Recap: Sleepy Hollow, “Pittura Infamante” (2×13)

I’m not sure I’m sold on Sleepy Hollow as a show that should have 22-episode seasons. As a heavily serialized genre show that relies on a mix of save-the-world horror tropes and quirky character dynamics, wheel-spinning episodes that don’t accomplish much can leave viewers feeling let down. At the TCA press tour, Fox execs suggested that the show will be moving away from heavy serialization and towards a lighter tone with more stand-alone elements. If that’s the case, then episodes such as this one, where nobody mentions the super-powerful angel who they just betrayed and is now on the lam, will be easier to enjoy simply for the story contained within.

“Pittura Infamente” didn’t feature a lot of smiles from our protagonists, but it did have some creatively fun and ghoulish horror movie moments, which is a definite step up. James Colby, the visionary painter turned itinerary portraitist turned homicidal maniac, is covered in blood a la Carrie, and the swirling, twisting effects as people pass in and out of the cursed painting strike the perfect chord of being trippy and surreal. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more talking, especially between Katrina and Ichabod, than is strictly necessary, which diffuses some of the tension that could otherwise be mined from the episode’s similarity to the haunted-house genre.

Ichabod and Katrina become embroiled in Colby’s murderous plot when they attend a soiree at the historical society featuring artifacts from John Adams’ estate. As it turns out, the Adams were Katrina’s particular friends, and Ichabod thinks that helping her say goodbye to the past will aid in her accepting her future. Ichabod, having more time to adjust, refers to the 21st century as “our world” (despite a continued fervent hatred of its attire), but Katrina’s constant assault of supernatural memories, while useful, keeps her tethered to the 18th century. However, judging by her enthusiastic embrace of modern cocktail attire, it seems there are some attractions in our humble epoch.

Once at the party, Katrina and Ichabod’s reminiscences are cut short by the grisly murder of Grant, a friend of Ichabod’s and the society’s art restorer, who had been working on a painting owned by the Adams family. As luck would have it, the tableau in which Grant is found (hanging upside down, carotid artery slit, by one foot from a chandelier) exactly matches a series of murders Katrina remembers from 1781. An unknown murderer had slain a series of vagrants, orphans, and other unloved folks in the same method before intrepid detective Abigail Adams (guest star Michelle Trachtenberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) discovered his identity and trapped him in his own “pittura infamante” – defaming portrait – with the help of Reverend Knapp from Katrina’s coven (remember him from the pilot?).

Ichabod and Abbie’s strength as witnesses comes from their bond; it was nice to see Katrina derive some of her usefulness from her relationship with her former BFF Abigail Adams rather than just her witch-y abilities. Adams, a fascinating woman in her own right, is woefully underused in the flashbacks this episode, but Katrina’s discovery of her secret letters leads me to believe we’ll see her again.

Meanwhile, Frank Irving wanders into the police precinct in search of Abbie and sanctuary. Abbie is stunned but not elated at his return; Frank’s soul belongs to the Horseman of War, AKA Henry Bishop, AKA Crane Junior, and if Frank’s back, that means Henry could be too. Abbie mourned Frank, moved on, and if she needs to, she’s reluctantly willing to return him to grave to weaken Henry’s demonic toolbox.

Once again, Jenny is the under-appreciated supporting MVP. Sent off to gather demon-killing bullets that Hawley claimed were made from platinum from the Gates of Hell, Jenny’s forced to fish them from the demon’s corpse and accidentally reanimates it, since nobody told her to leave one in to keep the thing dead. Jenny’s encounter with the demon reminds her that even if Frank is in thrall to Henry, he’s no monster, and the Cranes and Mills have a responsibility to do everything in their power to save him before making use of those five magic bullets. As usual, Jenny’s moral compass balances out Abbie’s pragmatism.

Now that Katrina and Ichabod know who murdered Grant, it’s up to them to stop Colby before he can kill Grant’s boss Miller, and complete his resurrection. This involves taking a trip into the painting – a gruesome representation of a mind of a killer, complete with blood rain and ravens flapping at windows – to pull Miller out before he loses all his blood. The Cranes manage to save Miller, but not before Colby acquires enough blood to complete the ritual and emerge permanently into the real world. Abbie, impatient because Ichabod wasn’t answering his phone, shows up just in time to shoot up the painting, because in true Dorian Gray style, that was the only way to kill Colby.

The Cranes seemed heartened by their success at working as a team, and are perhaps one step closer to reviving their marriage. But the curveballs keep coming – Chief Reyes receives some information that might exonerate Frank Irving. What do you want to bet that it might have something to do with his erstwhile lawyer?

Odds & Ends:

– I totally dug Ichabod’s formal hair.

– Good thing all supernatural events in Sleepy Hollow happened in the 18th century. Katrina and Ichabod would be useless with a demon with links to, say, 1814.

– Point of order: if Colby was painting the hanged man cross to resurrect himself, and that’s why he hung people in a way that drained their blood quickly – why was he hanging them that way in 1781 when he was still alive?

– I was pleasantly surprised that Abbie had told Frank’s wife Cynthia the entire truth about his demise. That said, I think a seen between the Irvings would have been both thematically and emotionally resonants and I was disappointed Abbie didn’t make it happen.

– Abbie is a crack shot. She hits the hanged man in the painting in a perfect cross.

– This week in revising American history: Katrina must have traveled a lot, because Abigail Adams wasn’t living in the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow in 1781 but rather in Massachusetts (also, John Adams was in Europe so he couldn’t have been trying to prosecute anyone for the murders). Geography is not this show’s strong suit.