Sleepy Hollow “The Vessel”
Story by Mark Goffman and David McMillan
Teleplay by Melissa Blake
Directed by Romeo Tirone
Sleepy Hollow returns (finally!) for the first episode of 2014, and the last lone hour episode before the two-hour season finale next week! We continue the story straight out of Fallen, with a demon jumping between bodies and threatening Captain Irving and his daughter, Macey (Amandla Stenberg). Then things get horror movie crazy, but not before some cute character moments and Jenny Mills, kicking butt.
The Vessel asks what would you do to protect the people you love, especially if there was a crazy demon chasing after them? It becomes a recurring theme through the episode, as Captain Irving goes to extraordinary lengths to protect his daughter Macey, who is specifically threatened by the body-jumping demon, Ancitif(an actual demon) There is new revelations about Jenny Mills, who was also a possession target for the demon (as hinted in her first appearance), as we discover that she often would commit crimes in order to be incarcerated so she wouldn’t hurt Abbie while possessed. It’s an extreme form of sisterly love, one Abbie wasn’t even aware of (as Jennifer correctly deduced that Abbie wouldn’t have believed her, anyway.) But once Ichabod tells her, the healing process between the sisters is swiffened.
One thing Sleepy Hollow has been doing a lot of is using familiar cinema scenes in order to set the tone for certain characters and events. This episode has a glaringly obvious example as parts copy Fallen and parts copy The Exorcist (and related knockoffs!) An argument could be made that producers Orci and Kurtzman have a history of stealing iconic scenes in films to use for their own, most glaringly when used in Star Trek Into Darkness. The difference between the STID use and things happening in Sleepy Hollow, is STID was a transparent attempt to use nostalgia to make up for lack of actual characterization/plot/everything that is essential in telling a story. In Sleepy Hollow, things like Jenny’s introduction being a copy of Sarah Conner in Terminator 2 is a shortcut to let the audience know she’s a complete badass. Jenny’s arc then goes in its own direction, with her character’s tone already established. In Vessel, when things switch over to The Exorcist, an effort is made to make the result play out differently, even subverting an iconic effect.
I actually like when the show references films, because it’s not relying on them to provide the entertainment. The entertainment comes from Ichabod struggling to fit in with modern society. It comes from Abbie coming to grips with her destiny and making amends with her sister. It comes from Captain Irving dealing with his family issues while also holding back the apocalypse in what he thought would be a stress-free assignment. It comes from crazy demon scares and monsters that have their own agendas despite being part of a greater war. It comes from Ichabod’s struggle to save his wife while dealing with everything he knew about her being a lie (and discovering he had a son he never knew!) Sleepy Hollow provides all this, and more. It’s consistently diverse, not filled with token minorities, but characters who are rich and developed. The makeup of the cast of Sleepy Hollow reflects modern America, and it does so without pomp and circumstance, it just IS. And it’s great. I’m still amazed Sleepy Hollow became my favorite new show of the season, and amazed at how it just blows Agents of Shield away.
Captain Irving’s paranoia from last week results in one of the possessed threateners being questioned at a lie detector, where he professes to have no idea what is going on. Another witness shows up, who is the current host of Ancitif. Thus, the demon is now jumping around the police station, and calls Irving on his phone to demand the George Washington Bible, or Macey’s gonna get it!
The solution for Captain Irving is to go to a cabin in the woods with Macey and his ex-wife Cynthia, along with supporting cast members Detective Luke Morales and his partner, Detective Jones, who I don’t think has a first name. You might recall that Fallen ended in a showdown in a cabin in the woods. Irving has called in Reverend Boland(David Fonteno), last seen chatting with Irving in church. He’s Catholic, thus knows stuff about demon possession, and even puts salt at the door to the cabin. Salt can prevent demons from crossing it, but not if a demon-possessed Morales convinces Jones to wife away the salt (and then brutally murders him! Goodbye, Jones!)
While we get a redo of a cool Denzel Washington movie, Abbie and Ichabod are trying to figure out stuff about demon possession and why the demon wants the Washington Bible. Luckily, Sheriff Corbin has a DVD in his files of a demon possession, and what he did to unpossess the victim. The victim…who is Jenny Mills! Dun dun DUN!
The tape allows for cool found footage scares in the middle of the normally shot tv drama (similar to the episode in the haunted house with the Scarecrow) Demon Jenny yells a bunch of stuff (in what turns out to be backwards ancient Aramaic), and declares things we’ve seen happen in the series: Corbin will be among the first to die, the Horseman will be loose, and she repeats the threat to Abbie. Sleepy Hollow uses handheld cameras/found footage in situations where it provides atmosphere to use a change in camera type, another shortcut telling the audience there will be jump scares and the horror is more real.
Jenny is called in, and has no memory of the possession, but does vaguely recall salt. More information is dug up on the demon, including the magic lamps that save the day. Ichabod remembers that Ben Franklin got a shipment of them in from France during the war, and Jenny remembers that she stole one long ago and gave it to a crazy end of days militia. So they go to borrow (steal it) back. Because that’s easier than just going in and saying you’re cops and you need it.
Okay, they try that after they’re caught by the militia, who is ready to Swiss cheese Abbie and Ichabod regardless, until Jenny saves them. Because Jenny is awesome, and even more awesome standing on top of a car with two guns pointed at a bunch of good ol’ boys, who know she’s a better shot that all of them. Jenny rules.
All of this is too late for Captain Irving, because the show jumps from Fallen to Exorcist as Macey gets possessed. She turns into half-demon with crazy makeup effects, and can walk around (Macey is in a wheel chair). Instead of spinning her head around, she spins the head of Reverend Boland around. He doesn’t survive. Detective Morales is seen lying down on the ground, I don’t know if he is dead or alive and no one mentions him again.
Macey/Ancitif (Maceytif?) mocks Captain Irving and threatens to kill Cynthia if he doesn’t hand over the Bible, and that’s enough to get him to agree. He does call Abbie and Ichabod to confirm the location, though. Which is a sign of letting them know what is going on so they can save the day.
Luckily the crew does get there in time, and they even manage to sneak a ring of salt around Maceytif (I’d never thought I would see strategic salt laying in a network show, but there you are) and then they use the magic of the lamp to banish Ancitif back to Hell. Where the demon will then just come back from sometime next season, but whatever. Ancitif does try to play with Jenny’s head, but because Jenny and Abbie are on the mends, the trickery has no effect.
Overall, the back story of Jenny and Abbie was expanded on enough to make the relationship more like actual siblings than just two characters that just happen to be related. We learn that Jenny is a good person who is forced to do bad due to all the bad stuff happening to her. Sheriff Corbin becomes more than just the guy who made all the files thanks to the magic of video, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a ghost mentor at some point in the future (he’s already appeared once in vision form)
Captain Irving is shown to be fiercely protective of his daughter, and immensely guilty about her accident. He blames himself, and in his speech to his daughter while possessed, he admits his guilt and failings, but also that he loves her. From what Irving does in this episode, the trials of recent events might be taxing on him, but they’ve forced him to be a better father, even if he has less time than ever. Macey is revealed to be very smart (as hinted by her already figuring certain things out in prior episodes), and is even applying to advanced science programs. Possibly in Sleepy Hollow? Because that’s an easy way to get her on the show more.
Ichabod gets some cute cultural clash moments, as Abbie tries to update his wardrobe (including SKINNY JEANS!!)
Detective Morales makes a return, he’s last seen freaking out over realizing that the End of Days war has begun. His fate is unknown, but he wasn’t moving last we saw. His poor partner Jones made it through several freaky events, but not this one.
Moloch’s threat about Abbie will feature into the season finales, which news reports say will end on a cliffhanger. The ending here is sort of goofy, they figure out a way to reveal invisible writing on George Washington’s Bible (rendered in cartoony glowy green!) But the first thing they see is the date: December 18th, 1799 written in George Washington’s handwriting. One problem, he died on December 14th, 1799! Dun dun DUN!!!