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Original Sin: Sleepy Hollow ‘The Sin Eater’ Review

Sleepy Hollow returned tonight from a three-week hiatus with “The Sin Eater” and Abbie introducing Ichabod to the world of baseball.  The fun and games didn’t last long as Ichabod was abducted, and Abbie was tasked with finding both him and a Sin Eater.  After the break, I expected more from this episode, but it wasn’t very different in quality from any of the other episodes we’ve been treated to. Though the flashbacks featured a shaky racial dynamic that I could have done without, “The Sin Eater” was a solid installment. 

After all this time of Abbie only hearing about Katrina, it was about time the two met even if it was at a bad time, while Abbie was driving in the middle of the night.  Katrina had a good excuse for her poor timing, however: Ichabod had been taken and this was really bad because the Horseman was coming back so Abbie needed to find a Sin Eater (John Noble) who could  “sanctify” Ichabod and break the link with the Horseman. 

Nicole Beharie gives consistently good performances, especially when she’s allowed to tap into Abbie’s emotions and really do great things with them.  After losing so many people and coping with her fluctuating sense of belonging, the potential of losing Ichabod and the companionship and purpose he brought along with him really put Abbie through the emotional ringer.  And Beharie hit the right notes. She went from being delightfully amused at the baseball game to frustrated with their search for Parrish and his subsequent reluctance to help then to relief at finally finding Ichabod which quickly turned to sorrow at his plan to sacrifice himself to stop the Horseman then back to relief again when Parrish came through and saved Ichabod. 

John Noble, too, did great work with Parrish despite the small amount of time spent with him, showcasing the Sin Eater’s melancholy and weariness and later his rediscovery of purpose at helping Ichabod.  Since Parrish is already expected to return to Sleepy Hollow, if not this season than in the next, I’m looking forward to seeing more of him especially if it means more scenes with Beharie (I can’t really describe how excited I was at seeing them onscreen together).

Lyndie Greenwood also reappeared as Jenny to help find Ichabod.  Though this episode was mainly about Abbie and Ichabod, the Mills sisters weren’t ignored either. This first glimpse of their partnership left me wanting more, and I certainly hope Sleepy Hollow delivers in the remainder of the season.  Though the two reached a good place with their last meeting, there’s still a lot of tension that needs to be worked through, and it looks like the only way it’s going to be put behind them is by spending time together and getting used to one another again.  Despite a rocky start, Abbie and Jenny quickly eased into the kind of supportive roles that are expected of sisters.  Jenny was very willing to help when she realized how much Abbie cared about Ichabod, and in their scenes with Parrish she was a great source of support for a frustrated and frantic Abbie. 

Meanwhile it was storytime for Ichabod and the Freemasons who abducted him.  Apparently the Freemasons are the good guys, but they did kidnap Ichabod and are most certainly headed up by James Frain, and I can’t remember the last time that guy played a hero.  A captive storyteller Ichabod really had no choice but to launch into the story of his “sin”, and this is where the episode got rocky.

There’s really no way to show a black man being beaten exclusively by white men and make that okay. It doesn’t help when this takes place during the Revolutionary War and the the Captain (Craig Parker) refers to said black man as an “animal”.  Freed slave Arthur Bernard was vital to Ichabod’s story as the person around which Ichabod’s “sin” was focused.   Though Ichabod was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the British way of doing things (beating men for days to get information, public hangings, etc), he didn’t do much to stop it.  When he finally did, sparing Arthur’s life and letting him escape, Arthur was killed by the Demon Captain (of course there are demons posing as British military officers during the Revolutionary War) which led to Ichabod’s guilt over not having acted sooner.

This wasn’t that bad to me.  Ichabod should feel bad for taking so long to act when he knew something bad was happening. His confliction is understandable, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong.  If “eating” Ichabod’s sins had meant Arthur forgiving Ichabod for what he did, that would have been fine, but it went a step further in making Arthur’s death not the tragedy it was but a great benefit for Ichabod.  Arthur’s own feelings – and life – became measured in relation to what they could do for Ichabod.  It wasn’t a “sin” that Arthur died, in part because of Ichabod’s inaction, it was “salvation” because Arthur and his death ultimately pointed Ichabod in the right direction.  I know what Sleepy Hollow was attempting with this, and Ichabod forgiving himself for what happened to Arthur was necessary, but was it really necessary to essentially say a black man’s death is acceptable if it serves a greater purpose for the development of a white man?

The relationship between Katrina and Ichabod was the only saving grace of these flashbacks, but despite the attempt made tonight Sleepy Hollow isn’t giving enough to the relationship between them.  When compared to the effort that goes into showing the intensity of the feelings between Abbie and Ichabod (especially tonight when there was hugging, handholding and Ichabod’s earnest “Abbie”) , Katrina and Ichabod simply don’t measure up.  Intellectually the audience can determine why we’re supposed to care about them.  They’re certainly married so there must be love there, but there’s hardly any showing of it.  Hopefully this episode was the beginning of more emphasis on their relationship which is apparently, like that of Ichabod and Abbie, divinely blessed.

Even though we see so little of Katrina, she could be an interesting character if Sleepy Hollow made room for her to do more than relay unspecific warnings every other episode.  While Ichabod required some convincing about the unknown (demons and magic and the like), Katrina’s witch heritage put her smack dab in the middle of it, and she was far more fearless than him.  While he’s weighing the potential consequences of disobeying orders and abandoning the British army, Katrina’s vocal about the injustice of it all.  She’s unyielding in her beliefs, and her coven was instrumental in the work of the Freemasons until she screwed them (and the greater good) over when she linked Ichabod to the Headless Horseman.  See? Katrina Crane is a badass.   It’s little bits and pieces that are revealed of Katrina that make we want more of her, and now that we’re officially past the season’s midpoint, I hope some greater priority is applied to her.

I haven’t spoken much about the Demon Captain, but he’s definitely going to be back, right?  He escaped his tussle with Ichabod, and he’s played by Craig Parker, and no one brings Craig Parker on for a single episode, okay? It’s just not done.

Next week’s “The Midnight Ride” sees the kick-off of war.

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