“Sleepy Hollow” 1/19/2015: The Art is a Lonely Hunter

James Colby!

Portrait of the artist who’s out to get you.

Previously on Sleepy Hollow: an angel came to Sleepy Hollow, not with glad tidings from the Lord, but with a wish for the power of Death. So then that didn’t come to pass and we may or may not see the angel Orion again, because Fox execs recently revealed they’re actively tinkering with the show, taking a break from the ongoing apocalypse storyline for a while in favor of more done-in-one monster-of-the-week episodes, like what we used to see on Fringe or Smallville. If they keep focusing on evil-artifacts-of-the-week plots, I’d also toss in the long-forgotten Friday the 13th syndicated series, since that was the show’s exact premise.

In tonight’s new episode, “Pittura Infamante”: Ichabod and Katrina go on their first date since her return from Purgatory; Captain Irving’s return raises questions; special guest Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy’s sister Dawn) appears in flashbacks as second First Lady Abigail Adams; and the Monster of the Week is a work of art best described as…cutting-edge! (Cue Crypt-Keeper laugh.)

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

Ichabod Crane!

Once upon a time, “business casual” was an oxymoron. Ichabod Crane remembers.

…so the Cranes dress up for a night out together at the Historical Society, where they can try to get their marriage back on track after their recent setbacks, many of which were Katrina’s fault. Crane is also hoping their date will be a chance for us, the Viewers at Home, to get to know Katrina and to stop rooting against her at every turn. Good luck with that, Crane.

The Historical Society fancy dinner accompanies an exhibit of authentic John Adams family artifacts, presumably on loan from his hometown of Quincy, MA, where most of that would be kept. (Our family toured the area in 2013.) Katrina can vouch for them because, we learn, she was midwife for all five of their children. She knows the tableware patterns, the secret desk compartments, the warm and fuzzy memories of a life now centuries past…but she doesn’t recognize the creepy painting in the middle of it all, a self-portrait by the artist James Colby, who’s chosen to pose his in-painting self as painting an inverted cross, which should be anyone’s first sign of Evil, bearing in mind that eighteenth-century young men weren’t prone to this kind of simple artistic rebellion like today’s upstart painters are. It’s also worth noting that the episode title refers to a tiny genre of Italian paintings intended to shame specific evildoers. If you know Italian art, then you already knew the painting’s guilty of something.

According to Katrina, Colby never amounted to anything because of his excesses and addictions, but here’s his painting anyway. Ichabod has a new friend we’ve never met named Grant Hollister (Aaron Serotsky) who’s been working on restoring it, but his concentration is ruined by a series of interruptions — first by visions of the painting actually bleeding, then by lectures from his boss Miller (Gregory Nassif St. John) then by feelings of a “dark presence” haunting the dinner, then by his murder. In the spirit of other, darker shows like Hannibal, Hollister’s death itself is rendered as grotesque art — hung upside-down from a chandelier, slitted just so, and posed like the Hanged Man of tarot deck fame. This plus the “dark presence” sets Katrina’s witch-sense a-tinglin’. Mr. and Mrs. Crane examine the scene with the blessing of Lt. Reyes (Sakina Jaffrey finally returns!), and eventually deduce the most logical culprit: the evil painting.

Colby’s image moves, the inverted cross is growing, and the frame has carvings in the side that look from a distance like mishandling scratches but are actually protective runes that Katrina recognizes as the handiwork of old Reverend Knapp (Patrick Gorman returns!), the wizardly old gent murdered by the Headless Horseman in the pilot. The scratches aren’t random damage from the ravages of time. They’re a hex to keep something or someone in the painting. Sure enough, Katrina finds papers hidden in President Adams’ old desk that confirm Colby himself had turned Evil, so Abigail and Knapp lured and banished him into the painting to keep him from murdering anymore. Sure, they could’ve had him arrested or killed him old-school coven-style, but then this week’s episode would’ve been a rerun or a clipfest instead, or an hour-long date with the Cranes. Brrrrrr.

Thus the stars of Crane to Crane come face to face with a crazed, blood-soaked Colby (Daniel Thomas May, a.k.a. Allen from The Walking Dead, who first ran with Sasha and Tyreese but later became one of the Governor’s victims at that final prison shootout). He emerges once more, drags Miller back into his painting, and nearly kills him before the Cranes touch the painting, pop inside (where life is a generic haunted house), rescue him, and escape via Katrina chanting, “Revertere! Referre! Regredi!” which in Latin means, “Dear TV gods, please let my witch powers work just this once!” And thus her wish is granted.

The final showdown back in our reality could’ve been an amazing showdown between Spring-Heeled Colby-Jack and Katrina Crane, Action Witch. Or it could’ve been a keen blade-fight between Colby and Ichabod. Or they could’ve burned the painting half an hour sooner. But no, they flail and flounder and have to be saved by Abbie, who shows up in the nick of time because she got tired of Ichabod ignoring her calls. Fortunately, thanks to a side quest by her sister Jenny, she also brought enchanted platinum bullets made from the Gates of Hell themselves, which Jenny dug out of a buried evil corpse on directions from an AWOL Harley, except they were intended for this week’s other plot. But whatever, Abbie saves the day by shooting Colby and the painting with Hellbullets. The painting is ruined and the police have a new corpse on their hands, one with old-timey clothing, a heavy coating of other people’s blood all over, and no ID, who’ll likely be written off as a nameless hobo. So the happy ending justifies the convoluted means. And who doesn’t love it when a complete lack of plan comes together?

Meanwhile in the episode’s other plot: a newly alive Captain Irving (Orlando Jones returns!) turns himself in at the police station. Abbie doesn’t immediately trust him because what if he’s a duplicitous plant like John Cho’s Deputy Andy from season one? A frazzled and partly amnesiac Irving has no way to reassure her. Either way, Jenny retrieved those Hellbullets in case he turned out to be the Monster of the Week. (Perhaps another time, then.) His normal medical status checks out okay, but Abbie ponders the possibility of scheduling him for some kind of soul exam with whatever mystic would offer such a service. And then news arrives at the station that the Sleepy Hollow DA’s office claims to have miracle evidence proving Irving may be innocent of the season-one crime of killing all those police officers who were actually killed by a demon possessing his paraplegic daughter’s body. Can’t wait to meet the resourceful employees in that office, who hopefully aren’t former employees of Wolfram & Hart.

Abbie does Irving the courtesy of informing his wife Cynthia (Jill Marie Jones returns!) that he’s still alive, letting her see him on closed-circuit TV but not letting them meet in person, in case of evil. Surprisingly, Cynthia is well aware of the contract that signed her husband’s soul over to Henry Parish, Horseman of War. Cynthia may be treated as useless, but at least she’s being kept in the loop, unlike Captain Reyes, who’s now miffed because Abbie talked to Irving against her orders and is clearly going back to her old loose-cannon ways. And now I remember how much I didn’t miss Reyes.

To be continued!

* * * * *

If you missed any previous episodes of Sleepy Hollow, you can see what’s available online at Fox’s official site, or check out MCC’s own ongoing recaps. Visit our season-one recap checklist, or this season’s recaps linked below for handy reference. Enjoy!

9/22/2014: “This is War
9/29/2014: “The Kindred
10/6/2014: “Root of All Evil
10/13/2014 “Go Where I Send Thee…
10/20/2014: “The Weeping Lady
10/27/2014: “And the Abyss Gazes Back
11/3/2014: “Deliverance
11/10/2014: “Heartless
11/17/2014: “Mama
11/24/2014: “Magnum Opus
12/1/2014: “The Akeda
1/5/2015: “Paradise Lost

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