Sleepy Hollow 2.03 Review: “Root of All Evil”

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As the novelty of the series wears off, Sleepy Hollow settles into its procedural format comfortably. Each week, Ichabod and Abbie solve a case. Sometimes, that involves facing a new antagonist; other times, it involves hunting down an artifact that has been introduced solely for the episode of which it is a part. At some point, you have to figure that the series will run out of believable mystical weapons or historical figures alive during Ichabod’s time to rewrite. Right now, it’s doing just fine.

Take, for instance, how “The Root of All Evil” adapts the history of Benedict Arnold, America’s most notorious traitor. Using the episode’s central device–one of the thirty Judas coins–the story of a man who turned against his country becomes a more sympathetic tale of evil overcoming good because of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe somewhere deep down in Arnold, there was an impulse to change sides during the war. But people as a species combat these kinds of impulses on a daily basis. Knowing what is right and what is wrong, based on one’s personal code of ethics, is usually what prevents people from making dangerous and harmful decisions. When that agency is taken away from Arnold in Sleepy Hollow‘s altered history of the man, I see it as less of a humorous bit of storytelling (“No, wait, Benedict Arnold was actually a really great guy” isn’t all that interesting) and more as method through which to communicate how all the characters in Sleepy Hollow have to battle with themselves. It makes the final flashback with Arnold, in which he has a chance to order Ichabod’s death, all the more poignant. Even when we succumb to the darkness within us, we don’t forget that light that still exists–even if we can only see that light in others.

Writing that through on paper (well…electronic paper?) almost makes me change my mind about how easy it is for Abbie to talk down Jenny in the episode’s climax and why that’s a problem. If the Judas coins really do bring out and enhance the darkness that already exists in someone, that’s much different from being able to turn someone towards a more general darkness–one he or she would otherwise avoid. In that sense, and even in spite of how strong-willed Jenny is, Abbie being able to disrupt Jenny’s plan to kill the sheriff makes logical sense. However, if the coins are as powerful as the episode makes them out to be, it’s a bit more difficult to buy into the relative lack of effort needed to get through to Jenny (she didn’t fire the rifle once). In either case, this climax is a bit of a comedown from the first two episodes of this season. We get more information regarding the Mills’ familial history, which is certainly intriguing, but the stakes don’t feel quite the same here.

I don’t know how important that familiar history is supposed to be to us, either. It sets a precedent for both Abbie and Jenny in terms of their involvement with the supernatural. It also paints a picture of a possible conclusion for either one of them should they give up or fail in their battle against Molloch. Yet, I don’t see how giving us this information now is supposed to make us feel any more strongly for these two characters. The most effective part of this sub-plot is how Abbie makes the case that Reyes was just doing her job in putting the Mills’ mother away, since that shows Abbie is someone who can probably be trusted to make a completely unbiased decision during crunch time (Abbie also insinuates that Katrina would not make the same kind of decision in a similar scenario). Unfortunately, that idea isn’t expanded on too much.

“The Root of All Evil” is an episode immersed in ideas of family, though, so this whole part of the story makes contextual sense. One of the more provocative short scenes is when we see Henry return to the house he was born in and burn the bed. The act is meant to show that Henry is far from wavering in his loyalties, but like the stories that revolve around the Judas coins, there is a certain fear in John Noble’s eyes that says there is something within Henry that cannot be touched by Molloch. Perhaps that part of him still belongs to his parents and perhaps not. Whether or not we see the consequences of this is irrelevant, because just that idea is enough to make Henry more compelling than he already is.

The fact that these kinds of themes play such large roles in Sleepy Hollow is a testament to how well it handles the procedural format even if the series is relying on it a bit more heavily than it used to. These are, with few exceptions, full characters worth devoting time and care to. So, while the plot details and contrivances embrace their ludicrousness, the ties that bind appear to only get stronger between characters and between show and viewer.

Thoughts from the Horseman’s Head:

– Gotta love a title with a pun. In this case, it’s fun to see money literally causing evil.

– As wonderful as some of the flashbacks in Sleepy Hollow are, there’s something mildly annoying about them. I can’t tell if it’s the slightly blurred lens through which we see them or Ichabod’s narration, but they don’t integrate completely naturally.

– Things That Confuse Ichabod: gentlemen wearing hats indoors (not same-sex couples). Also, identification. I mean, c’mon. The guy definitely doesn’t look anywhere near 21. Sorry, Mr. Mison.

– Personal pet peeve: Americans saying “cheers” in just about any context. It has nothing to do with the way in which it’s used. It has to do with the accent. If you’ve been around British people long enough, you can agree that it’s just one of those words that doesn’t sound right coming from someone with an accent outside the isles. I think it’s because of how the Brits truncate the sound so that it’s almost like pronouncing it without the vowels. In any case, Reyes says it mockingly to Ichabod, and I couldn’t stop my teeth from grinding.

– Great touch with showing the audience that Jenny is using Abbie’s account to access police information before Abbie finds out herself in the same scene.

– It’s extra frustrating seeing Irving behind locked doors, since that makes two members of the crew mostly inaccessible to Ichabod and Abbie. I’m just going to be selfish and say that I want to see Ichabod, Abbie, Jenny, Frank and Katrina all in the same room together.

[Photo via FOX]

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