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Sleepy Hollow 1×11 Recap “The Vessel”

Previously on Moloch Totally Knows Where You Live, Irving’s daughter was threatened by an ice cream vendor with demon eyes, Ichabod and What’sHerName had a witch baby two hundred years ago, and the Sin Eater dropped by for a visit. There was a bunch of other boring stuff no one cares about. What really matters is that it’s been soooooo many weeks and I am ferociously excited that the show is back. It’s been a long time since a series has got me so hooked on the first season that I almost squeal when I sit down to watch.

Sleepy Hollow has a fledgling tradition of beginning episodes with a portentous speech that ends up revealing something utterly ridiculous, usually at Crane’s expense. Tonight, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for! Ichabod Crane…in modern clothes. Crane in a button up shirt with partially rolled sleeves. Crane in skinny jeans. How skinny are Tom Mison’s legs?  So skinny.  So, so skinny.

They blab for a while about Moloch’s threat to steal Abbie’s soul. One of the refreshing things about Sleepy Hollow is how characters generally tell each other right away when something important happens, which makes it a pointed deviation from its predecessor fantasy shows (yes I’m looking at you, Supernatural). Ichabod could have kept the demon’s threat to himself, but he immediately told his BFF, who fairly points out that it could be a ruse to screw with Crane’s mind. Certainly the guy has been through enough to be susceptible.

Likewise, Irving is not messing around when it comes to the demon’s threats again his daughter, Macey. Since Irving has more or less been deemed a disciple, he knows he represents a potential squeeze point for the opposition. He has the man from the park taken in for questioning, but the white-eyes demon skedattled ages ago. If you’ve ever seen the epic-lulzy movie Fallen, you know how this works. (If you haven’t, shame on you. 1998 Denzel was hot. Go ahead and watch it, then come back. I’ll wait.)

The demon invades the police station, happy to go another round of gaslighting the good Captain. Some goofy CGI later (is it really that hard to write on the ceiling in fake blood? Must we animate such trivialities? Don’t you guys have interns at Fox that can be sacrificed for this sort of thing?) It infects an officer and drives Irving to the point of pulling his weapon in the middle of the station, which isn’t going to do the Captain’s reputation any favors. I wouldn’t be surprised if that comes back to bite him down the line. Assuming everyone doesn’t die next week.

The demon wants the George Washington Bible, which was buried with Ichabod Crane back at the pilot. Supposedly the book has hidden messages critical to the war against evil. If Irving doesn’t bring the Bible to the demon, it will target his daughter. I really like how Irving handles this: he calls his priest first, and gets a professional opinion. Then he meets with Crane and Abbie, who are all, “You’re not suggesting we hand it over.” Irving comes close to rolling his eyes, but for once seems almost too irritated to do so. “No,” he corrects with the calm of a looming brick wall. “I am suggesting you help me take this demon down, and if there is anything in that Bible that can help us do it, I want chapter and verse in my hands yesterday.” I could babble for two hours about how happy it makes me when fictional characters share relevant information and talk to each other in the face of world-ending danger. Please do this always.

Abbie and Ichabod scour Corbin’s files for cases of possession, and find a video recording of a 19-year-old woman who had been possessed six years ago. Boo! Heeeeeeeeeeere’s Jenny! Looking downright disturbing with subtle demon make-up that changes the texture of her skin and distorts her eyes. The make-up department is always used sparingly but well on this show, which I appreciate. Because this series is unusually conscious of not making its heroes behave like self-justified dickheads (forever looking at you, Supernatural) Abbie and Crane wait for Jenny’s consent to watch the film of her possession. She doesn’t have much choice, but it’s nice that they waited to bring her over.

The video flash back is probably frightening for the sensitive viewers, and Lyndie Greenwood plays possessed Jenny with the disturbing twitches and intonations. Credit to the actors and the director for the jump-scare at the end, too. Jenny’s face as she watches the video in real time is heart-breaking, too. The demon correctly predicts the death of Sheriff Corbin, and then promises to use Jenny to kill Abbie.

What happens next is a minor confrontation that suggests that while Abbie and Jenny are cohabitating now, it’s still not roses and sunflowers between them. Abbie is stunned her sister could have gone through something this traumatic and never mentioned it, but Jenny points out that they were not speaking to each other back then. It’s good to see Jenny’s confident, cool shell crack and fracture a bit, given she’s played the bitter mercenary up to now. Her character’s evolution is one of the strongest choices the show made, and I like how they’ve utilized her so far. She represents a lot of things in the narrative: family, duty, sacrifice, and injustice.  The world has dumped a lot of bad juju on the younger Mills, and she’s mostly carried that burden alone. Her only mentor is dead, she just got out of the psych ward, and her relationship with her “Chosen One” sister is still tender to the touch. She stands, in many ways, as a marker for the collateral damage that comes from being near the powerful players but not being one herself. Crane and Abbie will probably make it to seven seasons and an apocalypse. Disciples like Jenny, Irving, and Corbin have no such guarantee.

Photo: FOX

Crane follows Jenny out to her car, where she’s sulking about the whole tragic back story thing. Crane picks up a bra from floor of the car and makes a comment about strange apparel, which has to be a bald-faced lie. It’s impossible to believe that someone as astute as Crane, who was married for years, wouldn’t recognize the shape of something designed to hold women’s breasts. The attempt at humor falls flat in the episode’s darker context, but I appreciate knowing details about Jenny’s life. I have random clothes on my car seat, too.

Jenny recounts how she’d have “spells” where she blacked out while possessed, with no memory afterward of her actions. Even after the demon left, she was tormented by violent thoughts about her sister. It got to the point that she regularly had herself arrested so that she would have no opportunity to harm Abbie. This goes a long way to explain the separation of the Mills siblings and Jenny’s own involvement with supernatural events.

Irving takes his family to a safe house, but doesn’t tell his wife or daughter that they’re being hunted by a body-swap demon. He doesn’t realize it, but the demon hijacked one of his cop lackeys and is right there with them. Demon jumps in to Officer Grumpy-Hot, which worries me because Luke’s gotten slightly less irritating these last few episodes. Killing him would be unjust; he hasn’t even had his shirt off yet!  In case it wasn’t clear to everyone in the scene, he turns his collar up – a sure sign of evil – but no one notices.

Irving’s priest pours salt at the safe house entrance to keep out evil spirits. Evil Luke dares his partner to swipe away the salt, and the guy actually does so. This immediately marks him as Too Stupid Too Live, so no tears when his back gets broken. If someone sets up a magic barrier against demons, don’t wreck it. I don’t care if you don’t believe in their religion, that kind of behavior is just shortsighted. Not to mention, rude.

Team Witness identifies Ancitif as the demon who possessed Jenny, sent to destroy disciples. The only way to defeat it is the light of a blessed lantern from a cathedral in France. This is where my only regular complaint with Sleepy Hollow comes up. More than once now the plot has been saved with the timely discovery of a mystical item (or person) that just so happens to be within convenient driving distance of the conflict. I can hand-wave that the first time, but three or four times is too much. The show is unforgivably sloppy with their McGuffins, and I hope that’s something they improve in season 2.

We get a small side-adventure where Abbie and Crane steal the lantern from anti-government survivalist hicks who inexplicably know about the inclement apocalypse. At this point, is there anyone in the town who doesn’t know? The whole thing is kind of forgettable except for a moment when Crane hoists Abbie up to a tall shelf and gets about six seconds of booty-to-face contact. That’s about the most action he’s gotten in the new world, and he has the grace not to comment on it afterward. Ladies, meet Ichabod Crane: not an asshole. The adventure ends with Jenny saving everyone from a stand-off with the survivalists, promising to return the magic lantern when they’re done with it.

The best stuff is happening at the safe house. Frank Irving has some good moments with his daughter and distant wife, which make use of Orlando Jones’ expressive face and the pretty forest lighting. Irving hasn’t been handling the aftermath of Macey’s crippling accident that well, seeing her as something broken that needs to be fixed. “We’re stronger than you think,” Cynthia tells him. Just as the sun goes down, the demon prank-calls Irving, and he walks in on the scariest camera shot the series has done yet: 13-year-old Macey hanging mid-air, possessed, while Luke’s unconscious body lies fallen beneath her.

Some crazy finger-stretching, face-warping grossness happens to Macey, which is uncomfortable to watch on such a young actress. The priest attempts to exorcise the demon, but it twists his head 180 degrees in a classic horror homage. That’s two for two on dead clergymen of Sleepy Hollow. Ancitif/Macey forces Irving to take herself, Cynthia, and Irving to the Witness’s secret lair, supposedly to get Washington’s Bible. It’s gone, and the demon is not pleased. Irving attempts to speak to Macey, apologizing for not having more faith in her after her accident. Macey hears him for a moment, then the demon returns. Amandla Stenberg does some cool things with her physical acting; as Ancitif, she steps like a dancer, giving the girl’s body grace it visibly lacked whilst in the wheelchair.

Crane, Abbie, and Jenny arrive just in time to confront Ancitif. It threatens Jenny, taunting her with past violations, but this gives Abbie a chance to be the big sister she wasn’t in the past. They trap Ancitif/Macey behind a salt barrier, and then Ichabod climbs out of a closet behind the demon, holding the lantern.

Yes, he literally climbs out of the closet. I don’t understand this staging at all. How did he get to the closet? Why was he in there?  Was he in there the entire conversation? The only plausible explanation I can imagine is that it’s actually a secret entrance to the lair. Either way, there had to have been better choices.

Crane lights the lantern and banishes the demon. It releases Macey, returning her face and hands to normal. I’m glad it did, because in the last novel I read about someone being possessed by a demon that warped its victim’s face, the poor person had to have reconstructive surgery after their bones were pushed out-of-place, and they barely avoided dying from the trauma. Luckily, Macey is alright and both Frank and Cynthia survive as well. Everyone gets a hug, except Ichabod. It’s just one of those days.

Some time later, Abbie and Crane are meeting at the cabin, where Crane has doctored up a chemical solution to reveal invisible ink used to write in George Washington’s Bible. Crane starts to brag about his craft, and Abbie interrupts him to point out that she already knows. She went to college too, and he doesn’t get to be the only Smart Guy in their relationship. I enjoy little moments where these two characters find common interests, professional or personal, as they seem to take such delight in one another’s accomplishments.

There’s a mysterious date written in the Bible, supposedly by Washington’s own hand, several days after his reported death. Guess we’re going to need a full two hour finale to solve this national mystery of history.