Saturday, January 28, 2017

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (4x4)

Who killed Abigail Mills? On the simplest level, the answer is straightforward: Pandora and The Hidden One both contributed to Abbie's death. The Leftenant also chose to die in a moment of sheer heroism at the end of season three, running headlong into danger and refusing to come back to the land of the living, claiming her time and her mission were over. The last person upon whom we could lay blame for Abbie's death would be Ichabod Crane, her best friend and partner. Right? The question of Ichabod's guilt over many losses is the question at the heart of tonight's episode, "The People vs Ichabod Crane." Ichabod leaves a trail of bodies behind him: Joe Corbin, Abraham von Brunt, Katrina, Henry Parrish, and Abbie have all died under Ichabod's tenor as a Witness and do good'er. Are they all his fault? The narrative certainly does not suggest that; Abraham chose to have his head removed and become the Horseman; Katrina turned evil and threatened to kill Ichabod and Abbie both; Henry was already a vessel of evil working alongside Moloch. Joe is the true tragic figure but there are always losses in the fight against evil. So who is it that really thinks Ichabod is responsible for these people's deaths? Ichabod, of course. The man carries the weight of the world, the universe, the battle of good versus evil, and all the lost souls in that battle on his (arguably handsome) shoulders. Grab some Fire of Joy and let's go!

There are a lot of archetypes we apply to Ichabod Crane: hero, man out of time, father, journeyman. But the one we rarely talk about is soldier. Crane has been a literal solider in the American Revolution and a more metaphorical one in the war against evil. In that regard, he has adopted some of the more striking soldier traits. Ichabod is undaunted in the face of death; he accepts that his demise might occur at any moment and, moreover, that those he love might perish in his long war. Ichabod has a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong and that he is on the side of right and good. Along with these hallmark characteristics is knowledge that there are risks and that sometimes you and others will pay the ultimate price; it this knowledge that Ichabod uses to defend himself against Henry Parrish, his long dead son, and a courtroom of angry 18th century villagers. Ichabod tries to explain that he is a soldier and as such both he and Abbie knew the risks and made their own choices accordingly. Does this mean that Ichabod is responsible because Abbie and others died "on his watch?" After all, Ichabod refused to give into Katrina's desire to redeem their son; Ichabod "stole" Katrina from Abraham; Ichabod did not protect Henry from the supernatural forces and ensorcelled him. And perhaps most damning, if Ichabod hadn't convinced Abbie to believe in the fight against evil and her role in it, maybe she'd be alive, off at Quantico, with the FBI and living it up with Daniel Reynolds. Is a soldier to blame for those that die in his wake if he's just doing his duty? Is he responsible for the lives that are overturned while he's out on his righteous mission? In a court of law, the answer would most likely be no. A soldier is following orders and he cannot be held accountable for what happens while performing his duty. Ichabod, too, is following orders. In the olden days, he did what Washington commanded him to do and in the present he's following that self-same mission. And while it's nice to imagine that in another universe Abbie might be still alive, being her badass self, would she still be Abigail Mills? Our Abbie Mills? Without that title of Witness, without Ichabod by her side, without her pragmatic approach to the fight against evil, without breaking down stereotypes and gender norms and racial assumptions would she still be Abbie Mills? Probably not. Abbie developed as a person because she chose, freely, to fight along side Ichabod Crane. I expect Ichabod to feel guilty over the deaths of those whom he's lost along the way, the same way I suspect soldiers are never fully comfortable with the knowledge that they've killed enemy combatants. But Ichabod soldiers on (if you'll pardon the pun) because that's what he must do. Everyone needs a little bit of hope now and then and it's only through his partner's words--through the eternal soul that is the Incarnate Witness--that he is pulled back from being swallowed up by this guilt. I think in a lot of ways this episode was a memorial to Abbie; a way to question if Ichabod could truly go on without her (and, if we're being meta, if the show can go on without her). The ending spells it out: she's not gone, not really. Abbie Mills may have died, but the things that she gave to Ichabod and to the show--the hope, the wisdom, the kindness, the ability to save our man out of time--they still exist. If only in a slightly smaller scale. I still don't know if I'm all for Molly being the next Witness (I think there are a myriad of problems here) but the essence that a dual TeamWitness brought to Sleepy Hollow is slowly but surely coming back to life.

Miscellaneous Notes on The People vs Ichabod Crane

--"Hello Father." Ah, John Noble. So glad to see him again (and yes, I still call him Walter when I take notes).

--"The world needs me to have more time. This is for the world's benefit." The show isn't exactly subtle in their Dreyfuss-Trump comparison, are they?

--The spider demon was absolutely creepy.

--"These are the times that try men's souls." Well, this episodes is maybe the most literal reading of that line ever.

--Jake is growing on me a bit more as a character but Alex is still so terribly bland. I don't really believe we need either of them in the show except to fawn over Ichabod and give science exposition.

--"Maybe he went to the mall and got lost. Again."

--"I would die a thousand deaths if it meant she lived but one hour more."

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