.

 I think this sums up my feelings on Sleepy Hollow pretty clearly.