“Sleepy Hollow” 11/4/2013 (spoilers): Does Sin Taste Like Chicken?

Tom Mixon, Nicole Beharie, Sleepy Hollow

Indignant Minuteman Rages Against Oppressive Umpire.

On tonight’s new Sleepy Hollow, “The Sin-Eater”, before the flashbacks and the anguish begin, Lieutenant Abbie Mills catches her partner Ichabod Crane up to speed on another important development he missed during his 250 years in magical suspended animation: the invention of baseball. With Abbie’s help our man Crane is barely introduced to the alienating jargon but randomly screaming at players in no time, just like a modern fan. This was why the Revolution was fought.

For those who missed out, my attempt to streamline the basic events follows after this courtesy spoiler alert for the sake of time-shifted viewers.

Much of the episode concerns flashbacks to Crane’s earliest days, during his shameful time as a dedicated Redcoat. In his capacity as military interrogator, Crane was tasked with extracting useful info from would-be revolutionaries who spoke out of turn against the King and clearly didn’t know what was good for them. Crane reaches a turning point in his career with a black prisoner named Arthur Bernard (Zimbabwean performer Tongayi Chirisa), suspected of insurrectionist writings under the pseudonym “Cicero”. When nothing fruitful has been revealed after several days, Crane is ordered to kill him, but demurs at the last moment because of a few factors:

* Shooting him in the back seems a bit of bad form.

* He was recently lectured by a woman he just met: a compassionate Quaker nurse named Katrina Van Tassel, his future wife and witch. Granted, “Quaker witch” rings about as true as “Pentecostal stripper”, but I’m sure she has reasons for her contradictory roles.

* Crane could’ve sworn he saw his commanding officer Tarleton (Craig Parker — Haldir from Lord of the Rings!) turn into a demon. That’s understandably disturbing, though it undermines the early episodes of the series in which Crane acted as if his encounters with demons in our time were his first.

Crane lets Bernard go with a warning shot that grazes his arm. Bernard rewards him with three important passwords that will serve him well in many a secret society plot: “Ordo avb chao” — “order out of chaos”. Then a scary Redcoat demon shows up and finishes off Bernard a.k.a. Cicero for him.

And that’s the story of how Crane met his wife and joined General Washington’s side in the war — all because of demons. And Crane harbored guilt for Bernard’s death ever after.

Fast-forward to the present: Crane finds himself kidnapped by modern representatives of the Freemasons, of which he happened to be a card-carrying member in his original life. Their leader, one J. Rutledge (James Frain, the Big Bad from TV’s The Cape!), is the descendant of Edward Rutledge, the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. Their arcana collection includes a diary written by Katrina herself, which Rutledge uses to test Crane for authentication purposes. Once Crane passes with flying colors and extra credit, Rutledge explains the abduction: they’re aware that Crane and the Horseman mingled blood when they fell together in the pilot, so now their fates are linked. Where one lives, so does the other. If one ceases to live, then…well…

Thus, they propose that the easiest way to kill the Horseman and cancel the apocalypse…would be for Crane to die. Gentlemen that they are, they’d prefer Crane do it himself. Being the noble gentleman he is, Crane is hard pressed to refuse.

Meanwhile, Abbie is alerted to Crane’s situation in a vision directly granted by Katrina, in their first meeting together. Abbie/Crane ‘shippers will likely be disappointed that not once do they fight over him. Duly warned, Abbie begins her Crane quest by convincing Captain Irving to allow her mad sister Jenny out of the mental asylum as her temporary partner for a while. Despite her erratic behavior and multiple crimes, Irving is cool with this because he has apparently forgotten how to say “no” to anything ever again. Maybe he’s tired of being the hard-nosed commander and wants his troops to think of him as “the Cool Captain”.

Katrina’s vision also told Abbie that the key to saving Crane would be to “sanctify” him — absolving him of unreleased sin in order to sever the bloodline between himself and the Horseman. The best remedy for that would be confession and repentance, but that’s too simple and not good enough for this show. Instead Abbie has to track down a man known as the Sin-Eater, an old mythological figure who would absolve people of their sins by “consuming” them in some non-cannibalistic way. Abbie compares notes between cases of death-row inmates who received visits from the same strange man, and — with pretty much no help from Jenny — locates the Sin-Eater in Hartford, CT. He’s a mousy old man named Henry Parrish, played by the wondrous John Noble from TV’s Fringe! Alas, the erstwhile Walter Bishop has rattier hair, a tenuous grasp on science, and no weird food or drug cravings.

After Abbie and Henry stage a brief overused-Bible-quote-off, Henry’s pupils consume his eyes and he begins receiving visions, because that’s how every plot point on this show is now communicated. No one does detective work, conducts searches, or browbeats lowlifes for info. They wait ten minutes, have a vision, and then follow the hallucinatory clues. Visions, visions, visions!

Anyway. Through his vision Henry receives a bare hint of where they can find Crane. Abbie leads them down to Sleepy Hollow’s underground tunnels, last seen in episode 2 (“Blood Moon”), again with pretty much no help from Jenny.

Abbie arrives just as Crane is preparing to quaff the proffered bottle of patented Mason poison. They exchange passionate words:

“It doesn’t have to be this way!”
“Yes, I’m afraid this is the best way.”
“Is not.”
“Is too.”
“Is not.”
“Is too.”
“Is not.”
“Is too.”

…and so on, paraphrased but with more tears. Crane chugs the poison…and then Henry the Sin-Eater arrives, having thankfully caught the next train from Hartford after theirs, I guess. He stabs Crane in the hand and channels the spirit of Bernard, who tells Crane that the guilt he’s harboring is what’s making everything terrible. Bernard leads him in a meaningful chant:

“I purge the wicked from my blood
Our spirits severed, my soul sanctified,
Death, leave me now! I command you!”

Maybe that’s a psalm from the Apocrypha. While the entire set shakes, Crane’s wound bleeds out into a pair of pools. Henry dabs at one and takes a sample taste. Presto! Crane lets go of his guilt over Cicero’s murder at last; the link between Crane and the Horseman is severed; the poison somehow does not dissolve his organs; Crane for some reason does not throw a tantrum and scream about how they’ve just ruined their simplest chance to kill the Horseman; this newest Walternate stays in our dimension instead of warping back to the Otherside; and I still have no idea why Abbie needed Jenny furloughed from the asylum for this episode, except maybe for chitchat. Cool Captain Irving could’ve handled that much if she’d asked nicely.

Epilogue: the Horseman returns to Sleepy Hollow at last, just like Fox’s promos promised. He discovers Crane’s hibernation hidey-hole and begins to examine the ashes and garbage surrounding its maw. None of it looks useful, but I’m sure he’ll think of something to do here.

To be continued!

* * * * *

If you missed a previous episode of Sleepy Hollow, the last few episodes can be watched online at Fox’s official site, or MCC recaps are listed below for handy reference. Enjoy!

9/16/2013: “Pilot
9/23/2013: “Blood Moon
9/30/2013: “For the Triumph of Evil
10/7/2013: “The Lesser Key of Solomon
10/14/2013: “John Doe

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