Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (1x6)

The term sin is a hard one to define. It can mean error, wrongdoing, "to miss the mark" and taken in a religious context, it can mean the violation of God's holy law or a violation of the relationship between God and humanity which is supposed to be sacred. The New Testament clearly states in the Gospel of John that every human sins ("let he who is without sin cast the first stone") but that forgiveness is possible through Jesus. By offering your sins up to God and repenting, you are absolved and cleansed. But are there sins that are un-absovable? I have no desire to get into theology but what happens if you think your sins are too great and there is no chance of forgiveness but instead the gaping maw of Hell looms in your future? Enter the sin eater legend. The sin eater legend is a type of religious magic in which a special individual has the ability to remove the sin from the soul and takes it into their own. For what it's worth, often times Jesus is seen as the archetypical sin eater. The ritual of the sin eater is interesting in its own right but essentially the sin eater places bread on the sinner in question and the sin goes into the bread which the sin eater then consumes, thus allowing the sinner to rest in peace. In this weeks episode of Sleepy Hollow "The Sin Eater" we are introduced to a new character, whom I suspect will play a key role later, and Ichabod unburdens himself of his past sins. 

After two weeks off for the World Series, it was nice to have Sleepy Hollow come back with a bang. When we last left off, Ichabod and Abbie were fighting the forces of darkness, the Headless Horseman had risen from the lake, and the mystery of Katrina and her connection to the demon Moloch was teased. So naturally the episode opened with a baseball game. I had to laugh at the obvious reference to the just concluded World Series but even more chuckling came when Ichabod attempted to heckle the players and umpire from the stands. Could he get any cuter? The interaction between Abbie and Ichabod is becoming quite precious and enjoyable. The gap between their two worlds is closing, especially as Abbie explains her love of baseball: tradition, teamwork, and democracy. All things Ichabod loves. This brief respite of fun was a nice breather before the much darker and heavy episode that followed. While this episode was actually quite good overall, it did suffer from one thing: the dreaded info-dump.

Info-dump is a term used when in TV or literature, the writers proceed to give the audience/reader a hefty amount of information in a short period of time. This information is always vital to the overall arc or plot but tends to come in one fell swoop that barely gives the audience time to process or breathe. Most often it is done by exposition between two characters wherein one character asks questions and the other explains the world in which they are living and the history of how the world got this way. In the case of this episode of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod was literally held hostage and told he had to give his life story to prove who he was. Meanwhile, Abbie and her nutty sister Jenny hunt for the deus ex machina Sin Eater that can solve all their problems.

Is the Sin Eater a plot device? It's debatable. On the one hand, he did appear at just the right moment and solve the mega problem of the series which is that Ichabod and the Headless Horseman are connected via blood. That's pretty "god from machine" to me. But on the other hand, I do believe the Sin Eater will play a bigger role in the series, whatever that might be (one does not hire John Noble for just one episode. Especially when the creators of this show worked with him for 5 years previously, creating one of the most beloved cult show characters). But I'm getting ahead of myself.

After the adorable Ichabbie baseball game, Ichabod proceeds to walk to the supposed grave site of his wife, Katrina. Where he is promptly shot with a tranquilizer dart and kidnapped. Meanwhile, Ichabod in danger, Katrina sends Abbie a message from the great beyond through a vision. The vision is haunting and strange and there are probably clues all over the place. It might take some intense rewatching to catch them all, but here are a few that stood out to me: the vision takes place in the Crane house, the home Katrina and Ichabod created for themselves, yet the house is not a happy one. One can hear the sounds of a crying babe throughout the vision and when Abbie finds a black bassinet, there is no baby inside but a black voodoo-like doll. I am reminded that Moloch is the demon associated with children and that Katrina has made some sort of deal with him. Did Katrina offer up her and Ichabod's child to Moloch in order to preserve Ichabod's life? Also in the vision, the Headless Horseman appears and gives Abbie chase throughout the house. Why is the Horseman in the house and apart of this vision? If the Horseman is actually DEATH are we to assume that "death" is a presence in the Crane household, forming a deeper connection that just the blood link between the Horseman and Ichabod? And finally, I could not help but notice the coven of women in the house performing sort of ritual, clothed in black lace. My theory that Katrina is part of the dark evil coven continues to be supported.

Katrina eventually appears to Abbie and tells the Lieutenant that she must find the Sin Eater before the Headless Horseman rides by nightfall. The Sin Eater--and the Sin Eater alone--can separate Ichabod and the Headless Horseman. Once their blood is no longer connected, it will be possible to take down the Horseman without doing fatal harm to Icahbod. From this point, there are two different narratives so let's take them one at a time. Abbie gets her sister Jenny out of the psych ward and together the two investigate the mystery of the Sin Eater which leads them to Walter Bishop Henry Parrish (who will never be anybody but Walter Bishop to me and I am waiting for this new character to make an LSD reference or ask for a root beer float or talk about fruit cocktails (I miss Fringe)). Henry Parrish is a bit of a sad man who wants nothing to do with his gift; it is not one he understands and one he longer has any interest in administering. The only help Henry can offer is by showing Abbie where Ichabod is being held, so long as her connection to Ichabod is strong enough. And of course it is. Hear that? That's the sound of a ship with wind in its sails heading out for canon waters. Abbie learns that Ichabod is being held underground by the Freemasons (naturally. Because somehow they always come into this). Which brings us to Ichabod's capture.

Ichabod awakens from his tranquilized state to discover that he is being held by the Freemasons, a deduction he makes in a very Sherlock Holmes type of way. The Masons are suspicious that Ichabod is not really their long lost brother and thus put him to a test. They have in their possession an account of Ichabod's life, but not written by him. If Ichabod can tell his story and it matches the book, then he must be the real Ichabod. Side note but does this mean there have been imposter Ichabod's over the years? Are there other men wandering around in colonial dress claiming to be a long dead solider? There is one story in particular the Masons want Ichabod to retell and it begins with Latin (oh boy! All good things start with Latin!): ordo ab chao or order from chaos, which is a saying of the Freemasons.
We then flashback to when Ichabod was still a loyal British redcoat trying to find traitors who are spreading sedition. In this case, a pamphlet spread by "Cicero" leads the Brits to a freed slave named Arthur Bernard. Ichabod's job is to torture Bernard into revealing who Cicero is (these guys have obviously never watched TV. Everyone knows the suspect is the author). During this time Ichabod meets Quaker Nurse Katrina van Tassel who tries to talk Ichabod out of his mission. Ichabod is obviously drawn to Katrina and after watching the senseless brutality of his fellow Redcoats, Ichabod's conscience begins to nag at him. And then he sees that his commanding officer is a demon. I mean, they had to get demons in here somehow, right? When he is ordered to kill Bernard, Ichabod instead frees him, deciding that his loyalties no longer lie with the British but with the colonists. But then Bernard dies anyway by the hand of the demon and Ichabod is left wounded. From that moment on, Ichabod became an American spy working with General Washington and eventually marries Katrina, as we know. But the death of the freed slave has weighed heavily on Ichabod: if he had let him go earlier, maybe he would have lived! This is Ichabod's greatest sin.

After Ichabod finishes telling the Masons his tale, the Masons accept him as the real Ichabod Crane and reveal that it was Katrina who wrote the account in the book and that Katrina also hid her husband away once she brought him back to life. She hid him away because the Masons were looking to kill Ichabod! Oh no! We have to remember that Ichabod's life is tied to the Headless Horseman and if Ichabod dies, makes the ultimate self-sacrifice, then the Headless Horseman will perish and the Apocalypse will be averted (side note but NO. You cannot KILL DEATH. This continues to annoy me). It is at this point that Abbie arrives to save Ichabod only to find that Ichabod is ready to go to his death and drinks poison. Abbie refuses to leave Ichabod and holds his hand as he slips away.

But then by some miracle the Sin Eater arrives. How did he arrive just in time? Was this planned? Why did he change his mind? He claims it is because he realizes Ichabod is the true reason for his gift but that seems convenient. I am now suspicious of this Sin Eater. We get to see the ritual play out on screen which was bizarre but interesting. The Sin Eater pierces Ichabod's palm (a la nails of crucifixion). As Ichabod's blood pools on the table, the Sin Eater instructs him to bring Bernard to the front of his mind and ask for absolution. When the ex-slave appears, he tells Ichabod that he has nothing to feel guilty over and that the Headless Horseman is feeding on Icahbod's regret (wut?) and it is more important to stop the Horseman and to do that the two must separate. Then the blood that has pooled on the table actually separates into Ichabod's red and the Horseman's black (wut?) and the Sin Eater dips his bread into the blood and eats it. Ichabod has now been sanctified and the poison has been removed from his system (wut?) and now Ichabod and Abbie can face the Horseman without fear of Ichabod dying. Also: they hugged!! Abbie and Ichabod hugged!! That is clearly the most important part of the story.

Miscellaneous Notes from The Sin Eater

--I didn't want to ship Ichabbie but I think I'm a goner. Between Ichabod bowing to Abbie in the beginning and then them hugging at the end, let your ship flags fly.

--I fail to see why they brought Jenny back into this episode. She didn't actually do anything; Abbie figured out where the Sin Eater was.

--The episode ended with the Horseman going to Ichabod's underground cave/grave. Does he sense that the two are no longer tied? Will we see the other Horseman? We've already seen Pestilence.

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