“Once a hero, always a hero.” Meet Joe Corben, the son of the dearly departed Sheriff Corben (this show could always use more Clancy Brown). With just a couple of scenes I found Corben to be far more engrossing a character than Hawley has been after weeks of having him shoved down my visual cortex. We learned about the man, scarred from war, struggling with PTSD, and then we found out he could be the monster that our heroes would have to stop at any cost.
This episode’s Sleepy Hollow featured a fun MOTW (monster of the week) in a Wendigo. Now, as exposited on the show, a Wendigo’s a skin walker that consumes human organs. The monster can only take on the appearance of a man once he’s completely eaten all the organs of a person.
I appreciated how there wasn’t any ambiguity about Joe being the Wendigo. He was the most likely suspect and we were proven right. There was no narrative swerve to spoil the stakes. It feels like a lot of shows are under the impression that they need to try to outsmart its audience rather than deliver the most compelling story. And the most compelling story gives us compelling characters. Joe was a great example of building one over the course of a collapsed amount of time. Sure, it would have been great to have a bit more setup for him but it was an effective A to B progression. We got what we needed and moved on to the meat of the conflict.
Once again, the MOTW was revealed to be part of the larger war with Moloch. It’s something that Sleepy Hollow has done incredibly well this season. Each episode could be enough as a standalone but the creative team keep finding clever ways of involving them in the season long arc. Did anyone else wonder what Henry was planning to do with the Pied Piper’s flute? Well, turns out he sent the grounded bone flute in a letter to Joe overseas in Afghanistan (magical anthrax, as it were). The letter was Joe’s curse. Once our heroes had captured Joe and this revelation came to light, the problem was that they needed to find a cure before Henry realized his big furry weapon was in the hands of the enemy and came looking. Henry didn’t want the Wendigo so much as a special liquid that Joe could get for him (if anyone can chime in with the correct spelling for this substance, I’d much appreciate it!). Henry would have a cure for Joe but obviously our heroes couldn’t trust Henry to use it (and would be proven right later on). In case that wasn’t enough of a ticking clock, Joe’s transformation was exposited that it would become permanent if he turned into the Wendigo one more time. This urgency for a cure, on multiple fronts, became the plot contrivance to partner Ichabod with Hawley…again.
Henry’s confrontation with Abbie over Joe’s fate was well handled and proved how outmatched our heroes still are. Henry showed his superiority in numbers and resources. He dangled the cure in front of Joe and got him to dance like the puppet he needed him to be. Joe delivered the “special liquid”. Henry delivered his “cure” cutting Joe and triggering a third transformation. Then, the writers slipped in a failsafe happy ending possibility: Abbie and Ichabod could still cure Joe as long as they administered it before he killed again. Thus began the hunt for Joe Corben.
Upping the stakes is something this show does very well week in and week out. Like the best stories, the ante is upped throughout the hour. It’s the sign of strong storytelling Never let your audience get bored or comfortable with the conflict. Force your heroes to make difficult choices that reveal something new about themselves. Sleepy Hollow is always a fun hour because it avoids becoming static. Some weeks the escalation is handled better than others but the philosophy it operates on is in the service of creating the most evocative tales.
Case in point: the final scene! While our heroes found a way to save Joe Corben, they failed to retrieve the “special liquid” from Henry. Henry then used to implant a demon inside Katrina, which will surely put our heroes and their allies in peril next week.
Thematically, this episode was about the lengths one will go to in order to save someone we care about. Even when Joe Corben had been a monster, when the cure appeared to have failed, Abbie’s faith in Joe and her willingness to risk her own life despite logic was what saved Joe. In winning a battle, she has provoked Ichabod to want to go to those types of lengths to save Henry. Ichabod’s always cared for his son, so he claims, and wants to believe there is still a chance to pull him back from this evil the way that Katrina does. Will he still have this fervor when our heroes discover the depths Henry will stoop to? We’ll have to tune in next week to find out. One thing’s for sure, Sleepy Hollow is increasing the risk week in and week out, the way good shows always do.
-Ichabod vs. Yoga! “The downward facing of our dogs” was deemed to be unnecessary in helping them fight the war against Moloch.
-Ichabod is still struggling with differentiating between DC and Marvel characters. Don’t worry, Crane, sometimes it’s not that easy to tell the difference between the two companies.
-Ichabod vs. Online First Person Shooting! It was over the top and a bit much, but him railing against Haloismybitch12 was thoroughly entertaining. These humorous reprieves were laid on a little thicker this week than usual but were delivered so well that I’m not feeling they’re completely losing their charm.
-I didn’t write about the subplot involving Frank being manipulated by Henry into almost revenge killing because it felt like an afterthought. I’m hoping Frank’s thread in this tapestry gets some much needed screen time sooner than later but this week it felt like a chore to watch him “struggle” with his “inner monster” only to call up Abbie at the end and tell her what we already know: Henry owns his soul. I’d rather the call had happened and then spent an episode backtracking to what lead to that call. If you want to make Frank matter, or any of the other supporting characters, then they need more fully developed subplots that the audience can invest in. For better or worse, this show is about two people and everyone else that hangs around for more than an episode begins to feel less important the longer they’re out there. Prime examples: Jessica, Hawley, Katrina, and Abraham. We all know they’ll be around for the endgame but ether avoid them until then or give us more to invest in them.
Check out previous Sleepy Hollow recaps here.