Episode Title: “The Sin Eater”
Story by: Aaron Rahsaan Thomas
Teleplay by: Alex Kurtzman & Mark Goffman
Director: Ken Olin
Previously on “Sleepy Hollow”:
While watching “The Sin Eater,” I figured out one of my main problems with “Sleepy Hollow.” This is a show that doesn’t trust it’s audience.
When I say trust, I mean that “Sleepy Hollow” forces its points down the collective throat of the viewers. Want to emphasize what Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) means to Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie)? Then let Abbie say exactly what she’s thinking at all times. Even in one of the best scenes of the episode, Abbie spells out an important moment by telling Crane that he just called her “Abbie” for the first time. Actually, I think it’s the second time, but I have to watch the pilot episode again.
It would be easy to blame Beharie for Abbie’s shortcomings, but her reactions were fine. It’s the on-the-nose dialogue that’s diminishing Abbie’s character. The writers on this show captured Crane’s voice very quickly. Why can’t they do the same for Abigail? She should be as fully realized as Crane is, But if the scripts are still relying on verbal shortcuts to convey Abbie’s every thought then they’re doing it wrong.
Even the man-out-of-time jokes are starting to wear a little thin. Crane and Abbie’s baseball experience felt more forced than their usual interactions. Not even Mison could make Crane’s umpire rant funny. Fortunately, this episode introduces John Noble as a recurring character. Noble can’t elevate the entire show by himself, but “Sleepy Hollow” is noticeably better when he’s onscreen.
There are full spoilers ahead for “The Sin Eater,” so you should probably skip this review if you haven’t seen the latest episode of “Sleepy Hollow” or else John Noble will need more blood to spread on his toast.
Crane’s graveside abduction was a good opening teaser; which was followed by Katrina Crane (Katia Winter) nearly getting Abbie killed by summoning her into a dream while she was driving home late at night. Thanks, Witch. That’s really thoughtful.
It’s actually a good idea to give Abbie and Katrina some screentime together, since Katrina doesn’t ordinarily get much to do. And as noted later in the episode, Katrina’s warning about Crane’s fate and the Sin Eater could have been a lot more specific. Speaking of characters who barely appear on this show despite being in the opening credits, Captain Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) has one… ONE scene! You’d think that Irving was also trapped in a mystical realm by a demon from how often he factors into this show.
In theory, Irving’s favor allowed Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood) to aid Abbie in her search for Crane. But all Jenny does in this episode is give Abbie someone to talk to about Crane and how deeply she feels connected to him. These two women are supposed to be sisters. Why isn’t that bond convincingly played between them? Again, the writing is a definite problem here.
As for Crane, he finds himself at the mercy of his fellow Masons, led by James Frain’s James Rutledge. This is one of the few times that I’ve seen Frain on TV and he wasn’t playing an over-the-top villain, so it’s a nice change of pace. And the flashbacks to Crane’s last days in the British military were very strong. Although “Sleepy Hollow” was venturing into “Grimm” territory when Crane saw his commanding officer, Colonel Tarleton (Craig Parker) as a demon from hell.
I didn’t quite buy Crane’s love at first sight with Katrina, but it was intriguing to see him as a conflicted soldier who carried his orders to torture a freed slave named Arthur Bernard (Tongayi Chirisa); a man who may have also been one of the fathers of democracy in America. The sin Crane carries in his heart is the guilt he felt for not only torturing Arthur, but for failing to save him sooner.
Back in the present, Abbie and Jenny figure out how to find the Sin Eater… and surprise, surprise! It’s the great John Noble playing the man calling himself Henry Parrish. On “Fringe,” Noble was fantastic as the mad scientist, Walter Bishop and his malevolent alternate universe counterpart. But in “Sleepy Hollow,” Noble plays a very human Parrish who isn’t as prone to over-the-top theatrics. Parrish just wants to be left alone, which made his later change of heart into a jarring moment.
Late in the episode, Abbie is finally reunited with Crane just after he’s been convinced that he needs to die in order to stop the Headless Horseman. Despite some occasionally clunky lines between them, this was very good. Beharie and Mison have some undeniable chemistry between them. Certainly more than Winter and Mison have shared in their brief scenes together.
Although I never bought into the logic behind Crane’s decision to kill himself for the greater good. Even if Crane’s death would have destroyed the Horseman, there are still three other Horsemen of the Apocalypse waiting in the wings and Moloch the demon. So it’s not like his death would have solved Abbie’s problems. It would have probably made things worse.
Even though Parrish’s decision to help Crane was largely skipped over, his seance with Crane was riveting. At one point, Parrish even became a medium for the late Arthur Bernard, who absolved Crane of responsibility for his death. That was well played by all three actors.
The ending of the episode has a somewhat optimistic tone, as Crane is freed of his bond to the Horseman and cured from the poison while surrounded by several new allies. Although if the Masons and Parrish simply fade back into the background then it will be very annoying. Crane and Abbie have allies now. This shouldn’t be forgotten when the next episode rolls around.
Incidentally, has anyone considered that the death of the Headless Horseman would only lead to the creation of a new Horseman? I nominate August Corbin (Clancy Brown) as the new Headless Horseman, or at least the new head of the current Horseman just because it would really screw with Abbie and bring Brown back to this show in a meaningful way.
I want to like this show. I really do. But until the writing gets better, there’s only so much the performers can do to carry “Sleepy Hollow.” Adding Noble to the mix is a good step in the right direction. But it doesn’t address the underlying problems of the series.