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TV REVIEW: Sleepy Hollow “What Lies Beneath”

BY The Screen Spy Team

Published 7 years ago

By Jennie Bragg

Sleepy Hollow is always about the mash-up, it’s just a question of what the week’s ingredients are. “What Lies Beneath” had a bit of sci fi, a bit of The Walking Dead, maybe a splash of Doctor Who. While this episode didn’t rock us with as many revelations as last week’s “Spellcaster,” the mash-up was fun and the show still managed to throw some brand new crazy at us. Mainly, a hologram Thomas Jefferson.

Credit to the writers for finding a new twist on the Founding Fathers mythology of the show. Sure, we’ve gone back in time to see Ichabod’s relationship with Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. But now we’ve got a Founding Father hanging out in the present day. This means we got to see Abbie talking to the country’s third President and writer of the Declaration of Independence. To be honest, that seemed like a bit of a lost opportunity, as Abbie exchanged only a few sentences with Jefferson. But the relationship between Jefferson and Crane was the main focus and their scenes together were perfect. Stephen Weber gave Jefferson the gravitas that you would expect for the Founding Father with the most wide-ranging intellect. And Crane’s clear man-crush on him is endearing.

So what is Jefferson doing in Sleepy Hollow? He’s guarding the fenestella, which, according to Ichabod, is an “impenetrable chamber meant to safeguard vital secrets for the cause.” Only problem is, the fenestella is also being guarded by the reavers, a small army of damned souls created by Washington. The reavers have been disturbed by three workers mapping the area for a commercial developer. Ichabod and Abbie are called in – by the obligatory text message from Reyes; is that the way police work happens now? – to investigate the missing workers. And we’re off and running.

The second newcomer to Sleepy Hollow this week is Calvin Riggs. Riggs is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist whose brother is one of the workers held captive by the reavers – and who will end up as lunch if Ichabod and Abbie don’t save them. Riggs comes on the scene and literally starts asking every question that everyone in Sleepy Hollow should have been asking the whole time. “Where is the fire department? The SWAT team? Why is it just you two crawling around down here?” Um yeah, and why hasn’t anyone else noticed this?

Abbie lets Riggs “embed” with her and Ichabod while they investigate the fenestella and try to rescue the workers. Riggs here is pretty much the anti-Hawley – a sober, serious guy with a strong sense of right and wrong. This makes him a better prospect as a possible love complication for Abbie, but he’s a less entertaining foil to our witnesses than Hawley was, with his joke names for Crane.

Back underground, Ichabod and Abbie discover Jefferson, with Ichabod’s face registering pure delight and Abbie about as nonplussed as usual. Seriously, she is not one to get overawed by anything. Turns out Jefferson has been waiting lo these 180+ years since his death (“He died in 1826,” Abbie tells Crane. Score one for Sleepy Hollow high school history class.) for the two witnesses to appear. He designed the fenestella and stocked it with information to help Abbie and Ichabod carry out their roles as witnesses. He then created a cube that provides endless power for the fenestella using, of course, the witchcraft of the Order of the Sacred Heart. They’ve got their hands in everything. And creates his own hologram to guard over the fenestella until the witnesses arrive. The problem is, the witnesses aren’t there for the fenestella, they’re there to rescue those workers.

And here’s where the episode starts to strain credulity.

Sleepy Hollow has an odd habit of conjuring great characters and set pieces only to eliminate them in a single episode. The Kindred, for example, or that creepy yet somehow endearing scarecrow/zombie that Ichabod and Abbie created to rescue Katrina, and poor Caroline, who made her return to the show to charmingly woo Ichabod with homemade butter and hand sewn shirts – and then promptly died at the hands of another of Ichabod’s rejected lovers.

And now we have the fenestella – a spectacular underground library housing all the information that Abbie and Ichabod need to understand their role as witnesses. Created by none other than Thomas Jefferson himself, who guards over it in hologram form for 189 years in order to hand it off to the witnesses. Who promptly blow it up.

Good thing they’re not in charge of the Jefferson archives at Monticello. It’d be one rodent infestation away from becoming rubble.

Their rationale is, the reavers pose a threat to the town of Sleepy Hollow now that they’ve been disturbed. Unfortunately, destroying the reavers will also mean destroying the power source and thus, the fenestella. Jefferson is willing to sacrifice the remaining two workers – one of them has already become lunch – in service of the witnesses’ greater mission. This whole scenario seems painfully contrived to let the witnesses demonstrate that they value a single life more than the knowledge contained in the fenestella. The problem with this scenario is it’s not at all clear why they had to blow the whole thing up. Immediately. And without toting out a single item from the entire library. Or even asking Jefferson, um, if there’s just one thing we need to know from all of this information you gathered, what is it? Nope.

So the show creates this fantastic underground world and the witnesses come out of it hardly any better off than they were before they found it? That one is tough to believe, especially of Crane, the history professor. The final conversation between Crane and Jefferson is poignant and well done, and the bit where we learn Ichabod helped Jefferson polish the draft Declaration of Independence is a nice touch. But this dramatic ending just doesn’t hang together, especially since the witnesses spent the first five minutes of the episode once again pondering their mission and what their role is now that Moloch is gone. Sure might have helped to spend a few minutes in that library before leveling it!

While all this is happening, Frank Irving is on a reconnaissance mission of his own. He’s enlisted Jenny to help him recover his stuff from the police evidence room. This subplot got pretty convoluted but the gist of is, yes Frank’s soul is possessed by Henry. But, before he died, Frank found an ancient charm that “shields the true nature of a curse”. By inserting this charm into his hand, Frank is now bouncing between his evil self and his human self. He’s broken into the evidence room to retrieve details of bank accounts that he wants to pass along to Cynthia, before his evil side takes control again. He tells Jenny this in a moving monologue where he begs for help. Frank has been on a long strange trip this season and it’s not clear where he’ll go next, but his character has become the heart of the show.

Like the last one, this episode ends with Katrina looking toward the dark side. We see her sleeping in the cabin. Again. I mean, really, the woman sleeps a lot. They might want to check she’s not pregnant for a third time. Anyway, she dreams that Henry has visited her and given her a black rose whose thorns draw blood. And we know what that means. Katrina may join Frank in giving over her soul to Henry and helping him in in whatever evil plot he has in mind. If she can stay awake long enough.

Sleepy Hollow is still clearly in the throes of its “reboot” phase. The final two episodes are promising to be pretty epic and it sure looks like we’re seeing the return of Henry to battle our witnesses. Maybe with Katrina and Frank helping. And this might give Abbie and Ichabod the sense of a greater mission that they’ve been lacking the last few episodes.

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