Sleepy Hollow “Sanctuary”
Written by Damian Kindler and Chitra Elizabeth Sampath
Directed by Liz Friedlander
Sleepy Hollow becomes Creepy Hollow with this haunted house entry, featuring handheld camera scares that resemble a found footage movie. A huge chunk of the episode takes place with characters trapped in a haunted house and menaced by a monster Scarecrow, but as this is Sleepy Hollow, we also get some awesome character moments, introduced to some more supporting cast members who will definitely be around for episodes to come, and even throw a new mystery twist on top of the already sky high pile.
Some of the coolest X-Files episodes were the monster episodes. The creatures were unique and diverse, and it helped break up the conspiracy mythology of the show turning everything too depressing. Sleepy Hollow has improved on that format, with the monster episodes that are tied into overall story arcs, without the story development becoming the focus or a distraction. The monster here not only menaces today, but has its origins in Ichabod’s time, and even reveals a connection to Abbie.
Outside of the plot, Sleepy Hollow did more of what it is becoming known for, having multiple minority characters who have distinct personalities and aren’t just tools for the main character to use. Abbie and Ichabod are dual main characters, and Abbie’s sister Jenny is the cool tough breakout role that makes me long for Lyndie Greenwood’s name in the opening credits. Orlando Jones has gone from the “skeptic boss” archetype to a fully functional leader who has to deal with the Biblical Apocalypse happening in his town and trying to keep it under wraps so people don’t panic and so no one carts everyone off to the nut house.
Now, Jill Marie Jones and Amandla Stenberg (Rue from The Hunger Games!) join the cast, Jill Marie Jones as Captain Frank Irving’s ex-wife Cynthia Irving, and Stenberg as his daughter Macey. Macey is in a wheel chair due to something vaguely hinted at (but it is implied that Frank is to blame for not being there), and Cynthia is worried that Frank has practically stopped visiting his daughter, and is threatening taking full custody. Frank is not happy to have this happening on top of everything else, though Macey seems less than broken up about the current situation when talking with Jenny.
Speaking of that, Sleepy Hollow took the obvious clue that Captain Irving and Jenny Mills were fighting with each other because they were going to eventually date from last episode, and just laid it out on the table. First there is a cute scene where Captain Irving makes her return the guns she borrowed last week. All of them. She also mentions inviting him to Thanksgiving dinner as part of a thank you for Abbie for getting her out of the institution. This is interrupted by Cynthia and Macey, where Frank acts all awkward and Jenny is later confronted by Macey in the hall, thinking that if she’s dating her dad they have to meet sometime. Macey is the rebellious early teenage type who thinks she knows everything, and wasn’t exactly pleased when Jenny was forced to defend her dad – Jenny growing up without a father and knowing that you should appreciate what you got. I really do look forward for more of these two characters, Jill Marie Jones plays Cynthia as someone who once (and probably still does) had feelings for Frank, but has to live with him not being an easy person to deal with and look out for her daughter. She obviously doesn’t want to pull custody, but she will if she has to.
The B story actually fits with the haunted house monster tale, as we shall see. Socialite Lena Gilbert is MIA, and as we see in the opening prologue, vines in the haunted house (which she just bought and was in her family hundreds of years ago) have grabbed her. Ichabod and Abbie enter the house – which slams the doors shut as they enter – and locate her. But freeing her awakens a monster that looks like Swamp Thing. It’s called Scarecrow in the credits, so that’s what we’ll call him (played by Marti Matulis as the guy in the suit.) He wants Lena, for reasons not really explained (the monster can only roar, so any reason he is saying just comes out as “RRRRoooooOOOWWWWWwwwwLLLLLlllllLLLRRRRR!!!”)
Ichabod was actually in this house long ago, with his wife Katrina, and her desire to go there leads him to believe the homeowner Lachlan Fredericks was also in her coven. Fredericks’ house was known as a sanctuary, people in trouble went there to be safe, and all his servants were free blacks. The house matron was Grace Dixon (Onira Tares), and she’s also soon spotted by Abbie as a ghost wandering the house. Most of these scenes feature Abbie, Ichabod, and Lena wandering through the dark house as the off screen monster roars and growls and occasionally grabs at them. The switch to handheld cameras helps heighten the scares. Ghost Grace Dixon gives Abbie a vision of how the problems at the house started. After Ichabod was “dead” – asleep in time – Katrina returned to the house to give birth. To a son. That Ichabod has no idea about. Also as soon as the baby was born, the monster appeared and killed Lachlan Fredericks and took over the mansion. Grace lead Katrina and the baby out a secret exit, much as her ghost leads Ichabod, Abbie, and Lena out of the house to escape the Scarecrow.
Ichabod is going through emotions finding out he has a son he never knew about, and also rage that this monster threatened it long ago. So he grabs a big ass axe and stomps back into the house. Chopping any of the roots that surround the insides of the house hurt the Scarecrow, so he starts chopping away, eventually giving Scarecrow a splitting headache.
Later, Lena sends them information she had about the house. It was established that Lena is distantly related to Katrina, but through the birth records Grace Dixon is revealed to be an ancestor to Abbie. Which means Abbie’s ancestor helped bring Ichabod’s kid into the world. Ichabod is pained with regret that he can never be the father to his kid that his dad was to him. This adds yet another layer of bad things that have happened to Ichabod, not only is he trapped out of time, everyone he knew is dead, his wife is stuck in limbo as a prize to one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse (and Ichabod’s mortal enemy), but he has a son that he doesn’t even know the name of, nor what happened to him.
Ichabod had some great fish out of water moments. He first appears going on a long rant about McDonalds not being authentic Scottish breakfast that is just hilariously awesome, and then there’s his awe at the concept of billionaires, who personally have more money than the entire Colonies at his time did. He even calls a delivery of a package “Treasures from the Amazon”, which is just too cute for words.
“Sanctuary” deals with children unexpectedly coming into your lives. Ichabod finds out he’s a father out of the blue, and is unable to be with said child. Frank Irving’s daughter is introduced to the series (though mentioned before) and he finds out he needs to spend a lot more time with her than he has been. Both men are struggling with what it is to be a good father, and both prevented from becoming the ideal father due to their duties to country and humanity.
More importantly, “Sanctuary” features a show on network television that has five major black roles (and two minor roles), characters that are fully realized despite the limits to episode time and plot, and characters that will be reoccurring characters. It’s on a show that isn’t marketed as a black show, but just as a network show, and is one of the highest rated new series of the year. Sleepy Hollow has been consistently good, and transcends the concept, which I fully admit sounds ridiculous and I watched the pilot expecting it to be ridiculous. It is ridiculous, but in an awesome way. Packed with great actors and writing, Sleepy Hollow stands headless head and shoulders above the competition.