Tuesday, February 17, 2015

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (2x17)

Remember that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where the kind of good, but sometimes evil, witch Willow did a spell in Latin and it turned a lot of girls in Slayers so that Buffy could take down the First? I have no idea why I'm bringing that up (hint: sarcasm). In the penultimate episode of this season, 'Awakening,' everything feel derivative and rather underwhelming, except for the last 10 minutes which made the rest of the episode pale in comparison. On the one hand, I am frustrated with the show's treatment of Henry this half of the season when they sold him as deliciously evil last half. I am cringing at the resolution of the Frank drama and how easily it was handled. Irving's emotional death at the end of last half basically meant nothing and the narrative impact his resurrection and tainted soul should have had never amounted to much. But, on the other hand, Abbie traveled to ye old Sleepy Hollow, so I'm sort of okay with all this because that idea is quite meaty. A black, tough as nails, independent woman in the middle of colonial America? Yeah, that will be fun. 

There is a lot to talk about this episode, but I really want to focus on a few things, specifically the lines that have been drawn in the concrete as opposed to the sand and the trope of people out of time. First, how can Katrina and Ichabod ever go back to being loving husband and wife after this? Katrina was very easily persuaded to ring the bell (lord, this show) and create a coven of witches with Henry. I guess I can't blame her but I don't think her desire stems only from wanting to be with her son. I think she's selfish. Katrina has been set up as someone who demands much and is guided by her emotional feelings instead of any rational action. The two are not mutually linked, but in Katrina's case, most of her demands are met with " you must do this for me, for us." It's never about other people so much as it is about Katrina herself. So when Henry shows up telling Katrina that they can start a new family together, son and mother, she leaps not because a mother would do anything for their child, but because she wants it. Katrina is a woman out of time and she's made minimal effort to adapt to her current situation where she is the odd woman out--barely a witch, not a witness, a sham of a mother and wife. Katrina wants it all and Henry offers it, hands open and full. For Katrina there is a liberation in finally taking what she has always wanted, something I find deeply ironic since in the 21st century she is allowed to be open and declarative about her choices whereas in the past to which she so eagerly wants to return, she was silenced either by virtue of gender or Wiccan practices. The insults Katrina hurls at Ichabod are hurtful and nasty. Katrina considers herself above Ichabod, his better not his equal. He has no place in her new family and therefore whatever happens to him, happens. Katrina is a bitch, but we all knew that. No, I think there is more here than just her selfish nature. I think Katrina is jealous. Ichabod has adapted quite well. Yes, he says and does odd things, but he, for the most part, he has learned how to navigate this brave new world in a way Katrina can not. But the main reason for this was Abbie, always Abbie. And Katrina knows just how to strike at Ichabod where it will really hurt: take away Abbie.

This episode operates under a lot of near misses. Ichabod almost manages to kill Henry with a pistol but is stopped. Katrina almost manages to incinerate Abbie but the Leftenant escapes. Abbie almost manages to set the bomb off but is stopped by Henry. It's a good writing technique that leaves you hanging on the edge of your seat because once it doesn't happen you don't expect it to happen again. When Katrina blew up Abbie's car, the line in the concrete was sealed up tight. Words Ichabod and Katrina might be able to get past with time, but hurting the other half of Team Witness? I think not. Of course, Abbie is much smarter than your average bear and got away before the boom, but that should only have told me that something seriously big was going to happen in the following act. And, indeed, it did. First, can we talk about Ichabbie working together to take down Henry just as Satanic Son and Mama are about to ring the bell (seriously, this show...)? It was wonderful. They talked it out, clearly, logically, no magic, just teamwork. It was very sad that it was Abbie who killed Henry but I fear that Ichabod would have hesitated ever so slightly because that's what he does. Katrina is raw emotion, Abbie is pragmatic to a fault, and Ichabod straddles the two, each momentous moment being carefully weighed. Henry's death was wonderfully acted by Noble (naturally) but man, what a let down. The writers really underused him this season. They had John Noble and they butchered him this season; he was kept out of commission for half the arc, then killed two episodes after he reemerged. It's a shame because there was another option--a human Henry who wanted forgiveness. I would have liked to see that, but alas, 'twas not meant to be. Which brings us back to Katrina and her rage at the death of her son and how it causes her to invoke a new spell, the Traveler spell. Her goal? Go back in time and prevent herself from saving Ichabod in the hospital after his fight with the Horseman.

Guess who goes along for the ride? Welcome to the American Revolution, Abbie.

Miscellaneous Notes on Awakening  

--Doctor Who shout out right at the start. Should have guessed we'd have time travel based on that.

--So are all those people witches now? Semi-witches?

--Frank Irving is back! I guess? I found this portion of the plot to be very frustrating and poorly written. Do better by Frank and Jenny, writers.

--Ichabod with flamingos. Life is good.

--If Sleepy Hollow wants extra praise next week during the season finale, they will not only embark on a mythology heavy episode, they will explore gender and race in the American colonial period. Having Abbie--a black woman of the 21st century--in the land where slavery was commonplace? Very good jumping off point for discussing race relations in America.

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