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TV REVIEW: Sleepy Hollow “Spellcaster”

BY The Screen Spy Team

Published 7 years ago

TV REVIEW: Sleepy Hollow

By Jennie Bragg

How do you solve a problem like Katrina? Maybe by turning her bad. At least that’s what seemed to be happening at the end of this latest episode of Sleepy Hollow, “Spellcaster.” It’s always fun to work out what the episode titles mean. Usually you have to Google it, or perhaps, in the spirit of the show, run to your conveniently close by encyclopedia of ancient and foreign phrases. Case in point: “Akeda,” the mid-season finale’s title, which refers to the Binding of Isaac, the story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son. That was a bit spoilery. “Spellcaster” doesn’t require a translator but it wasn’t until almost the end the episode that it’s revealed Spellcaster doesn’t refer to the baddie of the week, but to Katrina herself – who may end up being the baddie after all.

As an aside, has anyone noticed how much the show’s characters talk about binding? Of course, Ichabod is forever going on about his and Abbie’s bond (don’t worry, Ichabod, you can leave off one week, we won’t forget). But there is also the binding spell that Katrina attempted to keep the Horseman of War from rising. The “binding ritual” that Abraham threatened to force on Katrina. The bonded iron that Ichabod mistakenly thought would lead him to press the right knob in the vault last week. I don’t have anywhere to go with this but it’s definitely a thing.

Back to the episode, where this week’s bad guy gave us another glimpse into Katrina’s past. This time to her grandmother, who was a victim of the Salem Witch Trials. Funny story, turns out there were witches in Salem after all. But the pastor behind the witch trials, Solomon Kent, is himself a warlock. He turns evil when he accidentally kills the woman he loves, after she spurns his advances. To cover his crime, he convinces the townspeople that she was a witch and then embarks on his crusade against witchcraft. Eventually his own coven captures him and condemns him to Purgatory.

We learn all this because Solomon Kent has escaped and stolen the Grand Grimoire, an ancient book of black magic, from an auction house, killing two people in the process. Abbie and Ichabod are called into action and decide they need to enlist Katrina’s help. They find her deep in the woods, practicing her magic. She tells them the Grand Grimoire must have been drawn to Sleepy Hollow by someone who wants to use its black magic.

By the way, how whacked out is Katrina’s attempt to practice her magic in the woods? She’s using her power to turn white flowers to a pretty pink. With her new “haute hippie” outfit, she seemed more like a Woodstock flower child than a witch.

She also seems vaguely disgruntled with her new role of Assistant Witch to Abbie and Ichabod. After she helps Team Witness figure out who they’re after and why – they think Solomon’s going to use the book to time travel back to the woman he loved and un-do his crime – the three head to a warehouse to stop Solomon from securing the final portion of the Grand Grimoire. Abbie and Ichabod pair up to search the aisles and have yet another jawbone about their future as witnesses, leaving Katrina to confront Solomon.

They might regret this decision.

Solomon freaks Katrina out by telling her that she is resisting her full potential. “Give into the darkness,” he says. “There you will find your true self.” Next thing you know she’s looking possessed, Solomon escapes with the book, and it’s possible we have a bad witch on our hands.

But the twists keep coming. The biggest being that, just as we’d feared, Frank Irving is not as he appears. Turns out he’s in league with Henry. Who, in the other big revelation, has reappeared in Sleepy Hollow, after holing up in a motel the past few weeks. John Noble is in fine form this episode, first giving us the reclusive, shambling version of Henry that we met in SinEater, then turning back to the gleeful malevolence that came out in the season one finale.

Frank, who’s now a free man, if not a live one, tracks down Abbie and tells her that Katrina has declared him to be “clean” and that he’s forgiven Abbie for not believing in him. In a lovely scene where she enlists his help to capture Solomon, the two rebond over banter about reality shows. Irving: “Did you know there’s a show where people go on dates naked?” Abbie: Yeah it’s the one after the one where they cook naked.” Abbie is more relaxed here than she seems with anyone else these days, and Irving quickly regains her trust.

Which is another mistake.

Abbie, Irving and Crane set a trap for Solomon (Necromancer anyone?) in the woods. Crane “goes Rambo” on him, showing a ferocity we haven’t seen in some time and leaving Solomon lying bloodied on the ground. While Abbie and Crane are looking for him, Irving literally puts the boot to Solomon, snapping his neck. And steals the Grand Grimoire.

In the final scene, Henry has shaken himself out of his malaise. He declares himself a wolf in a world of sheep, cruelly kills some low lifes at the motel, and, in the big reveal, meets Frank in the same woods where they confronted Moloch. Frank hands him the book of black magic. Henry declares that he is now the master of his own destiny and that “this is where it all begins.”

I’m not going to play the game of “Is Sleepy Hollow back?” which is getting thrown around a lot. Partly because I think that reports of the show’s death were greatly exaggerated, at least in terms of what we saw onscreen. This season has had its issues, to be sure, but there have been some very strong episodes, and I think it’s a mistake to assume that the fandom speaks as one in terms of what it wants from the show.

A show with as many diverse elements to it as Sleepy Hollow is going to attract a diverse audience, some perhaps more attracted by the twistory, others by the supernatural, others by the romantic elements. The trick is maintaining the balance and that is where the show struggled midseason.

Now that Henry is back, Irving is revealed to be working in cahoots with him and who knows what Katrina is about to get up to? I’m rooting for the show to bring back the big Apocalyptic threat that was the central premise of the Sleepy Hollow from the start.

And this episode might be a start in that direction.

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