SLEEPY HOLLOW 1.6: “The Sin Eater”

sin-eaterFinally, a little time was devoted to Ichabod Crane’s backstory from the Revolutionary War period — specifically what he was doing for the British before switching sides to throw in with George Washington. And we got to see how Ichy met Katrina the Quaker witch.

But best of all, John Noble — the brilliant but wacky Walter Bishop from FRINGE — was back on our TV screens, playing another enigmatic character. I’m glad he’s sticking around for a few more episodes.

After watching a local baseball game with Abbie (Nicole Beharie), Ichabod (Tom Mison) decides to visit Katrina’s (Katia Winter) grave — where he is shot by a tranquilizer dart and kidnapped. Meanwhile, Abbie has a prophetic dream (while driving!) in which Katrina warns her that Ichy has been kidnapped, the Horseman is coming back, and if the Horseman is defeated, Crane will die because of their blood link. Ichabod needs to be “sanctified” by a sin eater before sundown. Abbie gets little sis Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) sprung for 24 hours because Jenny once came across a sin eater. And, as luck would have it, he lives only two hours away, in Hartford, Conn.

When Ichabod awakens, he’s in the custody of Rutledge (James Frain), who demands that he prove he’s really the real Ichabod Crane — for reals. Ichabod recognizes this Rutledge as a descendant of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and a Freemason. Luckily, Ichy is a Freemason, too. So he tells Rutledge of the time he was an interrogator for the Redcoats and was assigned to break prisoner Arthur Bernard (Tongayi Chirisa) to learn the identify of a pamphlet writer called Cicero. He does this by having thugs beat Arthur near to death. They are stopped by Quaker nurse Katrina, who senses the good in professional torturer Ichabod. Arthur tries to recruit Ichy to Freemasonry and the war against unseen demons. As Ichy begins to question the monstrous tactics of his commanding officer, Tarleton (Craig Parker), Ichabod suddenly notices that Tarleton is a demon in disguise! When he tells Katrina about this, she wonders if he truly “the One” meant to save them from the demons.

When Ichabod refuses to kill Arthur, Tarleton does it instead. Ichy stabs him, but Tarleton turns into a full demon and attacks. Later, Ichabod limps to Katrina’s place to join the cause, fueled by his guilt over Arthur’s death. In the present, Abbie and  Jenny track down sin eater Henry Parrish (John Noble), but after years of literally swallowing the evil from other people’s souls, Henry has retired, and refuses to help. But he does tell Abbie where Ichy is: in the tunnels under Sleepy Hollow, behind a door marked with the Freemasons’ seal. They find it easily, and discover that Rutledge has given Ichabod a mason jar full of magic poison to “do the right thing.” When Ichy dies, the Horseman will die, too. Ever the hero, he drinks it down and prepares to croak. Then Henry bursts in with a way to cure Ichabod. Henry diagnoses that the blood link to the Horseman is fueled by Ichabod’s guilt over Arthur’s death, so Henry has Ichy summon Arthur’s spirit, who absolves Ichabod. A pool of ichor representing the mixed blood separates, and Henry sops up the bad blood and eats it, sanctifying Ichabod.

Sin Eaters are a real folk belief — taking in the sins of someone else by literally eating the evil to purify them. Of course John Noble was fantastic, with his commanding voice and world-weary demeanor. Can’t wait to see what this cranky character does next.

So Ichabod was a British intelligence operative and Katrina was a Quaker, and they met over the torture/interrogation of a prisoner. I think that qualifies as “meeting cute” — especially on this show. Though I’m not exactly sure what she was even doing in the Bernard household. The redcoats allowed medical personnel to sit in on interrogations?

We can assume that Katrina’s prophecy about sanctifying Ichabod before sundown was referring to the next day, since her scene with Abbie took place at night, and thus well after sundown.

I can see the writers returning to Ichabod’s career as a top-flight interrogator, but I hope not before next season. That’s a deep area to mine, and I feel like the show will need it in season two, when series generally start to flesh out their mythologies. SH has plenty to do already with just seven episodes left in this 13-part freshman season.

The sequence in which Abbie tries to talk Ichabod out of destroying himself was a great character bit for both, and hinged on the truly terrific chemistry between the actors. She vows to stay by his side as he dies, even though he wants to spare her watching it happen. And the way she was so touched when he called her “Abbie” instead of “Lt. Mills” — well, there’s a true connection here. And it doesn’t feel like a romantic one. When Abbie and Lyndie were talking about him earlier in the episode, Abbie seemed to be talking about a good friend, whom she acknowledged, rather than a secret crush. Plus, she knows he has a wife!

You have to hand it to Ichabod’s atmospheric walk through the cemetery — one doesn’t see much Spanish moss in Westchester County. In, fact, I’ve lived and worked in a few places in Westchester and never seen a single clump of it. Guess it came through the portal from Roanoke with Thomas.

Didn’t the voodoo doll in the stroller in Abbie’s dream look like a redressed Oogie Boogie plush from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas?

The British had demons operating in their officers corps during the revolution? I don’t think our allies will be too happy with that characterization. Plus, it wasn’t even really necessary; we root for the colonies because their cause was just, not because supernatural fiends were stirring the pot. In a way, this reveal kind of waters down the war for independence. But I can understand why it’s needed in the context of the story — SH is trying to establish an age-old battle between Good and Evil, so the demons have to be on the side of the bad guys, if Ichy and the revolutionaries are the goodies.

The Headless Horseman was again portrayed in this episode by Richard Cetrone, who played him in the pilot and served as the (uncredited) fight coordinator in the opener. He was also uncredited for the brief scene last episode in which the Horseman climbed out of the river.

You may remember James Frain (Rutledge) as Eric Renard on GRIMM or Franklin Mott on TRUE BLOOD.

QUOTABLE

“Open your eyes, sir! Yes, you — Basket-face. I thought only horses slept standing up!” — Ichabod

“You know, there are two things in life I believe a person should hold on to for as long as possible: virginity and skepticism. Surprisingly, I already lost the first thing so I’m going to hold on for the second one as long as possible.” — Irving

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