Recap: Sleepy Hollow, “Paradise Lost” (2×12)

Reinvention, re-examination, reinvention, redefinition: oft-repeated words that convey concepts at the heart of our witnesses search for identity in a world without the threat of immediate apocalypse. After Moloch’s death at Henry’s hands, Abby and Ichabod find themselves struggling to return to a semblance of normal life, but neither wants to acknowledge that “normal” has a new baseline. With the arrival of avenging angel Orion, new lines are drawn and the partners are forced to choose where they will stand. By the end of “Paradise Lost,” they have indeed picked a side, but unfortunately it’s one with little advantage and the constant threat of peril from enemies and reluctant allies alike. “Paradise Lost” is best in its second half when it escapes its talky slog to embrace the tension and action resulting from the witnesses’ choice.

The episode opens in the immediate aftermath of the midseason finale’s demonic ceremony, with Ichabod, Abby, Jenny, and Katrina regaining consciousness, the charred remains of Moloch’s skull the only haunting reminder of the battle the night before. The action quickly leaps forward six weeks to reveal that the proposed separation between Ichabod and Katrina has become a reality. Henry has disappeared without a trace, and without their son to bind them together, the two time-travelers lack a common goal. Ichabod is living in the police archives, feverishly searching with Abby for the evil he feels certain is still menacing Sleepy Hollow, while Katrina, ensconced in the cabin, is preoccupied with their prisoner, the Horseman, trying to sever Abraham from his headless avatar of death. Ichabod isn’t nearly as keen on saving his old friend: Headless is an abomination and, even though he saw the man beneath the Horseman, it was an arrogant and prideful man who is possibly not worth saving. Nevertheless, Katrina asks for his help, and Ichabod’s feelings for her – and desire to save his marriage – force him to consider the possibility.

Meanwhile, Moloch’s death meant a purgatory jailbreak, and a number of lesser demons escaped onto Earth – as well as one pissed off angel determined to hunt them down. In a show replete with every type of demon imaginable, it makes sense that sooner or later the other team was going to make an appearance. Orion, ferocious and intense, uses his glowing Frisbee ring of death to smite demons and recognizes who the witnesses are and what role they serve.

 

Abby is immediately taken, peppering the winged warrior with questions about God, Heaven, and Biblical literalism. Orion is never more likable than when he’s evading her inquiries with some undergrad-level philosophical platitudes and an enigmatic half-smirk. The angel compliments Abby on the way she redefined her pre-ordained role from simply bearing witness to becoming a soldier for the cause. He even gives her what appears to be the Pandora gold Frisbee ring of death charm, which she can use to summon him at any time with a thought. Orion, too, chose to be a soldier many years ago, which meant alienating himself from his angelic cohort in the name of fighting evil. That is, until the Headless Horseman killed the angel on the field of battle during the revolutionary war, probably not long before Headless felled Ichabod, and doomed Orion to an existence in purgatory. Now released, Orion has sworn revenge, and his quest to slay Headless is diametrically opposed to Katrina’s mission to save him. Once again, Ichabod is awkwardly stuck in the middle.

Ichabod’s position brings me to two other “re-” prefix words that apply to this episode: recap and retread. The episode is filled with clunky expository dialogue describing the events of the past season and a half, more suited to the second episode of a brand new show rather than the midseason return of a sophomore one. Along with the onslaught of info-dumping, there’s a plethora of familiar beats that are repeated without any sort of progress for the plot or characters. Katrina’s motives being questioned? Check. Katrina and Abby completely disagreeing on a course of action? Check. Katrina unable to understand why her affection for her ex-fiancee may be screwing up her marriage? Check.

If you noticed that Katrina is at the heart of all those critiques, you’d be right. Without Henry’s presence and with the Cranes’ marriage in a state of uncertainty, the problems of Katrina’s single-note character come sharply into focus. Garbed in the finest “witch” apparel that Hot Topic has to offer, she even looks about as stereotypical possible. When Ichabod chooses to side with Katrina and prevent Orion from killing Headless – even after Katrina lets him go and he IMMEDIATELY takes steps to his promise to her not to kill by reforging his axe – it’s only understandable from knowing the sense of honor and duty at the core of Ichabod’s character. It’s certainly not from anything Katrina has done lately to endear anyone to her. In fact, Ichabod’s allegiance to his wife sends cracks through his relationship with Abby despite the fact that the two reassure each other to the contrary, creating the very real possibility that Abby may cleave off and ally with Orion, placing the witnesses on opposite sides.

Opting to thwart Orion’s murderous impulses also has a larger purpose. Orion’s historical timing is suspect; according to Biblical apocryphal literature (a phrase I will never stop enjoying typing), the lone angel tends to mosey into town not long before catastrophic destruction: plagues, earthquakes, and, you know, Pompeii. Turns out he probably causes these disasters in his single minded quest to destroy all evil in humanity and create a paradise on Earth. Ichabod had his suspicions all along, but somehow Abby is surprised that an angel deals in moral absolutes and harsh Biblical justice. When Ichabod destroys the glowing Frisbee ring of death, subsequently preventing Headless from dying and Orion from sucking up his power to kickstart his conquering mission on Earth, the angel becomes their foe.

Making Orion an enemy was a smart decision, because his personality certainly didn’t work as a member of Team Witness. The tone of this episode was its second big problem (after all the regurgitation). Morose, intense, and dour, it lacked any of the sort of playful team energy that normally surrounds the self-serious battles with forces of evil. The lack of a counterbalance to the darkness descending down onto Sleepy Hollow once again was sorely felt.

Now, headed into the back half of the season, our band of misfit allies includes our two witness, a petulant witch, a murderous and untrustworthy Horseman of the Apocalypse, woefully underused Jenny, and Hawley, the purveyor of magical plot hole fillers. In the other corner? A possibly insane avenging angel hellbent on spreading cleansing fire over the earth. I’m not sure I love our chances.

Then again, Abby still has the Pandora charm and Frank Irving is gulping down milk shoeless in a convenience store after presumably escaping purgatory, so who knows what happens next.

Odds and Ends:

– I was disappointed at the talkiness of this episode because I thought the direction and camera work was excellent. The mid-shot of Abby almost trapped in the frame as Orion swooped down, the impediments between the camera and Katrina & Ichabod while they were talking, and the fight choreography at the end were all fantastic. The roving camera gave the sense of the characters being off-balance. If any show could try to trust its form a bit more, it’s Sleepy Hollow.

– The Jenny and Hawley subplot tonight was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen on the show. Hawley’s jealous of Jenny’s flirting and wants her back? Wasn’t he into Abby, like, five minutes ago? “You’re shiftless, Hawley. You’re always moving.” TERRIBLE.

– Oh Henry, where art thou?

– Abby must have the best vacation plan of any public servant ever. It took me a minute to figure out where she and Ichabod were when they went to her desk in the precinct at the end.

– Orion’s wings magically stow away… someplace? Sleepy Hollow, I don’t blame you – CGI wings must be expensive.