Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sleepy Hollow 3x10 "Incident at Stone Manor" (See You on the Other Side) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Incident at Stone Manor"
Original Airdate: February 12, 2016

This week, Team Witness is still trying to find Abbie because of course they are. They decide to use astral projection to separate Ichabod’s soul from his body and allow him to find Abbie in another realm, which he does! Unfortunately, though, the Abbie/Ichabod reunion is cut short when Pandora shows up and, uh, cuts Ichabod’s soul free of the tether that would have guided him back to his body. Then Pandora wants to make a deal with Abbie: if Abbie uses the Eye of Providence (formerly known as the Anubis Shard?) to get back to Earth, then Pandora gets the Eye and Abbie gets her life and the soul of her fellow Witness back. But, you know, then the Hidden One rises to his full power, destroys the world, so on and so on. Swings and roundabouts, people!

Meanwhile, Jenny, Joe, and Sophie are working on a case of the usual Monster of the Week variety. It involves a gargoyle come to life, except here’s a fun bit of trivia for you to take to the next boring party you attend, readers: gargoyles are technically only gargoyles if they spout water. If they don’t spout water, they’re called grotesques. Jenny, Joe, and Sophie are fighting a grotesque come to life and they defeat it with cement. This B-Plot seems to mostly exist to fill in time but I hope it’s more significant than that? Like, the titular Stone Manor has to show up again, right? Why would a one-off castle be mentioned in the title of the episode?


Don’t believe anyone who tells you that Abbie Mills is extraneous or secondary because she’s not and never has been. There is a reason why fans were concerned about the status of Abbie after the midseason finale, and there is a reason why these couple episodes for the latter half of the season have focused on her and how her absence has affected the other characters. For a show ostensibly about Ichabod Crane’s Rip Van Winkle Apocalyptic Hijinks, Abbie is the linchpin — she’s the axis around which everything spins, and without her, it would all fall apart. Last week we saw that it all almost did fall apart, or at the very least Ichabod almost fell apart and, through his desperate ineptitude and a lack of Abbie Mills, released an evil force that could have killed a lot of people.

Abbie’s role as a co-protagonist is an interesting one because even though she balances Ichabod and is one half of a whole, I can see her as a completed entity in her own right. She seems to be both the half and the whole, and while I think that there is something “less” when the Witnesses are not together, in the past I've never felt that Abbie needed Ichabod in the way that he needs her. This might have something to do with Ichabod being a “fish out of water” character, intrinsically lost just by existing where he exists, but I think it has more to do with how they've developed Abbie as a solitary, self-sufficient hero. She was clearly a loner for years before she fell into this Apocalypse, and she's developed some strong coping mechanisms and skill sets. She’s calm, not prone to emotional outbursts, capable of dividing her thoughts and feelings in a way that best suits a situation. She can pick locks. She can take down guys almost twice her size. She can shoot without blinking or hesitating. She is, in short, a badass.

And as we discover what Abbie’s been doing since she went through Pandora’s tree in the midseason finale, this episode proves that he’s also a freaking genius: figuring out a way to track time in a timeless place and mapping as much as possible in the strange, foreign realm of the Catacombs. Basically the only thing she didn’t do while trapped there was translate the Ancient Sumerian on the walls, but I’m willing to bet that she gave it a shot.

A quick aside to note the technical aspects of this episode: I don’t usually talk a lot about editing, directing, or cinematography in my reviews because I don’t consider myself production-literate enough to really do justice to those topics. But I know when I’m impressed by something on TV. I know when I see something on screen and find it differently beautiful (like the washed-out, yellowed colors during Abbie’s scenes at the Catacombs) or just different (the fade-to-black edits meant to show Abbie losing hope and getting angry at herself; the fast cuts that represented Abbie’s panic and rapid thinking), and I know when those attributes bolster and improve the story and presentation of a television episode.

Adjusting the colors in the Catacombs scenes is simple but effective. It makes things desolate and dreary, especially in combination with the rock formations and dusty caves we see when Abbie’s wandering outside. By removing the depth of color it not only distinguishes the place Abbie is in as “different” — contrasted later, when she finds her way home again and everything goes back to Sleepy Hollow normal — but it also pushes emotional and mental buttons, too. It looks unpleasant, and then you find out that Abbie has spent nearly a year in that unpleasantness, alone, talking to herself and playing chess with an imaginary Ichabod. It was an intelligent, visual way to really emphasize how strong Abbie is as a character, to survive so long in such a place with her sanity intact.

But Nicole Beharie’s acting talent, combined with the aforementioned editing techniques, makes it clear that Abbie’s time in solitude has taken a toll. There are small, subtle things in what Beharie does while Abbie’s in the Catacombs: she’s less level-headed, less still. She paces. When she’s playing chess with herself and hears Ichabod’s voice, she’s at first startled, then desperate for it to be real, then denies that she’s hearing it at all, and she talks her way through these reactions. Abbie was never much for extraneous talking, but she had to talk to herself — and answer herself — for ten months because she was all alone. After she accepts Ichabod’s astral presence, she explains how she spent her time in the Catacombs by gesturing to the map she’d drawn and her movements are broad, almost frenzied, in a way Abbie has never really been.

The closest Abbie gets to her usual self is when she’s faced with Pandora’s offer and decides to doom herself to an eternity of solitude rather than provide Pandora with the power necessary to fully restore the Hidden One. That’s Abbie as we knew her: steadfast in her decisions and deliberate in her actions. She even lands a pretty cool line, declaring her move to be — in chess terms — a “sacrifice” and ultimately advantageous for her side. Note: she’s talking about her side, not herself. At that point, Abbie is fully understanding that what she’s done has removed her from the chess board. She’s sacrificed herself, not the Eye.

Then she starts breaking down again when Pandora leaves and she’s alone once more. In a series of fade-to-black cuts, Sleepy Hollow shows Abbie coping with what she’s done, and maybe regretting it, but knowing that it was the right thing to do. She starts talking to herself again — also through a series of rapid cuts that enhance Beharie’s frenetic performance — and uses her knowledge of Ichabod’s thought processes not to play a game of chess, but to help her talk her way toward rescuing herself.

This proves that I was wrong in thinking that Abbie needed Ichabod less than he needed her: It’s through Abbie’s ability to channel her partner that she’s able to figure out that the cutlass she found on her first day had been placed where it was on purpose, and that she could save herself by climbing down a well. It’s with the help of the Witnesses’ connection to each other that Abbie is saved, and can save Ichabod.

When Abbie is home again, Nicole Beharie still plays her as not quite right. She looks close to shock at the idea of being back, which makes sense. Abbie hugs Jenny like she’s afraid her sister will disappear like Ichabod had, when she tried hugging his astral projection back in the Catacombs, and she’s way more emotional than usual, still more broad and emphatic with her movements and in the way she talks. When she finds out that Ichabod hadn’t come back with her and hasn’t returned to his body, she absolutely refuses to accept the idea that he’s been lost and she’s still talking to herself.

Thankfully, Ichabod is restored through Abbie’s efforts and he wakes to tell her about what it was like to be cast adrift, alone and in darkness. Again, Abbie is emotional — she’s nearly crying, nodding at him because she absolutely knows what it’s like to be alone, and holding Ichabod’s hand like she needs the contact to remind her that he’s really there. It’s only when Ichabod makes a remark about Abbie’s game of imaginary chess with him that she seems to lighten and accept that she’s back, and alive, and things might be okay.

But, just a note: Ichabod has spent the last three years waxing poetic on the virtues of Abbie Mills and their partnership at the drop of a hat but after that ordeal, after he nearly lost himself over losing her and finally gets her back, all he has in direct response to her return is a mild joke about chess techniques? If you needed a strong sign that things have gotten unbearably real for Ichabod on an emotional level, there you have it.

If the show does things right, we should be seeing a revisit to these experiences of both the Witnesses in episodes to come.

Other Things:
  • Look, Sleepy Hollow, if you’re trying not to write a romance between Ichabod and Abbie, you are failing so hard. If I listed every "we’re soulmates we belong together forever and ever it is destined"-style quote and moment from this episode my review would be twice as long as it is and it’s already super long.
  • Jenny was right: Papa Mills seems like kind of a jerk?
  • “He’s released his astral form on a journey to find Abbie.” Joe says it like Ichabod’s gone out for a carton of milk.
  • There’s “no mistaking” that an absolutely plain, generic-looking cutlass belonged to Betsy Ross? What? How?
  • I love that Jenny’s just like, “Let’s weaponize this church!”
  • There were two scenes where characters did Ichabod impressions during this episode: one with Joe and Jenny, played for laughs, and one with Abbie, definitely not played for laughs.
  • Was the show trying to make Jenny seem jealous about Joe? Because to me, it looked a lot more like she was afraid Sophie was trying to replace Abbie.
  • “No, not alone. Not ever.” See my first bullet point on this list.
  • Legit thought Abbie was going to bring Ichabod’s soul back by kissing him.
  • Pretty sure Jenny and Joe expected a kiss, too, if their looks at Ichabod and Abbie just before he made the chess joke were anything to go by.
  • We might not have gotten a proper Ichabod/Abbie hug, but there sure was a lot of hand holding!
  • Pandora is an interesting villain so I really hope whatever the Hidden One did to her doesn’t take her out of commission.


  1. Excellent recap and analysis!

  2. I've read at least 10 recaps in the past 24 hours and yours is the most complete because you mentioned not only the powerful acting choices made by Nicole Beharie (so many reminded me of Aunjanue Ellis in "Mama") also the lighting and its effect. Great, thorough job.
    I hope Zoe and Kindred hook up. He's her type- tall dude out of time.