Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sleepy Hollow 3x13 Review: "Dark Mirror" (Devil’s in the Details) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Dark Mirror"
Original Airdate: March 4, 2016

Although the emphasis on this week’s episode seemed decidedly... well, episodic, our characters — heroes as well as villains — did get some big-picture development that I’m sure we will revisit in the future. Abbie is still dealing with her Catacombs Symbol-focused enthrallment, and her teammates (mostly Jenny and Ichabod) are noticing some worrying changes in her behavior. Pandora’s infatuation with the Hidden One looks to be on shaky grounds – and we get a bit of backstory on her, the Box, and her relationship with her god-husband that makes me wonder why she worked so hard to bring him back to life in the first place. Meanwhile, the actual bulk of the episode focuses on one of the Hidden One’s dedicated worshipers: an inventor and formal rival of Ichabod’s named Dr. Leeds, whose scientific fiddling leads (heh, get it?) to him turning himself into a chimeric monster called the Jersey Devil.

This solidly entertaining episode of Sleepy Hollow continues to press the season (or half-season) arcs forward while allowing for single-episode monster hunts and subplots, which is pretty perfect as far as I’m concerned. Yeah, it’s always slightly strange that Ichabod seems to know everyone who ever existed back in the 18th century, but that’s a thing that Sleepy Hollow has played with since the first season: Ichabod knows a person, that person either a) helped found the United States or, b) turned into a monster, to be defeated by the Witnesses in the 21st century. Thinking about it too much, or trying to apply any sort of logic (or timeline) to how such a wide variety of important individuals could be connected to one man, leads to madness.


Sleepy Hollow’s clever manipulation of legend and history continues as we’re introduced to the show’s version of the Jersey Devil. According to legend, the Jersey Devil was borne to a witch (named Leeds) and the devil himself, a 13th child turned into a monstrosity resembling (hilariously) a demonic dragon-kangaroo. Sleepy Hollow can’t abide such ordinary adherence to myths and urban legends, however, so their version of the Jersey Devil is a kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde origin story in which Dr. Leeds, a genius inventor with an interest in the supernatural, uses alchemy to transform himself into a monster. I don’t really think giving yourself wolf claws and a scorpion tail sounds like fun times but, eh. Different strokes for different folks, and I guess he got some immortality out of it so…

Ichabod knew Leeds when Leeds was human and in competition with Benjamin Franklin, so the Jersey Devil version of Leeds is full of snarky references to Ichabod’s past, even while he busies himself with trying to do a favor for the Hidden One: restore a mystical and godly hourglass containing the Sands of Life, so that ol’ Hidden One can bring about the destruction of humanity. Leeds, it turns out, is a follower of the ancient god and even provides us with some backstory via an anachronistic wax cylinder movie projector. (Leeds, while utterly wackadoo and in possession of some bizarre priorities, is actually a pretty fantastic inventor.)

Abbie and Ichabod, with the long-distance help of Jenny and Joe, figure out what the Jersey Devil is after but not so much how to stop him. Bullets don’t work and, as Ichabod discovers first hand, the Devil’s scorpion tail packs a pretty dangerous punch. With Ichabod guiding her through the making of an antidote, Abbie is able to cure her stung partner but Leeds escapes with a bunch of primal gold and a lightning rod. Also, Abbie gets distracted by a medallion-like version of the Catacombs symbol, tied to the Hidden One wax cylinder — but more on that later.

Leeds gets killed when Abbie stabs him with his lightning rod and he gets struck by lightning, but the damage is done. Leeds brought back the Sands of Life and delivered them to the Hidden One. Now that the Hidden One has his hourglass and the Sands, his devious plan for taking over the world can truly be set into motion.


In the narrative of Dr. Leeds’ wax cylinder, the Hidden One is actually a “good guy” opposing a mysterious “Brother Above,” who uses a golden hourglass to siphon evil. Pandora is a loyal servant, who is given a box containing powerful evils and uses said box to defeat the Brother Above and steal the hourglass for the Hidden One. Plans go awry when humanity turns against the Hidden One and locks him away forever, rather than allowing him to rule over them. He’s bitter about that.

I mention this bit of reinterpreted Sleepy Hollow mythology not because it has much to do with the episode at hand – it doesn’t, other than the fact that Leeds is the one telling the story — but because so much thought and attention is paid to it that it has to be important for future episodes. Who is this “Brother Above” character, and will he feature later on? How? How much of this story is Leeds’ biased interpretation of events, and how much is “factual” (or as factual as one can get, dealing with gods and magic and whatnot)?

Something about the story planted seeds for Pandora’s present and future as well, revealing her past role to be that of a loyal servant whose actions of dedication led to the destruction of one god and the rise of another, probably more evil god. Contrasted with Pandora’s constant state of displeasure on Earth, and the fact that the Hidden One is a terrible husband, and you’ve got the makings of a future twist – possibly one in which Pandora gets fed up with this god she’s sacrificed so much for.


The ongoing plot of Abbie and the Symbol continues in “Dark Mirror,” as Abbie shows more and more that the symbol has something of a hold over her. At the beginning of the episode, when Team Witness is trying to enjoy an adorable Sunday brunch together, Abbie wants to stay in the garage where the symbol is painted instead. Of course, Jenny manages to pull Abbie away, but it’s certainly not the end of things.

As Ichabod is dying from Leeds’ scorpion venom, Abbie’s moment of high stress while trying to save him makes her turn to the symbol instead. She almost lets him die, she’s so distracted by whatever feeling or “peace” she gets from the symbol, and it’s only when she realizes that her partner is literally dying that she returns herself... while still clutching the medallion-style version of the symbol she found in Leeds’ laboratory.

Abbie tells Ichabod that she was in a bad place in the Catacombs, mentally speaking. When she saw the symbol on the wall of the palace, she started focusing on it — drawing it, tracing it, and memorizing it while she was incapable of sleeping, eating, or otherwise breaking up the endless days in that other realm. Ichabod equates this peace she finds in the symbol with the coping mechanisms of soldiers, but the fact that Ichabod almost died because of it makes Abbie recognize that she can’t keep going to the thing for solace. She can’t brush away almost losing Ichabod like she obviously brushed away the various strange side-effects of her enthrallment, such as the whispered murmuring and the hallucinations.

At the end of the episode, Abbie recognizes that the symbol is a problem more than a solution. The idea of losing Ichabod because she’s too distracted by this mysterious rune isn’t one she can accept. She asks for Ichabod’s help in dealing with it, and it seems like a definite step in the right direction... but I notice that those whispered murmurs and hallucinations aren’t mentioned by Abbie, are they? From the way Abbie talks, it seems like all she associates the symbol with is peace and comfort brought about by her own intense focus while in the Catacombs, not the supernatural elements we see as an audience.

Other Things:
  • I really love that Team Witness is having brunch together. It’s always nice when shows as displaced from reality as Sleepy Hollow take time to firmly establish their characters as real, living human beings. Who eat brunch.
  • “[Hanging spoons on his nose] was Franklin’s party trick. Not always on his nose.” Abbie’s delightful outrage!
  • And yeah, Abbie and Joe bickering/chatting in the background of the Jenny and Ichabod scene was a nice, subtle reminder that Abbie and Joe have known each other since Joe was a little kid. She babysat him, remember?
  • Okay, yeah, Joe and Jenny are pretty freaking adorable together.
  • “Hey, blood money or… flood money?” “Pfft. Rich people.”
  • I love how show-offy and suave Ichabod is until he practically falls off the moving stove platform.
  • Look, Abbie and Ichabod? I love you two, but please stop trying to shoot things that are obviously immune to bullets.
  • Abbie totally kisses Ichabod on the head while holding him in her arms heeeeelp.
  • Jenny: “I finally relocated that book I was telling you about...” Joe, whispered: “I’m sorry!”
  • “Who’s the true master of lightning now, BENJAMIN?” Hands down, favorite quote of an episode full of some pretty great dialogue. It’s just so petty!
  • “You are the only gift I have ever needed.” Oh, sure, Hidden One — you gonna suck more power out of poor Pandora? Jerk.


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