Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sleepy Hollow 3x12 Review: "Sins of the Father" (Runes and Returns) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Sins of the Father"
Original Airdate: February 26, 2016

Sleepy Hollow is exploring a little bit of backstory this week, while also pushing its Abbie-centric, rune-related plot forward. “Sins of the Father” is so named because we get some information on two fathers and potential sins: Ezra Mills, who abandoned his two young daughters when they needed him, and August Corbin, who associated with some shady individuals — namely, one Extra Shady Atticus Nevins. You remember him? He’s the guy we thought Pandora had killed ages ago, but he turns up — alive, and with a few surprises — to cause lots of trouble for Team Witness. And gross us all out. For real. This episode is probably the grossest in a long while, but it was quite entertaining nonetheless, and had a good balance of ghouls and character growth to make it a worthwhile jaunt into the town of Sleepy Hollow.


While letting off some steam at the FBI gun range (and showing the audience how out of it Abbie really is, since the usually sure-shot does poorly) when she receives mysterious, all-caps text messages and a map. They turn out to be from Atticus Nevins, who’s in pretty bad shape and wandering the woods, injured, near the body of a mauled police officer. Abbie takes Nevins to the super secret supernatural holding cell Team Witness occasionally uses, and Nevins informs them that Pandora had removed his spleen but left him alive. He wants them to help him out of the country, and tells them that they’d need his help.

The creature is one that Nevins has met before, back when he worked with August Corbin in Iraq and they were hunting for... illegal gold, I guess? Team Witness is hunting a ghoul, one controlled by a golden scarab, and Nevins tells them that they’ll only get what they need if they lead him to some of the former Sheriff’s secret files. It seems that August Corbin is still keeping secrets, even in death, and I have to say how much I really like the way the show has kept this character enigmatic and important. Sheriff Corbin died in the pilot episode of Sleepy Hollow, but still manages to affect characters and plot seasons later. I suppose the “sins” in Corbin’s case are these secrets, plus the fact that he must have been protecting Nevins for years, even though Corbin also must have known how much evil Nevins was capable of doing.

Clues lead the team to Randall Martin, the guy Joe had handcuffed to a bathtub earlier in the season, but of course it wasn’t Randall controlling the ghoul. Randall gets a gaping hole in his chest, because it was Nevins controlling the monster the whole time! Gasp! And Nevins’ missing spleen? Replaced by the golden scarab, which crawls out of his scar and seriously this episode is so gross. Nevins makes a run for it, but not before shoving the scarab into the ghoul and sending it after Team Witness. The team kills the ghoul, and — as it happens — Nevins gets killed by the FBI. What is happening? I don’t know!


While a ghoul is set loose on Sleepy Hollow and Team Witness does what Team Witness does (that is to say, defeats evil, ugly monsters that go bump in the night), the Mills family is dealing with some personal matters. Jenny, without input or approval from Abbie (not that she really needs either, of course) decided to meet with their father and talk to him about why he left. Jenny airs some grievances to Ezra Mills, but apparently walks away feeling like the meeting wasn’t so terrible. She sort of recommends that Abbie give it a try, since Ezra asked about her.

Abbie does meet with her father, but it doesn’t look like she’s there to learn what he’s been up to. Unlike Jenny, she doesn’t even seem to want to tear into him about leaving the Mills women to fend for themselves. Instead, Abbie asks about Lori Mills — about how she seemed to Ezra, before the full mental break took hold. Even though Abbie makes an effort in front of her friends and sister to appear like she’s doing fine after the Catacombs, it’s evident that she’s aware that she’s unwell. However, the fact that Abbie is approaching the possibility of an inherited mental instability so casually makes me think that there’s more to it. That maybe Abbie isn’t so aware of her state of mind as she thinks she is, and that something else lurks beneath the surface.


Like last week, the relationship between Abbie and Ichabod in this episode is on oddly shaky grounds. It’s not that the two Witnesses are at all uncomfortable with each other — on the contrary, Ichabod and Abbie are as close and adorably comfortable as they’ve ever been — but there’s clearly a barrier between them, and that barrier goes by the name of “The Catacombs.” Ichabod is trying his hardest to get Abbie to open up about her experiences, to admit that the ten months spent in that other realm affected her, but Abbie is both stubborn and opposed to any signs of weakness. There also might be an element of... hypnotism? Brainwashing? Bespelling? I’m not entirely sure, but clearly something inside of Abbie compels her to keep silent about the Catacombs and how it’s affected her since she returned home.

And how, exactly, has it affected her? Not only is the shakiness of the previous episode sticking around, but we see more evidence that Abbie isn’t herself: she can’t shoot straight, and it’s only through Ichabod’s encouragement that she’s able to take down the ghoul with a clear shot to the monster’s embedded scarab device. Plus, there’s the matter of the spooky rune-like Catacombs symbol she’s been preoccupied with. Not only did we see her, in a trance, draw it in blood on her kitchen table last week, but Abbie has also painted it around her house (garage? shed?) and filled notebooks with it. Oh, and hallucinations as well — hallucinations which make Abbie declare the symbol to be “beautiful.” Now, I’m not entirely sure what the symbol is (a trip to Google tells me the closest equivalent is a Norse rune for “estate” or “heritage”), but considering that it was emblazoned on the Catacombs that served as the Hidden One’s home for centuries, I’m betting it’s not all that “beautiful,” no matter what Abbie has been dazzled into believing.

I have to applaud the show for this element of the season’s latter half. Not since the haunting images of the white trees symbolizing Moloch’s return in the first season has the show used imagery to this effect, nor has it extended such foreshadowing through multiple episodes to build up intrigue since the first season. It’s also entwined the occult elements with uncertainty. By re-introducing the Mills parents -- through the arrival of Ezra Mills as well as the discussion of Lori Mills -- the show reminds us of the mental issues in the Mills Sisters’ ancestry, and makes us question whether Abbie’s infatuation with the mysterious catacombs symbol could be more natural than supernatural.

I’ve missed this level of subtlety in Sleepy Hollow, the creepiness and mystery that it’s capable of producing through spooky imagery and an ongoing plot arc unrestrained by episodic writing. I’ve been incredibly pleased with the episodes of the season’s latter half so far, and I’m finding myself more and more excited about where the show could be going.

Other Things:
  • Is it policy for a show to eventually have an episode called “Sins of the Father” at some point? I can list at least four off the top of my head — one of which was Arrow, this season.
  • The Hidden One continues to prove himself as The Worst. The guy is really making me sympathize with Pandora, who was the villain during the first half of the season. That’s something!
  • Look, I’m not saying that Ichabod made dinner and was totally taking Abbie out on a double date with Jenny and Joe, but I am writing it. Emphatically.
  • “Woman with a gun.” “I heard that.”
  • Ichabod using an American flag to fend off an attacking ghoul is such a Sleepy Hollow image.
  • “Are they usually this ugly?” “Actually, they’re usually worse. This one’s not too bad.”
  • Yeah, the post-fight Joe and Jenny talking was actually really cute. You’re winning me over, Joenny.
  • Am I wrong in reading an implication of possible supernatural familiarity into Ezra’s “You don’t know a lot about me” statement?
  • Someone give Nicole Beharie all the awards. Her voice breaking when she told her father she missed his voice? ALL THE AWARDS.
  • I have no idea what that FBI guy’s deal is, or what Danny is doing, but I am SO INTRIGUED. Everything is intriguing! I’m getting sick of the word “intriguing” but, gosh darn it, that’s what it is!
  • “Just as you were by my side when I returned to Sleepy Hollow, so I shall be by yours.” I’ve missed Ichabod’s poetic declarations to Abbie.
  • Why didn’t this show make Abbie and Ichabod roommates earlier? They’re so fantastically adorable together, making sandwiches and drinking wine and going out for beers.


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